Mike Goes Nesting
Movies from America were gobbled up by the young and bored population of Ireland during the late seventies and early eighties. One movie which struck a particular cord with our natural dislike of regulation was, 'Smokie and the Bandit.'
Within weeks of it coming out in the cinema, bangers all over the country were sprouting twenty foot ariels, and derricks began appearing on farmers cottages, housing antenna for the all-important 'Home-base.'
The countryside once rang with farmer’s wives roaring over hedges, “Johnny, come in. The dinner's on the table.' Those quaint beckoning's were replaced with bursts of statistic masking a barely audible, "Breaker, breaker, Soda bread Mary to Smelly John, nosebag imminent, repeat, nosebag imminent - OVER!"
Uncle Mike was a mighty man for the CB radio, he had one in the JCB, a unit in the car, and a home-base set up beside his bed. Mike made sure he wasn't going to miss a thing. A game that proved to be most popular with CB enthusiast was called, 'Chicken Run'. On a Saturday evenings, whole herds of Ford Escorts and Fiat Uno's, took off around the back roads. Their whippy ariel's nodding as they passed along hedgerows and stonewalls, marking their pursuit. The chicken, being some other young-fella in a car, was driving around aimlessly, giving clues to his location over the radio. First one to catch the chicken, was the quarry for the next run.
One Saturday night, Uncle Mike left the house to chase the Chicken, but came back having captured one very giggly Rita. Granny Begley was heard to comment, "Would you look at your man. He's mad for nesting." It turns out she was right.
That was the start of something really special. It wasn't long before wedding bells chimed and Mike ran up the aisle to claim Rita as his own. Life in an already overcrowded Begley house, wasn't the most comfortable for a newly married couple. Each Morning Rita would wake up, not only to Mikes snoring, but the snoring of his two brothers in the next bed. It was a situation that couldn't last. The arrangements in Rita's parents place were little better, they had only two bedrooms and nearly as many kids as the Begley's. The perfect solution arrived one day, on the back of a flatbed lorry, a slightly worse for wear, mostly watertight, mobile home.
The mobile home ended up nestling against Rita's parents’ house, because it wouldn’t fit next to Granny Begley’s. Mike and Rita spent a long cold winter in that drafty thing. Keeping warm was a priority so it was little wonder, that by spring, Rita found herself in the family way.
"Listen Mike, you’re going to have to do something before the baby arrives," instructed Rita, putting yet another pot under a dripping hole.
"Leave it to me, have I ever let you down?" Mike said with a cheeky grin.
"Alright, but be quick about it," said Rita dreading what might happen next. When Mike got involved, the possibilities for calamity, were endless. As it happened he made an extremely sensible decision. After a quick cup of tea with Rita's parents, it was decided to build on an extension onto their house, for the newly expanding family. That was on a Friday evening, work started the very next Monday morning.
Something I should tell you about my Uncle Mike, he isn't afraid of hard work, but he’s short of two vital things, patience and the ability to see a problem. On the Monday, he'd enlisted the help of his brother, PJ. The two men stood in the small yard, sizing up the job in front of them, scratching whatever happened to be itchy at the time.
"Where's she going then?" asked PJ.
"Feck it lad, she's an extension! It's going up against the house."
"Yea but which way?" said PJ.
"Oh, I see what you're getting at," agreed Mike, scratching his head.
A Rothmans packet was ripped up and the drawing up of plans began. Exact measurements were taken by means of strides, each one exactly three feet, give or take a few inches. On the completion of the exhaustive engineering survey, they both came to the same conclusion.
"She won't fit that side, t'll have to go where the mobile is," decided PJ.
"And where the hell are we supposed to live?" asked Mike.
"Jesus lad, move it over there," said PJ, pointing to the spot they just decided was too small for the extension.
"Do you think she'll fit?" asked Mike, followed by a complete re-enactment of the measuring goose-step.
The very next day, PJ turned up to the house to find the mobile home completely surrounded by a four foot deep trench, resembling a mote circling a besieged castle. In the corner of the yard stood a small mountain of soil and Mikes rusting digger. PJ tried to reach across the gap but, in the end, he had to step down into the trench to knock on the door. When Mike answered, his hair wild from the pillow.
PJ asked, "What the feck happened?"
"Hah?" which is Mikey for 'what'.
"What the hell is this?" asked PJ, pointing to the trench he was currently standing in.
"I got bored and started to mark out the foundation," said Mike rubbing his mop of curly black hair.
"Went a bit deep with the marking, don't yea think?"
"Na Your-sir, just right if you ask me," said Mike with a wink.
"And how are you going to get the truck under the bloody mobile?"
"Ah bollocks," said Mike realizing what he'd done.
After coffee and cornflakes, Mike decided the best course of action was to carry on and pour the foundation, then move the mobile home. That very day the shuttering went in and the mixer rumbled into life. It took three days, but the two brothers eventually mixed enough concrete, with their tiny petrol mixer, to fill the trench. In two more days the concrete had set hard and Mike arranged for the truck to come and move the mobile home.
All day Saturday, Mike waited for the truck. Typically, he got bored and began moving a few things around. The truck never turned up Saturday or Sunday for that matter. By the time Monday arrived, along with the truck, Mikes boredom had transformed into five full rows of blocks, laid and set. When PJ saw what Mike had done, the amount of curse words which came out of him was close to biblical.
When he eventually calmed enough to talk in English, he asked Mike, "What the hell are we going to do now?"
Mike had no idea so he suggested tea and a fag. He'd cleverly left the door for the new house exactly where the door of the mobile already was. Four cigarettes and two mugs of tea later they had a plan. They'd continue with the building and get a crane to lift the Mobile out. A crane was booked and the boys continued working. When the crane landed into the yard and they told the driver what they had planned he nearly doubled with laughter.
"What you laughing at?" asked Mike.
"You fecking ejits, the lifting points are on the bottom," he said pointing to the now encased base of the mobile home.
I think you figured out by now what would happen next. Mike pushed on, PJ said he was nuts. Mike figured when he'd the building watertight he could just dismantle the mobile and take it out the door, piece by piece. After all, once the house was up, they wouldn't need it any more. It didn't take long to get the roof on, the Windows in and the door hung.
Uncle Mike’s inability to see any problem that couldn't be surmounted, got the house finished. By the time Mike brought my little cousin home for the first time, the extension was as watertight and sung as any you'd find the length and breath of the country. Admittedly, one window was slightly higher than the other, and the front door was a few inches up the wall, where most were level to the ground. You might chalk these differences down as a trick of the light until you got inside. At one end of the building the timber floor was slightly higher than at one the other end. The roof was a little lower than normal, but it was the walls that really took your breath away. Half Mobile home, half stud wall. It was as if the old green and white mobile home had been digested by a carnivorous beast of a house, the arch joining the extension to the Rita's parents old house was remarkably like a gullet. On one wall an old caravan window looked blankly into the sitting room, elsewhere a vent to nowhere, still protruded where a tiny kitchen had once stood.
Mike loved the house and Rita was too much of a lady to complain.
One day when a visitor commented on the strange construction. Mike just laughed at him.
"Jesus you-sir, that's all the fashion! A fella on the telly called it, 'Bespoke Construction'. Nothing but the best for Rita and the lad, it's bespoke or be-damned," crowed Mike.