Saturday, September 27, 2008

Other lives

A few pensioners returning from a coffee in The Square, a woman about 40 with a ponytail, and I were travelling on the 77A. No-one was particularly paying attention to the old lady alone in the front seat. The sun was shining, the traffic at least moving. Next thing she picks a mobile phone out of her bag and makes a call:

"I'm ringing," she says, in the posh voice that old ladies acquire when they are taking the high ground. "I'm ringing to tell you I am very sick and I'm on my way to the doctor. So there will be NO drinks, you'll be happy to hear, AND the phone will be OFF tonight!"

The little conversations about the bus buzzed low as everybody tried to listen in without being too obvious. The impact of the lady's pronouncement was hindered somewhat by the recipient being a little deaf.

"I said, I'm very sick and I'm on my way to the doctor."

"Yes, the doctor. I'm on the bus now."

"I'm nearly there. Goodbye."

She hung up and gazed out the window, everybody looking sidelong at her. She didn't look too unhealthy. In her early 70s, maybe. Large mop of hair with bold, blonde highlights. A spare woman, head held high, eyes peering out from behind her black rimmed glasses.

She stood up, clutching the smooth, chrome hand-holds with a fist full of heavy gold rings. Gathering her coat around her she marched imperiously to the exit.

When she'd gone, the conversations murmured on again, gradually buzzing louder about weather and gardens and the price of things.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Two reasons to leave a pub

Waiting for the dentist's practice to open this afternoon, I hopped up on a bar stool in a certain Walkinstown pub and asked for a Rock Shandy.

"Do you want ice in it?" the barman asked. In all seriousness.

I suppose there are people who don't want ice in their rock shandies, but I am not one of them.

Half an hour later and about to serve my second rock shandy, he stood, correctly, sideways on so that I could see the half fizzy lemon drink and the half fizzy orange drink going into the pint glass. All went well until he let a great big


of a cough go.

He did cover his mouth, I'll give him that. Unfortunately, he covered his mouth with the hand with which he next picked up my pint glass of rock shandy with ice. And picked it up by cupping his hand right around three-quarters of the top half of the glass.

As he'd not had time to take away the empty, I gingerly lifted the germ-encrusted glass and tipped its contents into the first one. Somehow or other, I only had room for about half. I departed, looking forward to having a tooth drilled more avidly than the drinking of that pint. Ice or no ice.

Anyway, the rock shandy cost €6.20.

Bloody hell.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My mother's voice

My mother’s speaking voice was beautiful and has always been associated in my mind with comfort and peace. Some of my earliest memories are of gently waking as a small child with sunlight and birdsong coming in through the old windows and hearing the murmur of low conversation in the next room, the kitchen. The high, wooden ceiling in the farmhouse would amplify the sounds. My mother, speaking with a visitor, perhaps her brother, John, or one of her sisters, Kay or Mina, who might sometimes travel up to the fields to meet her and speak about grown-up things.

Laying at rest in my bed in the other room, the sounds of quiet activity would filter through: a soft footfall on the linoleum floor, the muffled clang of the galvanised bucket as the last of the drinking water was poured into a kettle; a lid being replaced; a drawer of cutlery rattling open and closing; teaspoons in cups; milk pouring; a breadknife sawing through a hard, dark crust of fresh loaf bread. And finally the gentle rattle of the smooth, brass knob as my smiling mother peered around the door to see if I was awake yet and announced in her soft, kind voice that breakfast was very nearly ready…