Monday 21 October 2019

This Man's Life: 'The maid's dead in the kitchen during Passover. The west is awake'


Tourists walking through the streets of Galway
Tourists walking through the streets of Galway
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

In Matt Tyrnauer's new documentary Where's My Roy Cohn? we are treated to many stories about Donald Trump's early mentor. The most entertaining one concerns Roy's Jewish mother, Dora Marcus. This particular tale involves an unfortunate maid in Dora's employ dropping dead during Passover dinner at the family home in the Bronx. Dora duly kept the body - according to The New York Times - under a serving table in the kitchen while she continued Passover dinner.

And when a cousin posed the first question of Passover, "Why is this night different from all other nights?", Dora is alleged to have piped up: "Because the maid is dead in the kitchen!"

Last Friday, while not quite being dead under a serving table, I had a night doubtless different from all other nights in Galway in a restaurant. But we'll get to that...

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Life is too just complicated for words sometimes. Plans go to pot. Last Friday, I took the late afternoon train to the aforementioned Galway. Lucky me, says you. Read on, say I. My wife was to drive with the kids early that morning at their leisure and spend a lovely day in the west until I arrived at 6.30pm. I left my phone charger in the station and my phone went dead. I thought that is not the end of the world, I will simply send my wife an email on my computer. The wi-fi on the train was so shockingly bad that I could barely get online the entire journey. By the time I did send an email to my wife telling her that my phone is kaput and I have lost my charger - I could imagine her thinking, not unreasonably: "I have married a f**king eejit" - it was probably too late.

As the panic set in, I remembered that before I left for work that morning, we made a vague agreement to meet in the park in front of the Hotel Meyrick on Eyre Square at 7pm. Miraculously, after only 10 minutes of walking aimlessly around like an escaped lunatic trying not to draw attention to himself, I found my wife and kids. "I have married a f**king eejit," my wife doubtlessly thought as I finally found them. They didn't look like they had been chillaxing all day in the City of Tribes. My poor wife had driven down later that afternoon, had got trapped in traffic, and as a result, she and the kids were grumpy and starving. And I had been out of contact all afternoon. So far, so sh**e. The only silver lining in this especially grey cloud in the west was that I had booked a table at The Seafood Bar in Kirwan's Lane, an establishment known the length and breadth of the nation for its fine fare.

The food certainly was that. Not that I got much of a chance to eat much of it. I had barely taken two mouthfuls of the seared king scallops, sweet potato, chorizo, pea, hazelnut and shallot dressing, whatever about a mouthful of the exceedingly fine wine, when our 19-month-old son decided he didn't want to sit in his baby-seat for a minute longer. I could see the terror on the faces of the other diners in the restaurant. There was nothing else for it. I took a slug of wine, picked the baby up and carried him outside. I could see my food and my glass of vino sitting on the table through the window of the restaurant as I took the young fella up the lane.

It was Friday night and my son and I - as we often do - followed the sound of music. Two minutes later, on the corner of Cross Street and Quay Street, we were both tapping our toes to some musicians playing traditional music outside Tigh Neachtain's pub. I was thinking, this is grand, Friday night on the town with my 19-month-old son, he and I listening to trad in the west. He was fascinated by the sights and sounds outside Neachtain's. I knew the fascination had run its course when he uttered the word "Mama!" - the cue to bring him back to his mother, who I could, upon my return, see through the window of the restaurant had finished her starter of tian of lemon and chilli infused crabmeat, chilled tomato and avocado soup (while my seared king scallops, sweet potato, chorizo, pea, hazelnut and shallot dressing was pretty much untouched on the plate as I left it 20 minutes before). I'm not too proud to say that I gulped down my glass of wine when I got back to the table - and immediately ordered another - before wolfing into my starter, and rightly so.

The main courses arrived just as our four-and-a-half-year-old daughter decided that if her brother could go out for a walk, then she wanted to go for a walk too. There was no stopping her. So, I took a gulp of my wine and a mouthful of pan fried fillet of turbot and made my way once again out into the lane, out into Galway of a Friday evening, with another of my children. The only saving grace was that, unlike my son, I didn't have to carry my daughter. The downside of this was my daughter ran through the night streets, up past Neachtain's, to the soundtrack of the musicians bashing bodhran and playing pipes, and up the road, with me racing after her. Like an out-of-puff 51-year-old daddy who has had two glasses of wine. I finally caught her, the minx, at Cross Street, an aptly named place to apprehend a daughter who has run off. Two hours later, she - and her brother and mother - were fast asleep in a gorgeous rented cottage in Connemara. The following afternoon at a kids' party in the coastal idyll of Barna, I met a lovely fella over the food buffet. He owned, it transpired, the famous restaurant we had been in the previous night, Kirwan's. I told him I had a fabulous meal. I neglected the part that I didn't get a chance to eat it. I mightn't have had the food, but at least I wasn't dead under the serving table in the Bronx, like the maid.

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