Friday 24 November 2017

Nightwatch: Ailbhe Malone

Ailbhe Malone

I've always wanted a sister. Not quite as much as I've always wanted a micro-pig, or a pony, but close. But if I was presented with the choice of a pony or a sister, I'd probably choose the sister, after carefully assessing the hassle of housing and entertaining the pony. The sister could probably look after herself, or could at least be amused by watching YouTube clips with me.

As it stands, I have two brothers. One is two years younger than me -- almost 21 -- and the other is 10 years younger than me -- almost 13. As brothers go, they're pretty great. Willing to put up with my demented, sub-standard Rock Band drumming, and showing me, once more, how to work the digital TV. But they're no good at sharing tights (I should hope), or baking (the older one once put a pizza, box and all, into the oven to cook).

My cousins, on the other hand, are nothing but girls. Seriously. On my dad's side, there's a family of six girls -- seven including their mum -- ranging from 25 to 14. It's like a walking, talking Pussycat Dolls factory -- all long, dark hair, leggings and eyeliner. That house has nothing but tights to share and magazines to read.

These cousins, they move almost as a pack. You can bet that if one is wounded, the others will feel it, and rush to its defence. The closest my brothers have come to defending me (or my honour) was when our dog attacked my jeans on the washing line. And even then they didn't do a very good job. So, I'd resigned myself to fighting my own battles, until the other day.

We're in the pub. And by 'we', I mean me, my brother (the 20-year-old, not the 12-year-old, obviously), my mates and my brother's mates. There is banter and LOLZ-a-go-go. We're all mingling nicely, and I'm chatting to a young'un about work.

He seems to find it difficult to understand what the term freelance means. "So, you work for loads of people then," he queries. I imply that, yes, that's about the gist of it. "And did you study journalism at college?" I reply that, no, I am the owner of a highly useful degree in English and French literature.

He considers this answer. "So, then, Ailbhe. You're not really a proper journalist then, are you?" I'm a little confused and ask him to explain himself further. "Well, you don't have a degree in it and you're not working for any one place, so you're not really a proper journalist."

I give the young pup a withering look, laugh, and go back to join my friends. As I turn away, I notice my brother giving the offender a thump. Nice one.

I am, at most, slightly irked, but I shrug off the incident and continue to have a nice evening. Later on, as I walk past my brother's table on the way to the bar, he stops me. "Ailbhe," he says. "My friend wants to say something to you." Interested, I pause. The friend is now standing up, among the rest of the crowd, with the eyes of the pub upon him. My brother gives him a poke.

He begins to speak. "Ailbhe, your brother said that I insulted you, and I'm really sorry." I'm taken aback. "Erm, excuse me?" I respond. "Your brother said that I insulted you, and I didn't mean to insult you, and I apologise," he repeats. I don't quite know what to do. "That's okay -- don't worry about it," I mumble and head back to my seat.

At the night's end, back home when all our friends have left, my brother and I are playing some late-night Rock Band. Mid-drumming, I thank him for sticking up for me, even though there was no need. He continues to plough through the riff to Ticket to Ride and shrugs his shoulders.

Sure, there are no magazines in the house and we probably won't be baking together any time soon, but when it comes to Malone solidarity, I don't need a pack of six sisters to know that someone's always got my back. And hey, sharing tights is over-rated anyway.

Irish Independent

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