Listen up: ‘I suddenly feel like a man of substance, a man not to be trifled with’

There's something different about my old man. There's something definitely different about him – I just can't put my finger on it.

"So," he goes, "what do you think of this Siteserv business?"

This is while I’m still on the front doorstep, by the way.

He goes, "I was just talking to Hennessy. I said, 'Ross will have a take on this. Something suitably satiric, no doubt – you see see if he doesn't!'"


I just, like, stare at him – I have literally no idea what he’s talking about – then he suddenly bursts out laughing.

"You don't even need to say anything!" he goes. "You've done it with a look! I'm going to ring Hennessy back this instant! Your best one yet! Oh, where would you and I be, Ross, if we didn't have politics in our lives?"

I go, “I need money.”

He’s like, “Well, of course you do!” like there’s no other reason I’d show up at his door at, like, 10 to 12 on a weekday morning. “Let’s go and see what’s in the safe, shall we?”

I follow him into the house, then down to the study.

I’m there, “You’re in great form, by the way. It’s kind of annoying. There’s something different about you as well.”

He’s there, “You see, that’s what made you such a great number 10, Ross – you’re observant to an almost supernatural degree.”

“I’m obviously not,” I go, “because I don’t know what the fock it is.”

“Well, I’ll say nothing,” he goes. “See how long it takes for the world-famous penny to drop.”

He bends down to key the code into the safe. He goes, “How much are you looking for?”

I’m like, “Twenty grand.”

He goes, “Twenty grand? Why do you need 20 grand?”

I’m there, “What are you, an auditor? Mind your own business.”

"Quite right!" he goes. "I know how expensive it is to run a big house. I think I was the only man who watched Pádraig Flynn's famous Late Late Show interview and came away thinking, 'Three houses? The chap's a bloody miracle worker.'"

He takes the money out of the safe – four wads of presumably five Ks each.

“Oh my God,” I hear myself suddenly go, “you’ve got hair!”

He laughs. I’m actually just pointing at his head, going, “What the fock?”

He goes, “Do you like it?”

It's, like, a wig. It's an actual wig. I try to come up with something genuinely hurtful to say, except I actually can't.

"It's . . . It's incredible," I go, grabbing him by the shoulders and turning him around. "You look like . . . You look like . . . him!"

He laughs.

He goes, “Uncanny, isn’t it? At least five times a day I catch my reflection in the mirror and I have to do a double-take. I keep thinking I’m seeing the great man.”

I’m like, “It doesn’t even look like a wig. I mean, that’s why it took so long for me to cop it. It looks like actual hair. I’m trying to think of something really negative to say, but I’m genuinely struggling, in fairness to you.”

He goes, “Terribly kind of you, Ross.”

“I honestly can’t come up with a single decent line to wound you. When did you decide to stort wearing a wig? I didn’t think you minded that your head looked like a focking rugby ball. ”

There it is. I’ve got my mojo back.

“I didn’t,” he goes. “Until the moment I put this thing on.”

“So where did you get it?”

“Would you believe me if I told you that I found it?”

“Found it?”

"In Helen's attic. I was rooting around for an old 45 by The Crystals that we both used to enjoy . . ."

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I go, at the same time laughing. “You found a wig in an attic and you just, what, put it on your head?”

He goes, “I tried it on for size, yes. And I discovered that – well, as you can see – it rather suited me.”

He walks over to the mirror and studies himself for a few seconds. He clearly likes what he sees.

“Oh, the chap has his critics,” he goes. “Alleging this, that and the other. But I always say to people, ‘Do you know the real reason why he’s such a bloody titan when it comes to business? Look at his hair, for heaven’s sakes!’ That great, proud mane of a thing!”

“Yeah, no,” I go, “he’s got good hair alright.”

"He has magnificent hair!" He practically roars this last line at me. "His is real, of course. I know. I'm one of the lucky few who's touched it."

I’m there, “So, what, this is going to be, like, a permanent thing?”

“Yes, indeed!” he goes. “And people better get used to it! Without wishing to sound melodramatic about it, having this hair has given me, well . . . powers. ”

I’m there, “What are you talking about?”

"Well," he goes, "I pulled into a petrol station this morning and there was a chap standing there waiting to fill up the Kompressor for me before I'd even got the bloody well door open. I said, 'Well, this is a turn-up! I can't remember the last time I had a pump attendant fill up the car for me!' And do you know what he said to me? He said, 'This is to say thank you. For bringing Johnny Sexton home.'"

I laugh. I’m there, “Did you tell him that it wasn’t you?”

He goes, “Well, to be honest, Ross, I was rather enjoying the praise.”

I’m there, “Even though it wasn’t intended for you?”

“The point I’m trying to make,” he goes, “is that I suddenly feel like a man of substance, a man of power, a man not to be trifled with. I have a feeling that finding this wig is going to be the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”

“With the exception of your son winning the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 1999,” I try to go.

But he stares past me, at his reflection in the window behind me, and goes, “No, Ross. Greater than even that.”

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly was captain of the Castlerock College team that won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 1999. It’s rare that a day goes by when he doesn’t mention it