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Goodbye yellow brick road

Goodbye yellow brick road

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The Irish economy had sizzled with an enough ultra-violet rays to tan a nation of reluctant pale skinned knackers. It had vibrated, trembled and quivered, like a gold-plated Harcourt Street hooker’s dildo. Then the bankers, fat cats and politicians combined to send it off a cliff, quicker than you could say, “Subprime evaporation of liquidity.”

But back in that yellow brick road year of 1973, Ireland was EU happy, Europa bound. Somebody had spotted an advert in one of the local papers, “Jobs in Denmark.” Gaybo came into the Goalpost Pub beaming.

“So, what’s the story,” we all asked.

Well, he’d just been up to the Shelbourne Hotel and Danfoss, one of Denmark’s finest, were looking for factory workers. He said there where shit loads of guys there. They’d been given a slide-show, there was a room stacked with beer, cigarettes and cigars. Everyone had signed up, he was off in July.

I said, “Shite,” I’d just booked a holiday of a lifetime to Torremolinos. I couldn’t just cancel it, but I wanted in.

Jayzus, I thought, there’d be no room for me.

“How many signed up?”

Gaybo was pissing himself, “Fucking loads of them.”

“Who’s loads?”

“Mickser, Chas, Jem and Wacker.”

Wacker was the original ripped Cro-Magnon man.What you could only describe as having an overabundance of muscles and body hair, topped off with a bushy werewolf face. A definite case of arms and the man. Wacker was all excited about the EU dream trip. His pockets stuffed with cigarettes and cigars. He said there was another interview, “Ta-marrr-ra”.

We all agreed to go up to the Shelbourne and see, just what the story was. Wacker and Gaybo agreed to go again, as our tour guides.

What possessed Danfoss to go headhunting in Ireland, will forever be shrouded in the mists and fog of EU commerce. I heard later from a “Mot,” (a female) in a Danish bar, whose father just happened to be a director in Danfoss, that there had been a boardroom meeting, about the future of the guest-worker program. They didn’t want any more, “Johnny Turks,” who they’d been bringing into Denmark, in large numbers. So no Turks, who else? The choice fell on Irlande or Italia. Ireland was their number one choice, because, the Danes and the Irish were very similar. We had, it seemed, the same type of bar room humour. Boom Boom.

But back to the story, which finds our heroes outside the Shelbourne Hotel, one Sunday afternoon after the pubs have shut. We didn’t look like a party of International Businessmen looking for International Accommodation. Not with Wacker leading the way, like Davy Crockett, or to put it more graphically, Davy, doing his impersonation of the missing link. “Diz way lads, up daa stairs,” said Wacker, our frontier guide for the evening.

The interview wasn’t exactly a typical job interview, more of a massed Moonie wedding, type of thingy. There was a big conference hall full of eager faces, all whispering and fidgeting. I could hear the same advice being given in loud whispers around the room.

“When the Sergeant Major says, it’s time for a tea break, head for the back of the hall.”

There were four big Danes standing in various poses around the room. A bluff ramrod straight man, stood in front of a large screen.

“The Sergeant Major,” whispered Gaybo.

“Good afternoon gentlemen, I seem to recognize a few familiar faces here today,” he said, looking down at Wacker and Gaybo.

“There are cigarettes and cigars here for those that smoke. Just help yourselves.”

Wacker was up and over at the table, armed this time with a plastic bag. The slide show got started, amid all these black shadows around the table and the noise of rustling plastic bags. The Sergeant Major droned on and on, about Danfoss and the rise from rags to riches of its founder, Mads Clausen. Then from riches to mega riches. He kept smacking the screen with his stick, to make some obscure point and I suppose to keep us awake. What Danfoss was, or made, went right over our heads. He smacked the screen a last time, then the lights came on.

The whole room was tense, waiting, for the magic words.

“Now,” he said, “I think it’s time for a…”

He never finished the sentence. As he was left talking to an empty room.

“I see some of you know the way,” was his throwaway remark.

Inside that magical room, cases and cases of Carlsberg Special brew were being emptied, as quickly as the barman could open them. The glasses where going into the plastic bags and the beer was going down a horde of thirsty throats. The combination of Sunday with the pubs closed and free beer was just fucking marvellous. I drank about four and was feeling dizzy. Wacker was up on ten and going strong. There seemed to be loads of Irish soldiers there, milling around heads back guzzling.

“OK, chaps,” said the Sergeant Major, “tea break’s over.”

He was ignored by the mob, until the barman called, sold-out. No more beer.

We reluctantly lurched back to our seats. The Sarge pointed once again at the table, indicating the cigars and cigarettes. But low and behold, the table was empty. Nothing, not a sausage, not a fucking dicky bird.

“I see we have a few heavy smokers here today,” was the Sarge’s little jokey reply,

“We’d better fetch some more.”

I managed to get a few this time before the lights where dimmed and the slide show began.

The Sarge was droning on and on, about Nordborg, that sun blessed holiday home town of, “The Big D.” There was pictures of suntanned sexy miniskirt females, biking through fabulous sexy green forests. Sailing boats, a wonder land of windmills and smiling people, just waiting to share a storey, a shag, or a joke with their cultural soul brothers.

I could not guarantee it, but I’m sure that nobody but the Danes, knew where the fuck Denmark was located, on the map of Europe. Most people associate Denmark with either Legoland or bacon.

Back then, all we knew about was the bacon. We sat staring at the Sarge, our pal. Our bellies full of Denmark’s finest beer. That warm afterglow, lighting up our faces. Everybody was a fucking hero. Wacker was my pal, all the squaddies, Moonie interviewees, my pals.

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The Sarge was going on about wages and conditions in the factories. Nobody gave a flying fuck.

“Any questions?” the Sarge asked.

A soldier stood up, a bit woozy on his feet. “Is there any chance of some overtime?”

That cracked us all up. Jayzus, he hadn’t even signed up and he was after the “overtime blue.”

The question, obviously caught the Sarge on the hop. He turned to one of the Danes, a little chap who went by the name of Jensen. Jensen stepped forward, for his time in the sun and said, “Yes, there was limited possibilities for overtime.” We all gave a great cheer.

“Was there any more questions.”

“Yes Sir,” (Jayzus, another fucking soldier,) “Any chance I can borrow a pen.”

Once again we all cracked up.

“Certainly,” said the Sarge, waving his gleaming Gold Parker Pen.

There was a lot of pushing and shoving and milling around the table. Signing under the dotted line. Handfuls of the remaining cigs going into deep pockets. I signed up, Jayzus, I think everybody signed up, even Wacker, for the second time. I explained I could not go in July, as I had booked a holiday of a lifetime to Torremolinos.

“No problem,” they said, I could come over, as soon as soon as I was back. They would hold a job open.

I thought, St Peter at the pearly Danfoss gates, holding them open, so I could be with my soul mates.

My brother signed up. Now he was typical of the guys there. He had a steady girlfriend who sang her song of, “I love yuuuu, I cannot live without youuuu, and I’ll go to Australia with youuuu.”

Me and Gay would wink to each other as we knew it was a load of shite. No way was she leaving Dublin. She would go anywhere in the world with him, as long as it was to a corporation house, near her mother.

Danfoss got a lot of forms signed by a lot of guys like my brother. They ended up with lots of contracts not worth the arse paper they were written on. After everybody had signed up, we all started for the door. My ever lasting memory of that parting, as we all ebbed out of the conference hall, was the sound of a soldier, puking his ring up over the deep-pile luxury carpet. And just as we were going out the double doors, I could hear the Sergeant Major’s voice, in a sort of high extreme pleading manner, asking, no, begging, imploring, “Excuse me, Excuse me, Sirs! Gentlemen! Has anyone seen a gold Parker Pen?”

Cover image courtesy of Anton Kudris via Flickr

Read Frank’s account of working in Denmark here

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