Monday, 8 July 2013

The unwelcome return of Ann D’Another Thing!

Back in Galway after a marathon of trips to England, and I’m tired. Dripping dribble tired. Deflated balloon sculpture held together by chewing gum tired.

When I’m like this I don’t trust myself with other human beings. To be honest, I don’t even trust myself with myself. I become the crazy guy walking down the street speaking out loud by mistake, like a latterday defrosted Austin Powers. Did I really let that vile snippet slip out of my gob? Whoops!

Still, life goes on and today I have to go into town and sort a couple of things at the bank.
There’s a bit of a queue, but not the worst I’ve ever seen. In front of me a woman in a cardigan styled more for grannie than mum is leaning on the queue counter, shaking her head and tutting. Turning to me she says

“There’s only two on. All those empty windows. Tshush.”

I nod, smile and understand how she feels, because that’s the way I sometimes behave when I’ve the enthusiasm to grumble. Right now, I’ve just about the energy required to breathe and blink at the same time, so I look away, avoiding further conversation.

At the Business and Commercial Customers window a Chinese woman is engaged in a dispute with the teller. The woman in front of me turns to watch the altercation in such a manner as to let everyone else in the queue know she’s watching the altercation. As I am still non-verbally making myself unavailable for chit-chat, she now turns to the man in front of her in the queue.

“Terrible isn’t it. She’s being very rude.”

 Unable to avoid overhearing, I assume that the woman in front of me is referring to the teller. After all, she’s just been giving out about the lack of tellers available at the windows, so surely she's now feeling sorry for the other customer.

Yer man in front of her doesn’t seem to want to engage her in conversation either, so she turns and leans once more on the counter, tutting and shaking her head and hissing and muttering audibly on and on how

“She’s being awfully rude. Terribly rude. Sure there’s no need for that kind of thing!”

Already half asleep, my mind drifts into a waking dream, as I recognise the unwelcome return of Ann D’Another Thing.

I first encountered Ann when I lived out in West Connemara in the early 1990s. After a mere two years in Ireland, I was eager to learn more about the people lurking behind the dark windows of my neighbours houses, so I listened to Marian Finucane’s Afternoon Call, the radio show that spawned Joe Duffy’s Liveline.

Although Marian took calls from all ages, genders and locations, I soon noticed a certain group of women, of a certain age, who appeared to be permanently disapproving of just about everything. They hiss and they tut and they look down their noses at others no worse than themselves, and once they’ve got their engines running they seem unable to stop the stream of venom spewing forth. Having finished with one victim, they move on to the next, invariably all using the link

“And another thing!”

Hence Ann D’Another Thing was born, and over the years she has made several appearances in this colyoom, but happily not for a very long time.

Yet here she is once more, huffing and puffing in full flow, while I ignore her utterly and completely, until suddenly she raises her voice and declares

“I don’t know what she’s doing in this country anyway.”

Life’s too short to take on every mean-spirited racist I encounter, and were I slightly more sane and able, I’d realise that there’s no point taking on Ann D’Another Thing. But I am  tired, feeble of mind and spirit, and horribly shocked to realise that she’s been hissing and puffing about the Chinese woman all this time, rather than the bank employee.

Like a light sabre of vitriol, a sharp red bolt of anger shoots out of me as I turn to her.

“I’ll tell you what she’s doing in this country. Exactly what millions of Irish are doing all over the world: she’s trying to make a living. That’s what she’s doing. Don’t tell me you have no friends or family members who’ve worked abroad at some stage?”

Part of her is happy to have found some sport, but I’m delighted to see that she’s also a little shocked by the intensity of my response. Racists often see their outbursts as an invitation for others to bond with them, so my counter attack came as a bit of a surprise to this Ann D’Another Thing, but true to her name, she still has bullets in her barrel.

“Well, there’s no need for her to be rude and shout at the poor girl like that. God knows what she’s on about.”

“Oh so it’s ‘Poor girl’ now is it? You were giving out about her a few seconds ago. And did it ever occur to you that it’s absolutely none of your business what she’s on about?”
Ann is flailing and mutters how she wasn’t talking to me anyhow. A few seconds later she’s called to a free window and I can hear her giving out to the teller. Ann D’Anothers enjoy an extraordinary ability to keep their nastiness rolling on, so I know that I am now the victim of her lashing tongue.

When I’m called to the same window I apologise to the young bank worker, saying the lady before had probably been giving out about me. I tell her about the racist outburst and she smiles and says

 “Well thanks and fair play to you! You’ve done your good deed for the day!”

Having felt rather sheepish about my outburst, I’m now joyful at the attitude of this younger Irish generation. Hopefully Ireland will soon be free of Ann D’Another Thing.

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