“The Dáil want to have their own brand of House wine” my chum Spike Righteous read from the newspaper down in the club yesterday evening “well I for one am glad that our leaders have their priorities right….they’re not shopping at Lidl’s….buy Irish that’s what I say”. “I think you may be missing the point Righteous” I intervened, lighting up one of my Monte Cristo no.4’s “don’t you think there are more pressing matters at hand….mass emigration….our economy in hibernation….bank evictions….of course the Dáil having its own brand of wine has to be top of the list”. “But don’t you see Thackeray” Biffo The Garda Boyle butted in “if our rulers the poor misfortunes…are up all night in the Dáil drinking….so they can make important decisions concerning the entire citizens of the State….then I think they should at least be drinking a House Red”. “It will be good for tourism they say” Spike added, nodding his head. “”Well the Dáil is obviously a Mecca for tourism isn’t it Spike” I said throwing back a glass of our club’s own brand of wine called Toxic “I mean where else in the world can tourists go to see political leaders half canned by 3.30 in the afternoon….I mean it’s better than going to the theatre….it’s like a live version of the Muppet Show”. “What will they call it….that’s what I’d like to know” Spike said scratching his chin in bewilderment. “Maybe they’ll call the House Red…Quiff d’enda Kenny” I answered quickly “that’s guaranteed to make you throw up after one glass”. “I suppose they wont be calling one after our Minister for Injustice” Biffo added “a glass of Shatter wouldn’t inspire you much”. “Aptly named though Biffo my chum” I tutted “no doubt our Minister for Propaganda….Goebbels Rabbitte….will be holding a launch of the new red wine or perhaps in his case diluted red…. I can see it now…..sitting at the Dáil Bar at 5am….can I have a small Rabbitte….and a Gilmore shandy for the wife”. “Where will they make it….I don’t know of any vineyards in Ireland” Spike asked scratching the other side of his head. “Oh Enda’s been given a vineyard in France for being such a good boy in Brussels….I heard he’s going to call the first batch…Merkel Je T’aime….” I guffawed. Dáil wine….still it seemed like a good idea at the time….
“Why on earth are we going there?” was my driver and close friend’s question when I informed him that we were going to spend the day in Castleconnell in the leafy suburbs of Limerick City. Sighing heavily, I shook my head beckoning him to drive on “ I have decided to purchase a property there”. He rammed on the brakes hard, causing me to hold onto my cufflinks. It is important at this point to let you know that my close friend “Billy Boyle” is not in fact my driver but a high ranking member of the Gardai who on this occasion has chosen to go undercover in his clapped out 1990 Yaris. I had earlier decided to wear sunglasses in case anyone recognised me. “But why…why would you bleedin buy anywhere in Limerick?” he asked, his face turning a scarlet burgundy colour. I looked at him hard for a moment before answering so that he would take in what I was about to say to him. “I realise that growing up in Dublin where your closest friends were called Pieball and Spaz that you might have a natural aversion to places that don’t keep their horses in their houses with them but you really should try and better yourself”. My friend turned away without rebuttal and continued to drive, my wise comments obviously weighing heavily on his mind. A while passed in silence, taking in the majestic high walled boithrin’s and rolling pastures of County Limerick as we entered the town of Castleconnell before Billy Boyle finally spoke. “I suppose the divorce has come through then” he said raising his eyebrows “do you have to sell the house?”. My body convulsed at the thought of it “Yes indeed….Beryll has taken it all”. “Well I always thought she was a moon pig anyway” Billy Boyle replied as only a true friend would “but we’re here now so let’s see what this dump has to offer”.
I had deliberately made no appointments to view anywhere, having always thought it wise when buying a property to first do a reconnaissance of the area to find out if there were any unforeseen circumstances like whether a nuclear power plant was being built close by which the estate agent might forget to tell one. I had seen Castleconnell before albeit quite drunkenly after a nine hole and taken a fancy to its unspoilt picturesque village (Not a Lidl or McDonalds in sight), its grand views of the Shannon and pubs that did not have names like “The Old Bog Tavern” or “The Castle Arms”. After a while I could see that the place was making a good impression on Billy Boyle from the elaborate descriptive powers his profession were famous for when he spied a house to his liking “Not bad…not bad” he would say, nodding his head “you could do worse”. As we drove slowly around and around the village I noticed that the manner in which we were driving (stopping in front of nice houses for a minute and then speeding off) and the fact that our mode of transport “The Yaris” should have volunteered itself for the scrappage deal a long time ago was not going unnoticed by the local inhabitants of Castleconnell. I could see that by our eleventh drive thru people were looking suspiciously at us from street corners.
“I hope you have your Miami Vice Garda badge on you…the natives are getting restless” I said to Billy Boyle pointing to a middle-aged man that seemed to be approaching the car. “Never you mind that” Billy responded and no sooner had the words left his mouth when the man knocked on Billy’s driver’s window. Billy lowered the window which groaned like a wounded seal and smiled politely at the man. “Are ye lads lost or somethin…ye seem to be goin round here an awful lot” the man said frowning and looked suspiciously into the back seat (the most likely place to be hiding drugs). Quick as a flash and with no warning to me Billy responded “Sorry about that…it’s just my friend here is special needs…he loves gettin dressed up in an old suit and taken out to see all the lovely old houses”. A twisted look of horror came across my face. The man lowered his head to peer in at me and a sympathetic smile came over him. Winking to Billy Boyle he said “That’s grand so….I hope he enjoys himself” before he looked at me and gave me a small wave. Billy was ecstatic “Ah thanks…sure look at his big smiley face…he just loves it” he said tapping me on the shoulder “you love it don’t you Thackeray” and I forced a dumbfounded smile. Billy was in his element now “He calls himself Thackeray Bond….the poor misfortune” he said to the man who just nodded politely. “Sure we’re all God’s children” he mumbled kindly and giving a big wave walked slowly on.
“You complete bastard” I roared at Billy Boyle as soon as the man was out of earshot. Billy took no notice. He was too busy gripping the steering wheel and rolling backwards and forwards to contain his laughter. “I can never purchase a property here now you know….never”. “Well I’m sure the people of Castleconnell will get over it” Billy said triumphantly “now what was that you said earlier about Dublin?”. I straightened my tie from Huntman of Piccadilly and refused to utter a word the entire journey home. Why did we go to Castleconnell…..it seemed like a good idea at the time…..