I’m a martyr for oysters. When I can get them. Which isn’t often. Unless I’m in the capital. Which is where I was last week. I am strolling down Grafton Street recovering from the price of shirts & ties in Brown Thomas - €225 for a Canali shirt and a mere €100 for the tie! €325 for a shirt & tie! Outrageous! For €325 I’d expect a three-piece suit, a pair of shoes, and a shirt and tie thrown in for good measure. Plus, a packet of Maltesers and a Scratch Card (and why not?) And so, I pop over to Marks & Sparks whose prices are more comforting, accommodating and affordable. As I slipped out the side door of M&S into Duke Street I pretty much come face to face with the lunchtime menu outside Davy Byrne’s pub; and what’s the first thing I see? Oysters. Say no more. Didn’t matter if they served deep-fried elastic bands after that – I was hooked. Hook, line and sinker hooked!
Oysters downed, I am now tucking into some tiger prawns in filo pastry (I’m definitely in a fishy mood) when two, quite elderly ladies enter, survey the seating availability and decide to sit down beside me. Spring chickens they are not. Somewhere between seventy and eternity I would hazard a guess. There’s a fragility, a gentleness, a genteelness even about them which doesn’t, however, prevent them from ordering a large glass of Chardonnay each, a burger and chips and the house special (something smothered in cheese it transpires) To be honest I am rather intrigued by the presence of these two elderly ladies in Davy Byrne’s; the Westbury, across the road, I imagined, might be more their style. And so, I am all ears. Then: ‘Do you miss Smokey, May?’ says one in a soft, true-blue, Dublin accent. ‘Day and night, Maureen. Day and night. The house is not the same without him’. ‘Sure he was great company for you, May’. ‘Great company, Maureen. Great company’. ‘How old did you say he was, May?’ ‘Fourteen. A great age. He just curled up in the basket and died’. ‘Peaceful, May, peaceful.’ ‘Oh, a happy death, Maureen, a happy death. The vet said he died in his sleep. Old age’, he said’ ‘Poor old Smokey.’ ‘I rang that number you gave me, Maureen, about taking a kitten but they told me I’d have to keep it indoors for four weeks to house train it. FOUR WEEKS, Maureen!’ ‘Sure you couldn’t be doing that at your age, May. And Smokey was so good’.
And that’s when I decided to introduce myself. ‘Excuse me ladies’, I said, ‘but I’m a cat’. May, not quite getting the reference, looked at me with a mixture of suspicion and alarm, not knowing whether I was a lunatic or a prankster (there being no shortage of both in the Capital) ‘I’m from Kilkenny’. I explain, ‘I’m a Kilkenny cat.’ May and Maureen, relieved that I wasn’t off my head on some illegal substance, give a little chuckle. ‘Would ye mind’, I asked, ‘if I talked to you briefly about cats?’ And that’s when I told them of the recent death of my feral kitten and we became the best of friends over a chit-chat about cats.
May’s husband it transpired has Alzheimer’s while Maureen’s hubby passed away some years back. Dubs the two of them, Maureen’s man was from Mayo while May’s husband was from Kerry. ‘The car drove its own way to Dingle’, May smiled. ‘We had some great times there.’ Maureen spoke lovingly of fishing on the Moy every summer with her husband. ‘I was a great fisherwoman’, she announced and I bred Alsatians as well.’ ‘How in God’s name did you get into Alsatians?’ I wondered. Maureen scanned the memory for a while but drew a blank. ‘And do ye come here often?’ I jokingly asked. ‘Since we worked in Appleby’s, where Maureen and myself met’, May informed me. ‘Appleby’s?’ I ask. ‘The jewelers’, May says, amazed at my ignorance. Sure they all knew me in here.’
And then their food arrived. And what, up to then, had been a boring day turned into a most enjoyable and engaging experience with two lovely ladies from Dublin. I bade Maureen and May adieu, thanked them for the chat and looked after their glasses of wine. ‘You’re very kind’, May said, ‘and sorry to hear about your kitten.’ ‘Sorry to hear about Smokey’, I replied as I gave her a little, gentle, genteel hug.