Bernie used to call here every couple of weeks.

Herself employed her to do the hard housework, and give the house a “top to tail”.

Bernie was a very nice woman. She was a hard worker, and very honest. She loved coming here as she said we were very nice people. She would come and spend a couple of hours flying around the house sweeping and mopping and scrubbing.

I liked Bernie, but she had a very unsettling effect on me. You see, she came from a parallel universe. And I could never quite catch up with what was going on in her world.

When she arrived in our house, the first thing she would do is grab our copy of the local newspaper. She loved that, because her son was always in it. She would find the article where it described how he had jumped bail on his latest charge, or was remanded yet again for another hearing, and she would glow with pride. She was very proud of her son, and it never seemed to occur to her that being a petty criminal was something unusual. He was in the papers every week, and that was enough for her.

Once she asked for a few weeks payments in advance. She was very apologetic about it.

“We need to replace the back door. The police kicked it in again last night” was her reason.

We gave her the money because we trusted her. As I say, she was very honest.

The next time she came, she was wearing a new pair of cowboy boots that she was very proud of. She apologised to Herself, but explained that they had decided not to replace the back door as the police would only kick it down again.

She loved us, and she loved our house, but she said she couldn’t ever live somewhere like this.

“It’s too quiet” says she. “I could never sleep with that quiet. I’d miss the sound of breaking glass.”

We never quite worked out what she meant by that.

Another matter of pride to her was the number of illegitimate children her sons had sired. Again, this was part of her world. She announced proudly one day that a son’s girlfriend was expecting again.

“But we don’t know who the father is.” says she, as if this kind of thing happens every day.

The spark went out of Bernie one day. She didn’t ask to see the paper. It transpired that the judge had finally had enough of the son, and had sent him down for seven years for trying to rob the local chemist with a water pistol.

It didn’t seem to bother her that her son was now in prison.

But it would be years before she saw his name in the paper again.

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Fame is the thing — 18 Comments

  1. Parallel universe indeed.

    I can understand parents being proud and all but to be proud of something like that?

    It is sad, but perhaps that is what she was resigned to. Knowing that is the only way in which her son would ever be noted.

    Examples like it in every town in Ireland as well.

  2. But the strange thing was that it wasn’t sad. Not for her anyway. She just lived in a surreal world where crime, drugs and fighting were perfectly normal. She didn’t seem to realise that the rest of us lived different lives.

  3. Grandad,

    I knew a school principal in the North dealing with junior versions of Bernie’s son. He was depressed that half-brothers and sisters would end up having children with each other.

  4. Just her way of dealing with his failings I think. He is her son and she would have hoped for great things for him but as they never materialised she maybe just made a substitution.

    You see and read about it all the time. Especially the immortal quote: “Sure, he’s a good boy deep down. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

  5. She was very happy with her life. She was very proud of her family. I don’t think she had any ambitions as such.

    She was quite religious and loved Pope John Paul because he was born in Knock!

  6. 🙂 Brilliant! Thats is the funniest that that I have heard in a long time.

    She sounds like a breath of fresh air. Pity about her son.

  7. Grandad you say Bernie lived in a surreal world….

    Just like Bertie & Co. and sure they are in the papers everyday.

    So why would she see any difference?

  8. Ian, I never met the son. But I grew quite fond of him. He had this endearing quality that everything he did, he did in an arse-wise fashion.

    Who else would walk into a shop where he was well known, and try to hold them up with a water pistol?! Basically he was harmless enough. Just a wee touch of a drug problem.

  9. That is the nail on the head, Grannymar. It reminds me of the old film title – “Where worlds collide” [or some such]

  10. Robert makes a good point. We all want some element of pride in our progeny however misguided. How many people do you know who are incredibly proud of not-so-noteworthy kids. Notoriety is just a little lower on the scale.

    And slightly off topic . . .I had a cleaning lady years ago who used to move things just so I’d know she’d been there. It was soooooo irritating. All the photos would be mushed up and the thing I’d left there so I’d remember where it was – well it was somewhere else. I miss her now!

  11. But she didn’t see him as notorious.

    We really miss her. She was a lovely person, if a bit innocent.

    Mind you, she used to put everything away in the strangest places. It used to take us days to find all the essentials again, like the milk and sugar.

  12. I think it’s a fundamental law of nature that everyone in the world has a different place for things like sugar, which seems utterly insane to anyone else.

  13. That is so true! I remember one day my mother moved the cache of coffee and tea to another press. I almost ransacked the kitchen trying to find out where it was.

    It only lasted 1 jar in the new location before she got fed up with it herself and moved everything back to where it originally was

  14. My mother was an absolute fanatic for everything being ‘in its place’ [including me!!]. Once I moved a knife from one side of a drawer to the other and she accused me of losing it. She claimed she had searched ‘high and low’ for it.

  15. Grandad,

    We had some guys just like Bernie’s son.In fact, when I was a kid we used to say that in our neighborhood you either grew up to be a priest or you got the chair, there was no in between.

  16. Pingback: Head Rambles » Blog Archive » Miracles do happen

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