A tale of two cities…

This week the planets really did align…

On Monday in England, we were finally allowed by our masters to play sports again – the clocks went forward, thereby extending our evenings and daylight hours – and then the sun (which thankfully is not controlled by our masters and politicians) decided to play ball also by making Monday 29th April 2021 a lovely warm day and so timely as the first day of British summertime.

You know how it is, when something is denied to us, that we yearn for it even more and then finally it arrives and it can even be something of an anti-climax.

I play golf and I have written before that it is the hardest game of all. A small hard ball over long distances and short, taking in lakes, bunkers, trees… not to mention a plethora mental frailties by people silly enough to take it up and very much including me.

On Monday, I worked all day writing my new novel in the warm knowledge that I had a tee-time booked for the early evening of my newly extended day.

Like a child on Christmas eve, I was excited all day until on the first tee, my brand new golf ball buried itself deep in to trees. Lost. £3 down. There are cheaper sports, but it’s good to be out, I told myself. The sun is shining…

2nd hole – my ball clears the trees guarding the green but continues its flight and heads out of the golf course. £6 down….

My playing partner is having an equally rusty outing. A 75 year Irishman called John but he doesn’t seem to do stress and he explains his secret. He tells me about his time arriving in London from Ireland in the 1960’s as a ‘navvie’ (his word, not mine) – he was actually a hod carrier – (the guy who humps bricks up ladders to the brickies above). With his brother, they dug the sewage trenches in Guildford, a town on the outskirts of London.

“….with transport from London, it was a 14 hour day. You’d bring your lunch, set it on the floor next to the trench and drag it backwards with you as you dug. Only toilet breaks allowed if you needed a shit. We’d pee in the trench…”

I didn’t tell him about toiling over my novel.

He was sanguine about how he and his countrymen were treated. That the Irish could only live in certain parts of the city and that they were barred from restaurants and pubs.

“…I went in to a pub for the first time on the Fulham Road with a mate and as soon as they heard our accents, two doorman heaved us outside and gave us a good kicking…”

I’d heard of these sorts of things. That there were signs hung on pub doors.

No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs

This was before my time but not my mum’s. She arrived from Tipperary in this era but she never recounted any such tales. My catholic school was full of Irish kids and they too never spoke of what was metered out to their parents.

I’m sad to imagine that my city had been so cruel to anyone coming here to improve their lot. My mum’s Irish accent and red hair would have made her very apparent. Her nursing career, her marriage, four kids and ten grandkids suggests that she  should have been very welcome indeed.

John explained that many Irish people (like my mum, perhaps) didn’t talk of what happened to them.

“We got our heads down and got on with it.”

Lots to admire here then: stoicism, guts, dignity, forgiveness and magnanimity…

But John had the last laugh.

The best conclusion to this is that he and his brother are both multi-millionaires in the multi-cultural world city that is London.


This denouement cheers me and is a good fillip to my abject golf. It is good that I am only playing ten holes as I might suffer the ignominy of running out of balls.

I try a bit of John’s therapy to raise my spirits…

I have never dug a trench in my life. The sun is still shining and golf is a tough game, I remind myself. Plus I haven’t played for a good while, so I’m out of practise. And its just a game and not like I am dependent on it for my living. I don’t need golf to eat.

But then I panic all over again.

Because stand-up comedy is difficult also and it is how I make my living.

And I haven’t done stand-up for more than a year, so logically, when gigs come back, then I am going to be absolutely….


Happy Easter to all my readers.




33 thoughts on “A tale of two cities…

      • Colin says:

        Hey Dom, great little tale, imagine the blogs our Irish ancestors could tell us, I too done my time as a hod carrier under the guise of a plastic paddy haha and never done me any harm. Hope you and your family have a blessed Easter.

    • Derek Shakespeare says:

      Firstly, happy Easter Dominic and family. Secondly, I look forward to the day when it’s possible to be allowed to go to comedy venues again,for some much needed entertainment in our lives. And last, but not least- I think you’ll be just fine getting back into the swing of doing stand up comedy. No doubt,the observations of the lockdown period will furnish some new material, alongside the tried and tested stuff,that we’ve all enjoyed immensely in the past. Equally, I await the new novel, once published.

    • Lorraine Carthy says:

      Great read dom , like many of my grand aunts and uncles that’s moved to London and became very successful . This story sounds familiar. Love the connection with your Irish heritage . Happy Easter from Co Fermanagh Ireland

  1. Lisa says:

    So much we don’t know, and great to see and talk to other people again. Do you know when you will be doing your next gig yet ?

  2. Michelle says:

    Lovely blog, and it reminds me of a story my Mum told me, I’m a bit older than you 58, and my Dad was from Ireland and we’d gone to St Anne’s near Blackpool for a day out but had had such a lovely time, my parents decided to stay the night in a B & B , but were met by the same sign! This would have been the late 60’s. Apparently all my Dad said was that at least he came before dogs! So it wasn’t just in London.

  3. Mashaal says:

    Again, an amazing blog- hope you’ve been smashing it at the golf clubs and that you have a great Easter xx

    • Lore says:

      Regarding their history, it is incredible how much our ancestors could suffer such discrimination, they decided to keep quiet and did not let it sink them. But the downside of all this, that despite the passing years or centuries there will always be places in the world where people of color, immigrants, Irish or dogs are not allowed.
      Happy Easter to you and all your family Dom, and to all the readers.
      A brotherly hug.

      • Sanaz S. says:

        Lore, Happy Easter to you & your family.
        I agree with you 100% through out history people have been casted out of their countries for various reasons. My parents had made a life changing decision to leave their country which they both grew up all their lives behind. Leaving their country for a better future for their two kids and the third on the way. My Father University Professor in Engineering & my Mother worked as Medical Company Inspector for the Government. Big home, two cars, company chauffeur, high salary for both my parents. Leaving Iran because of Khomeini in power & the country’s true religion was Islam. Iran was a country like England they had Monarchy where all religions were welcomed until 1980. A country that had so much beauty and the people had freedom with an amazing economy. Hardest Part of this story is a Wife, Mother saying goodbye to her husband who stays behind to ship their belongs to U.S. My mother also said good bye to her parents one last time as they would leave to live in Israel. My brother & I leaving with our Mother by plane with only couple of luggage’s. I was only about 6 yrs. old my older brother about 12 and my mom pregnant about 5 mons. plus she didn’t show. Traveling out of states & my mom working for the government they immediately showed up next at our house questioning my father about her where about. If they had found out could have let to a place you wish not to think about. — My pregnant mom with my brother and I arriving in Amsterdam having to live their for about 3 mons. till all of our papers were in order. Good News –Finally by end of Mid- July we arrived in the U.S. with my Father’s family welcoming us. My Mother had my sister two weeks later. My Father had the hardest way of traveling out of the country relying on group of men. All of them traveling out of the country late at night changing of trucks with number of patrol men. The way he made it out would be close to a seen out of a movie but this was real life. Happy News- My Father arrived in U.S. August 1988 and was here for his daughter’s first birthday.
        What my parents gave up to come to U.S. for their children wasn’t easy and we are always grateful for their decision. Also My Parents Mother Pharmacist and Father Engineer.
        My Family & I had a lovely Passover.
        Wishing Everyone a great Easter.

  4. Jacquie says:

    Hey there! Loved your blog as always! I don’t want to be the typo police (at all)! But did you put the wrong date/month in for April the 27th as that day has not happened yet?
    Always a great read!
    Happy Easter Holland’s!

  5. Lorraine says:

    A thoughtful one today Dom. My parents, like yours left Ireland to make a life in England. They were lucky enough to have a good experience. They returned to Ireland eventually with three children in tow (me being one of them). I have strong connections and stil have family there. I used to go back a lot until lockdown. I’m glad you are back playing golf and look forward to hearing about your outings. Welcome home to Tom and Harry. Happy Easter to you all

  6. Sabine says:

    Happy Easter to you and your family!! Also not to be annoying/extremely critical, but April 29th 2021 has not passed yet

    • Susie says:

      Happy Easter! I live in a small town outside of Las Vegas, we have a population of 17000 and 8 golf courses…yes that’s right 8 golf courses. We also have casinos that offer free comedy shows weekly.It doesn’t have the beautiful history of London but it has it’s own charm

  7. Julieta Arcuri says:

    Hey Dom! I’m new reading your blog and I loved this piece. I’m not from the UK, but I love its history and culture. So, it’s really interesting for me to know more about these things. There is so much we don’t know.
    Hope you have a happy Easter!

  8. Prima says:

    IDK about the Irish, but I’ve read lines in my history class very similar to that exact phrase,
    ‘NoDogs, No Indians’. So yes, might be true. XD
    Greatly enjoyed your blogs as always, happy Easter to you and your family. <3

  9. Kristen Hayes says:

    Thank you for another fun read, Mr Holland! Glad to hear you’re able to return to golf. Wishing all the Hollands a happy and blessed Easter— Kristen (North Carolina-USA)

  10. Isabella Benz says:

    As an Italian immigrant coming to America with her 3 sisters, mother, and father, my own mother faced her share of hardships. There were the typical “up hills both ways” sort of stories, but then there were the stories of my nonno spending hours as a stone mason just to go to his side jobs before eating dinner with his wife and young daughters and son. There were the stories of my grandparents not speaking English and my Nonna not knowing how to drive until after all of her children did. Those struggles come through in our traditions, in our roots. Thank you for sharing your own story. Though different circumstances, we are all connected in some way by our ancestors’ struggles for our future. Great to hear about your book progress; I am impatiently patiently waiting… Happy Easter to you and yours, with extra love and prayers. Cheers!

  11. Rachel says:

    I really enjoyed the blog this week!
    Always inspiring to learn of people who have had to take a beating in life, and yet they are still able to rise against it. John and your mother sound like incredible people, and it’s great to hear about the many blessings that have resulted from their hard work and perseverance through those past challenges.
    Happy Easter!
    Looking forward to next week’s blog!

  12. Alejandra Bernal says:

    Incredible story with a happy ending [no for you of course (I’m kidding)]; fortunately there are fewer racial stories to be heard between Irish and Londoners (I think or hope so). Happy Easter to you and your family 🙂

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