“At the time it seemed as if she had developed some insight into her demons and was intent on positively resolving them,” he answers. “As a child I did not initially perceive that statement as a threat to take her own life if again hospitalised. Today I do.”
Alan knew that his mother had said this before, that she never wanted to go back to another hospital, and put it to the back of his mind. What’s more, the day after, on the Sunday, Elaine appeared “to buck up” remembers Alan. For the next couple of days, everything in the Shatter home was “normal”. Until it wasn’t. December 21 — the Tuesday — Alan, who had been out playing on the road with his pals for the morn- ing, had come back to the house for a short while before getting the 16 bus at 1pm to meet his dad in town for lunch. His mother, who was in, he remembers, “a cheerful humour”, had offered to drive him into the city for the lunch at Switzer’s on Grafton Street, “but as usual she chose to stay at home”. This was to prove significant.
After a lovely lunch with his dad, Alan went to see his Auntie Gertie in Grafton Jewellers before pottering around a nearby bookshop to look at Christmas annuals (he remembered flicking through a football annual with an article on his precious team, Tottenham Hotspur FC).
The lights of Grafton Street twinkling with the magic of the Christmas season, Alan started for home at roughly 3pm. It was a “dry, cold, sunny afternoon”, so Alan ran the two miles home rather than take the packed 16 bus again. He was looking forward to seeing his mother because she had been in good form when he left at 1pm.
He had a surprise for her, too. There was a bread strike in Dublin’s shops and supermarkets in December, 1964. Aware that the local bakeries were still making bread, Alan ran to the bakery beside Leonard’s Corner in Harold’s Cross and bought his beloved mum a bread stick — “her favourite” — and ran on towards home.
Just as he reached Terenure village, the 16 bus swept pass. In hindsight, Alan says now that had he got the bus he would be home to his