usually I wear tweed
like the ageing bachelor I am
carry a pipe in an inside pocket
behave politely
give thanks
and compliments about the food
then leave early
as if I had somewhere to go
other than another drop-in for tea
where I am polite and leave early
so I am no bother

on sundays I eat at the hotel
stretch late lunch into late tea
exchange pleasantries with other regulars
drive home
watch the news
retire at ten

in town on tuesdays
when I feel the urge
I buy a newspaper and whichever
top shelf magazine catches my eye
I place the paper on top of the magazine
so I can watch the teenage cashier’s eyes
when she sees it
I read neither
but the thrill sets me up nicely
for a slow pint
while anticipating the massage I have booked
the masseuse is spanish
I like that she is from a holy catholic country
just like Ireland
there is a vague sense of solidarity
in how far we have fallen together
she doesn’t ask but seems to understand

I don’t pray any more
I can’t ask forgiveness of a god I don’t believe in
I still feel a slight flutter of anxiety
when I see the boys and girls
dressed up and heading for first communion
it’s why I smoke a pipe
it keeps my hands busy
packing the bowl stops them shaking
holding the smoke in my mouth
focuses attention away from the memory
of my own first communion
and the special privilege
I was given for three years

tweed feels solid and stable
my father and grandfather wore it
it is functional and familiar
fits like the hugs my mother gave
yet is coarse enough to irritate
to make me focus
like the scourge of sackcloth
or the rasp
of a priest’s stubble

Selected byJordan Trethewey
Image credit:Charisse Kenyon

Cameron McClure doesn’t exist. He is the pen-name for a  permanently retired civil servant who lives in Northern Ireland and likes nothing better than competitive banter over a pint or two. He believes it will all come right on the night because he’s happier that way and no-one has yet proved him wrong though a lot of well-meaning people try to for some reason.