Although I had a mountain of work to get through today, I was pleased all the same to get an early morning call from ‘the bould Berni’ telling me she was on her way into town and would pop in to pick up some bits and pieces her son had left behind after his weekend visit.
Berni, let me explain, is my sister-in-law; we married two brothers, our weddings just a couple of weeks apart. Start thinking ‘Thelma and Louise’ and you won’t go far wrong.
We lived in different countries at that time and I wasn’t overly keen on her though three years and three children later we were living just 12 houses apart and starting to warm to each other. With me newly arrived in the country, and in the days when Duty Free still existed, our routine was to drive the babies up to the nursery at 9am then return to her house and get to work. She’d pull out the Trivial Pursuit, I’d pull out the bottle of Baileys and we’d pass a few happy hours trying to prove to the other how clever we were. I’m not sure we ever agreed on who won that contest but it earned us some mutual respect, we got the measure of each other and it was a good grounding in friendship.
After several house moves between us in opposite directions, we both ended up in Tipperary, a county in which we both were strangers and blow-ins. In the years since then, we’ve both suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Indeed, had Shakespeare had the pleasure of meeting us, he’d have changed that line to ‘outrageous misfortune’. It’s not the right time to go into those ups and downs (and a few more downs) but importantly, we’re both still standing, even if at any given time, one is usually propping up the other.
Berni is my skiing buddy, more correctly my skiing coach. She cajoles and encourages me up and down mountains. In the good old days it would be with the promise of a Silk Cut if I just got off my arse and snow-ploughed to the nearest restaurant. My skiing has gone down hill, I note, since we both gave up the weed.
I admit I refer to her as a ‘bould bitch’ because she’s got the cheek of old Nick. She’d sell your child to a gypsy woman and swear she was doing you a favour. She’s at her worst on aeroplanes where she barely stops short of telling the cabin crew what they should be doing next and eulogising about her favourite aircraft. She used to work for the Jordanian royal family. Or was it the Shah of Persia, or Marco Polo? I forget, but the Ryanair cabin staff certainly won’t.
Despite all that, I’ve had the best of times with her. Together we’ve restored and painted junk shop furniture, featured in the local paper as founders of the “Tuesday Club” (a fantasy idea on my part but the journalist bought it), had million-dollar business ideas that didn’t make tuppence, looked after each other’s children when it meant the other could go off on important fun or business ventures which would otherwise have been lost opportunities. We’ve cried over horses, laughed in piles of snow, fallen out over nothing and brushed ourselves off and started over again.
She breezed into my house this morning, disrupted my work for the umpteenth time but she’s a cute hoor, as the Irish would say, so she came bearing luxury coffee so I wouldn’t complain. She helped me with everything from how my woodburning stove works to how to make sausage rolls to checking the heating oil in my tank. And then hypnotised me into looking after her son for a week while she goes to Qatar as a guest of the Jockey Club. I told you, a cute hoor alright.