Killoyle Wine and Cheese
A former IRA man seeks to establish himself as a shopowner and asks his old comrades to help finance a wine and cheese shop. Problem is, he recruits the wrong old comrade.
Main characters are Ferdia and Shirley Quain, whose marriage wilts with the regularity of bronchitis in an Irish winter. Things get worse when Ferdia, the retired archivist of the now-disbanded Provisional IRA, seeks funding for his new project: a wine-and-cheese boutique. A former colleague, Crankshaft O'Deane, is enraged. He had always resented Ferdia for having retired from the IRA when it was still a viable force (old motto; "Once in, never out"), and he hates the former IRA command for having disbanded the Cause to which he has devoted his life. He plans, then, to take down both Ferdia and the ex-IRA by planting a giant bomb in a strategic place: the Killoyle police HQ. Plans go awry, but Ferdia, as prime suspect, is forced to flee the country. Meanwhile, his marriage has fallen apart for the tenth time and Shirley is on her way to a temporary job in the States. Funny, that--it's just where Ferdia flees to, hoping to find sanctuary; instead, he learns that both the ex-IRA and his wife have a very long reach.
KILLOYLE WINE & CHEESE
As that hypocritical old Russian Christian-Socialist millionaire-peasant ascetic-boozer-groper-and-father-of-bastards-beyond-the-counting-of-‘em (don’t laugh, your great-granda could’ve been one) Leo N. Tolstoy, serf-Count and author of W&P and Anna K., never said to the missus over crackly plump sausages, black bread of the holy steppes, thick cream from the sleek cows of Yasnaya Polyana, foamy sweet Caucasian kvass, and/or vodka (certainly not in English, anyway):
Oy! All happy marriages are alike, but each unhappy marriage is unhappy in its own way. (Springs onto table, dances the kazachok.) Hey! Hey!
But he might have. And he’d have been right.
Just take the peculiar case at hand, that of Ferdia and Shirley Quain, inhabitants of the faux-Edwardian pebbledash bungalow at No. 15, Cretino Crescent, Killoyle City, in the lush, verdant, nonexistent southeasternmost of Ireland’s 32+ counties. The Quains’ marriage had a tendency to hit the rocks with the regularity of smokers’ bronchitis in an Irish winter , usually as the result of no obvious cause beyond tempers on the simmer for a day or so beforehand, Ferdia’s layabout indolence (now that he was officially retired as Chief Archivist of the Provisional IRA, Northern Command) and Shirley’s time of the month. But once they went off the rails dramatically, even for them, and it took a trip to America, and Interpol, and a sensational court trial to bring them back together again—sort of. Wait till I tell you.
It came to a head for the first time one night in front of the telly (Bao Dai Days on Channel 4, with special guest stars Lee Bum Suk and Nicolette Tedman). All the aforementioned elements necessary for a grand old bust-up were swarming about in the ether when Shirley, who’d been sneaking sneaky little sidelong glances at Ferdia’s great-dinosaur profile, came to the epiphanic realization that her man was a) “a bloody ex-terrorist” b) “a moron” and c) “bone bloody idle.”
Glaring boldly at him now, she summarized her emotions in a terse exhortation.
“Bugger off, you ‘orrible Fenian sod.”
His own indignant retort to this, once he’d jolted himself awake, was:
And when she’d repeated herself,
“Jesus. You’re as bad as a Unionist,” he spluttered.
“Well, I am a Unionist, as it happens. Funny you never asked. Ex-IRA indeed. Silly bastard. Go on, ‘op it.”
Well, that did for it and all, as John Braine, or even one not Braine, or brainy, might have said. But this was the way of it in the marriage of Irish Ferdia Quain (of the Quain clan, long since reduced by circumstances) and English Shirley Soup (of fine old Yorkshire stock).
Ferdia moved out to his cousin Finn’s place, swearing never to return, at least for a good few days.
Or several hours, at least.
“I’ll teach her, so I will.”
In earnest of his seriousness he took his books (23, not counting magazines) with him in his old Rah duffelbag, the one with the Easter lilies on one side, “Poblacht na h-Eireann” on the other; but a week later he moved back in again when Shirl was in less of a wax.
“Sorry, ducks,” she murmured on the phone. “It was my time, you know.”
“Ah sure the hell,” he said, open to anything, even the old game of forgive and forget.
But from the depths of the following month’s monthlies she struck at him again, this time ostensibly on the subject of his hypochondriacal consumption of vitamin tablets and her discovery of a secret cache of four vitamin bottles—containing gelcaps of C, D, E, and a hitherto unknown vitamin named T+, said to be excellent for the gall bladder and the cartilage of the foot area—hidden in the heel of his seldom- (indeed, never-) used Runbucko running shoes, a Christmas gift from his mother-in-law, who’d no use for them, or him.
Shirley held the vitamin bottles high, triumphantly, her eyes glittering.
“What’s this, then?”
“Go on, what the bloody ‘ell is it?”
Ferdia sat up. He’d been dozing: colourful dreams of, for no apparent reason, China, or Japan. Tatami mats, chopsticks, pagoda roofs. (Or possibly Korea, Land of Morning Calm.)
“Oh them. Vitamins, you know, darlin,’ to offset the effects of the fags and the drink and that. Otherwise I’d have to do God knows what.”
It was a red flag to a very angry bovine.
“Oh, you mean like actually get off your arse,” screamed Shirley, “for a start? And take a walk from time to time? Instead of turning into some whinging gaseous old bedridden pill-popping impotent hypochondriac wanker? God, I can’t believe it, I’m the one who has the real job and all you can talk about is that styew-pid wine and cheese shop of yours that’s no nearer reality now than it was six months ago, meanwhile all you do is stagger from sofa to bed and back if you’re not down the pub with your awful IRA chums, God you are a cretin, aren’t you? Cretin cretin cretin. God you look like a gargoyle, did you know that? I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you.”
Ferdia knew it was her time of month again, but even so he reckoned this was a bit over the top.
“Now you listenna me,” he spluttered.
“Go on, ‘op it.”
Later that night he found himself once again, vitamin- and book-heavy duffel bag in hand, at his cousin Finn McCool’s door on the second floor of Lord Thomas Maher Towers, the luxury housing estate on Oxtail Place.
“This time it’s permanent,” he said, glumly.
“Ya never,” said Finn. “Women. Sure they’re a bunch of gacks, so they are. You wait. She’ll come round.”
They entered. Ferd flung himself at the wine rack, stocked by him during his previous sojourn for just such a contingency.
“She’ll come round?” he echoed. “Yes, but will I?” rhetorically inquired he, as the double-jointed fingers of his left hand closed around the neck of a bottle of Chateau-Jaffrey ’98 while with his right he sought the corkscrew.
“Ah yer arse,” commented eloquent Finn.
“Fup,” declared the emergent cork.
* * * *