‘He’s like “Know what these people are waiting for?” I’m there, “Er, butter vouchers?” and that’s nothing against the people of Templeogue. It’s just my prejudice’
J P’s old man meets me at the door with my new phone, a block of business cords and the smile of a mad axe killer taking the walk to the electric chair. He’s like, “I’ve waited the best part of a decade for this moment.”
“Yeah, no,” I go, “my first day back as an estate agent.”
“Doing what you were put on this planet to do.”
“A lot of people would say I was put on this planet to either play or coach rugby. Maybe both.”
He doesn’t say anything. He lets it just hang in the air between us for a good 10 seconds, then he puts his orm around my shoulder and he turns me around – however many degrees it is – so that I’m looking into the window of Hook, Lyon and Sinker. I’m staring past the photographs of gaffs whose value keeps increasing by about a €100 in the time it takes me to breathe in and out. I’m looking at the staff – men and women – all wearing headsets and talking like machinegun fire, high on caffeine and adrenalin, like it’s 2003 all over again.
“Isn’t that a beautiful sight?” he goes.
I’m like, “Yeah, no, I suppose it is.”
“Sometimes I like to pretend that I don’t own the place. I like to stand out here like this, looking in the window. Yesterday, I did it for two hours. The sight of people selling property. This is my Machu Picchu. This is my Iguazu. Come with me.”
“Where are we going?”
“To my car. I got something to show you.”
Five minutes later, we’re in his brand new 142D Merc, driving west.
He goes, “When JP told me about that shredding business of yours going tits-up in a ditch, I thought to myself, this is fate. This is meant to be.”
I’m there, “I still like to think that rugby is my true calling and that being an estate agent is something I’ll do until one of the provinces is looking for a kicking coach.”
He’s like, “Yeah, sure.”
The exact same two-word response I got from the Leinster Branch when I applied for the job of women’s rugby development officer a couple of years ago.
We drive on in silence until we reach Templeogue. I’m like, “Where are we going?” because whenever I travel in a westerly direction I stort to feel like one of those explorers from the olden days. I keep thinking I’m going to fall off the side of the earth any minute. I once had a panic attack on the Red Cow roundabout after taking the wrong exit off the M50. I ended up driving around the thing for an hour, my two hands frozen on the wheel, crying like Stan Laurel.
He’s like, “Here we are,” and I’m suddenly relieved. “Take a look.”
I’m there, “What am I supposedly looking at?” because all I can see is a queue of people on the other side of the road, we’re talking 80- or maybe 90-people long?
We both get out of the cor.
He’s like, “Know what these people are waiting for?”
I’m there, “Er, butter vouchers?” and that’s nothing against the people of Templeogue. It’s just my prejudice.
“Wrong,” he goes. “They’re queuing to buy houses.”
I’m like, “Houses? People don’t queue to buy houses anymore.”
“Oh, yes, they do. See that man at the top of the line?”
“The one with the beard?”
“He sleeps in a little collapsible chair, cooks all of his meals on a portable camping stove. He’s been sitting there so long that he’s technically long-term homeless. And what he’s waiting for is us.”
“Us? As in, like, me and you?”
“You remember Fontanelle Heights?”
“In Ballivor? Yeah, no, it’s a ghost estate, isn’t it?”
“Not anymore, it’s not. It’s now called Stanley Hall Park and these nice people are waiting to buy a piece of it.”
“You’re pulling my wire.”
“Never thought you’d see it again, did you?”
“You’ve got to be pulling my wire?”
“What was it Fr Fehily used to say? The human race – the greatest show on Earth.”
We cross the road.
He goes, “I’m proud to tell you that Hook, Lyon and Sinker are the official selling agents for Stanley Hall Park,” except I’m not listening to him. I’m staring at a couple who are, like, 10th or 11th in the queue. I remember them well because I sold them their first gaff back in ’02.
This has been known to happen occasionally. I’ll be out and about with Sorcha – buying bedsheets in BTs or picking up a block of cheese in Thomas’s of Foxrock – and I’ll bump into someone I sold a house or an aportment to back in the glory days. And of course my instant reaction is to put my head down and walk off in the opposite direction.
Except the dude – his name is long gone – catches my eye and goes, “Hey!” and he says it in a way that suggests that I didn’t ruin his life?
I’m like, “Er, hey, yeah.”
“Do you remember me?” he goes. “Serenity Grange.”
Serenity Grange. What a joke. It was a development of aportments that overlooked the M3 just south of Navan. They didn’t even have double-glazing. I’m suddenly remembering how it all works now.
“How did that work out for you?” I go.
He shrugs and he’s like, “Ah, you know yourself,” but he doesn’t sound like he bears a grudge. He wouldn’t be here if he did.
Now that I think about it, that might even be a different wife he has now?
JP’s old man puts his hand on my back and guides me to the door of the building where the queue has formed. It ends up being just a vacant office. Two desks in it. Two chairs.
“People said it must never be allowed to happen again,” he goes, turning the key in the lock. “But you might as well try to stop the earth travelling on its diurnal course. The point is, it must be allowed to happen again. And again and again and again.
“We’re poor. We’re rich. We’re happy. We’re sad. People are born. People die. Our lives are like the blips on a heart monitor. Come on. Let’s sell houses.”