Ordinary people

Gearoid was already sitting at the table. He must’ve slipped in while the kettle was declaring its readiness. Upright, armed with an A4 folder, he assumes the role of dispenser of closed questions that preempt all answers. A conversational tic that keeps the mood light and away from awkward cul-de-sacs until he gets to the roundabout of discussion. This evening being no different.

“You’re needing a holiday by the looks of ya. You’ll be glad to get it”.

Couldn’t argue with that.

Daithi followed, pebbled dashed in freckles he’d picked up on a knock-down price holiday to Turkey. He and the family stayed within expertise-assuming distance of an ISIS controlled peninsula where it wouldn’t be unusual to see a few Kalashnikovs touted above heads of youngsters with little idea what they’re using them for. Everyone laughed the laugh that’s casual shorthand between folk reared within a square mile of where they sit on the first Wednesday of enough months for them to have added and shed layers of coats beneath signs bearing LOLs of a different meaning to the modern day, and modern-day thinkers executed back in the last century. He went on to explain the geographical nuances of the region, oozing the ease, softer enunciation and ten-year-younger glow of a man who had the luck to be able to brandish a pen above his head in lecture halls. Feeling it heavier at times than the weapons held by his neighbours round the table. He wasn’t altogether sure what he was aiming his pen at. Wisdom can’t be learned, it can only be lived. And even then…

Gary and Carole dismissed the offer of tea with a synchronised stretch of their palms as they apologised for being late. That traffic’s a killer. The Council is useless. Public services are a joke round here. So many ordinary people of the North so often talk about how they have more that unites than separates them. The everyday exchanges between these chequered folk prove it but they rarely matter to anyone unconcerned with everyday matters round here.

A quick re-cap then straight to the critical question: How did you get on since? One of those catch-all questions equally applicable to the mundane and the malevolent. An open question that works at the speed of an answer that can’t be preempted. With everyday matters, one can never be sure.

Carole broke off the nap her chin was enjoying on her thumbs. Concentrating on wiping away invisible crumbs from the table, she felt confident her people would have no problem working together with everyone else’s people. She only had time to speak to half of hers, and the half she spoke to couldn’t envisage any arguments against it from the other half.

“There’s nothing to lose at this stage”, she wistfully shrugged working the last stubborn non-stain.

How did everyone else get on?

“If it means us all having a chance at getting the money, then we’d have no problem with it either”. A more tempered show of enthusiasm from an unsubtle Gearoid; softening his own bluntness with a follow-up insistence that it makes sense, before proceeding to expose the delicacy of common sense by insisting everyone was dancing round it.

Daithi kept his head down throughout the exchange in earnest contemplation. His affirmative nod was out before his words. All this single identity work, he bellowed. How many more years of it can they really get out of it? If each community hasn’t managed to get on with itself by now then it’s never going to happen. And the arrogance of us to think we’re the only two communities out there. There’s more than us! His hands raised aloft in lieu of a Chrissake he hadn’t the stomach to add. Either way, his people had no problem. Buiochas le Dia, he thought to himself. Probably.

Shuffling awkwardly in her seat, Carole wondered aloud about that other crowd.

“What about them?”, arch-eye-browed Gearoid in rhetorical unease hoping everyone would quickly move on from Carole’s political first cousins, so to speak.

Layers of imaginary dust were wiped from the table before everyone conceded the need to bring them on board; to give them the opportunity to prove everybody right by giving them first flat refusal to sign up. Besides, what’s a few years of cold shoulders between groups essentially united under the one Union Jack when you think about it? But isn’t that the problem – thinking about it. No-one thinks about it too loudly.

The thirty seconds of silence were meant as a resigned approval of what must happen.

“See how you get on then”

An order to point the diplomacy shuttle in a sideways direction.

As if by some afterthought that too much had been conceded, Daithi issued a two-week deadline till the next gathering. Carole politely asked if putting it back half an hour would be better. The traffic and all. Gary echoed her request, claiming it would give him time for a shower after coming in from a day’s work covered in paint, while Gearoid cautioned against inviting the flies in next time. The annoying wee b*stards, he added before taking his leave and forgetting to bring his furtive glance with him as he emerged from the building.

Ordinary people; doing everyday things.

4 thoughts on “Ordinary people

  1. And so another pointless meeting ticks its box! There’s a saying near these parts for why things can’t change, it’s because “it’s aye been” – always been this way.

      • Bet they had more animated conversations about the drop in quality of the custard creams.

      • I don’t think so, or I would’ve joined in. It’s hard to believe in a better place; but it’s generally not the ordinary folk contending with busy lives trying to do their bit that annoys me most. It’s the desertion of any leadership and the burden those doing the deserting have put on them.

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