Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Vodka in the jar

Michael Collins, the “outstanding organiser who brought Lenin himself to Ireland to see how the National Loan worked.”

Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, spoke with a Dublin accent.

Do you know what it is I’m going to tell you? The brother was above in the digs the other night with this Russian character. Ulyanov by name, some class of a big bowsie in Petrograd.

Anyway, yer man says he’s over to talk to the Big Fella, incognito, on the sly like, and didn’t the landlady have a room free, so there’s yer man in the parlour with the rest of them, talking about all sorts.

The way it was was, didn’t the landlady have in a couple of bottles of porter with the aul Moscow gold, and there’s the Brother casting an eye over the Freeman’s Journal and having the odd goo at this quare fella looking askance at the bacon and cabbage and sinking bottled stout like a man in a hurry to lubrificate himselft.

Is it well you are, sez he.

Grand enough, sez yer man, not letting on to be Russian like, bit of a Rathmines accent on him.

Is it far you’ve come, sez the Brother.

Far enough now, sez yer man, still giving it the suburban demeanour.

I’d say now it’s not Ranelagh or Ballsbridge you’d be from.

Bedad, sez our man, and you have me there. Isn’t it from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics I am?

Would that be like the credit union, sez I.

It would not, sez the brother, but it’s not so wrong you are. In the heel of the hunt, it was indeed the credit he was after. Wasn’t he having a word with General Collins about how you might raise a few bob when nobody does be wanting to lend to you.

Begob, and no fella bates the Big Fella for the raising of the spondoolicks.

It’s only right you are, sez the brother. It’s this National Loan yoke he’s after starting: don’t the Russians want one of their own?

Now there’s a thing, sez I, and why would they be wanting that?

Don’t they have a Civil War themselves, sez he, and a fierce famine likewise.

The aul sorrows we do be suffering ourselves, sez I, the same aul sorrows.

Sorrows indeed, sez he. So he was above in Leinster House talking to General Collins about the raising of the cash. But would you credit this?


Not a jorum offered him. A cup of tea and a hang sanger was the full of it.

Ah that’s a terrible hardship, the poor man just off the boat, and a thirst on him, and a chill in his bones too I’d say, and not a drop to warm him.

Didn’t he say the same himself. He was going great guns on the porter, but he had a thirst on him for a drop of the gargle from his own native heath.

And what would that be when it’s above in the dacha?

A class of a drop they do be calling the vodka.

The vodka is it?

The vodka.


Right enough. Vodka. From the spuds they do make it. A class of a Slavic poitin.

And sure and don’t you have a tincture yourselft for the rubbing into your aul knee when the damp air comes in.

Indeed and I do, and fit for internal application likewise, so didn’t I place a drop of it before his lips?

Bedad, and that’s a grand little water, he sez, the little water being the ait-ee-mology of the vodka, like our own uisce beatha.

So did the Big Fella see him right for the readies, sez I.

He did, but, cute lad, he took a deposit, before he gave him the cash.

A deposit? Is the pawnbroking he’s at now?

Isn’t there the three balls swinging over the gates of Leinster House, he sez, yer man Lenin hocked the crown jewels of Russia.

I knew the Big Fella was a fierce man for a bargain, but …

It wasn’t the euphemistic jewels, sez he, it was the Crown Jewels of the Romanovs. And a ticket for twenty five thousand Yankee dollar he gave him.

Begob, and he wouldn’t fit that under his big furry hat.

Begob and he wouldn’t, but there’s not many the pawnbroker would write that ticket, either.

Indeed and there’s not.

Whereupon, he whistled to his rusty steed, which, Raleighing to his call, placed itself in his nether proximity and conducted him away.

With apologies to himselft.

4 comments on “Vodka in the jar

  1. Kate
    October 12, 2012

    Enjoyed this deeply. Wonder what the Russian convention is for refusing an offer that they want to accept, as I understand that the Irish way of it to is to say no three times and then accept, which can make an offer of a cup of tea a bit wearing.

  2. Hilary
    October 12, 2012

    Wonderful – brilliant. Wouldn’t you know that the Brother (not to mention the longsuffering landlady) would be right there at the heart of things. Nothing of moment can happen without the Brother. Thank you for this, paraffinalia!

  3. Moira
    October 12, 2012

    Oh my. I did enjoy that. Superbly done. Thank you for brightening my day …🙂

  4. omid
    October 13, 2012

    if you can please translate your blog into persian.

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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