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Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: I’m getting the tattoo of J-Lowe, a late 40th birthday present to myself

James Lowe’s flying corner try against France last Saturday was, like, ort

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Ross O'Carroll-Kelly at the bar. Illustration: Alan Clarke.

It’s, like, Monday morning and I’ve taken the boys for a haircut – or, to be more, I don’t know, pacific, I’ve dumped them in the borber’s while me and Honor are sitting in the coffee shop next door. She’s eating a Cadburys Creme Egg while I’m reading the great Gerry Thornley’s report on Ireland’s win against France and staring at the photograph of James Lowe in, like, still awe?

I’m there, “Look at his body shape as he touches the ball down.”

Honor goes, “Yeah, I already have looked at it?”

I’m like, “His feet don’t even touch the ground.”


She’s there, “Why do you keep showing it to me?”

And I go, “Because what he did, Honor, is, like, ort? Matter of fact, I’m going to cut this picture out and stick it in my famous Tactics Book. Must see can I get a scissors.”

I catch the eye of the owner. As a matter of fact she’s on her way over anyway. I’m there, “Here, you wouldn’t have a scissors I could borrow, would you?”

She doesn’t answer me. She just looks directly at Honor – she’s either very brave or very stupid – and goes, “Customers aren’t allowed to eat their own food on the premises.”

Honor takes another bite of her Cadburys Creme Egg.

The woman’s like, “Did you hear what I said?”

“I’m hypopluthalmic,” Honor goes.

The woman frowns – she’s obviously never heard the word before. She’s there, “You’re what?”

Honor’s like, “I’m hypopluthalmic? So unless you want me to drop down dead on the floor of your shitty little coffee shop you’ll let me get some sugar into me.”

The woman just stares at her.

Honor goes, “Now can you fock off please?”

And – yeah, no – off the woman focks.

I’m there, “Before you go, do you have a sciss–. Never mind. I’ll ask the borber next door.”

I go back to staring at the picture of J-Lowe.

I’m there, “Do you know what I’m just thinking, Honor. I’d love you to maybe trace the outline of his body so I could get, like, a tattoo done of it?”

She goes, “Er, you hate tattoos?”

I’m like, “I did. But this has helped me see the world from a totally different – I want to say – prospective?”

She goes, “You stopped me getting one on my shoulder that time.”

I’m like, “You were eight years old, Honor. Here, by the way, are you really – I don’t know, whatever that word was that you used?”

“Hypopluthalmic?” she goes.

I’m like, “Yeah, because if you do have a life-threatening condition like that it’s the kind of thing that I should possibly know about?”

She’s there, “Dad, there’s no such thing as hypopluthalmic. I just made it up to make that woman feel bad, then fock off and leave me alone.”

I just shake my head and smile. I’m like, “I love the way you refuse to take S, H, 1, T from people, Honor. As a matter of fact I’m taking a leaf out of your book. I’m getting the tattoo done. It’s going to be a late 40th birthday present to myself.”

“Where are you going to get it?”

“Ronan’s mate, Nudger, has just opened a place on, like, Talbot Street. I think it’s called Tatts Entertainment.”

“No, I mean on what port of your body?”

“Oh – yeah, no – I was thinking possibly my right pec?”

“Mom is going to go – oh my God – batshit crazy. It’s bad enough that you asked the borber to cut the boys’ hair like– er, what’s his name?”

“Andrew Porter. And like I said to the borber, your old dear will just have to suck it up.”

“No,” she goes, taking the newspaper from me, “I think it’s hilarious,” and she takes a photograph of the picture using her iPhone. “There’s this app that creates, like, silhouettes from pictures. You can show this to them in the tattoo place.”

She holds up her phone and I’m like, “Wowsers!” because – yeah, no – it’s the man of the moment in, like, perfect silhouette.

She goes, “What about your modelling career?”

Yeah, no, this agency took two K’s from me to create a portfolio of, like, photographs of me.

She’s like, “You might be closing yourself off to work if you stort covering yourself in tattoos.”

I’m there, “They’ll just have to accept me the way I am.”

“You definitely shouldn’t have signed that contract, by the way.”

I’m like, “Why not?”

“Because,” she goes, “it says they can let anyone use your photographs any way they want without even consulting you?”

I’m there, “Whatever. I’ll get Hennessy to send them a letter, telling them to tear up the contract while threatening to crush them. Come on, let’s go and pick up the boys.”

We stand up. Honor gives the owner a major filthy on our way out. We pop next door and the boys are sitting there, delighted with their new Mohicans.

“They look fantastic!” I go.

The borber’s like, “Thanks – although I’d imagine they’ll be back in an hour or two once your wife sees them.”

I’m there, “No focking way – their hair is staying like that.”

He goes, “Yeah, that’s what all the dads say.”

As we’re walking out the door, the dude goes, “Here, I saw your billboard! Must have got paid a fortune for that, did you?”

I’m like, “My billboard? What are you talking about?”

He laughs and goes, “You haven’t seen it?”

I’m like, “Er, no?”

He’s like, “End of the street. If it’s not you, it’s a ringer for you.”

Out the door I shoot – like James Lowe, my feet don’t even touch the ground. I race down the road, with Honor – laughing – and the boys haring after me.

I suddenly stop, we’re talking dead in my tracks. Because there’s the Rossmeister, on the gable wall of a shop, 20 feet high, in all my glory. I’m wearing, like, a white shirt with a pink, cable-knit sweater loosely knotted around my shoulders. I’m throwing a rugby ball up and down in my hands and I’m grinning like a focking idiot.

In lorge letters, it says, “Peace of mind – with a Capital Pee!”

Then underneath – oh, Jesus, no! – it’s like, “Talk to your phormacist about adult incontinence.”

At that exact moment, a cor passes by and the driver gives me a beep of his horn.

“Oh my God,” Honor goes, her hand over her mouth. “Oh my – literally? – God!”

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