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‘It’s the Vico Road. No one around here cleans their own gaff’

Ross O’Carroll Kelly: ‘I whip out the old Southside Roll then and I peel off a 20’

“It’s an old rugby injury. You were probably wondering was I that Ross O’Carroll-Kelly? There’s your answer.” Illustration: Alan Clarke

Ten o’clock on Monday morning and there’s a ring on the door. I hobble down the hallway on crutches to answer it and it ends up being – oh happy day! – a pretty lady.

“Hello,” she goes, “I’m Etain Lawless from the Health Service Executive. ”

And I’m like, “Hello, Etain Lawless from the Health Service Executive,” which is a thing I sometimes do – repeat a woman’s name and full title back to her, except in a flirtier voice. You’d be surprised at how many of them go for it.

“I’m a social worker,” she goes – and of course that instantly kills my passion. “I just wanted to ask you some questions.”

I’m like, “Oh, Jesus, no,” wondering which one of my children is in trouble this time. “You’d better come in.”

She follows me down to the kitchen, me picking my way down the hallway on my sticks. “I’m going to be on these things for a few weeks,” I go. “It’s an old rugby injury. You were probably wondering was I that Ross O’Carroll-Kelly? There’s your answer.”

She’s like, “It was a hip replacement, wasn’t it?”

“It was, yeah. How did you know that?”

“Well, obviously, I read it.”

“I didn’t know it was out there – as in, I didn’t put out any kind of statement. I was thinking about it, but there’s one or two people who’d be only too delighted by the news. I have my critics, as you’ll know if you’re a fan of the game.”

She looks around her. She’s obviously impressed by the gaff. Hey, it’s not just poor people who have troublesome kids – although, let’s be honest, it mostly is?

“So are you here by yourself?” she goes.

I’m like, “Right now, yes. My wife is in Dundrum – the usual crack with her.”

She’s there, “I didn’t know you had a wife,” and I’m trying to figure out is that, like, disappointment I can hear in her voice?

I’m like, “Yeah, no, we’ve the house to ourselves, Etain Lawless from the Health Service Executive – if that’s what you’re wondering. She’s returning something to Kiehl’s, then she’s meeting some old friend of hers from UCD, who I always considered a bit of a knob.”

She looks at the floor and she asks me the most random question then. She goes, “So who does the housework at the moment – the cleaning, the hoovering-?”


“Er, at the moment,” I go, “a woman called Justina, although the agency sends us different ones. If Sorcha thinks they’re too good-looking, they’re generally sent straight back. There have been a few – let’s just call them – incidents over the years.”

“I have to say, I’m surprised.”

“Hey, I’m a hord dog to keep on the porch, Etain.”

“No, I’m surprised to hear that you employ an agency to clean your house?”

I laugh.

“Er, it’s the Vico Road, ” I go. “Do you think anyone around here cleans their own gaff? Anyway, which one of my offspring are you here to talk about?”

She’s like, “Offspring?”

“Kids. Which one of my kids? Look, Ronan’s a good goy. He has certain gangster fantasies. I probably haven’t helped buying him that new book on the Kinahan-Hutch feud. If it’s Honor, I’m prepared to believe anything you tell me. To be honest, we’ve kind of written her off. We’ve accepted that there’s nothing we can do about her behaviour, even though that’s probably not a tactic you recommend in the old social worker’s playbook.”

The woman scrunches up her face – she’s obviously confused.

“I’m not here to talk about your children,” she goes. “I’m here to assess you.”

I’m like, “Me? I don’t need assessing!”

A lot of people would disagree with that statement.

She goes, “I’m here to find out what your care needs are following your operation. Your ability to carry out the activities of daily living – bathing, dressing, moving around-.”

I’m there, “Is this, like, a VHI thing?”

“No, you applied for Home Care Assistance.”

“No, I didn’t.”

She opens her sort of, like, briefcase and pulls out this, basically, application form, which she then hands to me. I give it the old left to right.

I’m like, “This isn’t my handwriting.”

She goes, “Are you sure?”

“Er, it’s joined-up. I always write in block capitals. I’m old school like that.”

And when I say old school, I mean senior infants.

She goes, “So you’re saying you didn’t apply for home help?”

I didn’t. But then it suddenly dawns on me who actually did.

“It must have been my old dear,” I go. “Yeah, no, this is her getting me back because I stuck in an application for a bus pass for her. She’s, like, 70 next month, although she always tries to deny her age.”

It’s obvious straight away that Etain Lawless from the Health Service Executive is not a happy bunny being jerked around like this. She goes, “This is your idea of fun then, is it?”

I’m like, “Not mine – my old dear’s. I honestly thought you were here to threaten to take Honor into care. I was going to say you’re welcome to her – you might have better luck with her than we did.”

She goes, “You think it’s okay to waste the time of busy civil servants?”

Okay, she’s pushing it with that line. I don’t pull her up on it, though. Instead, I try to keep the porty polite.

“Hey,” I go, “at least you’ve had a nice drive out here. Seen a bit of Killiney. I’d recommend taking the coast road back through Dalkey. ”

I whip out the old Southside Roll then and I peel off a 20.

“As a matter of fact,” I go, “get yourself a lunch in Finnegan’s – it’s on me.”

She just gives me an unbelievable filthy. She doesn’t even take the money. They’re all on good exes, of course. She just turns on her heel and storms out the door, leaving me alone to try to figure out how I’m going to get my own back on that bet-down White Walker who calls herself my mother.