I only realised I had company when I heard the woman speak behind me.
“It does get easier with time” she said “God takes away the pain and leaves only the memories”
“What?” I replied, returning from not so deep thoughts.
I looked up, only then noticing the newly filled grave in front of me.
I stared down once more at the steaming puddle next to my feet and I gingerly and delicately tucked everything away before pulling up my zip and turning to face my new found friend.
“You must have loved your wife dearly.” She continued, “I’ve always found crying to be a great release, especially when one has been visited by a death”.
She held out her hand, as I stared back at her totally confused.
“Hello, I’m the Reverend Alexandra Sinclair, you can call me Alex.”
I held her hand limply, not having had a chance to wipe mine. How was I going to get out of this one.
“Good morning Reverend, I’m Fergus, Fergus McFarland, Mary’s brother. I’m your taxi driver today. For the group trip to Belfast?.”
It was her turn to be confused. I smiled and grimaced at the same time.
“Now if only that grave did contain my bitch of an ex-wife I could start on the pain front but unfortunately both she and my ungrateful progeny are very much still alive.”
I turned and headed back through the gate into the car-park of the Sweetpea Cafe.
“I’d wash your hands if I were you” I shouted back “I’d just nipped behind the hedge to take a piss”.
I call them the Mourne Misfits, the members of the writers club my sister holds every Wednesday morning in the sun room of the Sweetpea Cafe. Most of these individuals I’ve ferried about over the last four months in my taxi. And slowly and in some cases unwillingly I’ve got to know their quirks, their hates and desires.
This morning was the first time I had a chance to meet the Reverend face to face and oh what a face. A face like that would almost make you feel like saying goodbye to being a Taig and jumping ship to the other side. If while at boarding school I’d been chased around the dorm by such a creature rather than by a grumpy whisky soaked middle aged priest with a hard-on I might have had a totally different attitude to Religion.
My sister tells me that before joining the clergy the Reverend spent a lot of her time abroad raising money for charitable foundations. She probably knows a thing or two about the ways of the world, so it must have pissed her off no end to wind up here. It seems she has finished working on the first draft of her experiences working within politics to raise money. Doesn’t sound the most interesting of books but I must remember to look up some politics on Wikipedia just in case we end up in conversation. I know from the way she looked at me as I walked away earlier that I caught her interest. There was definitely a flicker of something in the air. Like all men I can always tell. With a little effort on my behalf I could have her.
Sorry I’m drifting again, where was I, Yes the rest of the Misfits.
Well we can start with Amelia, Amelia to her friends, Ms Applegate to me and the other non-artisans. Her life is one of rainbows, romance and cute kittens. So would mine if I was popping as many antidepressants as she is. She uses them like tic-tacs. Every week she brings a gift for each member of the group, something daft, like a sycamore leaf with her name embroidered upon it. A few months ago her GP tried to reduce her Citalopram. That was when she went through her Tracey Emin phase. That week everyone enjoyed their coffees and chocolate brownie or scone topped of with a blood soaked tampon for which they had to express artistic delight for fear they would soon find dear Amelia hanging from nearby oak tree and be deigned responsible. A few frantic calls to her GP soon had the rainbows back. They all know that deep down there is something broken, the bright colours just numb it.
Now Kathleen Brody, everyone loves Kathleen, she’s the mother we all wished we had as children. Unfortunately life has not been kind to her. She was married to Sean and had a daughter called Kate. Kate died in a car accident two years ago, at the age of thirty-two. For Kathleen it left a massive chasm in her life. Kathleen and Kate had always loved shopping together, every Thursday they would drive to Newry, have lunch and spend the afternoon looking for a bargain. When Kate died Kathleen kept up the tradition, every Thursday she would make the trip and every Thursday she would place a new item of clothing in Kate’s wardrobe or a new knick-knack on her dressing table. Sean just looked on silently like all good strong silent men and just two weeks after Kate’s first anniversary he died at home of a coronary. With her living expenses slashed Kathleen took to shoplifting. At the beginning she was caught a few times, but on hearing her story no-one pressed charges. Now, each week she brings a gift for the other members of the group, no one asks where they come from. I drop her home after each meeting I refuse to take payment but she always hands me a gift, in fact I’ve six of the same damned Daniel O’Donnell CD’s. I hate Daniel O’Donnell but I love Kathleen. The writers group is Kathleen’s social therapy group. There she works on her book “Shopping with my Daughter”. It’ll be something to remind her of the past when the memories start to fail over the coming years.
Next we come to Billy Boy, William Lewis. He hates anyone calling him anything but William, so Billy Boy it is then. There is something not quite right about him. He’s not a man of the world like me. He’s an academic, a University Research Fellow as he is keen to point out. He knows nothing about football, darts or snooker so he must be queer. I told him that to his face once but he told me he was happily married with four children. Aha I said, No man can be happily married with four children so it must be a sham. I’m sure that the constant arguments he picks with me are down to repressed homosexuality on his part. I know he fancies me, but even if was to shave of his beard and shave his back I’m not sure if I’d be able to go the whole way. I’d have to be pretty desperate and sure I’ve just turned fifty. Billy constantly points out that he is already a published author, his research having appeared in numerous journals over the years. He now wishes to bring his knowledge to the wider public. Bring his field of science to us lesser mortals, hence his work on what he hopes to be the Dummies Guide to Scatology or as I always remind him the little brown book of shite.
As I’ve said before my sister Mary runs the writing club. It is the only escape she has from our famous mother, Maria McFarland, the writer, author or some 100+ trashy novels and Barbara Cartland lookalike if Barbara wore drag and swore a lot. Mary is her private secretary or something like that. Being the eldest I knew to jump the nest quickly. Mum was always going to be a handful especially after Dad made his final escape by throwing himself in the Canal. With him gone I thought mum would really have hit the bottle, but within a year she had a publisher and was churning out those blasted novels. She made a fortune. Mary looked after mum and her writing and I managed to convince mum to let me look after her money. I put it into property. That’s why I’m now driving my cousin’s taxi and living above a chip shop. But it is only temporary. As a kid Mary always said she wanted to travel the world and write, write about anything really, just not the crap mum writes about. At the moment she just takes the shit mum throws at her, keeps her from sobering up and prays to a God we don’t believe in for a spot of renal failure for a dearly beloved.
Today the dearly beloved, our darling mother is getting presented with an award by her publishers and is due to sign a contract for a further ten novels that might just dig us out of the shit. Sis, managed to wangle a table for six in the Europa for this afternoon’s ceremony. I’m designated driver and the others hope that somehow amongst all the literary types up there someone will recognise an uncut diamond amongst the groups scribblings. So I’ve five minutes to get the nutjobs in the car, stick on some Daniel to keep them placid, get them to the Europa in one piece and get them home. Wee Buns.