I was like, “What was it?”
He went, “The Tumbling Taig.”
“I should point out, in the interests of absolute fairness, that ‘Taig’ was meant in an affectionate way. He was really rather popular in Belfast, my father – on both sides of the community. I think they all got a huge kick out of him.”
I was like, “Hang on, I’m not getting this. Why was he known as the Tumbling Taig?”
The old man laughed. “Well, because he wasn’t very good at fighting, Ross. Your grandfather had a totally unblemished professional record – 36 fights, 36 defeats!”
“You’re shitting me.”
“I’m not. As a matter of fact, he spent so much time on his back, the Belfast Telegraph used to buy advertising space on the soles of his boots. That’s actually true!
“No, no, if you’ve inherited my father’s boxing skills, Ross, then you’re in serious trouble. The only saving grace – if you’re anything like him – is that the punishment won’t last beyond one round.”
Sorcha was pretty much silent for the rest of the meal and for most of the drive home. We were porked at the lights at the bottom of Newtownpork Avenue when she suddenly went, “It’s not too late to pull out, Ross. You could say you were sick. Or injured. Or that you had to leave the country.”
I laughed. I was like, “Or I could emigrate – how about that?”
“Sorcha, I’ve been called a lot of things in my time. An adulterer. A bad father. A serious Jack the Lad. A waste of an incredible, incredible rugby talent. But there’s one thing that no one has ever been able to accuse me of. And that’s – and I don’t even know if this is a proper word – but cowardness?”
“Ross . . .”
“No, let me finish. See, I was never afraid on the rugby field, Sorcha. And do you know why? Because I had people around me who believed in me. Good people. Father Fehily, always reminding me: ‘A three-pound cat will eat a four-pound fish!’ Remember that one of his? My old man back there. The goys. And you, Sorcha. You always believed in me, even when deep, deep, deep down, I maybe thought I wasn’t worth shit. You believed in me. And I’m asking you to believe in me now.” It’s some speech, even I have to admit — like one of the ones I would have given to the S back in the day. I watch a tear slip from her eye, then she nods and goes, “Okay, Ross. I believe in you.”
A minute or so later, we’re back home. I hit the sack straight away. Sorcha says she’ll be up in a few minutes. She goes into the study and I hear her opening the drawers of the filing cabinet. She says she believes in me, but I know what she’s doing is checking my life insurance is up to date.