Maevesdropping: overheard conversations
To mark the release of ‘Maeve’s Times’, a book of Maeve Binchy’s journalism in The Irish Times, several of our writers spent the past few days doing what Maeve used to do: earwigging on other people’s conversations and writing about it
“Well, I told her, I actually told her to her face ...” the other said, as they faced each other, just inches away from where I stood, now, stroking the jeans on the counter, then holding them up, as if still deciding, all the while wondering who could deserve such a withering.
Then, sensing rather than seeing me, one of them reached sideways and, with her bendy day-glo orange fingernails, clipped the jeans off the hanger, and scanned the ticket.
“They’re a great colour, aren’t they?” I said, elbow on the counter, trying to make friends. “Lady,” she said, still locking eyes with her friend, “They’re $14.95 down from $79.95 and that’s all you need to know.”
Open-air cafe, Mullingar . . .
Red-faced fat man, eating fish and chips. Slim grey woman arrives.
“How are you Christy? What are you eating?”
“Fish,” he says. “Will you have some?”
“No. I’m a vegetarian,” Slim Woman says: “I don’t eat fish.”
“Ok,” he says.
“And what are you doing in town, Christy?” she asks.
“I was looking for another instrument,” he says.
“Are you still at the music?”
“Anyway,” says he, “the thing about instruments is they’re all Chinese now.”
“No. It’s great,” he insists. “You see I was Googling a medieval instrument on the net. Lovely piece of equipment but very rare. Early 1700s. Last one was made in Europe in 1780. And what am I going to tell you? The Chinese are making them now, and shipping them from Shanghai. Isn’t that mad?”
“I’ll have a cup of tea with you,” she says.
“You look tired,” says Christy.
“I’m exhausted,” she says. “It’s the windmills. The fracking was depressing enough. But the windmills is a nightmare.”
“Have a few chips,” he says again.
“I’m a vegetarian,” says she.
And then there’s a pause.
“D’ye know what you should do?” he says.
What? She wonders.
“Buy a banjo.”
The Liffey boardwalk
Three young men are sitting on the bench, a woman has just handed them something and is then joined by a fourth man who appears to be overseeing the transaction.
Woman: “Nice one boys, yeah?”
Man 1: “See ya love.”
Woman: (To fourth man, both walking away) “They’re Irish boys.”
Passing man they are acquainted with: “Here, give us your lighter.”
Man 1: “How much did you pay for that [jacket]?”
Passing man: “Off a foreign fella in one of the camping shops.”
Man 1: “Cos there’s this yoke, this place down there. 50 per cent off everything. All top of the range stuff, ya know? A T-shirt €110, now it’s €55.”
The man walks on and the three seated men start talking about a charity shop.
Man 1: “You know where the old labour is? Where the playground is? We got, eh, a Ralph Lauren, those jeans everyone loves – G-Star. All top of the range. They all look brand new yeah, but three of them were brand new. My Da went in there and bought a tray, €2. You know how much he got for it? One hundred and sixty something. My Da would spot an antique a mile off, growing up in a dump. I broke into Croke Park years ago and took a Dublin jersey off the wall, all the names on it, 1960something. I gave it to my Da for Father’s Day. I told him where I got it. Sure my Da’s a robbing bastard.”
Man 2 to Man 3: “Are you on the low dose?”
Man 3: “I was on the low dose.”
Man 2: “Yer man gives you lots of time.”
Man 1: “Ah yeah. I’d have a good yap with him. He doesn’t talk to you like an addict. He talks to you like he talks to his boss, know what I mean?”
Man 3 to Man 2: “What’s your name again, bud?”
Man 1: “See if you told me a thing, I’d forget it a minute later.”
Man 2: “That’s ADHD that is. Attention deficit disorder.”
Passing tourist: “Excuse me, can I borrow your lighter?”
Maeve’s Times is published by Hachette Ireland and edited by Roísín Ingle of The Irish Times