Irish Independent - Weekend Magazine - - Column -

It was our turn last Fri­day, so we had the wife’s gang in the house for the monthly nose­bag. The craicwas good. It al­ways is when Carmel’s hus­band, Paddy, is around. Carmel is the wife’s sis­ter, so that makes Paddy my brother-in-law — I think. I’ve never been sure how these fam­ily rank­ings are worked out. But, any­way, when him­self and Carmel walk into a room they­light up the place. Pad­dy­has one of those faces. It’s big and it moves. It’s like there are peo­ple in be­hind Paddy’s face try­ing to get out. When you’re talk­ing to Paddy, you’re hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion­with more than a dozen Pad­dys.

I said it to Carmel once. — Je­sus, Carmel, you’re a bloody bigamist. You’re mar­ried to 20 dif­fer­ent men.

— I am, she an­swered, proudly.

Paddy only has two knees — they’re big too — and she pat­ted one of them. Carmel’s a gas woman too. I’ll ad­mit it: I fell in love with Carmel about two sec­onds be­fore I de­cided to fall in love with her sis­ter in­stead. And — just to be ab­so­lutely clear — I’ve been liv­ing hap­pily ever after ever since. But any­way.

We’re all in the kitchen, around the ta­ble, as usual. There’s my­self and the wife, Carmel and Paddy, the other sis­ter, Dympna, and her new chap, whose name I refuse to re­mem­ber. By the time we meet again, he’ll be gone. I can tell by the head on him, and I can tell by the head on her.

— Come here, I say to the wife af­ter­wards, when we’re fling­ing the plates into the dish­washer. — Would Dympna not be hap­pier with a girl­friend?

— You might be right, says the wife. I have to sit down for a minute. I might be wrong but I think the wife just said I might be right.

But any­way, be­fore that, when the plates are still piled high with the wife’s spe­cial­ity, Korma Coolock, and we’re scoff­ing away, Paddy coughs, apol­o­gises, and says he fully ex­pects to be dead by Mon­day. — I’d bet­ter make a list, he says.

— Ah, no, I say. — Not an­other bucket list.

— No, says Paddy. — Calm down. He shows us all the face. — A f**k it list, he an­nounces. — The s***e we’re go­ing to stop do­ing be­fore we die.

And that gets us all go­ing, even Dympna’s name­less beau, who up to now has looked like he’s next in line for the elec­tric chair. The wife gets a piece of pa­per and a biro. — Putting out the wheel­ies, she says and starts to write. — You never put a wheelie out in your life! I say. I’m hap­pily out­raged. — You told me you were colour-blind, I tell her. — Years ago. You said you couldn’t tell which was which.

— I’m putting this one down for you, pet, she says, and she winks at me.

— The healthy stuff, says Carmel. — Write that down. We’re all in agree­ment: we’ll stop eat­ing the food that’s good for us.

— Un­less we ac­tu­ally like it.

— Fair enough.

I’ve an idea. — Say­ing thanks to the bus driver, I say. — What’s wrong with say­ing thanks to the poor driver?

— Poor driver, me a**e, I say. — I’ve been say­ing thanks to that fella since they changed the shape of the buses, and he’s never said thanks to me. Not once.

— Shav­ing, says Paddy.

— Legs as well, says Carmel.

— Fair enough, says Paddy. — Equal op­por­tu­ni­ties.

We’ve only been work­ing on the list for a few min­utes and the wife’s al­ready run out of pa­per. It’s go­ing to be a long night. We’re shout­ing griev­ances that go right back to the early ’60s.

— Clean­ing my room!

— Hang on, it’s our room!

— Mine!

— Ours!

That’s me and the wife, by the way. But we’re only mess­ing — I think.

— Brush­ing the teeth.

— Your breath would stink, but.

— Brush­ing them twice a day.

— Agreed, says Paddy. — Waste of wa­ter. Think of the en­vi­ron­ment.

— Giv­ing a s***e about the en­vi­ron­ment, I say.

— None of us give a s***e about the en­vi­ron­ment, says Carmel. — Do we? We all shake our heads.

— We won’t be in­clud­ing that one, so, says the wife. — It’s a bat­tle we’ve al­ready won. She puts a line through it. — Floss­ing.

— Can we move past per­sonal hy­giene, please? says the wife.

— I’ve one, says Dympna’s tem­po­rary male com­pan­ion. We stare at him. It’s like the dog has sud­denly spo­ken — and it’s not even your own dog.

— Go on ahead, Lau­rence, says the wife. He has a name, after all.

— Hav­ing to en­dure so­cially awk­ward sit­u­a­tions, he says. The wife is adding it to the list be­fore Carmel and then the rest of us burst out laugh­ing — ex­cept Lau­rence.

— She’d be bet­ter off with a girl, I say to the wife, later. I’m at the sink, rins­ing one of the pots.

— Is that you day-dream­ing over there, Char­lie? she says.

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