Welsh rose leaves Vinny feeling the worse for wear

Tempting Irish Water PR lady uncorks the genie in Vinny’s bottle

“We’re about to ramp up the installation of water meters on the northside, specifically the working-class areas, which you drive through every day,” said Tabitha.   Photograph: Alan Betson

“We’re about to ramp up the installation of water meters on the northside, specifically the working-class areas, which you drive through every day,” said Tabitha. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

For the seven o’clock rendezvous with Tabitha Tregoning in Stoker’s wine bar in Fairview on Monday, Vinny Fitzpatrick was early, which was not unusual, and all spruced up, which certainly was.

He was wearing the sports jacket Angie bought him for his last birthday, a pair of shiny Farah slacks, open- necked shirt and was lathered in Old Spice.

At 56, he had testosterone thumping through his veins, for which he could thank the tempting Irish Water PR lady who had uncorked the genie in Vinny’s bottle by saying little, but suggesting a lot.

Vinny felt like a crouching tiger and was ready to engage in some risqué chatter with the bould Ms Tregoning, who had set up the tryst, having promised to provide Vinny with feedback about to his Irish Water complaints.

Stoker’s wasn’t a regular port of call for Vinny, who preferred hops, malt and barley to the fruit of the vine, but who was he to object to Tabitha’s suggestion?

As he ambled past his alma mater, St Joseph’s CBS, Vinny’s attention was caught by a giant poster in the window, marking the school’s recent win in the All-Ireland Debating Competition.

It reminded Vinny of the time he made a case for teenagers wearing short trousers, almost 45 years ago.

Entering Stoker’s, Vinny slipped casually into a booth by the front window. He glanced at the drinks menu and noted glumly there wasn’t a bottle of beer to be had among the fine wines, gins and whiskies.

Just then, the door opened and he caught a whiff of an intoxicating aroma.

Seductive smile

When she removed her coat to reveal porcelain shoulders and a low-cut top, Vinny felt his loins tremble. Tabitha, in all truth, was a corker.

At the latter’s insistence, the choice of draught was a mature burgundy. As wine didn’t always sit easy with Vinny, especially that drawn from the darker grape, he made a mental note to take it handy.

Initially, the chat was business-like.

“I’ve done my research, Vinny. You made a great impression on the public when you were canvassing in the last general election, and you’d have been elected too, if it wasn’t for that, er, unfortunate brothel business just before polling.”

The reference caused Vinny to blush with embarrassment and then blanch with anger.

“We’re about to ramp up the installation of water meters on the northside, specifically the working-class areas, which you drive through every day,” continued Tabitha.

“To help ease concerns, we’ve arranged a number of information meetings for the public and we’d like you to come along and say a few words on behalf of Seán Citizen.

“You won’t be muzzled. You can talk of your fears, your annoyance at the delays but also touch on the long- term benefits.

“After all, no one wants to see people put behind bars for refusing to pay their bills, or kids washing and drinking in water drawn from polluted brooks.

Travel expenses

With that, Tabitha raised a slender finger to Vinny’s pudgy lips and pressed lightly.

“Hush now. I don’t want an answer tonight. Sleep on it and then call me in a few days. You have my number, after all.”

As Vinny’s mind raced, he instinctively reached out for his glass, drained it, and then lifted the empty bottle in the direction of the bar.

The offer was tempting, for he needed the cash, and Tabitha was tempting too. But now was not the time to make any judgement call, as the red wine was filling up his senses. He’d go with the flow for the remainder of the evening.

“Leave that with me Tabitha,” he said casually. “Now, you seem to know a lot about me. Let’s talk about you. Do I detect a wee Welsh lilt?”

At that, Tabitha titled her head back, and laughed aloud. “You don’t miss much, Vinny, do you?”

For the next while, Tabitha told her story. Born and raised in Caerphilly, she went to college in Bristol where she’d met Tony and had married just after her 21st birthday.

They were both career-driven and agreed to put kids on hold until they were 30, by which time business had overtaken their lives.

After a messy divorce two years ago, Tabitha had re- located to Dublin with a high- profile PR company.

“I’m 33, single and having a blast with a guy old enough to be my dad,” she smiled, raising a glass.

As a third bottle arrived, Vinny felt duty bound to let Tabitha into his own world of family, Foley’s and the odd flutter.

“Six years ago, I wish I had taken a punt on me getting married, having kids, discovering a daughter I never knew of, and becoming a granddad. Sure, I’d be worth a fortune,” he grinned.

Final furlong

At 11.30, Vinny squinted at his watch. “Jaypurs tonight, the last bus home! I’ll sort out the Jack ’n’ Jill and then I’ll have to go,” he blurted.

“No need,” said Tabitha. “This is my tab. You fire away, Vinny. Thanks for a lovely evening and let’s keep the waters flowing between us.”

As Tabitha sashayed to the bar, Vinny headed out into the mild October air. He tottered unsteadily towards the bus stop, some 150 yards away.

Halfway there, the rumble in his paunch became unbearable and Vinny knew what was coming. Leaning against the outer wall of Joey’s, he threw up, messily and nosily.

After a bit, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, peered up sheepishly at the stern windows of his old school, and muttered: “I was always better off sticking with the bloody shorts.”

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