‘I do wonder, okay, what’s the play here, Dude? Do I save her life or do I let the Brie do its thing?’
I’m short of moo and my cor tax is due, so I call out to the old dear’s gaff hoping a) that she out and b) that the code to the safe is still 1962, the year she claims to have been born, denying at least a decade and a half of her existence.
She is home, though. I find her in the kitchen, setting about a block of cheese with enough cholesterol in it to clog a sewage pipe.
It’s what she does when she’s upset about something.
“I suppose you saw it as well,” she goes, literally shaking, “on the television last week.”
I’m like, “Okay, unless we’re about to have a conversation about cage fighting or Sorcha’s Nell McAndrew Front Room Fit Camp DVD, the answer is probably no. What are you talking about? And I need eight hundred snots, by the way.”
She’s three fingers into a bottle of Bombay Sapphire as well and this is at, like, twelve o’clock in the day.
Her blood must be about seventy per cent proof. I must remember not to cremate her when she’s gone. They’d have to drop sand from helicopters to put her out.
She goes, “I’m talking about the programme on RTÉ about this public tramway thing.”
She means the documentary about the Luas. She has, like, no day-to-day exposure to the kind of people who use public transport and she felt there should have been some kind warning beforehand that people from Dublin 4 and 18 might find some of the following scenes disturbing.
“It was dis, dat, dees and dohs,” she goes. “I thought prosperity was a tide that was going to lift all boats. Clearly not, from the way some of these tram people spoke and dressed. For the first ten minutes, I thought I was watching a rerun of Strumpet City.”
I’m like, “Why didn’t you just switch over the channel?”
“Well, I’m very glad that I didn’t. Because had I switched over, I wouldn’t have found out about this plan that’s afoot to link the two lines.”
“Link the two lines, Ross! Link the people from here to the people from . . . out there. Do I have to spell it out for you, Ross?”
“Maybe you do.”
“It’s like grafting a human ear onto a mouse. It’s both pointless and unnatural. And it probably gives an unfair advantage to the mouse.”
“You’d want to lay off the giggle juice. You’re mullered.”
“I’m not mullered, Ross, I’m furious. I’m furious with the Government. And I’m furious with Fionnuala O’Carroll-Kelly. Because I’ve taken my eye off the ball.
“Oh, I’ve been too caught up in my highly successful writing career – book and film – and neglected my role as an advocate for the most marginalised and discriminated-against people in our society. The urban middle classes.”
“Anyway, like I said, I need eight hundred snots. Is the safe combination still the alleged year you were born? Here, I must check if the 15 years missing from your life are in there as well!”
“How dare they!” she suddenly shouts.
It’s definitely how dare they and not how dare you. That’s how upset she is.
I’m there, “Look, what do you care if they link the red and green lines? You don’t even live anywhere near the Luas anymore.”
“I have friends in Foxrock and I’m still very much part of the community out there.”
It’s true. The Gables have named a breakfast special after her. The Holy FO’CK. It’s basically eggs Benedict with a side order of bitterness and sexual frustration.
I’m like, “You’ve wasted so much of your life getting worked up about shit like this. And where has it ever got you?”
“Well, we stopped the council from putting a halting site on Westminster Road, where it would have been inappropriate.”
“Yeah and you failed to get Funderland moved to the northside.”
“We got the Molly Malone statue moved to Moore Street. And that was after years and years of campaigning.”
“Yeah but you couldn’t stop them allowing charity shops to open on Grafton Street.”
She laughs – a really, like, bitter laugh? “Have you seen some of the sales they’re having in the shops? Oh, they’re all charity shops on Grafton Street these days.”
She stands up. I’m pretty impressed that she still can.
“No,” she goes, “I will not stand idly by while this assault is carried out on an area that I love and where I am loved.”
I haven’t seen her this up for a fight since she copped Jackie Lavin with a full basket in the Five Items or Less queue in Donnybrook Fair three Christmas Eves ago.
I decide to just leave her to it and help myself to the contents of the safe. It’s as I turn to go that I hear it.
It’s, like, a choking sound? I look at my old dear. She has her hands around her throat, her eyes are popping and she’s struggling for breath.
It’s obvious that a lump of cheese has gone down the wrong way and lodged in her airways.
My old dear, bear in mind, has spent her entire life – since the late 1940s – doing evil. And in that split-second, I’m going to admit it, I do wonder, okay, what’s the play here, Dude? Do I save her life or do I let the Brie do its thing?
In the end – well, you know what I end up doing. I’m not an asshole. I’m a dickhead. And sometimes that gets misinterpreted.
I perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on my old dear and that poor, heroic lump of cheese flies across the kitchen and surrenders itself against the Ariston American-style double-door fridge-freezer.
“You were going to leave me,” she goes when she catches her breath again.
I’m like, “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re my mother.”
She’s there, “You were. I could see it in your eyes.”
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE