I get into this taxi last week and the driver asks me if I’ve got any change. He’s just started his shift and he has no money. So I’m looking around for a small note and a few coins and I say something like: You just forgot your money?
“No,” he says. “I’ve just been at the bookies. I won’t tell you how much I’ve lost.”
But he tells me how much he’s lost: a thousand euro since the start of the week. He’s absolutely cleaned out. When I give him my eight or nine quid at the end, that’s the only money he has.
“I had a thousand on Monday and I was going to pay off some bills, and I owed some money to my wife. But I thought, if I could double it, I could pay off a couple of other things too.”
So that’s what happened. He doesn’t have a particular area: he’ll bet on anything.
“I was out for two hours yesterday and I earned six euro. I drove a guy who was pissed from Dawson Street to Leeson Street. And then he accused me of short-changing him.”
He came home recently and his partner had changed the locks. “She asked me a few months ago to try…you know, to give it up, but I didn’t fucking do it.” He said he’d no one to blame but himself and he didn’t blame her. But he felt hard done by that he had made all the payments on the house for years, and now he was sleeping on someone’s couch. “I have to make an appointment to get in to my own fucking house.”
Like a lot of Irish people, he believed that if his name wasn’t on the deeds, he had no rights to the house. You see, he got divorced twenty years ago, so when he met his current partner, he bought this house and put it in her name, in case his wife tried to come back and claim part of it. This way it was safe. His partner was in homeopathy, or something. He admired what she did but there wasn’t a lot of work in it. So he paid the mortgage.
He was telling me all this. He told me that the way he found out that his wife was cheating on him was she was cut out of another man’s car by a fire brigade in the early hours of one morning. That was the second time she cheated on him, “so I just said fuck this.” He walked out on her and his kids. “You can fucking look after them,” he said.
And now here he was again, at a low ebb. “I went to meetings”, he said about his gambling. “But I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t really want to stop.”