Roddy L’Estrange: Vinny’s homecoming plan for Angie hits a big snag

Burly busman in flying form as he leads welcoming crew for his beloved wife

The incoming Chicago flight on Saturday morning was ahead of schedule, which was fine as Vinny Fitzpatrick had allowed for jet stream assistance at 37,000 feet.

EI124 would touch down at 9.15am, half an hour early, and one of its passengers was in for a reception and a half.

The welcoming party for Angie drew an eclectic mix of family, friends and business heads, who had jumped to attention when Vinny launched “Operation Bumblebee” the week before.

The burly bus driver had rounded up all the usual suspects, and a few unusual ones too, for an airport gathering in honour of the love of his life. Against the odds, Angie had claimed the high ground in her cancer battle. The pioneering treatment she'd received in Seattle had blitzed the infected cells to smithereens.


Officially, she was in remission as all tests, physical exams and scans showed no sign of the scourge that had sucked her to the edge of the abyss. She’d left Seattle, in the company of Emma, her grown-up daughter, looking and feeling like a million dollars. Her weight was back up to a respectable 60 kilos, her dark hair was lustrous, her smile radiant. As the plane descended, down below in the arrivals hall Vinny was buzzing around.

Special permission

He’d got special permission from the

Dublin Airport Authority

to erect balloons and a giant banner, which read, “Angie Baby, You’re A Special Lady”.

If it seemed schmaltzy, it also paid homage to the 1970s classic by Helen Reddy, which Vinny and Angie sang on Saturday nights when the Pinot Grigio was in full flow.

Angie's many pals from Clontarf LTC were ready to form a guard of honour with their racquets held aloft, the Scrabble Club crew were there, including K for Jackie, an old adversary of Vinny's.

Winston’s For Winners had sent along two of their Dublin suits, while Vinny was in such magnanimous mood, he’d given the thumbs up to Big Fat Ron, her ex-husband, to come along too.

At the railings, faces fixed on the sliding doors were the twins, Aoife and Oisín. Now aged 6½, they had chosen their own outfit for the big day.

Oisín was in his Dubs gear, complete with “Brogan” on the back of his blue shirt, while Aoife wore her Angeline Ballerina rig-out.

The twins hadn’t seen their mother for nearly a month and were giddy with anticipation.

No one missed Angie more than Vinny. He’d fallen for her all those years ago when she first entered his routine world in Vernon Racing.

For a long time, he thought the closest he’d ever get to Angie was the glass pane which separated punters from the tellers in the bookies.

Yet, somehow that hurdle had been bridged and he’d plucked up the courage to ask Angie out.

Midas touch

Angie was his Foinavon, his Norton’s Coin and his Mon Mome all rolled into one, the 100/1 shot that came in.

Right now, Vinny was on the sort of roll he had dreamed of since he first snuck into the smoke-filled office at the foot of Vernon Avenue in 1970 to have two bob on Gay Trip in the Grand National.

He'd come out of Cheltenham two grand in the clear, and had kicked on at Fairyhouse with four winners, all numbered eight, on that mad Easter Monday.

His Midas touch continued at Aintree where he’d devoutly followed the stables of “WPM” before he clicked with a score each-way on Gilgamboa at 40/1 in the National.

He’d also put a nifty-fifty on an Englishman to win in The Masters at Augusta at 7/2, which came up trumps too thanks to Danny “Boy” Willett.

He was flush in cash, and flush in love too, as his wife’s return was imminent.

He checked the monitor for the umpteenth time. “Eey-aye-adio has landed,” he shouted aloud, prompting a few cheers.

At that moment, he felt a squeeze on one of his tummy handles. Turning around, he recoiled slightly, for the pincher was K for Jackie, one of Angie's oldest friends, from their Santa Sabina days.

So called after a night of Scrabble which almost ended up with more X’s than it should have, Jackie was six foot tall, a bleached blonde honey with a rapier tongue.

“My, my,” she whispered, bending down towards Vinny’s ear. “Angie will be so proud of her roly-poly prince charming. Who would have thought an ugly toad like you could have put on such a show?

“But you were so busy with your banners and your bossy ways, you took your eye off the ball, my pudgy pal.”

At that, K for Jackie stood back and pointed to a screen overhead. “Perhaps you can explain what are we all doing in the wrong terminal?”

Vinny gulped, then blinked to be doubly sure. “Oh my God,” he wailed. “How could I be so stupid?”

The charge to the first fence at Aintree was nothing like that happened next as Vinny’s “Operation Bumblebee” took an unscheduled flight.