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Sgt Mattie.

The Late Late Show


Pat is proud to support
Power 4 Good Ireland
23rd April 2011

These walls can talk

Big houses, big gates and talkin' walls are a major feature of the legacy left by the big bad boom

A friend of mine was an enumerator on the recent census and we spent a very entertainin' evenin' in the pub last week comparing notes; we agreed that workin' on the census is a bit like canvassin'.

One of the things he remarked on was the number of houses that you can't get into and we were at one that the worst of all were the places with gates like Buckingham Palace. "Wouldn't you be amazed," says he "at the number of houses where you have to talk to a silver box on the pier before they let you in."

"You're right," says I, "there you'd be; standin' like a fool in the open air talkin to the wall."

I recalled a particular incident durin' the last local election campaign when I spent a half an hour outside Marjorie McDermott's pretentious palace on the Clonmel Rd talkin' to her gate post, she never as much as tried to open the feckin' gate to me. Of course, she's a dyed-in-the-wool FFer and would give me fourteen kinds of the itch before she'd give me the vote, she had no problem keepin me me talkin' into the silver box on the pier.

"Oh, Councillor Hickey," says she, in an accent that's a far cry from the back arse of Glengooley where she was born and reared, "I'm afraid I can't receive you, I'm indisposed."

"In the what?" says I

"I'm indisposed," says she.

"In the commode?" I asked. "begod Marjorie, I thought a house like that would have a loo in every room. But sure, you can't beat the auld commode; it saves a lot of travellin'."

At this stage she was gettin' fierce annoyed and I was beginnin' to enjoy myself.

"Oh for God's sake, are you deaf?" she shouted-" I'm indisposed and I can't receive you."

"And what can't you believe about me?" I asked

"I can't believe some people are so stupid," she screamed.

"Alright, Marjorie," says I, "I'll come back when you're off the commode; I suppose tisn't the best time to ask a woman for a number one, or worse still; a number two."

At that point Marjorie lost all the decorum of the big house and opened the top window from where she roared at me, "Hickey, you useless hoor, get away from my gates or I'll call the guards."

"They'd better come by helicopter if they want to get in," says I as I walked away.

My enumerator friend and I went on to talk about the kinds of things you hear on the doorsteps; "They'll tell you anything," says I, "if I got all the votes I'm promised on the doorsteps I'd run for the feckin' presidency."

"I know," says my man, "And if people were left to their own devices with the census forms we'd have a population bigger than China."

Recallin' a census that took place a number of years ago he spoke about a family , whose identity he wouldn't divulge, in a household comprised of the husband and wife whose eight children were scattered to the four corners of the earth. However, every child was named on the census form.

"When the enumerator went to collect the document he said to man of the house, "I see you had a full house on the night. Were they all home for any particular reason?"

"Oh they were," says he, "they love the census night, they always come home for that."

"My colleague had to believe him," says he, "but no one ever saw the eight children arrive or leave. The entire family also voted in every election and no-one ever saw them come or go."

We parted company at closing time and after Mass on Sunday he stopped me for another chat.

"Maurice," says he, "apropos our conversation about big houses and gates, in the course of collecting the returns from the census durin' the week I called to a mansion with big gates and the silver box on the wall. When I pressed the buzzer the man of the house answered and told me he hadn't time to fill out his form."

"Have you a blank one with you," the voice in the silver box asked, "if I shout out the names can't you fill it in, like a good man. I'm sure you can write."

"And who will sign it?" my friend asked

"Oh scribble my name on it," says the voice, "won't that do you?"

"But, sir, do you realise you are asking me to submit a false document?"

"What's wrong with that? Haven't we all been at it for years? Sure it didn't do us a bit of harm?

"Well," says my enumerator friend, "Mr. Chopra and Mr. Trichet mightn't agree with you about that."