Thursday, August 20, 2009

Aunt Dee and onions

After almost a fortnight of sitting in a crumbling, draughty courthouse, I’m still not entirely sure what the Quilty case is about.
I do now know that there is a man called Mr Quilty, a tiny eighty-seven-year-old as spry as a jockey who trots up and down from the witness stand like a fifteen-year-old boy. I also know that the case, from what little I’ve gathered, centres around a dispute over landownership.
Whatever else it’s about, it seems to hold a strange fascination for the editor.
Less than 5 seconds after I return to the office in the evenings I’m being hauled into the glass box.
‘Well? Has the shrunken little fecker cracked yet?’ he snaps. I shake my head in a doleful sort of way and he snatches my notebook, leafs furiously through it, and flings it dismissively back to me, his eyes glittering furiously.
‘Right. Feck off out of here so,’ he mumbles, before bellowing out into the newsroom: ‘Miiiiichael - We’ll have to go with the Mullally's Bog Man-eating fern story. That little feckin’ splinter of calcified perfidiousness is still refusing to give in.’

Sitting in the draughty courtroom, trying to concentrate on what the dormouse-like young man from the planning office says, my mind keeps wandering back to what Clementine told me about Aunt Dee.
The truth is, I never really knew Aunt Dee at all. Clementine doesn’t agree. She says people choose to reveal different aspects of themselves to different people. But I don’t know. I think Aunt Dee was like an onion (which incidentally, according to Clementine, are ready for harvesting). All those earlier experiences were part of her. They formed her. If I want to know who Aunt Dee really was I need to find out more about her other life. I need to go to Hollywood.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No time for gin - there's beans to pick

I got back from work to find the house strangely silent: no cooking sounds, no sizzle of strange spices being flung into a wok to the strains of Clementine’s meditation with whales cd.
Maybe she’s left, I thought and was surprised to find I felt abandoned rather than relieved.

I found her slumped in a chair in the back garden, surveying a selection of berries and vegetables heaped on the table before her.
‘What is all this?’ I said. I wondered if maybe she’d finally cracked and confiscated the entire contents of the eco-unfriendly vegetable shop she's always giving out about on Market Street.
‘This,’ Clementine said flatly, waving a hand at the heaps before her, ‘is some of the produce of your vegetable garden.’
‘What?’ I sank down next to her. ‘But . . . I only planted a few peas . . . and one or two other things. But not this. Never this. I mean, surely not . . .’
The truth was I wasn’t sure what I’d planted anymore.

‘Why,’ Clementine said bitterly, ‘would a single woman, living on her own, plant enough French beans to feed an army?’
I felt my face grow red.
‘Actually,’ I said stiffly, ‘You gave me some of those French bean plants. And for your information the Irish army happens to be quite small.’
Clementine humphed. It seemed she was in a bad mood.
I hadn’t had a great day either.

The chief reporter had called in sick for the third time in two weeks.
‘Swine flu my arse,’ Michael muttered, slamming down the phone. ‘More like the aftermath of a bank holiday booze-up.’ He eyed the editor’s glass office nervously before landing his gaze greedily on me.
‘You’ll cover it,’ he said brightly. ‘You’re the editor’s golden girl right now. Even if you feck it up he’s not going to slaughter you. Not much, anyway,’ he added, ushering me towards the office. A moment later I was snared in the editor’s terrifying glare.
‘Yes?’ he barked.
‘Dee’s volunteered to cover the trial for you,’ Michael said, before darting back out of the room. The editor looked me darkly up and down.
‘Well? What the feck are you standing there like an amad├ín for? Get down to the courthouse – and I don’t care how good your shorthand is, if you mess this up you’re fired.’
‘It’s the Quilty trial,’ Michael whispered, handing me a folder and shoving me out into the rain. Ten minutes later I'm listening to a Dr Ryan giving evidence, studying the back of the oddly attractive Garda who I no longer find attractive's neck, and trying to work out what exactly the Quilty trial is all about.
I’m still not sure.

‘Do we have any gin?’ I said to Clementine, now staring gloomily at the rows of runner bean plants lining the paths.
‘We don’t have time to drink gin,’ Clementine said crossly, standing up and handing me a colander. ‘We have beans to pick.’