It was Jim McMahon who first pointed out
that you never come across a bald tinker,
nor do you ever see one in old age.
For pure glamour, in my mind
no one could or will
beat the tinkers.
They were outsiders for a start,
sartorial smart, with an edge,
like the dangerous whiff
of burnt rubber you get at the Bumpers.
The young men, sometimes small,
always slim in leather jackets,
torn denim before it became de rigueur,
had unforgettable names
like Elvis O’Donoghue
Christy O’Driscoll the Bowler.
Even when I was ten
every one of them called me ma’am.
The older men, Teds or Rockers,
sported the sidelocks of Victorian cads,
with rubbery Native American skin
hair dyed blonde, they drove low
windowless vans and knew everything
about antiques and horses.
They were champion bowlers,
they spoke their own ancient language.
Even the people who abhorred them
barred them from pubs and shops,
would stop sometimes to whisper
in tones of mystified respect:
See that fellow over there
with the big head of white hair
he’s the King of the Tinkers.