John B Keane: No backing off in the presence of edgers

Editor’s note: As regular readers of John B’s column will be aware, in recent months we have been reprinting his contributions to the Limerick Leader from 1971, pubished 44 years on to the week. However, readers were told in late May of 1971 that John B was on holiday and that Out in the Open would appear on his return. The following column, first published several years before, appeared instead.

Editor’s note: As regular readers of John B’s column will be aware, in recent months we have been reprinting his contributions to the Limerick Leader from 1971, pubished 44 years on to the week. However, readers were told in late May of 1971 that John B was on holiday and that Out in the Open would appear on his return. The following column, first published several years before, appeared instead.

THE OTHER evening I found myself in a strange town, and having nothing better to do, I entered a public house, where I called for a pint of stout.

“Shocking weather,” the barman said. Dutifully I agreed with him. After all it was his pub, and if the rain had stopped outside, why should I be the one to change his impression of the weather. I supped the pint and had but barely swallowed a few mouthfuls when I was approached by a respectable man, who wore a long brown over coat and a cap.

“Terrible weather,” he announced.

“Tis all that,” I agreed. We spoke about inconsequential things at first and then the conversation became serious when he referred to the Olympic Games. When he first addressed me he stopped about three feet away from me, which is a communicable distance and gives both parties in any conversation sufficient room to elaborate over well- taken points.

However, by the time we had moved up to the Olympic Games he stood only two feet from me. I decided to withdraw another foot to allow myself full manoeuvrability. It did not work, because the moment I retreated he advanced another foot, and at once I knew that I was in the presence of the “Edger.” Now let me explain what an edger is. An edger is a man or woman who cannot conduct a conversation without crowding the other party. As I say, as soon as I retreated, he advanced.

“In my heyday,” said the edger, “it was no bother to me to clear twenty feet in the long jump.”

I didn’t doubt him because he stood over six feet and had the thin face of an athlete.

“I was going great,” said he, “until I started to take an interest in women. Then I became interested in fags, and finally I became interested in porter. That put an end to my jumping.”

I was about to sympathise with him when I noticed that only a distance of about nine inches stood between us. Immediately I retreated a distance of three full feet and a half. I did this to deter him from going ahead with the conversation because I knew that if he spoke again I would have no room to retreat further.

I could sense that there was a wall behind me. I’ll say this about edgers twhey never give up. The moment I withdraw he came forward so that only six inches separated us.

“I was one day,” said he, “competing at an open sports in Ennis, and I declare to God I got the better of twenty-one feet. An alarm clock I won.”

I decided to retreat still further, and then, alas, I found myself with my back to the wall. The edger was now touching me. He continued to talk until finally he was leaning against me. Now I have considerable experience of edgers. There was no more room for retreating, and I knew it would only be a matter of time ‘till he would be resting an elbow on my shoulder.

Accidentally, therefore, I spilled half of my pint down the front of his coat. I apologized, and give him his due, he just laughed it off. He shook the coat free of the porter, which remained on the surface and advanced on me again. Here was a true edger. I finished my pint quickly and left the premises.

The reader will quite rightly ask why I did not sit down out of harm’s way the moment I realised I was in the company of an edger. I must say that I was tempted to do so, but being wise to the ways of edgers, I knew that sitting down was worse than standing up.

The only place one is really safe from an edger is up a ladder. If I had sat down he would have sat down, too. I have no doubt that many of my readers have been subjected to attacks from edgers from time to time.

If so, they will know that a sitting down edger is just about the biggest curse to be found in any public house.

The moment one sits the edger sits close and eventually closer, so that one has to shift continually to keep away from hem or her, as the case may be. The edger is a great one, too, for catching a body by the knee or leaning with a bony elbow upon one’s thigh while he stresses a point.

The edger by some uncanny instinct, will never pick on a garrulous or cross-tempered person. Is there, then, any cure for the diehard edger? Yes, there is. Always carry a large darning needle on your person. When the edger moves in to attack give him a good dart of the darning needle in the thigh. This usually works, but failing this, one is always at liberty to stand up and give him a good kick in the shin.