Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


The Laughing Undertaker


This morning is beautiful and if I lean back in my chair I can just see the tips of the town park’s trees catching the early morning sun. I’m reminded of such a morning, a few weeks back, the last time the weather was as good.

Daisy and I were walking in the park. I had her off the lead, and she was darting in and out of the trees, chasing shadows and yapping at other small dogs. As we were coming up to the Rose Garden, a most beautiful, carefully maintained spot which at the moment is full of colour, I spotted a man, sitting on a bench, drinking a can. It was only 11 am, the bells of the nearby St John’s were ringing and the sight made me smile. Dressed in shorts and a polo shirt, can of beer on the go and his bike leaning gently against the back of the bench and now soaking up the sun, the man just looked so happy. And why wouldn’t he be? He obviously felt he deserved the beer, he’d done his exercise and now he was being rewarded. As it was a bit early to have bought the can, he must have brought it with him; he was planning this treat, possibly well in advance.

Daisy ran up to him and around his legs. I called her back and the man turned to see who was behind the voice. As he saw me he got up.

“Terrible day for a hangover,” he said.

“It’s never a great day for a hangover,” I answered.

“True,” he said laughing.

We were by now side by side and I stopped walking.

“I’m wrecked,” he said, “I’ve been in England for the last four days and I’m still all over the place.”

He didn’t look too bad, considering he was necking a can at 11 on a Sunday morning and had been on the beer for the last four days.

“Good time?” I asked.

“Great. Over visiting the brother, the cousin came with me.  We got the bus and the boat, non-stop drinking.”

Getting the bus and boat used to be the standard way of getting to England but to do it for a four-day trip seemed very time consuming but I think the travel was half of their fun.

“You know how much they charged for two whiskies on the boat coming back?” he asked.

I shook my head but I remember in my day drinking on the boat was very cheap.

“Thirty euros,” was his answer.

“Thirty euros?”

I was genuinely shocked.

“As true as I’m standing here.”

“Wow,” I said, not doubting him but at the same time not believing that two whiskies could cost so much.

“Look,” he said, rummaging in the back pocket of his shorts, pulling out a piece of paper and giving it to me.

I opened the scrunched up receipt and there it read €30.00 for his two whiskies, with the time and date of 4.11 AM the previous morning.

“I hope they were worth it,” I said.

He looked at me.

“I wasn’t paying that, I told him to feck off and left them on the counter. We went off down the duty-free. A slab of Tennant's for €9.99. Perfect I said.”

“Better value there,” I laughed.

“But you know what? I paid the money and then the girl said you can’t take them out of the shop till we get to port. We were caught.”

“What did ye do then?”

“Went to the other bar and had a pint.”

We both laughed.

“I’ve been drinking those cans since I came home,” he nodded towards the one on the bench.

Two men then passed by, one was the local undertaker.

“Hey,” my man said, “I don’t want to be seeing you for a while yet.”

“If you can see me you’re doing fine,” laughed the undertaker, “it’s when you can’t see me is when you’re having the trouble.”

'Perfect', I thought, 'just perfect.'


Posted by John Verling

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