Written February 2009
The most heated argument I ever had in a taxi was not on the arse of a disappointing Valentine's Day, or with a drunken friend howling hyperbole, or with an overcharging tit of a driver, or any of the usual stuff. It was Christmas 12 months back, and we had squished, all flailing limbs, into a saloon headed from the city centre. We had had a messy but wonderful night out, and we were heading for a messy but wonderful night in, cans and skins and DJs aplenty.
The argument was like the HSE - God knows how the fuck it started or whose twatty idea it was. One minute I was staring out the window, smiling at the stars and the vomiting wimmin draped across the kerbs of Cork, and the next our friends were huddled together, staring at the floor while myself and The Godfather sniped at each other with the infuriating precision of a pint glass thrown in a country pub.
‘I think you'll find,’ said he, all compressed vowels and nodge burns, ‘that Cork is far, FAR rougher a town than Galway. It is rough as wire wool wrapped round a hammer and used to clean your ears.’
‘Well!’ I huffed, pushing my shoulders back to the point where I became two dimensional. ‘Of all the ludicrous insults! Galway is as rough as Cork, if not more so! Why, in Galway we burn our joyriders along with the cars!’
‘Yeah? Well, I'd move up to Galway and live there in the morning if it meant I could get away from Cork because Cork's THAT ROUGH but I wouldn't want to move to Galway anyway because it's really for bedwetting midgets and they'd all be terrified of me up there.’
‘You wouldn't last a week up there you nasally-challenged urban diva. We'd feck you in the Corrib all the way from Ballybane we would.’
‘Ha! Ballybane? What the fuck is Ballybane? Sounds like a parish of pansies! Down here we have Hollyhill, which . . .’
‘Ooh, Hollyhill? Yeah, you're so rough you name your suburbs after high-altitude flower gardens. Go on away with your Hollyhill.’
‘They'd fucking stab you up there you MIDDLE CLASS HAG!’
‘Don't you DARE call me middle-class you fucking STUDENT.’
‘Stop the car!’ howled The Godfather, as we came up on a 24-hour petrol station. ‘I need cool air and also some more skins! And you, YOU don't know what the fuck you're talking about!’ And he got out of the car in a temper and I threw a can of Fosters out after him, hitting him square in the hoodie.
‘I'm from Hollyhill,’ chanced the taxi driver, looking nervously through the rearview mirror.
I sighed. ‘Yeah. Look, I know it's not exactly Dalkey up there . . .’
The driver shrugged. ‘It's really not that bad,’ he said. ‘But sure we'll say nothing. And Galway's nice too.’
The point of all this (and myself and The Godfather have since made up, although we have been known to throw insults and shoes at each other in the early hours of various intoxicated mornings) is that Irish people have a terrible fear of being labelled soft, or posh, or spoiled. We would rather have the world think we were grown in barren soil, and struggled towards a clouded sun with only pub tray dregs for nourishment. We would like to be thought of as tough, resourceful, sly and tenacious. We are keen to point out that we trudge through adversity, poverty, and gang warfare just to get to our state-subsidised homes at night-time where we can ponder our bruises and reset our steely outlooks for another tomorrow in the trenches. All this whilst keeping up our gym memberships and eating pots of organic bio yogurts at lunchtime.
I'm living in the loveliest estate at the moment, and sleeping soundly because its driveways and communal areas aren't besieged by wandering terriers or boy racer conventions. And yet if anyone tried to label me middle class, I'd be back in my Penneys pyjama bottoms pointing out embarrassing facts about my financial status faster than you could say, ‘Who's she having the baby for?’ Why that, like? Why so afraid of being nice, and well-mannered, and brought up rather than dragged up? Fucked if I know. I can't get too philosophical; it's not the skanger way, fuckers.
And by the way... Cork is probably rougher. But that didn't come from me, right?