'You've been very quiet on the whole promissory notes issue,' the old man, out of the blue, goes . . .
The old man rubs his hands together. I honestly haven’t seen him in this kind of form since the last rugby game was played at Croke Pork. I mention it to him as well. I’m like, “What the fock are you so happy about?” He buries his hands in the pockets of his lucky Cole Haan camel-hair coat.
“The country’s debts problem is at an end,” he goes. “That house of yours is probably worth €5,000 more than it was on Christmas Day. Fianna Fáil is once again the most popular party in the State. And socialists are being handcuffed in the street. God, it’s like the late 1990s all over again!”
We’re sitting on the upper deck of an open-topped bus, driving down the south Dublin quays in the general direction of Heuston Station, the two of us freezing our nuts off. But we’re here to support Ronan. This is his first Love/Hate Tour of Dublin and, from where I’m sitting, he’s totally nailing it.
“Coming up on the left,” he’s going, into his little headset microphone, “is the pub where IRA gang boss Git was moordered by Tommy arthur Git raped he’s boord, Siobhan, in the foorst episode of seerdies tree.” Fifty heads instantly turn. Everyone has their camera phone out and pointed at the building.
“The moorder of Git, arthur a thrink and thrugs binge on Patty’s Day, kicked off the toorf war that was to clayum meddy, meddy lives before the seerdies ended.” He’s really hamming up the Dublin accent. Give the punters what they want. I suppose that’s what you have to do in this day and age. I turn to the old man. I’m like, “Are you catching any of this?”
“The occasional word,” he goes. “Murder seems to be a recurring theme. I’ve picked up on that much.”
“Well, by the summer, he’s hoping to have headsets offering a translation for southsiders.”
The old man shakes his head in, like, pure admiration. “You must be so proud of him, Kicker. I mean, how many 15-year-old boys would choose to spend their midterm break from school launching their own business? He’s a go-getter, there’s no denying that. Ronan tells me you gave him the €5,000 to buy this bus.”
“Yeah, no, I did.”
“Well, that’s what I call clever business acumen. It’s a pity there aren’t more like you working in the commercial division of this country’s banks.”
Ronan’s old friend, Buckets of Blood – “The Attitude Adjuster”, he used to call himself when he was in debt collection – is driving. I know for a fact that the old man has promised to pay his wages for 12 months until the business is properly up and running. He can be alright, my old man, when he’s not being a dick.
“Next,” Ronan goes, “we’re gonna see the newsachunt shop where Dadden’s brother, Robbie, got shot in the foorst episode of seerdies one. Robbie was just arthur being released from Cloverhill Prison and Tommy was apposed to pick him up, except he was late, because he was arthur been giving Dadden and Robbie’s sister, Meerdy, one . . .”
Buckets of Blood swings the bus right and over, I don’t know, whichever Liffey bridge it actually is. I’ve already got pretty much hypothermia. Fock knows how cold it’s going to be on this side of the city. The old man hands me his hip flask. A whack of XO is just what the Rossmeister needs.
“You’ve been very quiet on the whole promissory notes issue,” the old man, out of the blue, goes.
I end up nearly spewing brandy all over myself. I swear to God, sometimes it’s like he thinks I’m someone else.
I’m like, “Dude, I don’t even know what the fock you’re talking about.” He laughs – this probably isn’t even a word, but – uproariously? “I said it to your godfather,” he goes. “I said, ‘Hennessy, you know who’ll have a view on this? Young Kicker. And it’ll be something suitably acerbic – you see if it’s not!’ You’re not feeling guilty, I hope.”
I’m like, “Guilty? What am I supposed to be feeling guilty about?”
“Well, all these commentators, Ross. Inverted bloody commas. I’m not going to give them the oxygen by saying their names. This is the mess we’re leaving to our children and our children’s children – that’s about the flavour of it.”
I’m there, “Is that not a good thing? At least we’re not having to pay for it.”
He goes, “My point precisely! There’s nothing new in any of this, Ross. We’re an imperfect species – and every generation has to try to make something of the bad hand they’re dealt by the crowd that went before. My generation had to pay for a World War that we played no part in, just as young Ronan’s generation will have to pay for the folly of your generation. It’s the way it’s always been. But one thing I will say is this. Never, ever underestimate mankind’s resourcefulness in turning a bad hand into a better one.”
I suddenly realise that he’s staring at his own grandson, who’s holding up a t-shirt for everyone on the bus to see. He’s going, “These are avaidable in tree sizes for €15.99 and feature a recreation of John Boy’s famous Last Supper mewerdle from seerdies two, with Bob Merely, Michael Coddins, Boppy Sants and Tupac Shikewer . . .” The old man goes, “I don’t think we need to worry about our grandchildren half as much as these so-called champions of the people would have us believe.”
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE