Celtic Illumination, part 356, Marvin Gaye goes all thrash metal
One of the more interesting things about me, apart from being extremely good looking and having the most loveliest legs in all of Ireland, is that I have this weird memory. Perhaps it is just normal, but I seem to be able to remember the minutest details about certain stuff, yet still couldn’t tell you what the dates for my children’s birthdays are. Irene often remarks that we had been going out with each other for a couple of months before I knew her name. These are just some of the drawbacks you must get used to when you are a genius. This time I had remembered that Anne, that Anne of Anne and Davie, my old girlfriend’s sister, had once said to me that she had always wanted a doll’s house.
My friends in Ireland had often embarrassed me, just by being friends. Anytime I needed picking up from a train station or ferry terminal they would be there, they never let me down, and of course Anne and Davie had said that I could stay with them during my first failed attempt to return home to Ireland for good. So I felt that I was now in a position to return all of the favours. It’s strange that I actually remembered what Anne had said as our get togethers usually involved an awful lot of whiskey, which I would have bought in the duty free shop and you know yourself, that once you open a bottle of whiskey you have to drink it in double quick time or else it evaporates and goes sour and poisons the fairies and the little people.
Only problem was where would we stay. I hadn’t spoken to mother number one ever since she got her big brother, the pervert priest, to throw me out of what was supposed to be my own home. I always hoped that I was a basic and down to earth guy but Irene was always much more grounded than me, so told me to call her. We telephoned mother number one and said we would like to come visit for the weekend; I was long past the stage of calling the place home. I agreed with the Marvin Gaye song, ‘Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home.’ Although to tell you the truth I never wore a hat, not since the forces, and would you, if you were blessed with looks as good as mine?
Jimmy and myself made a really special house for Anne, we loaded it into the rear of the car and Irene and myself set off for the Holy Land. For me it was an extra special journey. I just loved the drive along the North Wales coast and then onto Anglesey Island past all my old haunts and on to the ferry at Holyhead. I hope one day that the Squadron Leader, the guy with the one arm and the one eye, reads this and begins to understand how much I love North Wales, so that he can see that his ‘punishment posting’ like most other clever things in the air force, really, really, worked. It’s always tempting when driving from Dublin up to Newry to enjoy the duel carriageways and perhaps exceed the speed limit a little. It can be a frustrating drive as in some stretches, say a duel carriageway the speed limit, in good ol boy speak, is unlimited and next thing is that you will be weaving your way through bollards restricted to fifteen miles per hour.
I suppose I didn’t mind it at all for you would see old houses and cottages that you would have passed by all your life and in a way they were mental landmarks, welcoming you home. It would even be nice to get stuck behind a tractor and trailer for wouldn’t it remind you that it was time to slow your life down and adopt what is considered to be the Spanish approach of, ‘Manjana,’ although to tell you the truth they stole it from us, we were just too drunk to do anything about it. I decided to call in to Mount Oliver, the big convent between Dundalk and the border, where Aunty Billie was billeted. Rather than stay on the main Newry road and enter the convent ground by the back lane I drove around the front so that I could show Irene just how grand the place was, like Charles Ryder approaching Brideshead Castle in Brideshead Revisisted.
I loved watching that programme but hated it at the same time for they used Castle Howard as the location for Brideshead, which as you all know is the family home of the Howards and I was in business with Phillip Howard, a nasty little aristocratic pain in the rear if there ever was one. So every time I saw this sumptuous house I could only imagine that little toe-rag, lording it over the staff. And if you don’t believe me just Google his name and you will see that he is currently taking his father to court for selling one of the family castles as they couldn’t afford to fix the roof. Excuse me for a moment while I compose myself as news like that can be so upsetting. Although on the other hand it can make you smile and want to become French and chop their fecking heads off.
I have to admit that I felt a little out of place driving up the main drive to Mount Oliver. I was family, I should have breezed in through the back door shouting, “Hello’ I’m home, will someone get the kettle on.” Normally I am not a great one for the prayers but I was praying that day that I didn’t run in to my friend the nun, the one who mentally undressed me as I did exactly the same to her. I didn’t fancy explaining that one to Irene and if she ever finds out I’ll be in trouble I can tell you. Once again every nun in the place seemed to know me and each one we met gave me a very warm welcome and was exceptionally pleased to meet Irene. So many of them had formed my close protection bodyguard when I was placed with them in Belfast. These girls as they say, were soldiers, soldiers in the army of the Lord.
Mother Superior came along and escorted us to one of the private sitting rooms. I was determined to get a spear this time when she took me around to the display cabinets, she could sod off with her carved giraffes and Zulu warriors. She warned me that Aunty Billie, well what else are you going to call a Catholic nun born on the twelfth of July, she warned me that Billie might not know me. Nuns are renowned for scolding people, especially little boys who they had cared for, so I took this as a reference to my visits which had been few and far between. “I’m living on the mainland,“ I said, hoping that the fact that I was living in England would excuse my tardiness. “No,” she said, taking my hand, like a mother might, well; I think that is what a mother might do and I should know, I’ve got two.
Mother Superior went on to explain that Billie had Alzheimer’s and might not recognise me. I think it was the first time I had come across the disease, I didn’t really know what to expect. Billie was brought in and two postulates served us tea and biscuits. Billie seemed normal, well; she looked her normal self, smiling and happy, I expected we were waiting to be alone before beginning our conversation. I think this was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, sitting talking to someone who I had known all my life but who now didn’t know who I was. Perhaps if I had been warned what to expect it might not have hit me so hard. I tried everything to find some sort of memory that she could use to come back to me and say hello, but it was impossible. Mother Superior came back in and suggested that Billie might need a rest. As we left, Billie still sat there smiling and nodding but it was obvious that she hadn’t a clue what had happened or what was happening.
There’s only one way a good ol boy can handle personal stuff like that and that is with excessive speed, which I employed as we approached the border. I don’t think we had any music on in the car as country and western might have made the situation worse, if such a thing could happen. What was needed was some thrash metal or for six paratroopers to drag me from the car and allow me to express my rage. As usual we discovered that everyone in the family knew about Billie, but once again they had forgotten to tell me. I couldn’t wait to get away from mother number one and meet up with Anne and Davie. There were three bottles of whiskey on the kitchen table and I explained the rules of the old air force game we used to play, where all three bottles would be consumed. One of us would leave the table and the other three had to guess who had left. Anne loved her doll’s house, but there was only one little problem. Pat, the old girlfriend, popped in when she heard I was about. She didn’t say how nice she thought the doll’s house was, or how well it had been made, all she said was, “Where’s mine?”