Adventures of a Wonky-Eyed Boy is Jason Byrne’s side-splitting memoir of an accident prone childhood growing up on a mad road in suburban Dublin in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In these exclusive extracts we give you a sneak peak into Adventures of a Wonky Eyed Boy. Jason Byrne’s childhood adventures are nostalgic, heart-warming and, above all, hilarious.
1. Snow White ... Amanda Hayden.
2. Seven Dwarfs ... two Davids, Alan, two Toms, a Terry and a Ken.
3. Woodsman ... Brian Curtin.
4. Queen ... Debra Jolly.
10. Trees in the Woods ... Glen Amber and Jason Byrne.
Opening night. Huge excitement. I looked down from the edge of the stage as all the mammies waved at their children. Amanda Hayden was going down a storm, even mammies that weren’t her mammy were waving at her. There wasn’t a daddy in sight, they were all just home from WORK! They needed a rest in the pub. ‘Take a picture of the play, sure he won’t even know if I’m there or not.’ Suddenly, the lights on the stage changed – well, they dimmed them down to 50%. Sister Francis Xavier pressed Play on the tape-recorder, the wind howled from the tape-recorder and into the mic, which then fed back. Snow White was on her own in the deep, dark woods.
Sister Francis Xavier looked at me and Glen and whispered loudly: ‘Cue the woods, cue the woods, go boys.’ On me and Glen shuffled. We both had cardboard wrapped around us, painted brown, shower caps with leaves stuck to them and in our hands, held down by our sides, we were carrying a couple of branches, and of course one tree also had big glasses, a patch and a special eye.
SNOW WHITE: Oh … no … I … am ... lost…in ... the ... forest.
SISTER FRANCIS XAVIER: Sway boys, sway.
We swayed back and forth, the best forest an audience had ever seen, although I’m not too sure if we were a forest as I don’t know the official amount of trees needed to qualify for the word ‘forest’. I saw my mam, I got excited, it wasn’t my fault. I started to wave my big branch arm towards my mother. As I did this, I caught Amanda Hayden by the hair, but with the lights in my eyes I had no idea what was happening. I was dragging her backwards and forwards by her long hair, which was now stuck in the branch at the end of my arm.
Cut to: show ending early, Amanda Hayden with heavy bruising to the head, my mother mortified, as the Irish would say, and I know she was because she said it all the way home as I tried to walk down the road still dressed as a tree. My mother didn’t even wait for me to get changed, we made a quick exit before she was taken down by the other mammies. Mam didn’t go to mass for two weeks, until things cooled down. I was made say sorry in school, at the front of the class, to Amanda Hayden. She said she didn’t mind. But with the bruising and cuts, she now looked like one of us. Ah life, and I had had only had five years of it so far … more to come.
It was quite common to babysit at a young age in the ’80s. If anything went wrong, you just called into one of your pretend auntie’s or uncle’s houses to ask for help. FLASH! BANG! went the thunder and lightning again. The girls were crying, but I was telling them it was alright, not to worry, that it was just thunder and lightning, but every time the thunder banged, my eye turned into my nose with fright. I had never heard thunder like this before.
HUGE FLASH OF LIGHT AND THEN … BANG!
ME: One, two, three, four, five, six, sev ...
I told the girls that the storm was moving, now it was nearly seven miles away. When you see the flash, start counting, every second you count before you hear thunder again is a mile away. That was our homespun science on the matter anyway. There was silence for a bit, then the window lit up as if the sun had exploded, followed by the loudest noise in the history of noises.
All the lights went out in the house, street, everywhere. It was pitch-black, and my eye was frightened, it was flying around in my head. The girls were really scared now. ‘It’s just a blackout,’ I said, ‘the storm has knocked out all the electricity.’ We waited in the bed for a while, not sure how long, then I heard the doorbell. ‘It must be Mam and Dad. You stay here.’ I walked down through the dark house. I say this like it was a mansion, but the walk from the bedroom to the landing and down the spiral staircase, which was tricky enough to tackle in the daylight, took forever in total darkness.
As I came down the stairs, there was banging at the front door and the doorbell was going as well. This was not my mam and dad. All I could see was the silhouette of a huge head, almost like an alien’s head, through the glass door. In fact, a bit like Michael J. Fox’s uniform as he steps out of the DeLorean time-machine car in Back to the Future, when he crashes into a barn and the farmer thinks he’s an alien and … No? No? Nothing? ... Ah, Google it. More banging on the glass door, the lightning lighting up the figure outside from behind. It was like a horror film.
MONSTER: Hello, hello, anyone in there?
MONSTER: Open the door.
MONSTER: Open the door, it’s the fire brigade.
I opened the door, and the monster came into focus. He was a fireman, his helmet was the thing that had scared me. He stepped inside and more firemen rushed past him. ‘Where’s the rest of your family?’ ‘Upstairs,’ I said. The firemen ran up the stairs, while another took me out into the driveway.
There were four fire engines outside, all with flashing lights. Every neighbour was in our driveway, along with most of my mates. I was wrapped in a blanket and held by our neighbour Joan. Seconds later, my sisters were taken out, then my brother arrived into the driveway.
ERIC: What have you done now, yeh spa yeh?
ERIC: You’re dead when Mam and Dad get back.
Then, in the middle of it all, my parents came down in their blue Ford Cortina from the pub. The whole road watched as they drove up to the house. My dad jumped out in his usual calm manner.
DAD: Holy shit, who the???, what’s happening???, what are all these people doing in me garden, the fire brigade!!!!!!!!!!?
He continued to run in and out of the house and around in circles in the front garden in a complete panic. He had no idea what was happening as the house wasn’t even on fire, he just couldn’t work it out.
My mother held us all in our blankets as the neighbours looked down their noses at her. Bad Mammy, bad Mammy, she’d dropped the ball. She was always there in case of a crisis, then this happens. Poor Mammy. The next day I was in the garden, along with the rest of the road. Our house was famous and the newspaper was here to take a photo of us all, well, all except for my dad because he was up in the pub calming down after the ordeal that he never went through. The lightning had hit our chimney, which exploded into a million pieces, then all the bricks rolled down the back of the house, smashed all the slates, fell into the boiler house and smashed that as well. The lightning had also raced down any electrical cable it could find and blew up appliances along the way.
Illustrations by awarding winning illustrator Nicky Phelan.