The Fielder: Lazy days of summer aren't all child's play
The real adventures of an inter-county footballer
"Wake up gosson, wake up!" "Wha . . . What's wrong? Jesus me face!" I'd done it again.
Heatwaves are dangerous things. For the second time in a week I'd fallen asleep in the garden, at the mercy of the unforgiving July sun. It was like a scene from CSI. There I lay, in the middle of the lawn; The Farmer's Journal draped over me like a blanket, my face on fire.
I removed my sunglasses, much to the amusement of my mother. I glanced at my reflection in one of the lenses. Sure enough, my eyes were now two pale circles against a crimson backdrop. Oh great. I reached up and ran a finger over my left ear, which had taken on a rasher-like consistency; a well-done rasher at that. The story was the same for both my legs and arms; I had the ultimate farmer's tan.
"Sharon is after dropping over the baba," my mother exclaimed, "you're looking after him for the day aren't you?"
I hadn't forgotten about looking after my sister's child. I'd planned to take him to a game, but now that I resembled something out of Star Wars, perhaps a change of itinerary was necessary.
"Put on some aloe vera and come inside anyway!" she muttered before walking in.
"OH WE'RE THE JOYCE COUNTrY, CÉILí BAND!"
Uh oh, I knew that number.
"Hello . . . " "Gosson, are you around? I'm after losing two drivers with the sun shtroke?"
"Ah Packie I can't, we've championship this weekend; I'm taking a few days off to recharge. I'm minding the sister's ba . . .
"I'll give you the big Deere, air conditioning and all. It'll be worth your while too; a ton for a morning's work. I need to get this bit finished ASAP. I'm up to my eyes in silage!"
Hmmm, a hundred quid for a morning's work?? Tempting.
"Is there a seat in the tractor for the baba?" "Be god yea. What age is he? There's a spare rig out there if he wants it? Massey . . . "
The sister's child, Billy, was a city slicker. Not an ounce of country in him. Never kicked ball or hurled and wouldn't tell you one end of a Charolais from the other.
Mind you, he was only three but at that age I was hurling under eights and tagging calves with the oul' lad.
As I sat him up in the tractor the waterworks started. He must have been a Massey man. I tried everything to make him stop; the radio, letting him play snake on me phone, I even got him to do the clutch but it was no use.
"H'mon Billy lad please stop, here do you want to play with these?" I pulled off my sunglasses and offered them to him.
I've never seen a chap laugh so hard. I'd forgotten about my clown-like appearance.
"You like that Billy boy?"
The laughing got louder.
"Alright, alright . . . " I uttered bitterly, "let's not make a big deal out of it gosson."
Two hours later, we roared down the road towards town. The silage was in, I was a hundred euro richer and me and the Bill lad were heading in to watch the county minor team play in the championship.
"Ice cream . . ."
"What was that Billy boy?"
"Ice cream!" I obliged and pulled into the next garage.
"Here's some money gosson, get me a Magnum will you?"
Five minutes later, Billy emerged from the shop with a green carrier bag. "Feck sake Billy, you got a magnum white? When did I say the word white?"
The child stared at me with a confused look and I realised that it was a three-year-old I was talking to.
"What'd you get?"
Billy smiled and reached into his carrier bag.
"For jaysus sake gosson . . ."
Like a team captain after accepting the Sam Maguire, Billy proudly held aloft a family size Mint Vienetta. He was the happiest chapeen in the world.
"Did you at least get a spoon?"
He shook his head and tore the box open, devouring the dessert like a lion atin' a zebra beyond in Africa.
"Don't let it drop," I commanded in vain as I watched a blob of cream splash onto the handbrake. It was a welcome change from cow shit I suppose. By the time we arrived at the grounds Billy had polished off half of the dessert and looked worse for wear.
"Well lad, is this Timmy?" my friend Pádraig inquired, "he doesn't look too healthy?"
"It's Billy, he'll be grand."
"Is he scouring? Check him there." "What?"
"I've a stomach tube in the car; we can tube feed him some of that stuff for the calves if needs be?"
I knew Pádraig was raw, but this was taking it to a new level. Though it would've done him no harm and would've made a great story; I decided against it.
We took our seats in the stand beside a couple of pensioners. As the game started, so did the tears.
"I'm tired, want mammy!"
"Billy, you're here for at least an hour and a half, there might be extra-time too!"
"Here gosson, play with that," Pádraig whispered.
The crying stopped and I looked down to see what had caused the welcome silence.
"JESUS PA, WHAT THE HELL??" I shouted, snatching the zippo lighter from his grasp as the tears recommenced.
"Let the ball in for jaysus sake!!"
"Kick it in you fool!"
The old buggers beside me had been abusing players for the whole game and between the crying baba and these numpties, my patience was wearing thin. Now I remembered why I didn't go to a lot of games.
Finally, I snapped.
"Shut up yas oul' bastards, they aren't trying to make mistakes. How can they kick it in when the other team has a blanket defence for feck sake. Leave the gossons alone."
Amazingly, the wailing stopped.
"Pádraig, Billy; let's go."
And with that we turned and left the two petrified pensioners to mull over what had just taken place.
"How was he?" my sister asked as Billy jumped into her car.
"Not a bother!"
I smiled as Billy popped his head out the window to say goodbye. "Mammy, can we get a fuckin' tractor?"
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