‘She’s kacking it that someone’s going to ask her to account for all the moo that passed through her hands’
When the old dear smiles, her head honestly looks like a watermelon that’s been dropped from a height.
“I saw your friend on the news,” she goes, flashing her top teeth at me through the thick folds of latex and silicone that her plastic surgeon assured her would look like an actual face. “It must have been a very emotional day for you.”
It’s obvious she’s talking about Drico.
She’s there, “I said to Delma, that could have been Ross out there – if he hadn’t frittered his talent away. His father always says that he could have ended up having the life that Brian O’Driscoll enjoyed.”
I’m like, “It’s not like you to pay me a compliment. You clearly want something from me.”
There has to be a reason why she’s at my front door at, like, three o’clock on a Monday afternoon. That’s when I notice the three Bags for Life at her feet, all of them stuffed to bursting point with, like, notebooks and ledgers and basically old paperwork.
I’m there, “What’s all this?” even though I know what is? It’s, like, her accounts from her 40 years as South Dublin’s most famous charity fundraiser. Church fetes. Fashion shows. White-tie balls. Ladies’ golf days. The Foxrock Friends of Chernobyl. The Brighton, Torquay and Westminster Road Combined Residents’ Association’s Mount Pinatubo Emergency Relief Fund. Dublin 18 Aids Action. All of the organisations she set up to help the unfortunates of the world. Except they ended up never seeing a penny of the money she raised. She trousered the lot. And now she’s obviously kacking it that someone’s going to ask her to account for all the moo that passed through her hands over the years.
“I was wondering if I might use your shredder,” she goes – the woman has literally no embarrassment gene.
I invite her in.
“Yeah, no, I saw it on the news,” I go. “People are suddenly asking a lot of question about where their charitable donations are going. I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it, but you look like you haven’t slept. You look haggard – as in really, genuinely bet-down. Even more so than usual.”
She’s there, “Well, it’s true – I haven’t been sleeping. This has been on my mind for weeks now. Well, it’s the new national sport, isn’t it? Finding people who’ve spent the best years of their lives working in the service of those less fortunate than themselves, then calling them in front of these star chambers to impugn their motives.”
I dip my hand randomly into one of the bags and I pull out a piece of paper. At the top, it says, “The Foxrock and Mozambique Joint Partnership to Combat River Blindness,” and I tell her that I actually remember this one? It was, like, the biggest coffee morning and bake sale the area has ever seen. I flick through the pages. There’s, like, references to baked clafoutis, chocolate pea puddings and rhubarb and ginger jam, then figures beside each.
“So,” I go, with a big grin on my boat, “how much did this one raise?”
She snatches it from me.
“God,” she goes, “you sound just like that ghastly Shane Ross. If you must know, Ross, it raised something that cannot be quantified in the crude profit and loss columns of a cash ledger. It raised awareness.”
“Awareness – of course. Vital, that.”
“And you can drop that sneering tone. The overheads for that event were enormous. I had to pay for the hall, for flour, for sugar, for milk . . . ”
I pull another one out of the bag.
“SOS Tegucigalpa,” it says. “The South Dublin/Honduras Clean Water Initiative presents Annie Get Your Gun in the Saint Abdas of Susa Parish Hall.”
I actually laugh at that one, because I remember it as well. The plan was to raise enough money to charter a plane and fly over the country, dropping plastic bottles of mineral water – still and sparkling – onto the streets below. Despite a seven-night, sellout run, the musical didn’t succeed in wetting the lips of a single, I don’t know, Hondurasan ?
“You really do belong in a prison cell,” I go. “Cornelscourt and Foxrock United Against Tetanus. I mean, how much of this money went to the actual causes it was supposed to?”
She’s there, “Well, like anyone who is moved enough by the plight of others to want do something about it, I’m constantly asking myself, is the money getting through? Is it making a difference to people’s lives on the ground?”
“Not if they’re looking up, waiting for a bottle of focking San Pellegrino to fall from the sky, no.”
“It’s not your fault for thinking that way, Ross. You’ve been infected by the cynicism of our age. Now, can I use your shredder or not?”
I’m there, “Of course you can – Mother Teresa of Where’s-my-cut-a? Just leave the bags under the stairs there. I’m taking today off to reflect on the Italy match and stort thinking about France.”
“But you will definitely destroy this . . . paperwork?”
She nearly said evidence.
I’m there, “Of course I will. Trust me.”
“Okay,” she goes, “thank you. How much do I owe you?”
I’m like, “My old dear turns to me in her hour of need, looking for my help. I’d have to be a serious lowlife to try to actually profit from that.”
“Thank you, Ross.”
“€500 should just about cover my overheads, though.”
“€500. Okay, I’ll transfer the money into your bank account.”
And of course the only dilemma for me, as I watch her trot back to her cor, is whether to give this stuff to the Times or the Indo .