Taking Things to a Higher Level
7 TAKING THINGS TO A HIGHER LEVEL
It would be far from the truth to say that life was just filled with conflict and struggle. Looking back, I would have to say that I have had the most wonderful life with more joy than sadness. The many obstacles that were thrown in my way only made the victories all the sweeter.
My college years were filled with wonder and the struggle involved to get there made the experience all the more intense. Being accepted for teacher-training was a huge boost for my self-confidence and it enabled me to build a world safe from the critical eye of my mother. She resented my private world, and never missed an opportunity to poke holes in the little she found out about my life. However, her chance to do this was eventually restricted to little more than a few hours over the weekend.
Above all, it was the change from a male-only Christian Brother school to a female dominated training college that encouraged me to live every day to the full. The warmth and recognition I had enjoyed from my dad was replaced by the thrill of country girls with whom I gladly shared my secret dreams and my quieter moments.
By the end of the first week in October, Shaun proudly carried a small green student card in the inside pocket of his jean jacket. He was one of six male Dublin externs out of two hundred and fifty students in his year. They congregated in a small untidy locker room accessed via the male toilets on the ground floor.
The female students came mostly from small towns or villages. Those from Gaeltacht areas had an advantage, leaving Kerry and Galway over-represented. Country students were housed in well-kept dorms on the college grounds during their first year. Meals were served in a spotless refectory which looked out onto parkland bordered by rows of mature oaks.
Dublin externs had an easier familiarity with the dinner ladies, who took them into their confidence to complain about the unruly country lads or the impossible supervisor who found fault with everything and ruled over them with an iron fist. This sturdy, middle-aged, country woman cast a shadow on the whole refectory. She towered over her minions, like a mother superior in civvies, eyeing everyone with a look somewhere between disdain and suspicion.
The world beyond the college reception area revealed polished floors, panelled walls, cloistered courtyards and an absence of untidy posters and graffiti, so common at university. The student union hosted concerts with respectable groups like the Chieftains and the prospect of somebody smoking a joint on campus was less than remote. The church tower cast its shadow over the campus and daily mass was well-attended with the pews over-flowing during exam-periods.
A small number of the more spirited students make the odd modest attempt to confront this all-pervasive conservatism by introducing rare moments of insanity. One such group attempted to occupy the library reading room dressed in pyjamas and laying out a camp bed blocking access to the lending desk. The librarian failed to appreciate their humor and had them ejected straight away with the terrible threat that their library cards would be revoked.
Undaunted, they took their rebellion outside, staging a mock orgy behind the bushes beside the large reading room window. Even the most serious students couldn’t hold back a smile as bras, knickers and y-fronts were thrown in quick succession from behind the bushes. Their final prank was to dress up as “mossies” (dinner ladies) and take some of the unruly country boys to task. The irony of the situation was that while the dinner ladies enjoyed the fun, the college authorities forced the students to apologise to the Mossies for humiliating them. That was rich, taking the daily humiliation they were subjected to at the hands of the heartless supervisor.
The Island Man was another curiosity. Nobody had ever seen him at lectures, but he was easily found, day or night, occupying a barstool in “The Cat and Cage.” His strong growth of facial hair and his mature physique supported the belief that he had been at the college much longer than some of the lecturers. On his own admission, he financed his lifestyle by poaching salmon along the Corrib in Galway. His large, manly mass and his mischievous grin ensured his hero status among the country lads.
Shaun had no hesitation in choosing Irish and History, the latter having taken on a new importance due to his left-wing interests. Irish turned out to be more of a challenge than he had anticipated. He was out of his depth coming into direct competition with students from the Gaeltacht and others from all-Irish schools. He was never going to shine no matter how much passion he brought to the language and he dropped it after the first year.
History became his true love. Both priests, who taught them, were very able men with a passion for their subject. The students who took History were predominantly male with some notable exceptions, having a keen interest in politics and a passion for debate. The lecturers inspired them with their depth of knowledge and their skill as teachers. Although it was a demanding subject, Shaun couldn’t get enough of it.
Jonathan, who had remained in his class since primary school, had also opted to continue studying and was taking an arts degree at UCD with History as his main subject. They met regularly, exchanging ideas on politics and religion. Jonathan, now a confirmed atheist, made sure to fill the many gaps in Shaun’s yet limited understanding of the shockingly, negative role which the Catholic Church had played in history.
“Who forced Jews to stitch a Star of David to their clothing and locked them up in ghettoes?”Jonathan asked with a knowing grin.
Shaun paused before venturing an answer, knowing Jonathan’s tactics and having fallen into his traps on many occasions.
“Adolf Hitler of course,” he answered at last, convinced his answer was correct.
“Wrong,” laughed Jonathan derisively, “it was the Pope. Jews were confined to ghettoes in the Papal States and forced to wear a Star of David. This only ended when the Italians unified in 1870 and confined the Pope to the Vatican.”
Over the three years at college Shaun learned to avoid the sweeping statements which had cost him so many valuable marks in first year. The romantic picture of Irish history, which preferred black and white to shades of grey, took a little longer to go. Shaun’s Christian Brother version of history had been replaced by the James Connolly socialist version. The Irish martyrs had become exploited workers left to the mercy of the British capitalist class. Cromwell had more or less remained unchanged. He was still convulsed with an insane and unprovoked hatred for the Irish. Naturally, he was intent on stealing our land and suppressing our language and culture.
St. Pat’s in the early eighties was very much a hotbed of Irish nationalism. Caught up in this atmosphere, he became an active member of the Cumann Gaelach. A prime preoccupation of this society was to avoid speaking English where possible and to wear a golden fainne in public to boast their fluency in the Irish language. The more extreme made a nuisance of themselves, insisting on carrying out their business through Irish. This annoyed bus crews no end, who knew full well they could speak English, but were intent on making a point, while displaying incredible arrogance towards the conductor’s inability to converse at their level.
My image of Shaun at this stage is best summed up by his activities on the day when the third level Irish societies in Dublin came together to block the road outside RTE in support of having more Gaelic programmes on TV. The picture is almost surreal. Shaun stands in a group of about three hundred students with a golden fainne and a Connolly badge pinned to an Aran sweater. Everybody chants some silly slogan in Irish and Shaun shouts out in the most ridiculous fake Connemara accent imaginable. I still wince each time I am forced to recall it
If you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.
Shaun had started St. Pat’s as a smoker and coffee drinker, coffee breaks often being extended at the cost of numerous classes. This would have continued had a very direct Kildare girl called Sinead not decided to become his conscience.
“How is it I’ve never seen you on the sports field?” she accused.
“You’re always lazing aroundHh, drinking coffee and smoking Major. Keep it up and that little bulge under your shirt will soon turn into a pot belly. Nobody is ever going to fancy you if you don’t get fit.”
Finally, the hard words got through and he agreed to join her for a jog.
Sinead was already starting her third lap when he joined in. Her smug grin told him what she was thinking. Nonetheless, he determined to keep up and gave it everything he had. Soon, he was sweating more that he thought possible and his heart felt like it was ready to explode. He sought in vain for an excuse, giving Sinead the chance she was waiting for to drive the nail home:
“Look at you! You’re not a man at all. Who would want someone who can’t even run around a football field? Is that the way you want to spend the rest of your life?”
The next day he was out training again and within a month he owned a proper pair of runners. More importantly the smoking had stopped and the coffee breaks were replaced by weight training. Life was changing: He had intelligent friends, His physical fitness and general appearance was improving and his self-confidence was growing.
This first year of study had been the happiest of his life. Declan his closest friend at college conspired with him to miss religion lectures every Friday afternoon by cycling off to the local public tennis courts. Mary, a very agreeable Dublin girl, passed on her excellent notes, and forged their signatures on the attendance list. As everybody had to take religion, they were confident that their repeated absences would go unnoticed.
Shaun would never have risked learning to play tennis with anybody other than Declan. He made no exhibition of his own skill and showed amazing patience. The high point of the afternoon was the visit to the Vienna Bakery for cream cakes, followed by a pint in The Cat and Cage.
The only thing missing in Shaun’s new world was a real girl-friend. About seventy percent of the students were female, so there was no shortage of attractive, intelligent girls. He certainly knew enough of them and found more than a few very attractive. He could talk with them and make them laugh, but he lacked the confidence to take it to the next level.
The college discos should have offered the best opportunity. Shaun hoped that two or three pints would give him the courage to suppress his fears, but it didn’t seem to work. Few of the boys he knew chose to return to the college for the disco and he felt like an outsider with the country boys. It was obvious that country girls felt more at ease with country boys and the Dublin girls were scarce on the ground.
Months passed in just this way and Shaun felt his confidence sink further and further. He couldn’t imagine how this would change. Admittedly, none of his friends had girlfriends either and it didn’t seem to bother them unduly, but it didn’t prevent him from envying those who had.
Georgina was the first girl to really catch his eye. She was from a better-off area of Dublin and most likely had attended a private school. Shaun found the way she dressed very feminine and the mixture of shyness and beauty captivated him. He feasted his eyes on her every chance he got. His fantasy grew as he spied on her in the library and the challenge of the upper-class name and the good address simply made her more desirable.
Unexpectedly, one Friday night a group of Dublin girls tried to persuade him and some other Dublin boys to accompany them to a student disco in the city. Shaun showed no interest until Georgina appeared and sat next to him.
“Hi Shaun,” she greeted as if they were best friends,
“it would be great if you were to come with us to the disco.” “I hadn’t planned on going,” he admitted, “but if you are going, I’m sure it will be fun.”
His heart pounded as he looked into her perfect face, now much closer than it had ever been before. He drank in her perfume and fought with the desire to run his fingers through her beautiful hair..
“Would you mind holding on for me?” she asked with that angelic voice.
“The others are about to leave, but it will take me a few minutes to pack my books for the weekend.”
“No not at all,” he agreed willingly, not believing his luck.
Shaun couldn’t contain his excitement as he waited in the lobby. She returned pulling on a cigarette. He had never seen her smoke before and was sure this was intended to impress him. She had also taken the time to put lipstick on and apply eye-shadow.
It was obvious that she had a very false picture of what he was likely to find attractive. At the same time, he felt complimented that she had gone to such lengths just for him. It encouraged a confidence which was to prove fatal. Just to hammer the nail home, he made sure to smile at every pretty girl they passed on their way to town.
By the time they got to the Mansion House the icy chill in the atmosphere confirmed how much he had messed up. He tried to redeem himself and tell her how he really felt about her, but the music was too loud. He tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to go outside. She turned her head briefly in his direction, an icy stare betraying her hostility.
“I’m happy here with my friends,” she answered looking back to the circle she was dancing in.
The unsympathetic looks from the other girls told him she had made no secret of his behaviour.
Shaun hoped that the long summer break would help to purge his shame. However, he had to survive an obligatory three week intensive course in the Kerry Gaeltacht first. The weather was excellent and the surroundings were beautiful beyond words. The students were housed in private accommodation around Ventry. Irish conversation classes took up their mornings and bike trips to local places of interest occupied their afternoons. The local pubs in Ventry or in Dingle, six miles away, provided a meeting point in the evenings.
There was no shortage of attractive girls, but recent events made him more reluctant than ever to try to take it a stage further? For this reason, his first success was due to unsolicited interest.
Having spent another boring evening at the local pub, he found himself walking home along a moonlit country road with two other stragglers from the pub. Mick had been banging his head against a brick wall the whole evening, trying to get with the attractive female straggler. Her lack of interest had been painfully obvious to absolutely everybody in the bar except Mick. Even her body language should have told him that no matter how many drinks he bought her, or how witty he managed to be, he didn’t stand a chance.
Now, walking along the road between the pair of them, Shaun’s first instinct was to take Mick to one side and tell him to accept defeat gracefully, but with Mick’s reluctance to accept the obvious it would most likely be counter-productive. Shaun made to go on alone when they reached a fork in the road, but the girl invited him to turn towards the beach with her and a very disappointed Mick turned sadly towards the farm house and a lonely bed.
Shaun had often fantasised about an attractive girl picking him up and complimenting him on his appearance, but now that it was happening, it was the biggest turn-off. He had thought that when Mick disappeared her interest would wane, but if anything it became more intense as soon as they were left alone.
The summer sky was filled with thousands of stars casting their light on the golden sand and the waves as they took their sandals off and walked barefooted along the beach. The lapping of the waves against the shore filled made it complete. One couldn’t have wished for more romantic surroundings, but the lack of initiation on his side was ruining it. Nobody could have argued that she was unattractive, but the openness of her advances was terribly off-putting.
“I’d better be getting back,” he told her when they finally reached her farmhouse. He was about to turn and go when she pulled him towards her and kissed him. He tried to search her eyes but she avoided his stare.
“What do you want?” he asked a little irritated.
“There’s no need to get annoyed,” she reasoned, taking his hand and leading him towards the barn.
He had never spent a night in a barn and the possibility of adding this to his very short list of memorable experiences softened his resolve.
“I’ve never slept in a barn before,” he admitted betraying his excitement at the thought.
“There’s a first time for everything,” she replied, leading him inside.
Soon he was lying beside her, on a pile of fresh hay. He hugged and kissed her because that’s what she wanted, but there was no feeling in it. The whole experience left him empty. He could feel the anger rise inside him, but he did his best to conceal it.
“Do you find me attractive?” she asked him out of nowhere. He stared at her for an instant and didn’t know what to answer. There was something broken inside her and she was using him to put it right. He despised her and felt sorry for her at the same time and knew that if he stayed any longer he was in danger of going further than he had any real desire to and then he would despise himself as well.
“I’m leaving,” he told her, getting abruptly to his feet and she sensed by the look in his eyes that she wasn’t going to change his mind. The first light of day had just penetrated the barn and he felt her eyes burning into his back as he made for the gate.
When he returned from Kerry at the end of June, he applied for summer work with CIE and was lucky to be selected. Life as a bus conductor was fairly easy and the rate of pay was excellent. He was rarely with the same driver two days in a row. Some drivers made their dislike of students obvious, but most were happy to share their experience and get some insights into student life, which was alien to them.
The weeks double shifts passed quickly. He was proud of his growing bank balance. He handed up a wage each week during the three remaining months of summer and saved almost everything else. By the end of the summer he was confident of being able to pay his fees and have a generous living monthly allowance over the coming year.
He was free to concentrate on history in his second year. The morning cough from cigarettes had cleared and this year would be his chance to prove himself. He would become the person he saw in his dad’s eyes. He joined the debating society and pushed himself into debates in English and Irish. His interest in politics gave him the vocabulary and the passion he needed to overcome his other inhibitions.
The visits to the gym increased to three a week and he continued lifting heavier and heavier weights. Running though gave him that immediate sense of achievement. Marathon running was becoming the new craze and Dublin Corporation planned to hold its first street marathon. This motivated Shaun to train even harder. Nobody he knew had ever run a marathon and he was determined to be the first to do so.
He spent an hour or two in the Cat and Cage on Friday evenings, but he was careful to avoid the Friday discos. However the prospective arrival of busloads of boy starved girls from the sister training college in Blackrock finally broke his resolve. Rumour had it that there were only about seven boys in the whole college and that the girls were mad for boys. Trusting in the prospect of rampant female lust, he decided to give the disco a go.
They met up at eight in The Cat and Cage. The Dublin girls had gone home so they mingled with a group of country girls. The boys drank beer and the girls ordered soft drinks. They complained about boring lecturers and swapped information about the schools they had been given for their first real teaching practice.
It was already past ten as the group darted across the main Drumcondra Road, in twos and threes, exploiting the small gaps in the traffic. Two busloads of Blackrock girls halted in the car park as they reached the front steps of the college. Not even one boy alighted from either bus and the incessant giggling together with whiff of perfume convinced Shaun that his chances were good.
Caragh, one of the girls from the pub, stood just inside the auditorium door. She gave him a friendly wave. It was easy to talk with her. One could rely on her always being in high spirits. He liked the casual way she dressed. She was wearing the same sweater and jeans he had seen her in during the day and never bothered with makeup.
She was from a small town in Galway and he really liked her accent. She was petite, with a sallow complexion and a head of long dark hair. She drew on her cigarette, tilting her head back a little and met his stare with a cheeky smile.
“What ye lookin at?” she challenged, her eyes coming alive. “I like the cute way you smoke,” Shaun flirted.
“I’ll cute you,” she answered giving him a light punch on the shoulder.
“That’s the way Galway girls take compliments is it?” he continued raising his hand as if to slap her on the bum as she pulled away, using one of the other girls as a shield.
The dance was in full swing. The other girls were already dancing in a circle in the middle of the floor. One or two of the Dublin boys were drinking beer from bottles and hanging around with some of the country lads.
“No use going there,” he thought. “Football will be the sole topic of conversation and I would stick out like a sore thumb.”
He considered asking Caragh to dance, but he knew he would feel stupid standing with her in a big circle of girls. He couldn’t help admire the sought after guys with all the right moves. They looked cool when they danced, while he always felt stupid and awkward and it didn’t take a genius to read that from his expression.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked, ducking the challenge.
“No,” Caragh replied, “but you go and get something.”
“All right then,” he agreed, “see you in a while.”
There were a lot of people waiting to be served and looking around, he caught sight of Brid, from the Gaeltacht. They had exchanged one or two letters after they had returned home, but with the unlikelihood that they would ever meet again, contact had fizzled out. Now she was standing in front of him, looking older and more attractive than ever. Her dress flattered her slim figure, her short curly hair suited her pretty face and a touch of make-up simply added to her healthy, youthful complexion.
“Stop the lights! Could it be you Shaun?” she called incredulously.
Shaun tightened his body, hoping she would notice the many hours in the gym.
“How about a dance,” he suggested, trying to sound as casual and confident as possible.
“Why not,” she agreed, as she smiled triumphantly towards a group of Blackrock girls who sized him up from a distance.
“So you managed to get in,” he confirmed as he put his arm around her shoulder and led her onto the dance floor.
“Yeah, I finally managed it,” she admitted humbly. “My Irish wasn’t good enough the first time so I repeated the Leaving and got in this September. I must have spent too much time in Carraroe speaking English with Jackeens instead of working on my Irish,” she accused.
She searched his face for a reaction and the look in her eyes brought him back to the evenings in the shadows after the ceili
. “How do you find Dublin?” he asked remembering her fears about leaving home.
“I haven’t seen much of it ,” she admitted.
“There has been plenty to do in college.”
“We’ll have to do something about that then,” he promised, putting his arms around her and being amazed that his approach was working.
When the slow set finished he took her and swung her around as the music got faster and faster. He caught her by the shoulders as she fell against him and stole a kiss He was really enjoying himself and it looked like she was too. Someone’s eyes were fixed on him from the other side of the room. Looking around quickly, he caught Caragh’s head turning away. He should have felt guilty, but he was pleased she saw him dancing with such an attractive girl.
Brid didn’t leave his side for the rest of the evening. He was introduced to her friends and they all had a drink together. Soon it was time for the kiss on the steps outside the main door and they agreed to meet under Clery’s clock in O’Connell Street the following Saturday evening. Shaun grew in stature as he stood with the select group of good-looking males being waved to by the pretty girls from the coach windows.
Unlocking his bicycle and turning his collar to the wind, he promised himself not to make a stupid mistake this time. He would be himself and not forget to pay her honest compliments. He would dress up in his best suit and give her a proper night out.
Not wanting to burn his bridges, he made a point of meeting Caragh and the others outside the library each day. Declan was obviously interested in Helen’s dark Spanish looks and made sure to join them as often as possible. Shaun was glad of the male support as they tried to impress the girls with their banter. He was almost tempted to take up smoking again, just for an excuse to be there. However, by the end of the week it was taken for granted that they just enjoyed each other’s company.
“That was a pretty girl I saw you dancing with the other night,” Caragh dropped in to the conversation trying to make it sound as innocent as possible.
“She was just someone I knew from the Gaeltacht. I think she comes from Mayo,” Shaun answered dismissively.
“Why does God do that?” he asked himself. “It’s either a feast or a famine.”
He had started to have second thoughts about Brid or rather about Blackrock. The wealthy south-side suburb was so far away that Brid may as well be still living in Mayo and he didn’t have the resources to pay for taxis. He had seen her at her best. Doubtless, the beer and the perfume had played a role, but he had to admit it had been great to meet her again.
The following Saturday evening he stood under Clery’s clock dressed in his brown suit with the wide lapels and the flared trousers, smelling of Blue Stratus and checking his watch nervously. The half hour until eight crawled by, as did the extra ten minutes it took her to arrive. She looked elegant and he was glad that he had decided to wear a suit, even if your Aunt Noreen had told him he looked overdressed.
“You look really lovely,” he told her as he kissed her on the cheek.
“Thanks very much,” she replied, blushing a little.
“Have you any special wishes for the evening?” he asked, feeling a little stupid as soon as he said it.
It sounded like something a forty year old would say. There was a pause. It was obvious that Brid didn’t know how to answer
. “Would you like to go to the cinema?” he suggested, freeing her from her predicament.
“That sounds nice,” she replied.
He took her hand and led her down O’Connell Street towards the Savoy. He had checked the listing in advance and had already decided to avoid any action movies and go for a romantic love story.
“I heard this was a good film,” he suggested before she had a chance to pick something else.
“Let’s give it a go then,” she agreed without discussion.
He hoped that she would insist on buying her own ticket, but she just took it for granted he would pay for everything. They had a half hour to kill before the film started. They sat in a deserted auditorium drinking cola and sharing popcorn from a huge bucket. Shaun was thankful to have the food as a distraction as his attempts at making conversation didn’t seem to be going anywhere. He remembered the little group outside the library and wondered how it had been so easy for Declan and himself to entertain Caragh and her two friends.
“Your parents are farmers aren’t they? he asked in desperation.”
“Well, Mam runs the bed and breakfast and takes care of the holiday cottages and dad runs the farm. They would have been disappointed if I hadn’t got into teaching this time round. It would have killed me to let them down especially as my older sister is doing medicine in Galway.”
“Why had he started this?” he asked himself.
“What about your family?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m the youngest of six and my siblings are all married,” he answered avoiding any real detail.
Should he tell her that he had used all his savings to get through the first year and that the summer job with CIE had saved him at the last minute? Would she be impressed to hear that his father drove a twelve year old Morris Minor or that his area was never mentioned in the press unless it was in connection with somebody appearing in court for robbery or worse?
“Great the film’s finally starting,” he said, relieved that he could end the conversation.
The film and the abundance of courting couples around them had the effect which he had hoped for. He helped her to retrieve her ear ring from underneath the seat when the lights came on again.
“What do you want to do now?” Shaun asked as they stood on the pavement outside the Savoy.
He had spent a small fortune already, but her pride in how well her family were doing had made him feel inferior and he didn’t want to let himself down. He intended leaving her to her bus stop, but his lips seemed to have a mind of their own.
“How about going to a night club?” he heard himself saying. “You don’t need to be home early, do you?”
“No,” she responded, a little lost for words.
They crossed O’Connell Bridge and turned down Fleet Street. The queue outside Sloopy’s was smaller than he had expected, but he had forgotten that most people didn’t go to a night club until the pubs closed. He paid the admission and went to put their coats into the cloakroom while she waited.
They stood almost alone looking onto a deserted dance floor and his head throbbed with the deafening volume of the music. He quickly checked what remained of the cash he had tucked into his inside pocket to be shocked by how little was left.
“Not the best music is it?” he apologised.
He wasn’t about to be the first to get up on the floor and anyway he could already feel drops of sweat on the side of his face due to the poor ventilation.
“Let’s sit down over here,” he suggested, finding a dark corner as far from the loudspeakers as possible.
They had only sat down when the waitress approached.
“What will yis be havin to drink?” she asked in a coarse voice.
Shaun turned towards Brid hoping she wouldn’t want to order anything.
“I’ll have a Martini,” she answered without hesitation.
Shaun did a mental count of the remaining funds, but was afraid he would look mean if he didn’t take a drink.
The waitress looked impatiently.
“I’ll have a beer,” he finally answered.
“A glass or a pint?” she demanded.
“Just a glass then,” he agreed as if it had been her suggestion.
They had hardly really talked and Shaun found it difficult to find any topics which wouldn’t put him at a disadvantage. He tried to impress her with his passion for sport, but she didn’t express any interest. In desperation he opted for kissing as a means of filling the lengthening silences. It’s not that he didn’t enjoy it, but he knew that kissing a pretty girl was meant to be something more than a distraction from poor conversation.
“Should we head home?” He suggested after less than an hour, before the waitress had a chance to take their empty glasses and ask what else they wanted to drink.
Caragh was in his head as they waited for a taxi. He was sure that a date with her would have been very different. She would have been anything but passive and her constant teasing would have brought out the best in him. He was still regretting that he hadn’t asked her out when the taxi pulled up beside them. He sat into the back seat and realised he didn’t have enough money to get them both home. He felt his heart racing and had no idea what he was going to do. He took the red traffic light at Grand Canal Bridge as a sign from God. It was now or never.
“Sorry, Brid,” he said, pushing a five pound note into her hand, “That should get you home. My parents will hit the roof if I’m not home by three.”
Suddenly the pretence was over. He was an eighteen year old again with an empty inside pocket and an even emptier feeling in his heart. He knew it wasn’t the most chivalrous thing to do, but at that moment he couldn’t see an alternative. His heals were sore in his new shoes when he opened the front gate about two hours later. An angry voice greeted him as he mounted the stairs.
“Where the hell have you been until this unearthly hour?” Granny demanded.
He made no attempt to answer, but knew it was a story he wouldn’t be telling any time soon. Indeed, it took me too long to laugh at Shaun’s ridiculous attempts at being a man.