John B Keane: Dallying in town all day a weakness of some

I REMEMBER many years ago to overhear a conversation in a newspaper shop between two women, both advanced in years and both well able to express themselves without the aid of gesticulation.

I REMEMBER many years ago to overhear a conversation in a newspaper shop between two women, both advanced in years and both well able to express themselves without the aid of gesticulation.

They were, of course, talking about another woman or rather a girl with whom both seemed to be acquainted. Apparently the girl was soon to be married to a most acceptable young man and the impression I got from what I overheard was that neither of the women considered the girl good enough for him.

Naturally I know now what I did not know then and that is that both of these women had daughters of their own who they felt would be better suited to the young man in question.

They did not say so nor was any reference made to said daughters, but from what they said about the girl it was apparent that there were better candidates for the job not a million miles away.

One of the snatches of conversation which drifted across was: “she does be in town all day.”

At the time I could see nothing wrong with this. Wasn’t I in town all day myself and weren’t thousands of other people likewise, so what could be wrong about that?

Being young of course I could not see nor be expected to see that being in town all day meant that the girl was wasting her time in the town when she might be at home engaged in a more profitable pursuit.

Many of the impressions we receive in our youth do not last long, but the expression: “she does be in town all day,” lingers with me still.

Maybe it was the method of delivery which impressed it so indelibly or maybe it was the response given by the other woman. When the first woman said: “she does be in town all day,” the second woman corroborated by saying: “she do indeed.”

Looking back on it, how could these women know the girl was in town all day unless they were in town all day themselves. It must not be supposed for one second that they engaged agents to confirm that she was in town or that reports were submitted to them hourly about the girls movements.

No indeed. This was not the case. More intelligent readers will know that very few women could afford to employ others in those days no matter how important the chores might have been.

We must assume therefore that they were in town all day themselves. Otherwise their testimony would be unsupported and it would be the same as calling them liars.

My sole reason for recalling the conversation in the newspaper shop was to enable myself, as well as my readers, to answer the question: “what do some women be doing in town all day?”

That conversation in the newspaper shop suggests that women who spend all day in town spend nothing else, and that their time is taken up in doing nothing.

The conversation stands out in the history of incidents I remember from childhood the way the conversation heard in the apple barrel in Treasure Island stands out to new readers.

The conclusion, therefore, that I must draw is that is that these women were never properly introduced to the town when they were younger, that is to say that they were not taken to town as often as they should be.

They were, as it were, never broken in to the town when they were fillies and consequently when they grew up and got married they were inclined to dally whenever they arrived in town.

The blame lies with the parents, and these days whenever I see the same woman walk up and down the same street several times I know that she is not just waiting for a lift.

I know that she is one of those who was never broken and I attach no blame to her personally. All I do is to wish most devoutly that she has a tolerant and understanding husband.

If you don’t believe me that these women exist, just watch any woman of your choosing from time to time. Inevitably you will come across one who has all the ingredients of a legitimate shopper.

She has her message bag. She has her headscarf on. She has her good shoes on. She has her best stockings on. But watch her more closely and you will notice that all she does is simulate the antics of the legitimate shopper.

In all respects she is a model woman, but alas the town has a fascination for her. Even if it were one of those towns which has a seamy side, she would not concern herself with that part of it.

Neither would she live in the town. It is just that she can’t wait to conclude her work at home to get back to the streets and shop windows. Everybody has a weakness, and there are worse ones than staying in town all day.