If I thought there was half a chance, I'd be all over her like a dog on a dropped waffle
Miriam O’Callaghan introduces us as “Fionnuala O’Carroll-Kelly – novelist, screenwriter, style icon, philanthropist and, I think it’s fair to say, humanitarian” and – this is the bit that really grinds my gears – “her son, Ross”.
As in, she doesn’t say anything about me? She doesn’t mention that Tony Ward once said, “Provided he lives his life right, he will make the Irish number 10 jersey his own for a decade to come”.
That all gets swept under the corpet.
I agreed to do Miriam Meets because none of the old dear’s supposed friends – we’re talking Delma, Susan and all the other leading lights from the campaign to Ban Poor People from the National Gallery – was available. I saw it as a chance to (a) get a good look at Miriam, who I’ve always had a major thing for, and (b) to put certain facts about my old dear on the public record.
“Ross,” Miriam goes, looking all lovely like she’s hurting no one, “what are your earliest memories of your mother?” I’m there, “I would sum it up, Miriam, by saying the smells of Chanel No 5, desperation and gin. But mostly gin.” Miriam seems a bit taken aback by that.
“What about her glamour,” she tries to go. “Her beauty. Her fabulous dress sense . . . ”
I’m there, “One thing I will say in her favour is that later on, when I was playing my rugby, I never once came up against a forward – however big, however ugly – who frightened me. That was because, as a baby, I had her face bearing down at me in my pram, like something Tim Burton would draw in a bad mood.”
Again, Miriam seems surprised. You can tell she’s thinking, ‘Er, why didn’t my researchers tell me that this is a guy who isn’t afraid to call it on a consistent basis?’ She turns to the old dear and goes, “Fionnuala O’Carroll-Kelly, author of the wonderful and already bestselling Fifty Greys in Shades, Ross is your only son – your only child. What are your memories of him as a boy.”
I’m expecting her to say something nasty – which would be definitely her style. It’s a well-known fact that she never actually wanted kids? She put on, like, seven stone or something equally horrific when she was pregnant with me.
Except this time she ends up catching me totally on the hop. “Ross,” she goes, “was a lovely little boy. Terribly sweet and affectionate. Very, very clever. And handsome. He was awfully handsome. He still is. The girls were mad about him the time he was in Montessori!” Er, this doesn’t sound like her.
She goes, “But I would say a great many of my memories of Ross as a youngster involve rugby. He brushed over it rather modestly a moment ago but he was an outstanding player and it’s a great shame that – through a variety of reasons – he never got to play for his country.”
I’m just sitting there with my mouth open, wondering what the fock is going on – like when I watched Lincoln.
“I remember one particular match, it was the semi-final of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup against Belvedere College. Ross scored this try and when he crossed the line to ground the ball, there were three Belvedere players hanging off him. I expect even he doesn’t know where he summoned the strength from.” Every word of that is true.
She goes, “Then in the final, against Newbridge College, he ran almost half the length of the field to score – I think it was his third try of the day. He had someone chasing him all the way to the line. But I knew he wouldn’t catch him. Oh, he was a wonderful player.”
I actually can’t believe she remembers that stuff. And that’s when my world famous conscience storts to get the better of me. I’m suddenly feeling bad about, like, the shit I said?
I turn around to Miriam – who looks incredible, I don’t know if I mentioned. If I thought there was half a chance, I’d be all over her like a dog on a dropped waffle – and I go, “I said one or two things in my introduction that might have sounded possibly horsh? Could they be, like, cut out?”
“Of course,” she goes. “So you’re saying you do admire her?” I’m suddenly, like, guilted into going, “Yeah, no, I mean she writes these books – they’re not my thing but they sell, like, millions of copies worldwide, so you’d have to say fair focks. Looks-wise, I personally think she’s raddled. But all these fashion magazines seem to think she’s some kind of beauty. So happy days.
“She also does a lot of work for charity. Again, this is in her defence, but she organised, like, a tray bake after the whole Chernobyl thing. What did it raise again?” “£186,” the old dear goes, “before expenses.” “Again,” I go, “fair focks.” On and on it goes, roysh, with me delivering compliment after compliment, until Miriam finally tells us that it’s a wrap.
The old dear stands up to go and ends up dropping, like, a sheaf of papers all over the floor – it’s possibly down to the gin, but I resist the temptation to say it.
“I’ll get those,” I go, bending down to help her, like, gather them up. And that’s when I notice what they are – we’re talking, like, cog notes – all about rugby. She obviously just rang up my old man and asked him to describe some of my incredible, incredible moments on the field.
There are many words to describe my old dear. A lush. A horse-faced jackpine savage. A crockadillapig. But evil is probably the one that sums her up best. But you won’t hear me saying any of them on Miriam Meets.
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE