Subscriber OnlyRoss O'Carroll-Kelly

Honor is only running for Mount Anville head girl to downgrade her old dear’s greatest life achievement

This is south Dublin. We have our own ways here

Listen | 06:20

The old man steps into the kitchen with a Montecristo the size of a rolled-up yoga mat burning between his fat fingers. Sorcha storts coughing – her passive-aggressive way of telling him that we don’t allow smoking in this house – but he just ignores her, like he did when she tried to introduce a similar rule about shoes.

Honor goes, “Are you going to keep coughing and spluttering like that? We’ve got work to do?”

Yeah, no, Honor has decided to run in the election to become head girl of Mount Anville next year and the old man has agreed to be her campaign manager. Sorcha should be proud, having held the title herself back in 1998, but Honor is only doing it to show how easy it’d be for her to win, thereby downgrading her old dear’s greatest life achievement.

This is south Dublin. We have our own ways here.


The old man goes, “I have a present for you, Honor!” then he sticks the cigor between his teeth and reaches into the inside pocket of his camel-hair coat to pull out what looks – to my expensively uneducated eyes – like a book.

Honor’s like, “A book?” turning to me with a worried look on her face. “I focking hate books.”

She does hate books. I remember her old dear handing her The Chronicles of Nornia for, like, her sixth birthday and Honor looking at it like she’d been asked to eat her own spleen for breakfast.

“This book is different!” the old man goes. “It’s called The Prince and it’s by a chap named Niccolò Machiavelli!”

Honor’s like, “Is this stuff that’s in it not available on the internet?”

He’s there, “This particular edition, Honor, belonged to the late, great Chorles Haughey! It was his Christmas gift to me in 1982 – after I helped him see off Chorlie McCreevy and the famous Club of 22!”

Honor takes it from him and flicks through it a few times like she’s fanning her face.

She’s there, “What are all these paragraphs that are underlined?”

“Oh, they’re just quotes that he and I especially loved!” he goes. “You could learn a lot from them! And from him!”

Honor reads one at random.

She’s like, “If an injury be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.

Fionnuala told me when I was three that the only way to avoid wrinkles in middle age was to avoid smiling at all costs

—  Honor

Sorcha’s there, “Chorles, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with my daughter reading a book like that.”

He’s like, “I didn’t have you down as a banner of books, Sorcha!”

She goes, “I’m not saying it should be banned. I’m just making the point that it’s a contest to elect a head girl, not to run a country.”

The old man’s there, “An election is an election is an election, Sorcha!”

Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception,” Honor goes. “Oh my God, I am so here for this!”

Sorcha’s there, “I’m just saying that I’m not comfortable with my daughter embracing cynicism at such a young age. This is the school that gave the world Mary Robinson and Samantha Power.”

And here comes the question,” Honor goes, “whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.

Sorcha makes a grab for the book, but Honor snatches it away from her.

“I’ve been giving this election a great deal of thought!” the old man goes. “And it might be necessary, in the short term, given the imminence of the vote, to get the other girls to like you! Then you can do the whole fear thing later on after you’ve won!”

Sorcha’s there, “Yeah, how’s she going to do that, Chorles? She’s been making enemies since the day she first walked through the gates.”

“Honor,” he goes, “do you think it might be possible for you to–?”

Honor’s like, “Do not ask me to smile.”

The old man’s there, “To win this election, it might be necessary to show the other girls the softer side to your personality.”

I’m like, “There is no softer side.”

“There’s not,” Honor agrees. “Plus, Fionnuala told me when I was three that the only way to avoid wrinkles in middle age was to avoid smiling at all costs.”

She’s right about the old dear. Even as she’s taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others, I’ve never known the corners of her mouth to so much as twitch. It’s a genuine skill.

I used to give Chorles Haughey tutorials in smiling every Monday afternoon in the bor in Buswells – like that film where the chap teaches the king to stop stuttering!

—  The old man

“You see?” Sorcha goes – a note of definite smugness in her voice? “There’s more to winning an election than learning off a bunch of misanthropic quotes from one of the most dangerous books of all time.”

The old man’s there, “Come on, Honor – give us a smile!”

“I can’t,” she goes.

He’s like, “You could at least try!”

She’s there, “This is me trying?”

Yeah, no, I can actually see the strain in her face.

I’m like, “Dude, you’re asking too much here.”

Sorcha’s there, “She’s not physically capable.”

“That’s what Haughey used to say about himself!” the old man goes. “I used to give him tutorials in smiling every Monday afternoon in the bor in Buswells – like that film where the chap teaches the king to stop stuttering! Well, once he storted smiling, our friend couldn’t stop! Come on, Honor – try again!”

She screws up her face and ends up looking like a Chow Chow attempting to shit a peach stone.

I’m there, “Go on, Honor!” suddenly pulling for the girl.

“She can’t do it,” Sorcha goes. “It’s not in her nature.”

But her old dear’s lack of belief spurs her on.

I’m there, “Come on, Honor!”

And, as if by some kind of miracle, I watch the corners of her mouth stort to spasm.

The old man goes, “That’s it! You’ve got it!”

And suddenly, Honor is smiling like a psychopath heading for the electric chair.

Sorcha goes, “You look like you’re in pain, Honor. There is no way that people are going to be fooled into voting for you.”

The old man’s there, “As the great book says, people in general are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain!”

“Well,” Sorcha goes, “I think the girls of Mount Anville are about to prove you wrong.”

And from the way she says it, I can tell that she very nearly believes it.

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