The toaster was on go-slow at breakfast this morning in the Breaffy House Hotel, Castlebar,
I took my anaemic slices, with some real butter and apricot jam, back to the family table and looked after myself. On the way I almost walked into a big, muscular chap with dreadlocks. He came bounding into the nearly empty breakfast room with a 'Here I am, yes, it's me, I shall select my own table' demeanour. Good for him.
The family joined together at our table from their various hunter gatherer ventures and began to eat silently. They took turns to look at me and then around the room. All very odd, as it's usually twenty questions from my ten year-old daughter or a spontaneous quiz from my seven year-old lad.
After a while my daughter said 'Will you tell him, Mum? Or shall I?'
What could it be? Had I forgotten to put on my trousers (again)? Had they sold some copies of Peril or The Baptist to the underpaid continental staff?
'You'll have to promise not to do anything about it,' my lady wife said.
I knew immediately that she had experienced a confrontation and my chivalrous tendencies, always resulting in disaster, were being manipulated. Any man who insults my wife can expect to feel the full fury of my chin on his fist. It always ends badly and the blood doesn't come off my shirt.
'Of course,' I said, slyly crossing my fingers under my toast.
'Well, we had an encounter at the toaster.'
'He had flat white hair,' my son said.
I tried to follow the gaze of my son who was attempting to hint at the location of the provocateur. Unfortunately my son has a squint when not wearing glasses so there were several suspects. I turned round and glared at them all. One white haired man stared back angrily. He must be the one, I thought. I'll kick his stick away.
My daughter began to chatter. 'He stole my toast. He was upset because it took two goes to get it to toast properly. Then he took my toast, argues with Mum and told her to stop being rude and shut up!'
I looked at my wife and she nodded.
'I walked away,' she said. 'He was English,' she added by way of explanation.
She's Irish, I'm English, eight hundred years of oppression and all that.
'He had a round face,' my son said.
I looked round the room again. Perhaps if I made every man say 'castle' then I could identify the offender and mash his round face into his full Irish breakfast (FYI fried egg, baked beans, black pudding, white pudding, scrambled egg, potatoes, tomatoes, sausages, bacon rashers and toast).
'Too late, he's gone,' she said.
I didn't believe her and the rest of the meal was spent scowling at the remaining breakfasters and muttering revenge under my breath. I would ankle-tap the fella at the top of the stairs and then walk away, unseen. I would confront him face-to-face and demand an apology, treating his first invasion of my one metre personal space as an assault and then unleash Ruby the Kick Boxer (I would need to do half an hour stretching first).
To cool off we all went for a swim. Once in the pool, I isolated the kids and interrogated them, up close.
'He had black wiry hair and a brown face,' said my son.
Flat white hair and a round face. I didn't have my hearing aids in and had misheard at the breakfast table. The self-proclaiming egomaniac who almost made me drop my soggy toast. He was a big, muscled guy.
Over a glass of wine this evening my wife revealed more. The guy had been very aggressive to her and the kids, and she'd said she would tell her husband (that would be me, defender of her honour).
'And I'll take your husband out front and beat him up,' he had said.
Her discretion was the better part of my valour. Ankle-tap would have been the weapon of choice, or perhaps a bitch slap with an apricot jam smeared slice of toast.
I'll get him next time, when he least expects it. Ninja Ruby.