‘It was a pretty astonishing sight, this long line of middle-aged women lying across the tram tracks’


T he old man rang me at eleven o’clock last Monday morning and – get this – asked me where I was.

“I’m in bed,” I went. “Have you seen the time? What am I, a fisherman?”

“Ross,” he went, “it’s your mother,” and that’s when I copped the tone in his voice. It was serious. It kind of reminded me of the time she grabbed Miriam O’Callaghan in a headlock on Morehampton Road when she failed to get a People of the Year Award nomination and a fire crew had to break three of her fingers to get her to release her death grip.

I was there, “What’s she done now, the mad old crone?”

And he told me. Except I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t, like, driven into town and witnessed it with my own eyes.

The old dear, plus a group of maybe 200 women just like her, had decided to protest the planned link-up of the two Luas lines by lying down on the tracks, bringing the entire service between Harcourt Street and Stephen’s Green to a literally halt? It was a pretty astonishing sight, I had to admit, this long line of well-preserved, middle-aged women, lying widthwise across the tram tracks for the guts of a kilometre, smelling of Chanel and Estée Lauder and singing Something Inside So Strong, the anthem of the old dear’s previous campaigns to have the Fair City set moved to Kilbarrack and get a Donnybrook Fair for Foxrock Village.

I walked from Little Caesar’s into town, studying this horizontal identity parade of south Dublin women with perfect hair and expensive orthodontics, trying to pick out my old dear. Eventually, I found her, lying on the section of track opposite Dandelion, her eyes closed as she murdered every note of the song.

“They could drive one of those trams over your face,” I went, just by way of a greeting, “and still not crack the first layer of foundation.”

There’s something about my mother that brings out the best in me.

She opened her eyes to find me staring down at her. “I don’t have time for any of your unpleasantness,” she went. “I’m engaged in a campaign of civil
disobedience . . .”

I was like, “You’re engaged in a campaign to make a focking show of yourself. And me. And the old man.”

“Your embarrassment,” she went, “does not figure anywhere on my list of
priorities. What they’re proposing to do, Ross, is inhuman.”

“What, connecting the red line to the green line?”

“Connecting Ranelagh to Drimnagh. Milltown to Tallaght. Leopardstown to Fetter-bloody-cairn. And Fortunestown! There’s a place out there called Fortunestown! Oh, it’s like something from a cowboy movie.”

“What do you care anyway? The last time you used public transport, there was a focking horse pulling the thing.”

Our world and their world, Ross, shouldn’t even be on nodding terms with each other. I mean, that’s why our economy is in the state it’s in.”

“I think all the muck you’ve had injected into your forehead and lips over the years has started to leak into your brain.”

“The crash was caused by People Like Them being encouraged to think they could live in the manner of People Like Us, then borrowing accordingly. If it was up to me, it would be a wall they were building, not a rail extension. Something inside so strong, oh oh oh oh oh oh, something inside so strong . . .”

I turned around. There was a Lady Gorda standing a few feet away. She was a looker as well. A lot of them are lately. I was like, “If you’re going to pull out the truncheons at some stage, start with this woman here. But aim for the orms and legs. The rest of her is just rubber.”

The Lady Gorda went, “Can you step back, please, Sir?” and that’s when I knew that something was about to go down.

Suddenly, Gords storted closing in from both directions. I was pushed backwards until my back was against the Stephen’s Green railings and I offered some last-minute advice slash encouragement.

“Remember,” I went, “you’re wasting your time if you go for the face. Your batons will just bounce off it.”

And that’s when the most incredible thing happened. The Lady Gorda stepped forward – she wasn’t unlike Caggie Dunlop, except obviously from Roscommon or Kerry or one of those – and she whipped out, not a truncheon to beat some sense into my old dear, but a loudhailer.

Sydney Vard, ” she went, “has just launched their winter collection of new and vintage furs. Why not pop in and view their beautiful handpicked collection of coats, jackets, reversibles, gilets, capes and headbands, in both up-to-the-minute and timeless classic styles.”

The old dear was like, “Hold the line, Girls! Hold the line!”

The Lady Gorda went, “The special in Carluccio’s of Dawson Street this lunchtime is a ravioli with truffled mushrooms and Grana Trentino dop fonduta.”

“Be strong!” the old dear went. “Just think of the words. My light will shine so brightly, it will blind you.”

Except women were already storting to stand up and drift away. It was, like, a slow trickle at first, but the Lady Gorda kept up the pressure.

“After lunch, why not visit Pamela Scott and view their range of exciting labels, such as Sophie B, Twist, Olsen, Gerry Weber, Bianca and Betty Barclay. But make sure to set at least two hours aside for a visit to Brown
Thomas . . .”

It was the most incredible piece of crowd-management I’ve ever seen. I mean, I’d still have preferred to see them cracking heads. But within 15 minutes, everyone had gone and my old dear was the only one still lying across the tramline.

“Put this one in the van,” the Lady Gorda went. “She can spend the day in Pearse Street.”

I honestly clapped.

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