Vinny counts his blessings after battle of Clontarf
AGAINST THE ODDS:Vinny muses on life’s strange wheel of fortune after an impromptu race occurs in St Anne’s Park
THE FAT, grey squirrel looked at the fat, grey man in the wheelchair and continued chomping on a nut with an air of insouciance that irked Vinny Fitzpatrick. It must be close to 15 years, reckoned Vinny, since, in the role of Sean Citizen, he’d called Dublin City Council to report the sighting of a grey squirrel in St Anne’s Park.
Vinny’s fears for the future of the long-standing native red squirrel had proved prophetic as the marauding greys now governed St Anne’s, just like the Botanic Gardens and many other parks in Dublin too.
On Monday morning, Vinny was out for a wheel around St Anne’s in an effort to maintain some form of aerobic exercise as he recovered from badly strained ankle ligaments, following his mishap in “SportsKonnect”.
As he couldn’t walk or drive for a while, Angie had spun him up Sybil Hill to the gates of St Anne’s Park and said she would return in 45 minutes. Vinny’s route was a straight one mile down the main avenue of the park and back up again. He thought about doing two circuits but decided one would be enough; there was no point in overdoing it.
As Vinny flexed his shoulders, he looked about the place he still called his “back garden”, where he’d skinned his heart, skinned his knees, learnt of love and ABCs, to the tune of Terry Jacks’s hit single of the 70s.
He’d had his first snog in St Anne’s, his first fag, first drink and very nearly his first experience of the forbidden fruit only Ginny Durr, a corker from Killester, had done a midsummer runner by the old bandstand.
He used to know every nook and cranny of St Anne’s, not least because he played GAA there for Dollymount Gaels on Sunday, and ghosted as a “banger” for Clontarf Casuals on Saturday.
His route today was as plain as his 54-year-old face; down what was the old entrance road to the former estate of Lord and Lady Ardilaun. Unlike other parts of St Anne’s which carried splendid monikers, the Naniken river, Red Stables, Simpson Walk, and Rose Garden, the Main Avenue sounded as dull as dishwater.
Vinny felt it was high time to start a campaign to rename the stretch as Ardilaun Avenue, after the park’s creators.
As he pushed his body forward, with Pitch 17 to his right and the grounds of St Paul’s to his left, Vinny spied another wheelchair down the avenue, no more than 50 yards ahead. It was moving at a snail’s pace and became the target for his gimlet eye.