‘I suddenly remember the reason I coloured this day in black in my Shred Focking Everything desk diary’


Sorcha’s been up since, I don’t know, eight o’clock or something equally ridiculous, cleaning and hoovering and God knows what else. I continue lying there for another four or five hours in Hangover Purgatory – too sick to sleep, but also too sick to even think about getting out of the bed.

At the same time, there’s something troubling my brain, mind, whatever you want to call it – like there’s something happening today that I’ve been dreading for ages, except I just can’t put my finger on what it actually is yet?

Some time in the early afternoon, I roll out of the old Father Ted and I tip downstairs, quietly cursing the mother of Gerard Aadrian Heineken for not faking a headache the night her son was conceived. I push the door of the kitchen and that’s when I suddenly remember the reason I coloured this day in black in my Shred Focking Everything desk diary.

There’s a humungous banner with the words, “Happy Birthday, Honor!” covering most of the wall opposite me. Every surface in the room has a candy necklace trim on it and there are balloons everywhere, the colours apparently chosen with the specific intention of hurting my delicate eyes.

And there, sitting at the island in the middle of the kitchen, up to their eyes in paper gorlands and floral pom poms, are my wife and my however-old-she-is-today daughter.

“I, er, might hit Dalkey,” I go, “get a bit of brekky inside me.”

Except Sorcha is too quick for me. She’s like, “You’re not leaving this house, Ross. The porty storts in two hours,” and, with her eyes, she orders me to sit down.

“Oh my God,” Honor goes, “you smell like a pub floor.” There’s a reason for that, which I won’t go into.

She pushes something across the countertop to me, which turns out to be a sheet of big, round stickers, each of which has her face on it, actually smiling – a very rare event that someone has somehow managed to capture on camera. “Stort filling goodie bags, then sticker them closed with these.”

I’m there, “What am I putting into these bags?”

Honor points out this pile of junk next to my left elbow. She goes, “The theme is of the porty is Movie Stor. Each bag gets a feather boa, a pair of sunglasses, a lip gloss, a pencil and a spiral notebook – that’s so people can ask me for my autograph.”

There’s no real answer to that, so I end up just getting to work.

Sorcha’s phone beeps. It ends up being a text message. She goes, “It’s from Perdita,” she goes, meaning presumably Perdita Powell, who was in UCD with her. She has a face like Naomi Young but a chest as flat as a dead man’s EKG. That’s not strictly relevant to the story. I’m just pointing it out as a fact. “Oh, no! She says little Georgina can’t make it! She’s come down with chicken pox! Awww!”

“She’s no loss,” Honor goes. “She’s actually a sap. And a knob.”

Sorcha there, “We don’t speak ill of people, Honor – remember?” and she goes back to what she was doing, in other words writing out menus, which I can’t help but notice are cut into the shape of sleep masks.

“I’m wondering now did I do enough food?” Sorcha goes. “I’ve got the edamame and vegetable sticks with dips, the low fat popcorn, the Martha Stewart Crowd-Pleasing Carob and Oatmeal Treats and obviously the sandwich quarters – brie and apple, eggplant and Parmesan, broiled chèvre and avocado . . .”

I genuinely feel like I’m going to spew.

Sorcha’s phone again beeps. She reads the message. “Oh, no!” she goes. “Uallach and Liadain can’t make it either. They both have temperatures.”

I’m not so hungover that I can’t see a pattern suddenly emerging.

Honor just shrugs. “I didn’t want to invite them anyway,” she goes. “They’re both bitches.”

Sorcha’s like, “I don’t approve of describing people in that vain, Honor, but I do agree that is rather short notice. Oh my God, I don’t believe it! I missed these other messages! Tamzin has a doctor’s appointment that her mother forgot about. And Banba, Eriu and Fodla can’t come because their grandmother is ill?”

“That’s bullshit,” Honor goes. “Hashtag, lame excuse.”

“How sick can the woman be that her grandchildren can’t spend even two hours at a porty that I have gone to enormous lengths to make a success of? I’ve made one-hundred-and-forty individual cupcakes!”

“They’re wagons.”

“Well, I’d say their mother is the actual wagon, Honor. You see, I know what this is really about? Their birthday porty was a disaster, if you remember. And their mother didn’t thank me for pointing out that calling a game Blind Man’s Bluff could be offensive to the visually impaired. She knows my porty is going to blow hers out of the water.”

I’m there, “Don’t you mean Honor’s porty?”

She’s like, “That’s what I said, Ross. And when you’re eventually finished doing those goodie bags, I want you to put stickers on all of the red plastic cups.”

Her phone suddenly beeps again – three times, in quick succession. I look at Honor and I can instantly read her face. She’s wondering is anyone going to be here?

“I’m not even checking those,” Sorcha goes. “I’m not wasting my time reading people’s embarrassing excuses when I could be wrapping gluten-free cookies in sustainably sourced tissue paper for a game of Ethical Pass the Parcel.”

Honor gets up from the island and mumbles something about putting on her dress. Then she walks out of the kitchen. She’s crushed – I can tell.

Sorcha looks at me and goes, “Can you believe the nerve of some people? I’ve booked a man who’s coming here to show the young people how to make origami animals – he’s actual second generation Japanese!”

She goes suddenly quiet for a minute or two. Her phone buzzes six, seven, eight more times.

“Ross, I’m worried,” she suddenly goes, “that our daughter has no friends. I’m wondering is her personality frightening people away from her.”

And what I should say is that there’s possibly a pair of them in it. Except I’m too hungover for that conversation.

So all I go is, “Hmmm.”

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