This article is taken from Stand 229, 19(1) March - May 2021.

Fred Johnston Instant of Detonation
‘There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.’
                                                          — Jean-Paul Sartre

We were all equally selfish. Everyone is at that age. Everything came from that, even when we called it love, or generosity of spirit. Even if it came from sharing. We gathered in rooms and roared about Northern Ireland and even the Viet Nam war, but it was as much a chance to meet other people. To get into a girl’s bed. To initiate love affairs. To borrow money. So it goes.

There were small simple cafés and restaurants where we could debate about the world or bitch about it until the seagulls rose off the roofs and trafficless streets and the sun came up. We lived on coffee and cheap spaghetti. Some places catered for the poor and we were dishonest and joined the lunch queues. We never saw ourselves as poor. Not having money wasn’t being poor. One day in such a queue a rough-hewn man dropped dead in front of us, his plate of stew splashing all over the floor, in and out the metal chair legs, soaking the cigarette ends. We thought poverty was not having any life of the mind. Lacking true imagination. Being dull enough to look for a job.

Instead of jobs or money we had ideas and forms of art. Some of us played gigs solo for beer where the audience used our time to go to the bar for more drinks. Others were painters or sculptors ...
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