Monday, 12 September 2011

... in which I fish for human trout and catch a bollox instead!

“So when can I come to look at the house?” I ask.

He has called me about an ad I placed in the local paper, looking for a house to rent. His late middle-aged voice hesitates, his breathing strangled into a whine.

“Whell now, I’m not sure, now, really.”
“How would Sunday be?” I offer, trying to move things along a little.
“Sunday? No, sorry, y’see Sunday would be a bad day for me. Saturday would be better.”
“Great, so Saturday, I’ll come look at the house. What’s a good time for you on Saturday?”
“Wheeeell there’s the tenants moving out now, on Saturday d’ye see, so things could be a bit messy, and -”
“Okay, yes, I see, sure, that’s probably not the best time to look at a house.”
“So right now, grand so, come on Saturday at 1 o’clock.”
“Oh, okay, I er yeh, great. I’ll call you Saturday morning. Oh, and just so we don’t go wasting each others’ time, did you have any idea about what you might be asking for rent?”

As I ask my voice trails off, because I know he’s pure old school rural Irish. He doesn’t want to talk money at this stage.

“Ah well now d’ya see I oh I haven’t really oh -”
“Sound. Perfect. Why don’t we chat about that when we meet each other, eh? That’d be better, wouldn’t it.”
He sounds ridiculously relieved at my suggestion.
“Yes, that’s the way. Grand. Lovely. So call me during the week and we’ll sort out a day for you to come look at the house.”
“But I thought I was coming Saturday at 1?”
“Ah, so we did. So call me Saturday morning and we’ll sort it. Bye now.”

This fella’s called me because he wants me to rent his house, but he will tell me neither when I can look at his house nor how much the rent will be. This kind of behaviour mystified and infuriated me when I first came to Ireland in 1992, but now I understand. The little bit of Londoner that still lurks in me feels strongly that seeing the house and knowing the rent are two pretty basic criteria. Yet the part of me that has loved and lived two decades in the West of Ireland now plays the Irish game as a second nature.

I’d go as far as to say there’s a quiet fondness in me for the idiosyncratic gentle wooliness of rural Irish behaviour, and only a smidgen of frustration.
Well, I am human. Oh so human.

Compared to yer man’s circuitous and eccentric behaviour, the majority of responses to my Accommodation Wanted ad have been breathtaking. The Irish are famous for their literate and scholarly ways, but for some reason when the people who have called me incessantly over the last three days read my ad, their eyes read the word Detached and saw Semi-Detached. They read 3 bedrooms and saw 2 bedrooms, while assisted solely by the power of their own vision, they magically turned the word West into East.

Being a soft git who believes in that whole karmic what-goes-around-comes-around whoodjermalarkey, I’ve spent many hours over the last few days texting and calling people who left messages in response to the ad. I’ve thanked them each profusely for their call and told them that I’m so sorry, but strangely I kind of meant all that stuff I said in my ad about how we’re looking for a 3 bedroom detached, 20 minutes west of the city, so sorry and thanks, but neither a 2 bedroom terrace in the city centre, nor a 7 bedroom 20 miles east of the city will do.

I didn’t text in shouty upper case capitals CAN'T YOU EFFIN' READ? or call the bloke who left a message about a house in Loughrea and say "How can anything apart from a time space wormhole be 5 minutes from Loughrea and 5 minutes from Galway? Did you stumble upon the God Particle while you were wandering around out on the bog, you raving madman?"

So yes, handling those calls has been annoying, while dealing with the fella who simply wouldn’t tell me anything or let me see his house, well, that was more fun. It felt a bit like landing an Irish trout.

I love the way that here in the West of Ireland I can mix up my Jewish oral tradition with the locals’ own, everyone milking tragic histories for pathos and self-deprecating humour. But it wasn’t until last week I realised that in both cultures, for different reasons, communication can mean calling up and saying you have nothing to say.

While I was trying to hook the Lesser-Spotted Irish Landlord, my brother called me to say he was too tired to talk. I knew just what he meant. We’d been texting and playing telephone tennis for days, and he felt he should call for a chat after being out the last time I called, but when it came down to it, he was just knackered. I was half way though my dinner anyway, and could hear the exhaustion in his voice.

He said “Hi, I’m too tired to talk!” and I said “Fine, speak to ya soon! Bye!” and understood completely. Equally, I wholly understand yer man’s hesitancy to talk about the rent on the phone. He wants to have a good look at me and gauge how much he can charge me. Although the Trout’s motives were very different, both oral traditions found a need for a man to call to say he has nothing to say.

So I call Fishy on the Saturday morning, to confirm that I’m about to drive out to the house.
“Well, I’m up in Mayo today,” he tells me, “So tomorrow would be best.”
“But you told me last time we talked that Sunday was bad for you. I thought we’d set up a meet for today.”
“No no, not today, d’ye see. I’m in Mayo. Come tomorrow morning, early.”
“No, not early. Ireland are playing in the Rugby World Cup.”
“Are they? Well now, why don’t you call me next week? Tuesday I’ll be here and -”

Enough. I’ve had enough now.
“You know what my friend, I’ll leave it, thanks all the same.”
“Sure. Sound.”

Yes, I was and am still fond of those quirky old Irish ways, but also sometimes you have to step back and tell yourself you’re dealing with a time waster. Yer man was more unreliable than stinky milk, and a bollox is just a bollox in any language.


Jeanne said...

Great post, Charlie. Welcome back!

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks Jeanne!Good to be back in the saddle again.

The Guru said...

Good to see you back Charlie with a wonderful and familiar tale of the wild west... anyone brought up in a society that is able to believe all that assumption and virgin birth jiggery-pokery I'm sure has no probs seeing a 3 and believing it to be a 2!

Charlie Adley said...

Thank you and yes indeed your Guru-ship, was it five loaves and two fish or three loaves and five fish at the feeding of the 5,000 (or 5?).

Discrepancies abound between the Gospels, which makes for an interesting take on the expression 'gospel truth.

Paz said...

great to see you back, great post. It can be the most frustrating trait of the Irish.

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks Paz! As I said, I enjoy playing along, and dancing the verbal waltz often takes you to new conclusions you never thought possible, but sometimes ...

H said...

I, too, went afishin' one day, and what should I catch but a decent sized Cadley trout! Awesome!
Is the third bedroom for Canadian travellers?

Charlie Adley said...

Absolutely! Any plans?