May 01 2009
On a crowded rush hour DART an elderly man sits opposite me, head hung, nursing an old photograph.
I stare into space, as I am wont to do. The bearded guy beside me is buried in The Watchmen graphic novel. There is a young blond woman beside the old man reading Elle.
The old man sighs loudly and there is a distinct stench of last night’s Jameson coming from him. He wants attention.
I stare on. Beardy guy turns the page of his comic. Blondie lifts her hand to cover her nose, but her head stays in her glossy rag.
“I met her sixty years ago today”, he begins.
Beardy doesn’t seem to notice. I smirk slightly at Blondie’s obvious discomfort. She glances away from him, perhaps seeking another seat. There are none to spare.
“She did the washup and looked after the babbies in one of the English houses and I was working with their man in the house.
“We had eight children. Nine actually. And we fought like eejits on that first day.”
I am not sure where to look. It’s clear he is going to keep talking. I’m not sure if he’s addressing one of the other two, but I sure as hell am not about to make eye contact.
“Every few years we would talk about that May Day. I always forgot what we fought over, but she never forgot. She had a divil of a memory,” he says with a slight chirp in his tone. Without looking at him, I can hear the smile in his voice.
“I think she changed the story a bit over the years.
“I was doing some work in the yard and went into the little downstairs kitchen to get a cup. I’d swear I never saw the dog. I wouldn’t have let a muddy dog into the house.
“But out she comes after me. Effin’ and blindin’. She looked like a lady but she had a mouth like a sailor. She was hitting me, telling me I had let the dog loose in the house and he was after jumping up on one of the babbies’ baptism dresses. Big expensive white yoke.”
He’s not looking at any of us. We are all looking at him, with alternating glances at each other exchanging silent “should we say somethings” and “is he for reals“.
“She wouldn’t even let me speak. I was guarding myself from her slaps while laughing me head off – go away, you mad woman, I says.
“Sixty years ago.
“That’s her there”, he says nudging Blondie and showing her the old photo.
She smiles a genuine smile and looks intently at the picture. She presents it to Beardy and me too.
I’d say it was taken in the early eighties. There’s an old woman standing beside a brown car. Her frumpy, flowery dress was probably fashionable about ten years previous, but she carried it well. Quite glamourous, I would say. In fact I do say it.
“Oh, she always dressed well. We never had nothing but she made sure none of us left the house with a rip in our clothes or a hole in our shoes.”
Blondie took the picture back and in her big D4 accent she asked, “So, like, what happened then?”
“Ah, yer man I was working with let the animal in. She never once apologised, but I said she could make up for it by coming with me to the dance that night. We were together from that day on.
“And you know, she had a boyfriend at the time and I was seeing this young one too. There was war.”
Beardy finally pipes up – “That’s lovely, man”.
Then we pull into Killiney and he moves to get up. Blondie stands respectfully. I tell him that it was absolute pleasure to meet him and Beardy agrees.
The three of us chat about our wonderful shared moment as far as Bray where Blondie and Beardy both get off.
I should have spent more time talking to my Granny about her life while she was still around.