‘Then he storts putting combinations together and he’s literally a blur, going at that bag like a Mexican kid with a hyperactivity disorder and a piñata’
SO TUESDAY AFTERNOON, I’m in the back gorden, giving the punchbag a serious going over – we’re talking tap, tap, boom! We’re talking tap, tap – tap, tap, boom! This white-collar boxing match that I volunteered to take port in is only, like, six weeks away and I’m determined that I’m going to be ready – physically, psychologically and whatever else there is.
In addition to the training, I’m horsing my way through that organic muesli of Sorcha’s that looks like focking kitty litter, plus I’m totally off the drink four nights a week. I’ve also written some of Fr Fehily’s favourite sayings on to a series of, like, Post-it notes, and I’ve stuck them on the bathroom mirror.
We’re talking, “Heroism is endurance for one minute longer.” We’re talking, “One of these days is none of these days.” We’re talking, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” We’re talking, “There’s no tree that’s too tall for a short dog to piss on.” I read these while I’m, like, shaving in the mornings and it’s honestly like his spirit is with me – like Burgess Meredith in the third Rocky movie, if that doesn’t sound too ridiculous.
People can say what they like about me – thick as a ditch, bad father, bad son, too good-looking to be loyal to any one woman – but the one thing that no one can deny is that I’m an unbelievable competitor. And I’m like that in pretty much everything I turn my mind to? Even when we’re doing the big shop in Superquinn, I set myself the challenge of not having anything left to bag up when the checkout bird rings the last item through. Even as I’m approaching her with the trolley, I’m already thinking tactically. I put everything on the conveyor belt, but I space out the items that have security tags attached to them – bottles of wine, razor blades, DVDs, whatever else – just to stop her getting a proper momentum going. I’m essentially breaking up the play.
Then as I’m pushing the trolley back to the cor pork, another victory under my belt, I’ll sometimes turn to Sorcha and go, “How can the Leinster branch say that I’ve got nothing more to contribute to the game? The focking nerve of these people.”
So like I said, there I am, roysh, on Tuesday afternoon, working over the bag in the back gorden, with a bit of Jay Z blaring out, when all of a sudden Ronan arrives with Buckets of Blood – his friend and my trainer.
“Alreet, Rosser,” Ronan goes.
I’m like, “Alright, Ro. Alright, Buckets.”
“Where’d you get the punchbag?” Ronan goes.
I tell him that it’s not actually a punchbag. It’s actually the beanbag that Sorcha bought in the Habitat closing-down sale. I’ve tied a knot in the top of it to tighten it up, wrapped it in the lagging jacket from the boiler in the hot press and hung it from the rotary washing line. “Don’t tell her,” I go. “She’d shit giblets.”
Ro goes, “The one thing I’m not, Rosser, is a rat.”
So I’m dancing around the thing, popping punches at it – I’m good, there’s no question about that – and Buckets is suddenly going, “Unleash some of them combinations I’m arthur showing you, Rosser. Come on – jab, jab, hook, uppercut . . . Jab, jab, uppercut.” The next thing any of us knows, Gary – our next-door neighbour and my soon-to-be opponent – is looking over the fence. He sort of, like, chuckles to himself and goes, “Jab, jab, hook, uppercut – that takes me back. Keep your hands a bit higher, Ross.”