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Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: People like us don’t get embarrassed. That’s how we’ve ended up where we are in life

The old man is too mortified to tell me what really happened to him outside the Shelbourne hotel

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Ross O'Carroll-Kelly: Charles. Illustration: Alan Clarke.

The old man rings me at, like, two o’clock in the afternoon and goes, “Ross! You’re not busy, are you?”

Which is a definite dig at me. He knows I haven’t worked in years. I’ve zero interest in it.

I’m there, “What business is that of yours?”

And he goes, “Quite right! Arcana imperii, eh, Kicker?”


I’m like, “If you say so. What do you want anyway?”

And that’s when he says it. He goes, “I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind picking me up from outside the famous Shelbourne hotel and dropping me to St Vincent’s Hospital! Private, of course!”

I jump up. I’m there, “Jesus, is it your hort again?”

He’s like, “No, no, nothing like that! It’s just that, well, I’m rather too embarrassed to say what it is – over the phone, I mean!”

I go, “Fine, I’ll see you soon.”

Two hours later, I pull up outside the – like he said – Shelly. The dude is standing outside. He opens the door and gets in and he’s like, “Ah, there you are, Kicker! The traffic must have been bad, was it?” which is another dig.

I’m there, “No, there was fock-all on the road. I had a bit of lunch, watched Home and Away and had a nap,” and that’s when I notice the black eye and the cuts on his forehead.

I’m like, “Jesus, what happened? As in, like, what the actual fock?”

“Oh, something and nothing!” he tries to go. “I did say Vincent’s Private, didn’t I?”

I’m there, “Dude, are you going to tell me what happened or not?” as I take the right turn on to Pembroke Street.

He’s like, “Let’s just say I had a difference of opinion with someone!”

“With who? Hennessy?”

“Right and correct!”

“About what?”

“Well, we were having our usual row about who was the greatest – Campbell or Ward!”

“What, and he decked you? But he’s your solicitor and supposably best mate. I’m going to ring him.”

“No, don’t ring him, Kicker!”

“I’m going to ring him. Hang on, isn’t Hennessy in the Cayman Islands?”

Yeah, no, he goes every summer for colonic hydrotherapy and to check on the hundreds of millions of euros he has hidden from the Revenue.

I’m there, “It wasn’t Hennessy at all, was it?”

He’s like, “No.”

“So who decked you?”

“It was a chap who objected to my letter in The Irish Times saying that the hord shoulder on our motorways should be used as an additional slow lane for lady drivers!”

“Jesus, I missed that one.”

“Well, he didn’t! And neither did his wife! They objected in the strongest terms and then I said some other things about women and what they shouldn’t be allowed to do! And, well, he punched me!”

I pull up at a red light outside Energia Pork and I whip out my phone.

He goes, “What are you doing?”

I’m there, “Like I said, I didn’t read that one. Usually, one of the goys sends them to me. Seeing can I find it on The Irish Times website here.”

“I’m guessing they’ve taken it down!” he tries to go. “My views are too controversial for our friends in the old MSM!”

I’m like, “Dude, I’m going to ask you one last time – who decked you?”

He’s there, “I was mugged, Ross!”

I’m like, “You know, I’m pretty sure I know what actually happened?”

He goes, “Mugged! Can you believe it? In broad daylight!”

I’m there, “You were drinking in the bor. Three or four brandies inside you and you decided to pop outside for a cigor. And while you were smoking, a seagull landed in front of you, probably thinking you were eating something.”

“Stuff and nonsense!”

“Yeah, no, you tried to shoo him away, but that made him even more determined?”

“You have a very fertile imagination!”

“Then he attacked you.”

He goes suddenly quiet then.

I’m there, “I’m right, aren’t I?”

He’s like, “How did you know?”

I’m there, “Because you’ve got seagull feathers and bird s**t on the shoulder of your Cole Haan coat.”

He turns his head right and cops it.

“Bastards!” he goes. “There were two of them! And they attacked me without warning!”

I’m there, “They’re getting too big for their boots, generally. Ronan said he saw one on Henry Street smoking a cigarette.”

He goes, “I don’t doubt it!” and I hear his voice suddenly crack.

I’m there, “Are you okay?” and I realise that the dude is crying.

He’s like, “Silly old man! I’m sorry, Ross, for causing you all this trouble!”

I’m there, “Why didn’t you just tell me what happened?”

“I don’t know! I was embarrassed!”

“People like us don’t get embarrassed. That’s how we’ve ended up where we are in life?”

“A titan of industry! A fearless political advocate for the middle classes! Humbled by a couple of bloody-well sea birds! What would happen to my reputation if that got out?”

“Well, I was hordly going to tell anyone.”

Which is horses**t. I was going to tell everyone.

He goes, “You won’t, will you, Ross?” and he gives me a look that’s so pathetic that I have no choice but to go, “Of course I’m not going to tell anyone!”

Even though I probably still will.

He’s there, “Getting old is a terrible thing, Kicker!” and he storts, I don’t know, sobbing again. I look at him and, for the first time in my life, I actually stort to feel sorry for the dude?

I’m there, “This isn’t you. All this crying and feeling sorry for yourself. That’s not the Chorles O’Carroll-Kelly I very nearly voted for in two elections.”

He goes, “You ... very nearly voted ... for me?”

I’m like, “Yeah, no, I was too hungover to get out of bed the first time and the second time I was told that you couldn’t just rock up – you had to be actually registered to vote?”

I watch him brighten and suddenly sit up straighter in his seat as we take the right turn into Vincent’s – he reminds me one last time – Private Hospital.

He goes, “You’re bloody well right, Kicker! The Chorles O’Carroll-Kelly of old wouldn’t have been frightened of a couple of stupid birds!”

I’m there, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

He’s like, “Ross, I have discovered my new – pordon the French – raison d’être! Seagulls are the new Greens! And I am pledging to rid Ireland of their bloody nonsense once and for all!”

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