Brian ‘Steve’ Mooney is one of my oldest friends but he is a complete chancer.
He won’t mind me telling you that, to be fair, and he doesn’t mind making himself the butt of a joke, either.
He’s fond of sharing the story of how he met his wife on Tinder – the only problem was that that meeting came after nine years of only occasionally happy marriage.
The nickname was inspired by Brian’s peripatetic work history – ‘Steve’ as in ‘Steve Jobs’.
In all the time I’ve known him, he’s rarely done the same thing for more than a few years but, if that worries him, he doesn’t show it.
His first posting was the summer we did the Leaving Cert (year redacted for legal reasons). Bertie Lawlor was the local landscaper and he enlisted Brian to do some grunt-work. However, having been unable to have the day after the grads off, tiredness overtook him coming up to lunchtime and, when Bertie found him asleep in a wheelbarrow, any hopes of becoming the next Monty Don were dashed.
In fairness to him, he went from that into a woodworking course and it would become a lucrative sideline in the years that followed, regardless of what his day job might have been.
The talent with the saw meant that he was able to make all of the furniture for what was a fairly ambitious venture in his mid-20s.
After a spell working in a butcher’s shop, a unit on Main St became vacant and he used his charm to negotiate a fairly cheap rent. A large sign was placed outside the premises, advising passers-by that Siopa Caife Naomh Arbóg would be opening soon.
By his reckoning, the water in the area benefited from being blessed by this mysterious saint – that none of the rest of us had heard of – centuries ago.
The real ruse was revealed after a week when, claiming that tourists wouldn’t be familiar enough with the Gaeilge, he renamed the place as St Arbuck’s. When the inevitable solicitor’s letter arrived from the massive chain with a similar name, Mooney’s defence was simple, if doomed to failure: “Sure how can they say I’m copying them? I write the correct names on people’s cups!”
He was lucky that that was his only brush with litigation, though. Being involved in so many different circles of industry and commerce, he was prone to a bit too much social discourse at times, especially half-true tales of others and his excuse that: “I’m not starting the rumour, only spreading it,” didn’t always stand up.
Similarly, an ill-advised stint as a bookmaker saw some dark arts in operation, but the desire for a quick buck blew up in his face, quite badly. Too much experience of the other side of the counter had seen Brian develop relationships with various racehorse trainers in the area and, in league with a couple of those whose morals weren’t the tightest, he would offer longer odds on certain favourites, in the knowledge that they might not be about to run their best races.
Unfortunately, things came a cropper one day when he got mixed up between two horses, Lamb of God and First Holy Communion. When the latter, a 3/1 shot everywhere else but 7/1 with Brian, romped home, the joke in the area was that he would have to use his own Communion money to pay off everyone who had lumped on.
He stopped going to Mass for a good while after that, but his next career provided a route back to the church – he had missed the gossip in the porch, too.
Perhaps it was the quest for more certainty and security in his working life that saw him decide to become a teacher. Woodwork was the natural choice and he was lucky to get a temporary posting close to home soon after earning the necessary qualifications.
When, after a few weeks, he heard that the school was short a religion teacher, he felt that he could combine that with the main role and set about putting forward his candidacy to the principal, Sheila Carr.
Not one to entertain folly, Sheila tried to come up with a plausible excuse to say no, but ‘Steve’ had a strong counter-argument: “I’ll stop you there – wasn’t Our Lord himself a carpenter?”