John B Keane: God spare us all a surfeit of visitors

SOME weeks ago I had an article in this paper about unwanted visitors.

SOME weeks ago I had an article in this paper about unwanted visitors.

It was intended to be humorous although it contained a couple of rubs as well. Anyway the result is that I have received a large number of letters concerning the article. They are from Abbeyfeale, Glin, Ballybunion, etcetera. The number from Ballybunion is five and every single one of them is signed with a legitimate name and address.

It is quite apparent that unwanted visitors are a far bigger curse that I thought they were and they have aroused more irritation than anything else I have ever written here.

With malice to nobody in particular the biggest offenders are Americans. They arrive as we all know only too well and say something like this: “Your friend Ned Kelly told us to call. You know Ned. He lives in the Bronx. He met you when he was here last summer.”

This is a typical opener. Or the visitors may mention a relative who told them to call. Since writing the article I had several callers during the recent Fleadh Cheoil. Somebody told them to call. There was one American couple in particular.

“Your friend Juliet Harborough told us to look you up. My name is Moroney and this is my wife, Margaret. I’m an associate professor of English Litt. at Crampton.”

Now at this stage I had already heard out several callers, given tea to some and drink to others. It just could not go on.

“Alright,” I told the associate professor, “so you have called so what?” Having said this I returned to my labours feeling lousy about the whole thing.

Looking back on the event now, however, I realised I was quite right and I should have treated other callers in the same way, especially those who called in the middle of the day when the missus was trying to get the dinner. Oh, yes. They came in and planked themselves down right under her nose in the kitchen on the strength of a way-out relationship and they waited. They talked about inconsequential things and about people who did well and who didn’t do well in the states. They stayed on and on. Now here was the position. The dinner was ready but there was only enough for the family. The kids were told to wait outside and play until they were called. They steam rose from the saucepan of bacon and cabbage and my mouth watered.

Time passed and they showed no signs of going. If we started to eat we would have to offer them some. We would, in fact, have to give them our own dinners. I’m sure they knew this just as all visiting Americans know it. They pretend they don’t but the perishers do. They don’t care if they upset a household or if they eat the occupants out of house and home. They don’t care about anything or anybody but themselves.

We continued to wait for any sign whatsoever of departure but it did not come. The children grew more impatient and it was hard to blame them but the four Yanks sat unfeeling and detached waiting. Finally, I could endure it no longer.

“In the name of God get out of here,” I said, “and let us have our dinner.” They were shocked, scandalised, horrified. It took time for it to sink in. This had never happened before. This they understood. They had been told angrily that life had to go on, that they were holding things up, that they were making nuisances of themselves. All these things they already knew but they had to be forcibly reminded of them.

They rose, still in a state of shock, and then, mumbled an apology. The others refused to understand and were huffed. They refused to accept the cold fact that children have to eat and that parents have to eat. When they were standing, they made no move to go.

“Come on,” I roared, sensing victory, “get out of it and let us eat.”

They departed, and we heard no more of them. If we had been foolish enough, they would have eaten our dinners, departed, and we would, likewise, hear no more of them. But enough of such a depressing subject and may God spare all my readers from a surfeit of visitors.

ANOTHER epistle from a Dromcollogher girl who declares herself to be respectable, and who also declares that Dromcollogher has had enough publicity over the beauty competition affair.

“We are also sick of you,” she continues, “and don’t you dare mention this place again if you know what’s good for you. How could any Catholic girl go up on a stage and show herself before a crowd of men, many of them as drunk as can be, not forgetting who was the drunkest of them all, but we all mention no names, only if the caps fits, you can wear it.

“I could have entered and won beauty competitions many a time, and I also have a sister who is regarded as the prettiest girl in the parish of Dromcollogher by people of taste, but it would be her last act were she to ever enter for a beauty competition. Anyway, my parents would never permit one of us to make a show of ourselves.”

After this, comes a long treatise on the kind of clothes today’s girls should wear, but I doubt if this would be of interest to the general run of my readers, so for this reason I will not include it, but she goes on thereafter;

“We were often literally forced to enter beauty competitions, etcetera, but we would never succumbed as would feel cheapened.

“I think it was the late Dean of Tralee,” she continued, “who gave out about girls entering such things. You should take a leaf of his book, Mr Keane.”

So ends the epistle but I am not at liberty to disclose the name – although I’m pretty sure that even at that it is a factious one. I’m sure, however, that this lady’s style will be not unknown to some of my discerning friends in dear old Drom.