‘My genuine hope for 2014 is that you end up sharing a prison cell with the Scissors Sisters’
‘W ell, I myself personally,” the old dear goes, “wasn’t sad to see the back of 2013.”
She’s throwing her teeth around a pot-roasted pheasant leg as she’s saying this and – I swear to fock – it’s like the scene in Jaws where the shork eats Robert Shaw.
“Yes,” Sorcha goes, “you had a tough year, Fionnuala.”
Sorcha’s a bit of a crawler. She’s the only reason we’re here. Dinner in my old dear’s gaff isn’t my idea of a fun New Year’s Day, especially with a big hairy hangover rattling my bors.
The old dear goes, “This country is staring into the abyss, Sorcha. Superquinn went this year. They’re pushing ahead with this plan to connect the two Luas lines. And now Delma’s husband tells me that Blackrock rugby club have had to take in one of these awful Gaelic sports clubs to help them pay the bills. As she said herself, it’ll probably mean bonfires and céilí music and God knows what else. This is what it’s come to. I’m just surprised that the army hasn’t engineered a coup.”
Honor hasn’t touched her food. She’s sitting opposite me with her head down, her thumb working away on her phone. I whip out my own and check her Twitter feed. Her last Tweet was, like, one minute ago. It’s like, “Having dinner in my grandmother’s house. So bored I want to stab myself in the head with a cheese knife just so it will end.”
I send her one going, “Good one, Honor! Lolz!!!”
But then she’s straight back with, “You’re pathetic. #lame. #loser. #knob.”
Then I’m thinking that if it comes down to a choice between being bored by my wife and old dear and being cyber-bullied by my eight-year- old daughter, I’ll choose the first one.
“There’s a lot of suffering going on out there,” Sorcha goes, with a totally straight face. “And a lot of unfairness. You’re right to highlight it, Fionnuala.”
The old dear’s like, “Then there’s all these phone calls I’ve been getting from the newspapers.”
“Oh my God, what phone calls?”
“Phone calls impugning my reputation, Sorcha. Phone calls questioning my record as one of the country’s most tireless workers on behalf of some of the world’s most marginalised people. Do you know what Miriam O’Callaghan said to me? She said, ‘Adi Roche might be the Angel of Chernobyl, Fionnuala, but you’re the Angel of Torquay Road, Foxrock.’ Miriam said that to me, Sorcha – six months ago, coming out of the Black Pig in Donnybrook.”
I’m there, “And, what, now the papers have found out that you trousered half the money you raised over the years?”
She goes, “I didn’t trouser anything, Ross. But they’re asking for accounts, balance sheets, figures. They want to know what percentage went to the people in need. I mean, I don’t have time to keep track of these things. A disaster occurs and I act, be it an earthquake, a fire, a building collapsing somewhere. I mean, you’ve seen me in action, Ross. Something will happen and I’ll pick up the phone to Delma and it’ll be, ‘Delma? Typhoon. The Philippines. Tray Bake,” and off we go. I don’t have time to say, oh, I must get a set of audited accounts drawn up for that coffee morning that saved all those lives in Haiti.”
Sorcha goes, “It sounds like they’re being – oh my God – so unfair to you, Fionnuala. This is a backlash from the CRC thing. Everyone’s motives are being questioned.”
“I’ve responded to every major international disaster – both natural and man-made – over the past 30-something years. From Cambodia to Hurricane Katrina. And it wasn’t always a tray bake or a coffee morning. Sometimes, it was a ladies golf day. Or a fashion show in the case of the 1983-1985 Ethiopian Famine. We’re talking about something in the order of 45 different charities. I can’t just conjure up accounts all these years after the event.”
I’m there, “Why don’t you just tell them that, like, 100 per cent of what you raised went to each charity.”
I notice something in her eyes, a flicker of – I think this is a word? – but hesitation? She looks down at her plate, then shovels a forkful of gruyere au gratin into her mouth like a man feeding coal into a steam engine.
I’m there, “So you did trouser some? That’s genuinely hilarious.”
She goes, “How dare you malign my good name in front of my granddaughter.”
“Hey, she’s not even listening to us. She won’t be aware of what we’re saying here until it comes up on Twitter. Which it will eventually. ‘Fionnuala O’Carroll-Kelly Steals Money From Charity’.”
“No one’s accusing anyone of stealing,” she tries to go, then she turns to Sorcha – who I’m happy to say is looking at her a bit Sccoby Dubiously – and goes, “All I’m saying, Sorcha, is that it wasn’t always the case that 100 per cent of the money raised went to the charity concerned.”
I’m there, “How much was it?”
I’m suddenly like that Vincent Browne off TV3.
She goes, “Sometimes it was 99 percent. Sometimes it was 80 per cent. And sometimes, yes, it was as low as 60 perc ent.”
I’m there, “Was it ever as low as zero per cent?”
She suddenly loses it, a sure sign of guilt. She pretty much explodes. “Sometimes there were costs! In the case of a tray bake, for instance, there were ingredients. Flour. Sugar. Star anise. Who do you think paid for those? And then there was my time.”
Even Sorcha – like I said, a legendary crawler – is shocked by that one.
She’s there, “You chorged for your time?”
The old dear goes, “Well, of course, I charged for my time! If you want top people, you have to pay top money.”
I’m there, “My genuine hope for 2014 is that you end up sharing a prison cell with the Scissors Sisters.”
She suddenly stands up from the table and all she can think to say is, “I have chocolate Marcona almond torte for dessert.”
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE