Heather Humphrey’s Hardware Store and Lock Down Thaw. Two pieces by Billy O Hanluain

Heather Humphrey’s Hardware Store

(Give up yer aul hobby and get a real job!)

I dreamt I saw Christy Moore stacking
shelves in Heather Humphrey’s Hard Ware Store.
Sweating a pool of bullets, crime scene in the aisle.

I saw Hansard and Mundy, wearing Dickies Redhawk
overalls, mops, guitar-slung across their shoulders, placing

a yellow sandwich board on the floor.

“Caution slippery surface
former balladeer, now Ordinary Man, at work”.
Lisa Hanigan, Loah and Wyvern Lingo were manning the tills.

“Have you got a club card?” “Would you like a free download of
one of my songs along with the groceries?”
Fionn Regan, David Keenan,
David Kitt, Mick Flannery and Paddy Casey
all brooding while they packed the bags.

Three chords and the fruit!

Floor manager Paul Brady directed Damien Rice
towards the dry food shelves as Hozier, Luka

Bloom and The Flowers
shuffled off to garden supplies.
Iarla O’lionaird and Martin Hayes, in oh so many ways
seemed just right for the genteel Guaranteed Irish goods.
While Lankum and Lisa O Neill promoted
the undistilled
concentrate of
The Pure Drop.

Gemma Hayes, Imelda May and Inni K
giving out free samples
of songs to take away

Murder Capital and The Fontaines
being reprimanded for their attitude
towards customers by store manager
Brian Kennedy

Jaime Martin was using his symphonic
baton to direct the traffic outside to the three
level car park, circles, stalls and the gods.

Mary Coughlan and Sinead O Connor were
running “Heather’s Happy Family Play Facility”
Moya Brennan, Elanor McEvoy and Dolores
Keane, singing lullabyes of a lost Ireland to
the rowdier kids….

Even here in Heather’s Hard Ware Store
the Classical and Jazz musicians were
given only a few hours work per week.
They huddled discordantly next to the frozen food
wearing fingerless mittens, clutching borrowed biros
obliged to do ” A Becoming More Accessible”
scheme if they were still to be eligible for
the original scheme which would allow
them redeem their scheme vouchers for
scheme points which in turn would permit them
to reapply for the new scheme…..

The shoppers came in to focus. Each of them
Abbey, Gate, Project Cube and site specific
actors doing their naturalistic best to be customers
spending COVID Monopoly tokens on endless
broken dreams and empty houses.

Lock Down Thaw

The first weeks of lockdown and the silence, solitude and emptiness that was wrapped around them felt to me at times like a fresh, heavy fall of snow and how in that first thick coating of white everything slows down and you can hear an ant flex its muscles deep below a heavy drift of pure powdered white. It seems like a taboo to say that there are strains of that silence I am already feeling a certain nostalgia for. The crystallization of seconds into epiphanies, days that stretched like long calendar months, months that evaporated after drawing their first breath. Even at this short distance, March already seems like a far away time, another era, like something I am imagining and not remembering. Days dressed unlike any others I’d ever known before. I knew they were ending even as they were happening. I felt beatified by the oddness of everything. In the stillness, things appeared to be liberated from their prescribed functions. Roads dreamed of how it might feel to never have a car ride on their backs again. What might have become of them if they’d never been tarred and macked? They lay there stretched and mostly untyred and for the first time in their lives, wondered who they truly were. Traffic lights pined for eye drops to cure their meaningless blinking, speculating what they might do once they could see the world through one constant green light. Empty buses plucked up the courage to think of taking early retirement and finally getting round to writing that book they’d conjured, in their heaving bombardier sides, each rush hour morning in the time before. Escalators and elevators swapped exist strategies of what to do in this post footfall world. Who knew that the silence would be such a fecund place? That dreams, like frogspawn, could hatch in the most unexpected corners of our ruptured routines. And now the thaw is here. The first snow has turned to slush. Commerce comes like a sheriff on horseback, a holstered shadow on the horizon of our reverie, corralling us all away from dreaming. Forks put to one side, foolish notions of ever becoming spoons, of scooping and souping and not just being again what they have forever been, the thing that holds steady the objects of the knife’s slicing desire. The knife rules the fork just as commerce schemes plans for us. We hold steady the things it is born to design and consume. And with the melting comes the first shock of forgotten pavement beneath the ice. The slip. The hard fall. Woken too soon. A dream interrupted. Denied completion.

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