The three types of men you meet on the train
The man who can’t potter; the academic with no house; and the family man with his beer
Tthree types of man on the train journey from Waterford to Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
Men are no good at pottering about. You have to give them things to do. I learned this on the train from Waterford to Dublin and it was one of three images of Irish men I encountered on the trip.
The lady I was eavesdropping on was adamant, in her conversation with whoever was on the other end of the phone, that, “They won’t potter around like we would.”
Her listener clearly agreed with her: “Oh, keep them going,” the lady declared.
I had a sort of Father Ted image of a Mrs Doyle character pursuing men around the garden with a hurley to “keep them going” or perhaps directing a power hose on them.
I remembered one woman turning to another when the man with them went off to back a horse at the Phoenix Park races (yes, I go back that far) and saying, “Sure, God help him, it gives him something to do.”
Different century. Same vision of men.
The lady was replaced by a man talking on the phone about his Masters and his plan to spend three weeks after the end of the academic year finding a house to rent with his fellow students for the subsequent year. This, it struck me, may well mean renting the house for several summer months during which he won’t actually live in it. But the alternative is the nightmare of competing for accommodation with everyone else in the academic world in the autumn.
I wonder how much loyalty he and his friend will feel, after graduation, towards this country which cannot even accommodate the young people it needs to educate
Then it turned out his friend on the phone was facing losing his accommodation because of a huge rent increase. “He can’t put it up that much,” the man said. “I’d check that out.”
Then he finished his call and stuck in his earphones leaving me to wonder how much loyalty he and his friend will feel, after graduation, towards this country which cannot even accommodate the young people it needs to educate.
He sounded like the sort of effective, go-ahead young man with a sense of justice, whom we need to hold on to.
Suddenly the carriage was engulfed in screams, laughter and stuffed animals as a family in holiday mood joined us for the trip to Dublin.
Because the children based themselves at one end of the carriage and the parents at the other, they managed to give us all a total, immersive experience.
This included loud and liberal use of the F-word by the children who ranged from five to eight years of age. Manic laughter was the order of the day, as was screeching and running up and down.
The kids kept this going almost all the way to Heuston Station. Added to our collective joy was the loud music the parents began to play.
The father admonished the kids with the occasional, “Give it over youse,” in a mildly threatening voice. The woman who, perhaps, was his partner but not the biological mother, pronounced, “I’m going to ring yer Ma. Get dowen, get dowen.”
One of the little lads ran up. “Daddy, is there a toilet on the train?”
“No. Go back there and sit down.”
As we pulled into Heuston, a loud belch announced the progress of the father down the aisle with his sunglasses and his can of Coors Light.
So those were my three examples of manhood on a short train journey: men who must be “kept going” by women due to their inability to potter; a man who, when he is educated, might well leave the country for a good job in a place where you can get accommodation; and a man who was not willing to abandon his can and to potter to the other end of the carriage to see to the behaviour and needs of his children.
And of course there are the children. I don’t begrudge them their day out and their exuberance and exhilaration and I hope they will remember it as a good day.
But I really hope someone is looking out for them as they progress along what I fear may be a very rocky road.
Padraig O’Morain (email@example.com, @PadraigOMorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is Mindfulness for Worriers. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email.