Wednesday 26 October 2016

How woman with crutches left me without a leg to stand on

Published 07/07/2014 | 02:30

Billy Keane was once mistaken for Gay Byrne.
Billy Keane was once mistaken for Gay Byrne.

So there we were, minding our own business, sayin' nottin' to no one, when this woman with crutches hobbles up to us and asks: "Will you hold these for a second?" What else could we do but only hold the crutches. Then off she went trotting like a pony. It was as if the lady was a pilgrim cured in Lourdes. She threw away her crutches and witnessed a miracle, my friend and I.

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The woman who who threw away her crutches and galloped off like a Shetland was dodgy looking.

She was sort of blonde with black roots and wore heels long enough for firemen to slide down but that was probably because she was small and built like a circus pony.

My friend said she wasn't wearing a bra but I didn't notice as I was too busy holding her crutches. I did notice though that a strap of her top hung down loosely over the shoulder and her shoes were golden. Not real gold like Cinderella's, but a kind of faded, flaky gold with silver stars. Her blotty arm tattoo looked as if it was etched on with a jack hammer dipped in tar.

Then the rough lady turned round and looked back at us. The rough lady winked. But why? She was gone in seconds.

I'd be always on the lookout for material for columns, so I left the crutches with my friend and followed her. We were in Tralee, outside Eason's, and it was a busy day and I couldn't find her in the crowd. I'd say she was the kind of person who was used to turning chameleon.

So I got to thinking that it might be a secret camera programme. I did one once for a GAA show on RTE called 'The Road to Croker' and the plan was that I would get in to a hurling quarter-final in Semple Stadium in Thurles for free. It's on YouTube. I wore a long white coat borrowed from a doctor and carried a bucket and mop as cover. When I shouted out "someone is after getting sick over the president" to the young lad on the turnstiles, he ran off in a panic to get a steward who opened a side gate to let me in.

President McAleese was president back then and everyone loved her. The GAA officials were disgusted that anyone would vomit over her lovely clothes.

So I started to look around for an ice cream van masquerading as a hidden camera van.

There was none and my friend said, "you're not famous enough to be the victim of a hidden camera prank". I wasn't so sure. Proper celebs like Bono and the lads would hardly be arseing around Tralee without getting completely addled with eejits coming up to him with copies of their country and Irish CD about loneliness, and mothers dying, while the son was being shot in an uptown foray.

So maybe they lowered their sights to lesser lights, although I was mistaken for Gay Byrne one time, also in Tralee.

It was a bit of a shock and I spent ages checking myself in the mirror. Gay would probably have been delighted though, seeing as he's 30 years older than me.

But who was the lady who left crutches she didn't need with total strangers and why me?

My friend hands me the crutches as he thinks everyone is looking at him which is a tad paranoid on his part as there are surely millions of people with crutches in the world and it's not like as if he was Bono.

In fact the same man isn't even a household name in his own home, seeing as the wife kicked him out because of serial infidelity; hers not his. So there I am trying to figure out what to do with the crutches and I'm beginning to think that maybe the dodgy lady is genuine.

Possibly she might have been minding them for someone who genuinely needed crutches, or maybe she kept them as a precaution in case she fell off her high heels, which could easily have passed for platform three in Heuston Station.

Then this lad I played a bit of football against comes over and asks: "Were you gattin?"

"No I wasn't gattin'," I say, ever so slightly miffed seeing as I hardly ever gat these days.

I tell him "this woman gave them to me to mind for her". So he starts laughing, thinking I'm just joking and that I was in injured while I was gatty. Gattin' is the Tralee slang word for drinking. There are no Gs in Tralee.

The gattin' allegations are most unfair in that if it was Bono who was carrying crutches around Tralee, the lad I used to play football against would probably say, "Ah poor old Bono what happened to you at all?

"Did you trip over Mrs Obama's handbag in the Oval Office when you were trying to persuade her husband to make friends with Russia?"

I'm pretty sure the lady will not be returning and I have to collect a message, so I give it five more minutes, just in case she is an angel of mercy.

A bread van passes by and I put my hands up to my face just in case it's a hidden camera show.

I get to thinking that she might be after settling her case for compo in the courts just around the corner and now that she had the money the crutches were dumped. A quick call confirms the courts were closed.

These two tourists who happen to come from America ask me for directions to the Kerry County Museum. I tell them but they're slow on the uptake. They were the kind of people who would get lost in a hot press.

My friend takes away my crutches and hands them to the Americans. "There," he says, "will ye mind these for that man? We'll be back in a minute."

The Americans were left holding the crutches and if the dodgy looking women doesn't come back, sure won't they have a great story to carry home to Omaha.

Billy Keane

Irish Independent

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