Life Learning

Tuesday 2 September 2014

How broke am I? Would you like to buy my car, my house or my kidney?

E Grade

Published 10/01/2013 | 06:00

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'So how d'you get over the Christmas?" They're all asking me in the staff room this week. My answer is the standard, "Well, maybe this will give you an idea: do you want to buy a car, a house, a kidney? That's how broke I am."

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It's not like I'm the most generous bloke in the world. In the couple of days in the run-up to the grand event I withdraw the princely sum of €50 and leave the house in the care of my young fellow. Grade Junior is pretty much your average Irish teenage boy, a 16-year-old deadbeat addicted to gaming and online porn and so unlikely to stir for hours.

Parking the car in the underground car park at the local shopping centre from hell, I try to avoid the attention of three of my pupils leaning against a concrete wall covered in graffiti written in handwriting that I actually recognise.

I'm strongly tempted to buy a red paint spray can and correct the spelling mistakes but I resist. Inevitably they spot me and start shouting, "Hey Gradey, you queer!" followed by puzzled looks and grins from shoppers queuing to pay their parking tickets.

Making for the discount bookstore I soon find the perfect gift for my unemployed big brother, F: Irish Fly-fishing in Ireland – it's only €2.99 and redolent of suggestions with what he should do with himself.

Leaving the store I manage to bump into this former pillar of the business community whose scorn for all public servants knows no boundaries and before I can utter a word he's off bragging about his plans to spend the holidays in his apartment in Bulgaria.

I tell him I don't know where he gets the money from and all I get is a sly wink. With lots of false seasonal jollity we part, he heading into the same discount store, no doubt to buy me some rubbish I'll never read either and I for the nearest café.

Peace at last. A tall medium cappuccino and today's Irish Independent and I'm all sorted till it's time to spend the rest of my mean Christmas budget.

Should have known it couldn't last. Ear-splitting screeches approach me as four female members of staff, well-oiled on mulled and unmulled wine, hone in on me and drown me in a torrent of festive clichés.

I try to respond in kind but there's no point as I can't make myself heard over the noise.

And here we are in 2013, it's the start of the new term and they're sitting at the opposite side of the staff room, back to their customary gossip whispering, while the guys around me are boring me to tears with the same old predictions about how the deputy principal is definitely going to suffer a nervous breakdown by mid-term.

Mid-term? I'd almost forgotten. The thought of those distant rain-filled and freezing February days is enough to bring a smile to my face. That'll get me there.

Irish Independent

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