‘God, this place is packed with fine looking women,” says my old friend Johnjo, a cattle farmer from County Clare. We’re sitting in Wilde restaurant in the Westbury Hotel.
‘Tis very elegant and it has a fire burning at one end of the dining room. Apart from two men, all the diners are groups of preposterously beautiful, well groomed and happy women clinking glasses. Sure Johnjo is in his element.
Now let me tell you about Johnjo. He’s a gas character. You could call him a ‘bayst’ of a man, as he’s six foot four, with hands like shovels. He wouldn’t be a man for the nouvelle cusine. You get my drift.
He is neither a big farmer nor a small farmer. He has about 50 cows and a few bulls, but to tell you the truth, he didn’t worry too much about the farming when a blonde from KIldysart asked him out for a pint. He still goes on about her.
He just loves the craic. Right now he’s looking at the menu.
“Jaysus, Biddy it’s not cheap, €52 for a Dover sole!” Neither of us could believe it.
And in case you think Johnjo is a tight ass, he’s not. He’s one of the most generous fellows I know. We both had the ‘stakes’. Even I wouldn’t paythat for a sole.
After a few drinks, we get talking to five girls sitting nearby. They are making a toast. “Are ye celebrating?” I say.
“Yes,” one says. “Aoife has just had her eggs frozen.”
Well, that shuts me up and sure, poor Johnjo’s face shrinks to the size of a peanut.
“Tell me more,” I say, intrigued.
Well, they told me everything.
All five girls are aged 30. And none of them has children. Julie is a director. Aoife is a barrister. Maeve is a financial analyst with a highbrow agency in Dublin. Tara is an accountant and Sara is a nurse and
“I’m the one who freezes the eggs,” Sara says. “I’ve done everyone except these two,” she says, pointing at Maeve and Tara.
“Oh, we’re going for it. Don’t worry,” they say. “Everyone our age is doing it. No more biological clocks ticking, no more waiting for the right fella to make up his mind or flee when they feel like it.
“We’re all independent. And if we don’t want to have the baby, we can get someone to deliver it for us. The only labour we’re doing is taking a flight to Ibiza for a holiday.”
Honest to God, they crack me up.
And there is no mistaking the glint in their eyes, or what it portends – it is the glint of girls who refuse to wait for a man to decide if he wants a babby; these girls are fecking sick of being told they’re getting on. No one is going to condemn these lassies to domesticity or hold them to deadlines. No wonder they are smiling.
“But you wouldn’t want to get the wrong egg?” I say.
“That’s for sure,” the barrister says.
“Now, how much would that set ye back?” I say.
“It depends. A few grand. Roughly
between four and five.”
Well, I think, holey moley, are Irish men redundant?
“Ah stop,” says Johnjo. “We’re fierce handy if you get a flat tyre on a wet night. You can all pile that around your roses and rhubarb.”
“Just because we don’t need them doesn’t mean we don’t want them,” Maeve says.
When Johnjo disappears to the bathroom, the girls and I have time to get into the details. “I hope we aren’t offending your friend?” Aoife says.
“Don’t be worrying at all,” I say. “He’s a farmer, he is well-used to cattle straws and liquid nitrogen.”
“Seriously, Biddy, women are taking over the world. We work in high-powered jobs and we see it every day. A friend of mine in analytics has studied the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk,” Aoife says, turning into a social psychologist.
“And do you know what? They have discovered that groups of men, in some basic hormonal way, spur each other on to make reckless decisions in business.”
Jesus, the picture that is emerging is a mirror image of the traditional one. Some powerful men, the ones who like to fist-bump and say ‘boom’ way too much, are often irrational and over-emotional while us women are more level-headed and cool.
’Tis fierce interesting altogether. You can’t but think of all those testosterone-filled fellows in Wall Street losing it. No wonder markets crash.
Well, of course, I invite the girls to the cottage on Thursday for apple tart and tea. Of course Johnjo is coming too. We can’t wait to hear more.
On Monday, there is a knock on the half-door. You couldn’t invent the specimen that is standing outside.
Now what does this yoke want, I think.
Short of stature, he has a thick ginger beard and a ponytail that would give the arse of a shire horse a run for its money.
He is wearing a well worn, wide-brimmed felt hat, the ones you see on rakes in Cheltenham, and a dust-encrusted, brown suede jacket. Now, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a man with a ponytail.
“Hello,” I say warily.
“Howdy,” he says, proffering a big paw. “My name is Christy. I’m a self-published cowboy poet. I was wondering could you give me a mintshone in that aul column of yours? This is my book.”
The book is 16 photocopied pages with a picture of John Wayne holding a tricolour on the front. The only things he is missing are a saddle bag and a Winchester rifle.
I like to help people, so I take a look at it and tell him how brave he is to self-publish.
“It’s all the rage these days,” I say. I have no idea my worst nightmare is only starting.
“Do you mind if I read you one of my poems?”
“Not at all,” I say, gripping the half-door for support. The first one is called, ‘A Buck Shot Ballad From Ballinamore’. There are eight verses.
Well, this fellow is no Badger Clark, one of my favourite poets from Dakota. It is brutal.
“One more,” he says. I haven’t the heart to say no. He is ever so enthusiastic.
“Bear with me, this one is my favourite,” the buckaroo Christy says, getting more confident by the minute. “I wrote it after a feed of pints and an aul spice bag in Killnamanagh last Thursday. I think it’s my best.”
“Keep going,” I say. “Keep going.”
It becomes clear, when Christy draws himself up and pats his chest, that he just loves performing.
As for me? My eyes are glazing over, my mind is wandering.
After reading ‘Small Stakes In A Big Town’, ‘The Whore Who Went To Wichita’ and ‘The Day Moses McAdam Grabbed Angela’s Ass’, he is really only getting started.
“Last one,” he says brightly.
“What’s it called?” I say, worn to the bone.
“‘Shoot Straight, Shoot First.’” He suddenly starts yodelling in a falsetto voice towards the Co Dublin skies of Dalkey.
Well, do you know something, I think: “Yo-ah-ah-eye! Yo-ah-ah-eye! If I had a gun…”