AIDA AUSTIN: If I was a dog, I would be a collie, old but excited

Howth, 9.30pm, and I am in hotel room 251, on one of three single beds, reading my book, anticipating the arrival of my two younger sisters from Dublin airport.

Now and again, as I imagine them bursting into the room and shattering its cool, corporate calm, a small bubble of excitement rises in my chest, threatening to pop as laughter in my throat.

But, right now, it’s so peaceful in 251. My bed is comfy and my book has the draw of a strong rip-tide, so when my phone rings, I struggle to pull out of it.

It is my youngest sister calling. If she was a dog, she would be a friendly mongrel that never stops wagging its tail. She shouts into her car speaker-phone: “Are you there? Oh my god, you’re there already.”

“She’s there, she’s there,” she says to my middle sister, who’s flown from London and now navigates while my youngest sister drives, “I’m so excited. Are you excited? This is so exciting. Are you getting busy with the fizzy?”

She breaks off. I can hear them both cackling. Middle sister shouts at me: “Hey, lightweight, you going large with a thimble of ginger beer?” To youngest sister she says: “I forgot about her feeble liver — we’d better stop and get more wine.”

“I’m just lying here, reading my book …” I say.

“Oh my god, you are such an ole one,” Youngest sister shouts at me, and then to middle sister: “I’m not stopping to get wine.”

“Why?” middle sister says.

“I can’t parallel park.”

“How can anyone get to 39 and not know how to parallel-park?”

“I live in county Shliiiigo,” youngest sister shouts, affecting a Sligo accent, “it’s easy to get to 39 without being able to parallel-park in county Shliiiiigo. You’ll have to park it …”

“I’m not driving this car,” says middle sister — if she was a dog, she would be a sensible Labrador. “You’re driving with no left-wing mirror, no left indicator and the whole car stinks of piss.”

Younger sister says something about her three-year-old, a car-seat cover, potty-training and a “backward step”.

“The cover must be detachable,” middle sister says. “When we get to the hotel, the first thing you’re doing is taking that bloody cover off — concentrate on the road. You’re going left. Not right. Left, for Christ’s sake, left.”

“Tell me when it’s safe to go,” youngest sister screams. “Oh my god, I can’t do this. Stick your hand out of the window. Roll it down. Is it safe? Am I safe to go?”

“Yes. Now, now. Now.”

The line goes dead. I breathe deeply, before ringing youngest sister’s number.

“Are you ok?” I ask.

“Is there a mini-bar?” middle sister says. “Please tell me there’s a mini-bar.”

“I’m great,” youngest sister shouts, “I did a 16k run yesterday. I’m feeling top.”

“Oh, for god’s sake, don’t tell me you’ve traded your personality in for a pair of running shoes, too?” I say.

“Good one, ole one,” she shouts, “beware of that green-eyed monster.”

“It’s happening all over the country,” I say. “It’s a bloody scourge.”

“You’re so jealous, it’s unreal,” she shouts, “What are you wearing to the drag night? Have you got a tasty dress? Actually, you’re too ole to pull. I, on the other hand, am quite the catch, so will dress down.”

The line goes dead again. I breathe deeply, pick it up when it rings.

“I just had me a vajazzle up in Sliiiigo,” youngest sister shouts.

“Oh, stop being so stupid,” middle sister says.

“That’s so not the done thing, Sligo girl,” I say. “I just had me a piercing in the down-belows.”

“Oh my god, you’re too gruesome for an ole one,” she shouts. “See you later. Just turning into the hotel.”

Ten minutes later, I hear cackling in the hotel corridor.

“Hey, ole one, if there’s a double bed in there, bagsie I have it,” youngest sister shouts.

And if I was a dog right now, I would be a collie, old but excited, paws up against the door.


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