All far from rosy in the St Anne’s garden as clueless Vinny presides over a debacle

Burly busdriver nearly cremed as Dollymount Gaels Easter Egg Hunt goes wrong

 St Anne’s Park, Raheny over the  Easter weekend as Dublin City Council staged the largest-ever living history battle re-enactment in Ireland at the Battle of Clontarf Festival. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

St Anne’s Park, Raheny over the Easter weekend as Dublin City Council staged the largest-ever living history battle re-enactment in Ireland at the Battle of Clontarf Festival. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 06:00

Like a miser counting his coins, Vinny Fitzpatrick did a double check on the Crème Egg front. They were all present and correct, four for every nipper, and a couple of spares for the helpers on the hunt.

By his calculations, the first party of Dollymount Gaels urchins were due back shortly, assuming they found, and followed, the clues which he’d painstakingly placed around St Anne’s Park.

The burly bus driver was satisfied with his handiwork which saw eight clues dotted around the estate. It had taken up a fair chunk of his free time but when it came to the Gaels, Vinny could never say no.

The kids involved in the Easter Egg Hunt were from the Gael Og nursery, aged from four to ten, and would represent the lifeblood of the little’s club’s future. Without the flush of youth, the small and imperfectly formed GAA club, for whom Vinny had given 20 years of undistinguished service, would wither and die.

The opening act of a High Noon appointment had gone as anticipated. Giddy with excitement, the giggling Gael Ogs had gone off at five-minute intervals, each accompanied by a grown-up – Vinny had roped in Angie’s 20-year-old daughter, Emma, as his aide-de-camp.

Emma’s role was to patrol the route and ensure the hunters knew what they were at. If necessary, she would provide a pointer for the next clue.

Vinny stayed put at base camp, armed with the prizes and a stop watch, so as to calculate the time it took each team to complete their task. He reckoned the hunt would take between 45 minutes and an hour.

Surrounded by rose bushes yet to bloom, it struck Vinny that he always liked the Easter renewal, even though the dates jumped around like a frog on speed. While he always attended first Mass in St Gabriel’s, it wasn’t the Christian aspect of the occasion which tickled his fancy, more so a personal link to 1916.

It wasn’t widely known that Vinny’s grandfather on his mother’s side – Gus Gavigan – had taken part in the Easter Rising. Gus had seen service in Ashbourne, County Meath, one of the bloodiest chapters in the insurrection, and had been praised for his cool head in the line of fire.

He had lived to see the 50th anniversary of the Rising but never spoke about events, not even to the chubby grandson who adored him and said a prayer in his memory each Easter Sunday.

By now, an hour had passed since the first four-ball had dashed off into the wild blue yonder. As yet, there was no sign, nor sound of the searchers. Stretching his legs, Vinny toddled over to the entrance of the garden and glanced towards the nearby playground, where he’d secreted the final clue. He saw nothing of any budding beach-combers. ‘That’s a strange one,’ he thought. ‘They ought to be here by now.’

Five minutes became 10, then 15. By now, the hackles at the back of Vinny’s fleshy neck were starting to stiffen. Something was amiss.

As he scrunched his brow, he heard a women’s voice call out. ‘Excuse me, is this the pick-up point for the kids on the Easter Egg Hunt?’ Vinny raised a hand and beckoned her over.

‘Yes, they’ll be back any minute now, the little scallies,’ he said, as lightly as possible.

Soon a cluster of parents gathered in the Rose Garden, initially all smiles as they availed of Vinny’s offer of a complimentary Crème Egg. Inevitably, the good-will evaporated. ‘Look, what’s going on,’ barked a ginger-haired parent in his 40s. ‘We were told the pick-up was 1.0. It’s now half past and there’s no sign of our kids.’

There was a murmour of support from within the group as Vinny stood there, cutting an apologetic and slightly confused figure. ‘I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. If you just bear with me,’ he said reaching for his mobile and tapping in Emma’s number for the umpteenth time. Yet again, it went to message minder.

‘Right, that’s it,’ said The Gingerman. ‘I’m calling the gardai. This farce has gone too far.’

With ripples of ‘hear, hear’, Vinny watched glumly as the long arm of the law was summoned. For the second time in a few weeks, he was up to his jowls in trouble. Within minutes, the wail of an approaching siren chilled his blood. By now, the parents were not only fearful, but positively hostile. One jammed a finger into Vinny’s chest and threatened to ‘knock his baldy block off’ if anything had happened to his daughter.

The edgy silence was suddenly broken by Vinny’s mobile, which rang to the tune of Z Cars – the Everton anthem. It was Emma, at last. ‘Emma,’ cried Vinny. ‘What’s happening?’ Under the withering gaze of concerned parents, Vinny nodded and said ‘I see’ several times over the next couple of minutes. Eventually, he hung up and turned to face his inquisitors, which included two gardai from Clontarf.

‘All the kids are well and will be here shortly. There was a slight, er, misunderstanding, over the route. Would anyone like another egg while they’re waiting?’

Some 20 minutes later, the Rose Garden was clear, except for Vinny, Emma and a crate of Crème Eggs.

The Gael Ogs, all safe, if banjaxed, had been whisked away by their parents, some of whom muttered about switching allegiance from the Gaels to Clontarf, ‘which was a proper GAA club, with proper standards.’

The gardai had scolded Vinny about wasting their time and had let him off with a warning.

It was Emma, who filled in the gaps, explaining how an early clue had been misinterpreted by the leading Gael Og team, and their minder.

‘It was the clue about the par-three third hole. It was too ambiguous, Vinny. While you meant the pitch and putt course in St Anne’s park, the daft adult with the lead group mentioned he was a member of the St Anne’s golf club on Bull Island, and that the third hole there was, in fact, a par three.

‘Before common sense could kick in, the first lot of nippers were crossing the main road and heading up the Causeway towards the golf course, while the other teams just played follow the leaders. ‘After 20 minutes of hanging around the pitch and putt course on my own, it struck me something was up. I caught a glimpse of the last team of find-outers heading for a park exit and played catch up from there.

‘When I got to St Anne’s golf club, there were kids running all over the course asking members where the third hole was. For a while, It was chaos.’

Vinny shook his large head sadly. How could he have made such a mess of everything? His reputation and that of the little club he loved was smashed.

Surrounding on all sides by Crème eggs, situation hopeless, Vinny was reminded of Napoleon. ‘There’s nothing for it,’ he shrugged. ‘We attack.’ With that he grabbed a fistful of chocolate and began to chomp.

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