To say he laughed heartily would be an understatement, he bellowed, and with every expulsion of mirth heads swivelled till at one point an old man stayed fixed on the proceedings. Whether entertained or annoyed I never found out though the Big Man for his part was undeterred, perhaps even thrilled, by all the attention. Stories which would have best been kept slightly hush-hush became public information and just in case there was any doubt as to the validity of many a tall claim his name dropped acquaintances were put in context: “Shur you always see that kind of thing in the Guards.” The Guards, or Gardaí, being the Irish Police force, and he being bulky enough to have the pleasure of being mistaken for one, even had he not been, people who perhaps disagreed with his politics rather kept their mouths shut. He was not a man to be messed with!
Along with his laughter came a package of pride. He was a Corkman and could not for the life of himself imagine why anyone would want to leave that great city by the Lee. When I nearly mentioned for love, I checked myself. I already ran the script through my head on that count. The idea of reading love sonnets to this man was akin to teaching table manners to a Hyena, though the latter in this case I could imagine being civil enough as to ask as to the necessity of the knife and fork.
To say that this man was uncouth, boorish, ill-mannered would be also to betray in myself a sense of snobbery which I struggle not to adhere to and it is for this reason that I take to these characters quickly. He was afterall entertainment on a 3 hour train journey that would otherwise have been a simple game of Cat and Mouse between my partner, Andi, and me, and our daughter, Tara.
This was our return trip so we had already experienced the extent of Tara’s curiosity concerning public transport. To say that the Big Man offered us a welcome distraction would be serving it up diluted. Even she, at the tender age of one and a half, could sense the awe which this man commanded. Her father may be her beacon but this fella was a mountain of being.
Well this ‘mountain’ was most entertaining but just as the train arrived in Dublin, as if he knew, he questioned us as to our destination, ie accommodation, and when we replied, giving the name in question, he offered his mightiest howl yet. At this stage the others began scrambling for the exits, though the train was still ten minutes off, and when we shot him half quizzical/ half sheepish looks he went on to explain. Monday’s their busiest night, it’s Guards and nurses night!!! He needn’t have said more…but he did and, whereas, I’m sure he had no intention of being cruel, the very fact that he had nothing reassuring to convey only served to compound my worst fears.
It had all been too easy: the booking, the price, the location, and now here I was with my partner and child about to head into the jaws of the beast that was nightlife Dublin.