Wife's 'boyfriend' the subject of terrible mixup
You hear a lot of things in this job and after more than 15 years in this privileged position I like to think that little or nothing would shock me. But it is, of course, the things that you think you hear, rather than things you actually hear, that have the ability to truly shake even me to my foundations.
So, there I was the other evening, taking the kids back from the child-minder's and, for once, minding my own business, when who did I meet only my 'chair' man? For those who don't know, or would rather forget, the 'chair' man is a friend I knew from Dublin who had recently moved to Dundalk. Before Easter, he had invited the kids and I to tea and cake in his lovely house with his lovely wife, (whom I'm calling Mary as she is an important element in the terrible mixup that happened last week) only for me to eat so many slices of homemade double-choc that I broke their diningroom chair.
It was an incident I will never forget and even all these weeks later I don't think I'm over the acute embarrassment yet.
I haven't really seen him since so when he started talking to me the other evening, I was doing my very best not to mention the chair or any furniture at all indeed and to be seen to put the whole sorry episode of my 'behind' behind me, if you get me. Of course, my friend has far more class than to mention the chair incident, so I set about giving him an hilarious and witty, not to mention intelligent and memorable, account of my last few weeks at work, carefully blowing my own trumpet and blustering about my own importance to try to ensure that he no longer thought that I was the overweight dimwit that broke his new chair.
The kids had got a hold of my mobile phone so were happily ignoring the exchange as they played some game they had downloaded.
After impressing my friend with my witty repartee, I remembered my manners and asked him how he was getting on. He told me that Mary's boyfriend was over from England for a few days. Well, that stopped me in my tracks. 'Mary's boyfriend?' I thought. 'Your wife's boyfriend is over in your house, staying with you?'
I thought to myself: 'Anne, you have got the total wrong end of the stick here so pretend the kids are distracting you and ask him to repeat it'. So I asked him: 'Sorry, I can't really hear what you're saying with the kids' game there. Whose boyfriend?'
Then he said it again: 'Mary's boyfriend is over from England for a few days'. It was crystal clear this time. My jaw was about to drop open in shock, when, just in time, the brain engaged and I put on my 'quizzical, interested face' and said: 'Boyfriend?'
He goes: 'Well, I don't know if you'd call him a boyfriend exactly, more like a partner'. By the Holy God - you just never know, do you? Still, I could hardly believe that he was so laid-back and, moreover, why was he telling me. I know him well, but not that well, I would have said. I smiled, just to clamp my shocked jaw from swinging open, and stuttered: 'Well, I'm not sure what to say really . . .' But on the man went: 'Sure, he's a very nice chap, young now, like mid thirties, but she's happy and I get on very well with him. They are heading back to England on Friday'.
And it was then, and only then, that a tiny bell went off in my head and I began to think about my friends' children. Could it be possible that's he's talking about his daughter? You don't need me to tell you that he was, of course, and that she too is called Mary, but I couldn't keep my mouth shut and told him my mistake.
He laughed, in that nervous 'you're a nutter' kinda way, much like he did when I broke the chair.