The park is a 'no-go'. He's nervous
SIGNING ON:AT THE height of the boom, when they lived in a Strain-built redbrick, their neighbour had become obsessed with buying half of their unusually generous garden. He’d accost them whenever they were out playing with the baby, the dog.
Ultimately, the neighbour was told if he wanted the garden that badly, he should make an offer on the house. He did – a ludicrously high one. They paid off their mortgage. Loans on her vans and catering equipment.
Then, because they were both exhausted, and because they believed their businesses – and contacts – would endure, they disappeared to a mountaintop in Italy. There, they lived internet-, debt-, TV- and stress-free. For a year.
They purchased a tiny, terraced house in Dublin before they quit, as insurance: prices were climbing, daily. They rented it out, never believing it would become their home.
Oh yeah – he’s supposed to be all positive. But you try singing “always look on the bright side” when rival drug gangs are taking shots at one other outside. Try singing when they descend with an angle grinder to cut through the chain that protects your motorbike:
– If I was you mister, I’d step back inside.
A trio of teenagers – pale, profane – invades the playground. Every second word an affront:
– Listen, my little girl shouldn’t have to endure . . .
One of them has with him a lawnmower, a jerry-can:
– I’ll f*** petrol over her, set her aligh’, if ya don’t get out of me face.
The casual delivery, as much as the content, is shocking. It’s fully three seconds before the unemployed man reacts.
He takes the culprit by the ear, Christian Brother-style. When one of the others fires a kick, the unemployed man wrenches Lawnmower’s arm high.
Twisting, until Lawnmower hisses at his mate:– Back off.
The third gurrier is on his mobile:
– Da! There’s a paedo up the park!
They have the guile of rats.
A grandmother breaks it up:
– You did right, son. But one of their fathers is a nasty item.
If I was you . . .
The playground becomes a “no-go”. He is nervous passing groups of teenagers. Still, if they can go around in hoodies, so can he.
And there is always Dollymount.
Anyway, his daughter had ceased to believe the graffiti in the playground was art, installed at night, by fairies.
No way they are sending her to one of the local schools. If that sounds elitist, he makes no apology. Though initiatives have been taken (for example, violin lessons) and though some of the young teachers have remarkable vocations, stark facts remain. These schools are under-resourced and due to Government cuts there are too few special needs assistants to deal with the large numbers of children whose first language is not English.
They’ll move. They’ll forfeit their mortgage interest relief and it will hurt, but if he has to rob a bank, he’ll ensure his daughter attends a decent primary, then a decent secondary, where it is the rule, rather than the exception, that she’ll go on to third level.
(He’s aware, of course, of the irony of his private school education and university qualifications having failed to equip him for recession. Perhaps reality.)
He phones a small, Protestant school one hour out of town. The headmistress understands only too well his predicament: one of her friends manages a secondary in an educationally-disadvantaged area. Row upon row of houses with massive flat-screen TVs, no books. If he can acquire an address in the school’s catchment area, there’ll be a place for his daughter.
To pay the deposit, and the first month’s rent, he sells his Ducati, taking as part-exchange a Honda 90. It wouldn’t pull a sailor off your sister, and he nearly cries when the buyer drives away.
Don’t worry, says his wife. You can get another one, when things improve. Meantime, grow a beard, pretend you’re Joey the Lips.
There’s a shortfall in the rent received and that paid out. They slide further into debt. But the kids have a room each, there’s a home-office and, directly opposite, a green, empty of smashed bottles, threats.
They walk to the village every evening. People smile, admire the children. So civilised. In a place like this, he believes he can start over. In any event, it is not about him. It is about his daughters: always was, always will be.