The Coffin

During the Sixties we had a range of local businesses with a dual aspect to them; like, a grocery shop and a pub; or maybe, a hardware shop with petrol pumps outside on the pavement. 

My story is concerned with that other old favourite, a pub with an undertaker’s business as well.

We in the Newry Mineral Water Company used to deliver to one such premises.

The undertaker’s yard and store was down a narrow entryway adjacent to the pub.

The outhouse that we used to store the cases of beer and Guinness in was also used as part of the undertaking business.  That store always seemed to have a coffin being readied for a customer and there also were lots of other morbid paraphernalia connected to the undertaking business. 

There was a young lad who sometimes worked in that store whose job seemed to be the fitting out of the coffins and getting things ready for any funeral that the undertaker might have on at any particular time.  This young man was a year or so older than me. He was always dressed well in a spotless white shirt with a tie, well-polished black shoes with a dazzling shine: he was to my mind, quite uncool.

This guy didn’t like me and I must say the feeling was mutual. You know what it’s like with young males of more or less the same age – they always have to be squaring up to each other! They always feel to be in competition about something or other.  He probably looked askance at me with my long hair and untidy attire!  I usually wore blue Levi jeans and a Che Guevara tee shirt.  He most likely looked at me and thought,

‘He looks like one of them bloody Hippies! I bet he likes that Jimi Hendrix fellow.’

Whereas I looked at him with his brilliant white shirt, highly-polished shoes and his short hair and thought of him as the most unhip person imaginable! Why I even thought to myself,

‘I bet he buys and listens to all Big Tom’s records! How uncool he is!’

Now this young man had an infuriating habit of ceasing whatever task he was currently conducting whenever I arrived and just glaring at me as I busied myself stacking the cases of beer.  He would light up a cigarette and just stand there, not uttering a word, just glowering and blowing smoke rings in my direction! Now that was annoyingly infuriating and he knew that too.

…… 1 of 4 … The Coffin

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