Too Much Time On My Hands
By Mattie Lennon
Emails offering flat garden hoses, penile extensions, 2% mortgages in North Carolina or equipment to spy on neighbours, I usually dele te unread.
Recently, however, one caught my eye:
Men's and ladies prestige watches for all occasions... 98% accuracy... Includes all proper markings... authentic weight.
It reminded me of my own foray into the world of retailing chronometers. In the early summer of 1972 I discovered a source where I could purchase large quantities of affordable, imported, watches at £2 each. (Hector Grey pointed out to the young, entrepreneurial Bill Cullen that if you buy an article for a pound and sell it for two pounds that is one-
The streets of Dublin proved to be lucrative for me in the month of June. Through hard work, a lot of patter and strategic planning I sold hundreds of watches in the Capital. Sales dropped in early July. Had everyone in Dublin bought a watch from me?
On Sunday 16th July, a scorching day, I headed for McHale Park, Castlebar to the Connaught Final. Roscommon beat Mayo 5:8 to 3:10 and I boarded the Dublin train with pockets bulging.
In the All-
And on the penultimate Sunday of September, as the final whistle blew, I was waiting outside Croke Park. Kerry V Offaly had ended in a draw. Both sets of supporters were jubilant in anticipation of a win next time out. Fob-
I was, once again, ready for the replay on 15th October. Offaly beat Kerry 1:9 to 0:13. Watches would adorn muscular wrists in Banager and Blennerville.
I found that the only section of the Irish community completely out of the watch market was the Greyhound fraternity. (Perhaps they were only interested in stopwatches). A visit to Harold's Cross resulted in not one sale.
When Percy Bysshe Shelley was selling his book Address To The Irish People, at the Gresham Hotel, in 1812, he said, "I stand by the window and wait 'til I see who looks likely. Then I throw a book at him". I didn't use the poet's marketing ploy but one hundred and sixty years later and twenty yards from the prestigious Hotel, on 03rd November I was selling outside the Savoy Cinema in O'Connell Street when a well-
The lapel of his fashionable, fingertip-
If Garda John McGonigle had asked where I had gotten my wares I suppose I could have quoted William Paley's Natural Theology (1802), "Suppose I found a watch upon the ground, and it should be enquired how the watch happened to be in that place... the inference, we think is inevitable... " or I could have given him the name and address of my wholesaler.
But he didn't ask. Instead he called for a patrol car and I was conveyed to Store Street station. The driver was a, civil, plain-
Back in the station McGonigle suggested that the watches weren't of top quality, as if I had been claiming that they were Omegas.
When I asked if I could make a phone call, Garda McGonigle was the one to answer, "No".
Eventually I was asked where I got the watches and I gave the name and address of my supplier who was based a ten-
In the small hours of the morning, while pondering on what I was missing (Johnny Flynn had been playing at the Ierne) the shouts and language in the adjoining cells made me thankful that I wasn't a law-
My first cell-
When I insisted on reading the document I was accused of being, " very cagey".
Though nobody had asked me what was my trade or profession the "Occupation" line on the sheet was filled with the words, "No business".
When my term of incarceration came to an end (the only night of my life spent in a cell) and the crisp November air of Northside Dublin assailed my face, I was in a position to review the words of George A.Birmingham; "The Irish Police Barrack is invariably clean, occasionally picturesque, but it is never comfortable". If Mr. Birmingham had ever visited Store Street he would have omitted the bit about "invariably clean".
The burly, polite, Garda who ushered me into the "meat-
I answered in the negative without elaboration. (Come to think of it, not alone have I not indulged in "batin' the polis" since, but somewhere among my collection of newspaper cuttings, Clancy Brothers records and knick-
So, I didn't agree with Brendan Behan when he said that there was no human situation so grim that the appearance of a Policeman wouldn't worsen.)
I was taken to the Courts area kept in a holding-
On my journey through the subterranean passage, from the holding cell to the Court, Garda McGonigle, who was now in uniform, (I bet he didn't sleep on a plank) made me walk in front of him. Perhaps he feared my having a lump-
When the Judge addressed me, not being au feit with Courtroom protocol, I stepped forward to deliver the monologue, which I had rehearsed through the night. A Garda put out a restraining hand and whispered to me that that is not how things are done. The Judge on seeing my confusion said, ?"You'll get plenty of opportunity to say what you have to say". They next thing I heard was "adjourned". I signed a Bail-
"Out into God's sweet air we went
But not in wonted way... "
I contacted my supplier and, since neither of us had anything to hide, he accompanied me to Store Street Garda Station and explained that, yes, he had been supplying quantities of watches to me over the preceding months. The officer on duty pointed out that since I was already charged I would have to appear in Court on the appointed day or a Bench-
When I returned home to 4, Chester Road, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, I discovered that the house had been searched by a number of Gardai. A ledger and light fitting were missing. The former was returned to me later in Dublin Castle. The latter I haven't seen since.
I later learned that the following exchange took place between two friends of mine:
"Did you hear about Lennon being arrested?"
"No.What did he do"?
"Oh, nothing. He had too much time on his hands".
On my next Court appearance, being a great believer in the maxim that the innocent don't need defence, I didn't engage a Solicitor. Garda McGonigle's only evidence was, "I am not offering any evidence".
Life went on.
I haven't featured in Fogra Tora since.
As far as I know, Garda McGonigle didn't finish up directing traffic in Bangor Erris and I haven't ever heard of a Guard being charged with wasting Police time... have you?