We went down every New Year's Eve. I tried my hardest to make a tradition of the trip because White Mills was one of those places where I always seemed to be happy. I was happy because it was a pub, it was never too loud and it had a pool table. There was also a brief period where I was a massive fucking celebrity due to my soap opera stardom. Oh how I laboured under the terrible weight of fame for that one weekend a year. "Greatest Pub in the World!" I would loudly to proclaim to any new person that I was trying to drag down with me. And it was. Olive and Jimmy would be there to meet us. Jimmy already aggressively chalking up his cue, in vain, as Olive would have prepared mountains of delicious, proper homemade food for the self-starved actors and their mates. Here are three chickens, every vegetable Carlow has to offer and a potato Alp. Eat up and you can have nfinite toasties for dessert. She wouldn't say much, would Olive, and when she spoke it was in the softest of tones and always with concern. Olive was concerned about everyone. Particularly her boys, but everyone else too. One year, Jan, despite being nothing if not languid, managed to smack her head with no little violence on a low hanging protrusion that a drunken body would face on the way from the bedrooms to the pub. Repeatedly. Every time, in fact, that she went up or down the stairs. The next year Olive had a sign up when we arrived. "Mind your head, Jan!" I think it might have had a smiley face.
I would invariably get very, very drunk. It was a pub! It was New Year's! Bed was very close! On one occasion however, it was not quite as close as I had imagined. We played pool till four or five. I drank all the Guinness and quite a number of gins and tonic. Finally we threw in the towel and headed on up the stairs. Jan bashed her head and then walked off to the bathroom. Or somewhere. I went to the guest room and got into bed.
"I think you're in the wrong room, Gimme."
"No, I don't think so."
"Really, Gimme, I think you are."
The debate raged for some time and I believe it took a particularly loud snore from Jimmy's side of the bed to convince me of my error. I got a pretty hard time of it the next morning from just about everyone in the county, though not from Olive who contented herself with a little gentle ribbing. Gentle Olive. Caring Olive.
Pancreatic cancer. It was quick. Shockingly quick. I got the text message in the checkout line in Super Valu about an hour ago but I waited till I got home to call him back. Waited till I got home, had eaten something. Had a cigarette. That feels like a betrayal now. He didn't pick up. I haven't talked to him yet. I wish he'd call me back.