Helping Brother Ambrose (Part 1)
Posted on March 1, 2014
Helping Brother Ambrose (Part 1)
I have often meant well in my little life, but with the unfortunate subtlety of a left handed meat cleaver. I used to always have these lofty, noble ambitions, that I should pursue Wisdom and Enlightenment, and spread Good Cheer and Good Will to all mankind. Be nice to all Living Things. Unfortunately, I was more adept at causing chaos and misunderstanding. Even in my Robin Hood time, selling ice cream and robbing the rich, I seem, in retrospect, to have failed on some higher level of Destiny.I describe that time in my other scribble, “Valley Ice Cream “.
Still, of all the many nightmares I can remember, where my best intentions seemed awesomely thwarted, maybe my -true- tale about my buddy Ambrose may perhaps be counted as one of the many candidates to take the moldy biscuit. Cake. Trophy. Darwin award. Consolation prize. All of them.
I first met Ambrose at University. He had spent many years in a holy monastery in Maynooth in Ireland, and had finally reached the reluctant conclusion that getting up early, singing the same old hymns, lighting candles, and knocking his knees out on the cold slabs of monastic worship, was no longer filling him with the Holy Spirit the way it used to. He left that contemplative life, and ended up in civil society. A misnomer perhaps to him, as he was terribly quiet, and soft spoken, painfully shy, and quite unable to “project himself “. Whatever that means. Lie convincingly, I guess. He failed all the job interviews he went to, and I know this was partially due to his limited resume.
“Well, Mister… Mister… Rapscullion?… Errr… yes, I see here on your resume… I’m sorry, what was this previous employment?”
The typical, bored interviewer, who has not bothered to do any homework. Or read a resume. Just have them all get together at an appointed time and place, all four hundred of them, and let the darlings in, one at a time, and wing it from there. Only one vacancy, of course. Sales Person and Counter Clerk. My buddy would clear his throat nervously, and meekly, humbly, he would whisper his offering:
“Errr… I was in a Monastery, Sir…”
The interviewer would start to cock an eyebrow, quickly un-cock it, and carry on, as if he got fifty of those sort of applicants before lunch. A plethora of vintage Maynooth monks. Dime a dozen. All aspiring to selling frilly dresses and bra cups in Murphy & Co’s world famous “Ladies’ Garment Shop” of Ballyfermot, County Dublin.
“I see. Good. Ah-hah. Yes. What would you say your skills are, Mister Rapscullion?”
“Errr… (long pause)… I’m good at singing hymns, Sir…?”
And so forth. Such a nice guy.
I, in my usual well meaning, bumbling way, decided I would try and “help “.
A mixed blessing for him, I’m afraid. Thus it seemed like a really, really good idea to introduce him to the Holy Spirit. No, not that one. The other one. Well, two actually. The liquid high octane variety. And the two-legged stocking clad, big boobed frisky sort. The problem was, that years of bread and water, and the odd home grown leeks and potatoes thrown in, and getting up at five o’clock in the morning to sing and pray, may well prepare a soul wonderfully for the Here After, but sadly, it does not prepare him for meeting Buxom Betty down at the strip joint behind O’Connell Street, at just before midnight. After a couple of unfamiliar drinks.
“What’s your name, Sweety?”, she would ask softly in his ear. He was quite a good looking young man, if you discounted the pale face, and the slightly over-thin, hunched frame. Maybe it was years of bending over and praying like the clappers, but he always seemed to stoop. This gave him a timid air, almost pitiful, and it brought out the motherly instinct in some of the local wenches.
“What’s your name,Honey?”, she would purr again, sidling closer this time. He would only stare, mouth open, face aghast, at these gigantic mammary glands remorselessly bearing down on him. He was like the drowning man swimming in the Ocean, hoping for a ship, staring in horror at the tall bows of the Queen Mary about to sail right over the top of him. Try as he might, he would be unable to take his saucer size eyes off her cleavage. This fact, coupled with the simple issue of his being reliably struck totally dumb, every time, did not aid his feeble incipient incursions amongst the local talent. They would give up eventually, and steam off to more easy ports.
Trying to help, I bribed a lass by the name of Dotty Lotty, to come over and speak to him. A couple of brandies and a Five Pound note, if I recall. Dotty dutifully came over, and tried earnestly to get him to speak.
She actually succeeded, eventually, but I’m not sure if his first utterance did his romantic yearnings or his local street credibility a whole lot of good. On once again being asked for his name, he eventually managed a stricken, wide eyed, gargling sort of reply, that was heard around the bar:
“My-my-my name…? My-my-name is…”
You could hear a pin drop. I wished him on, silently, from the bottom of my black heart.
“My name… my name…”
“…is BROTHER AMBROSE!”
Silence in the bar. This was Holy Catholic Ireland in the 1970’s. Everybody (except me) went to Holy Mass on Sunday. Children were dressed in the finest for their first Holy Communion. Rumors of derelict, sexually rampant Holy Fathers and Monastic Brothers and chandelier swinging Nuns were spread by surreptitious whispers in dark corners. Not trumpeted and blared from mainstream media outlets, in glorious techni-color explicit, intimate details. Like today. The Bishop and the actress, sort of thing.
Even Dotty drifted off. And she wasn’t really the Church going, holy type either. What to do?
I was into motorbikes, and poetry, and pretty girls, and jumping out of aeroplanes, so I resolved to induct him into the Hell’s Angels equivalent of the time. We all raced around on big old Triumphs, but with his limited budget and non-existent skills, we thought a 650 cc motorcycle capable of doing a hundred miles an hour (down the Wicklow mountains, with a strong following wind), might prove to be a trifle much for our emergent Monk.
So, somehow, we ended up with a tiny, asthmatic, oil stained, and decidedly battered Honda Fifty. For twenty pounds, if I remember right. It burned oil, but it still went. The Honda Fifty was a truly fartless wonder, capable of maybe thirty five miles per hour against the wind, and it had been designed for tiny little Japanese men. I think even Honda must have been amazed to find their little tiddler being sold by the millions all over the world, and being driven around by six foot six Foreign Devils, with their knees sticking out. What was so amazing about the Honda Fifty was how tough they were. You’d have to run them out of engine oil to stand a chance of breaking one. They had no clutch, just a throttle and brakes, and you just kind of kicked this pedal for a higher gear. No messy learning the clutch skills required. The Honda Fifty automatic gearbox did it all for you. There was a regular motorcycle rally all around Ireland, and all the big hogs took part. It went on for days. The biggest motorcycles known to man, capable of light speed, raced around the country side, crashing into ditches, (more on that later, maybe) stopping for drinks and singing, and a bit of wenching, on a regular basis. At night we slept in tents, and, as the Irish say, “The crack was mighty”. Or “craque”, however you wish to spell it. Well, one year that race was won by, of all beasts, a Honda Fifty. The smallest motorcycle in Ireland. Pulling a sidecar, if you please. It’s true! I swear! I’m not making this up. They drove eighteen hours a day, whilst the rest of us slept and snored the gargle off, but it was still living proof of the toughness of the Honda Fifty. And the insanity of some motorcyclists.
Well, we dressed Ambrose in borrowed motor clothing (we were worried about him) and he soon looked the part just fine. He had my old scowling black leather jacket on (with the skid marks across the back where I had kissed a bunch of gravel one day), a black motorcycle helmet, and huge leather gauntlets. He seemed pale and shy. Something was missing. Ah! We added some goggles to the ensemble, like a World War One Flying Ace, and now he looked the part. Somebody got him a mirror, and he took a long, long serious, contemplative look into his reflection. Then he looked at us. A slow, steady grin then spread wickedly across his features. We all cheered. He was getting the hang of this already.
We then put him on the little Honda Fifty, and explained to him how to operate the throttle, and the brakes. No clutch to worry about. Easy. You can do it, Ambrose! Very slowly and gingerly, he got going. A dozen of us ran alongside, shouting encouragement and whooping. He went a tiny bit quicker. Several of the runners gave up. He went a tiny bit quicker again. A grin could be seen on his face. He was liking this. He changed gear, confidently it seemed, and soon we were left behind. He was now doing at least twenty five miles an hour. A black, leather shrouded figure, with massive gauntlets, a black helment, and really evil looking goggles.
We were all cheering now. He was an ace already. Welcome to the biker gang.
What could possibly go wrong?
(TBC) (to be consummated)
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on March 1, 2014, 2:39 pm