“I feel really guilty about leaving mum for two weeks,” says Maisie, who is heading to England to take a rum-making course in Bristol, no less. “I can always take Cathleen out for the day,” I say. “For real? You’re the best,” says Maisie. “As much as I love her, I need a mom detox. Am I a slut if I say so?”
Not at all, I say.
So on Tuesday I set out to pick up her mother, a thin, tiny but impressive Kerry woman, from her nursing home in Dublin. Maisie told me the house was top notch and cost €2,000 a week. I found Cathleen at the front desk wearing huge purple sunglasses, a bright green pantsuit, and holding a brightly colored plastic cane.
“I’m looking forward to coming out,” she says, tying her white headscarf in a knot on her chin. “It’s been years since I’ve seen you, Biddy.”
How is this place like Cathleen? I say. “Yerra, it’s a cat. It’s a mix between a B&B and a maximum security prison. Let’s put it this way, I have a lot of free time and I have no plans to knit tea cosies.” If only Maisie had heard her.
Well, we’ll take it easy, I say, assuming our day will be easy. Famous Last Words.
where would you like to go I say.
“I love Gorey, it’s always buzzing,” she says. On the way down in the car, I’m not kidding, she met up with poor Maisie, who just so happens to be her only daughter. “I never see her,” she says, although I know Maisie goes out with her twice a week, sometimes more. “It’s a mystery to me what she does to herself all day,” says Cathleen. “I mean, she’s been through three husbands, and none of them could outdo her, and I don’t have the blessing of a grandchild.”
Thank God she went for the carotid artery. “Tell me this Biddy, you’re her friend, what is she ‘doing’ to pass the time?” Works her ass off, I say. There was silence. She was a real car.
As we walked through the foyer of the Seafield Hotel, I spotted a nice table in the bar. “What are those things?” she says, pointing to a waiter carrying a bowl of chicken wings.
“I’ll have some of these,” she says. “A small portion. “And what’s that blue stuff on it?” Blue Cheese Sauce. “Ara, I’ll have some of that too.” Well, there was more sucking, licking and bone gnawing. You wouldn’t get it in a David Attenborough documentary. She was a real scumbag.
I knew her deadly softness for the gin might wake her up
Of course I was morto. Did you enjoy it? I say. “Ah, they were okay, not great,” she says, wiping her mouth. “Sure, it was a change.” You just couldn’t please her. It was a strain being with her.
“Yerra, I think I’ll have a gin and tonic,” she says, fixing me with a sharp gaze. “The ones in those big glasses.” My goodness, she finished the gin and then ordered another. I was pleasantly amazed at their tolerance of the Aul spirits and their intolerance of poor Maisie. Then the drama began.
“Oh god Biddy, you have to take my pants off,” she begged me. “I feel very weak. I’m diabetic, I have to take my insulin shot. “
Well, I almost died on the spot. Diabetic.
It was what the French would call an indelible moment. Frozen in shock, I looked for a private room for her.
“Squirt…into…my…purse,” she murmured. Oh the stress of it all. I was really sweating but finally found some privacy near the reception. She had pinned her pants to her bra with those kids’ pink safety pins to keep them up. I couldn’t fucking open it.
Finally, frilly panties and sparrow legs were exposed. I found her syringes in her brown nun-like bag and her swabs. With an effort, I tried to look away as she pushed some flesh on her thigh to the surface, stuck the needle in, and passed out. It couldn’t get much worse.
Would you mind bringing me a glass of Hendrick’s Gin and a Red Bull? I say to the young waiter, who didn’t look any better when he saw a half-naked 85-year-old woman lying on the sofa.
I knew her softness for the gin might wake her up, and you know what? It did. She must have heard the hiss.
I sat next to her as she neatly snapped it back, a seraphic smile on her face. “Gosh Cathleen you scared me so much I thought I lost you. We’d better take you home, then we’ll be on our way,” I say.
“What are you in a hurry for?” she says, looking at me like someone who is being wrongly punished. I wasn’t fooled. I pushed them out into the street, where we were faced by a burly little man shaking a tin can.
“Would you like to support the men’s prostate charity?” he says, looking at Cathleen.
“I’ll do it in my ass,” she says, waving it off. “As far as I can see, you’re not suffering enough. A little pain can’t hurt you.” At this point, she became brutal.
Well, my heart jumped for joy when I finally saw the gate of the nursing home.
Good luck, Cathleen, I thought as I raced home. Maisie would need it more.
I have never seen so many pieces of underwear thrown away between rocks and crevasses
The next day I strolled down to Coliemore Harbor for a quick swim. Jesus, we don’t need it island of love when we have ‘Dalkey Island’. The place was populated by hordes of teenagers determined to show themselves at will.
As far as clothing goes, or lack thereof, anything goes: bandage-sized crop tops, zipper-front jeans, exposed leopard-skin briefs, underbust, exposed buttocks, whatever. A tense group of older lemons watching from the stone wall were horrified I could hear them yapping, yapping. Bullshit, I thought, although I’ve never seen so many pieces of underwear scattered between rocks and crevices.
“God knows what’s going on,” says the woman next to me. “I can’t believe they’re leaving their knickers behind.” Then she yelled at a pale young woman to cover herself. Do you know what she shouted back? “Shit being you. Do not like. Don’t look.” She was quick, I’ll say that. Made me laugh
Then who is striding down the granite slipway in a pair of snow-white Speedos? It was the Dalkey Dangler. Never seen him in Coliemore. He drew a lot of attention, his chest was weighted down with golden geegaws and his budgie smugglers hung so low you could see his thighs. We stood transfixed as he made his way to the water and stared at his phone.
What happened? He was so busy cleaning up for a selfie, didn’t he slip on his bum and slide down the seaweed slide? He got a right aul bang. He stood up and rubbed the parts of his anatomy that had suffered in transit. It was a sight.
The white speedometers were now green with algae. Couldn’t have happened to a better man. Tut tut.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/my-chaotic-road-trip-with-a-diabetic-gin-loving-85-year-old-41956215.html My messy road trip with a diabetic gin-loving 85-year-old