‘I’d be in favour of sending Honor to boarding school, just to, like, limit our exposure to her. Sorcha’s against it, though’
Honor has a face on her like a bulldog that’s spent its life chasing porked cors. And, of course, I know what her basic issue is? She hates me driving her to school in the old Shred Focking Everything van. I’m like, “Honor, I have a job in Stillorgan at, like half-nine. It’d make no sense for me to drive you to school in the cor, then go back home for the van.”
She doesn’t even look up from her iPhone. She goes, “I don’t know what your problem is, but I’d imagine it’s hord to pronounce.”
I try to think of a good comeback, except there’s very little happening between my ears at this hour of the morning – two giraffes wearing lipstick on a seesaw – so I end up just saying nothing and pretending that what she said didn’t hurt me.
She goes, “Okay, just drop me off here, will you?” and where she means is Stillorgan Shopping Centre. “I can walk the rest of the way.”
I actually laugh. I’m like, “Nice try, Honor. I’m dropping you to school and that’s that.”
She’s there, “Has your carer taken the week off or something?” and I sit there – again in silence – thinking, if this is what she’s like at, like, eight years of age, imagine what she’s going to be like when the hormones kick in. This is going to sound possibly selfish, but I’d still be in favour of sending her to boarding school, just to sort of, like, limit our exposure to her to two days a week. Sorcha is against it, though.
I pull up outside the school and she gets out and goes, “It’s a miracle that I’ve turned out as normal as I have. Hashtag – I hope you know you’re a sap,” and then off she goes.
I head to my first job of the day. I can’t give you the name of the company, but it turns out to be 14 bags of documents. I collect them, shred them in the back of the van, then I hit the road again.
Maybe half an hour later, I’m driving past Honor’s school and I notice that a lot of the parents’ cors are still porked outside? I spot Lorelai’s old dear’s Subaru Tribeca, for instance, and Sandrine’s old man’s black Five Serious. Then it suddenly occurs to me that Honor was more desperate than usual to see the back of me this morning. It’s straight away obvious that something is happening in the school – something my daughter didn’t want me to know about.
So I decide to investigate.
I find the classroom easily enough. Through the door, I can hear a dude – it’s actually Sandrine’s old man – going, “Derivatives are, in layman’s terms, financial instruments that derive their value from that of underlying entities, such as assets, indexes or interest rates.”
And that’s when it suddenly hits me. It hits me like a slug in the guts. It’s one of those, like, Show and Tell days where parents come in and talk to the kids about their jobs – and Honor obviously didn’t want me there.
I turn the handle and I push the door. Twenty-five children and maybe the same number of adults look at me and gasp. I’m wearing a yellow boiler suit, bear in mind, with red piping and a company logo on it.
Mrs Pasternak, Honor’s teacher, takes one look at me and goes, “At long last! There are three radiators in this room and they’re all heating only one third of the way up.”
I’m like, “I’m not here to fix the heating,” and I just, like, glower at Honor, honestly more hurt in that moment than I’ve ever been hurt by her before. “I’m Honor O’Carroll-Kelly’s old man.”
All the girls in the class burst out laughing. Three or four of the parents do, too.
“What do you actually do?” this one girl shouts out.
I’m there, “What do I do? I’m the managing director of Ireland’s fourth or maybe fifth fastest-growing document disposal service.”
Another girl goes, “How many people do you have working for you?”
I’m there, “It’s actually just me.”
I notice that Honor already has her head in her hands.
The same girl goes, “So who does the actual work for you?”
I laugh. She obviously thinks it’s still 2002. “I do all the work,” I go. “Which includes collecting sacks of paper from, like, offices and shit, then emptying them into this, like, shredding machine in the back of the van, which cuts them up into ribbons of paper, one millimetre wide. Then I burn them in a barrel.”
There are literally gasps. I suppose I never spoke to anyone who did manual labour until I was, like, 15 or 16.
“What school did you go to?” the first girl goes.
I’m like, “I went to a certain institution of learning called Castlerock College!”
She’s there, “Did you not think you’d end up doing something better?”
Again, I laugh. It’s the innocence of them at that age. “I didn’t think I’d end up doing anything at all,” I go. “But there’s a certain thing going on out there at the moment called a recession. I’m doing what needs to be done and I’m not ashamed of it. I thought winning a Leinster schools senior cup medal was the thing in my life that I was always going to be proudest of. But do you know what it actually is? It’s putting in a 20 to 25-hour working week to feed my family and put a roof over their heads.”
There’s, like, stunned silence in the classroom. It’s like I’ve suddenly given them a glimpse of what the future is going to be like. The catchphrase Too Much Information was invented for moments like this.
I hear the legs of a chair scratch across the wooden floor. Honor jumps up from her desk, then runs out of the classroom, telling me she hates me on her way out the door.
Mrs Pasternak asks me if I could have a look at the radiators anyway.