‘I’m like: Be careful. I know what you’re getting at and I don’t care much for the insinulation’

Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 01:00

The old dear looks absolutely horrendous, and I mean that very genuinely. She squeezes my hand and goes, “Thank you for being here – both of you.”

The old man goes, “I must say, this is all very cloak and dagger, Darling. Are we to be told why we’re here?”

Here, by the way, is the lobby of the Double Tree Hilton. It’s lunchtime on Wednesday. I’m thinking of possibly having a pint.

“I’ve endured the most awful week,” she goes. “Phone calls from journalists at all hours of the day and night. These frightful paparazzi people taking photographs of me as I’m putting out the recycling bin – with no make-up on, Charles!”

The old man pulls a face. He woke up beside her every morning for 30-something years. He knows what that looks like.

The newspapers all had the story last weekend about her trousering millions of yoyos in charity cash over the course of the last 25 years. She’s there, “The abusive calls have been the worst. I answered the phone last Sunday and a voice on the line told me I was a disgrace to the human race and I had a face like someone was secretly contaminating Sharon Osbourne’s drinking water.”

I have to turn away from her. That was actually me. Sorcha suggested we bring her to Roly’s for dinner – just so she wouldn’t feel like a prisoner in her own home – and that was just my usual way of breaking the ice. She put the phone down.

The old man shakes his head. He goes, “What I don’t understand is how did these so-called journalists get their hands on the story in the first place? I mean, Ross, you did shred all of that paperwork, didn’t you?” I’m like, “Be careful,” pointing my finger at him. “I know what you’re getting at and I don’t care much for the insinulation.”

“Ross, I wasn’t suggesting . . .”

“You were suggesting that, instead of destroying all of that incriminating evidence, that I possibly photocopied it and sent it out to every newspaper in the country.”

“I’m not saying that’s what happened, Kicker. I’m saying it’s as if that’s what happened. Good Lord, Ross, I think I know you well enough to know you’re not capable of doing something like that!”

I kept one or two bits back, by the way, just in case the story dropped out of the news for a day or two.

“Well,” the old dear goes, “it’s immaterial how they got it. They have it now and there’s only one course of action left for me – and that’s to resign from the board of all my various charities.”

“No!” the old man goes. “Fionnuala, you can’t! Too many people rely on you. The sick. The hungry. All of these people living in these terrible bloody countries.”

She sad-smiles him.

“Charles,” she goes, “there was suffering in this world long before I dedicated my life to good works. And there’ll be suffering long after I’ve passed on the torch of humanitarianism to someone else. I’m just glad that I’ll have you two sitting alongside me when I make the announcement.” I’m about to go, “Er, sorry?” when the old man suddenly gets in there before me. He’s like, “I beg your pardon, Fionnuala?”

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