The Crack Den

I’m in Cork, visiting my parents. When one of us visits, my mother always has the same jobs for us. The classic one is putting photos from her camera onto her computer, and then going through them with her one-by-tedious-one and picking ones to be printed. That job is one that my sister gets more often than me.

The job I always get is checking house prices. There was a little house that she’d passed in Dripsey and it was for sale and she was dying to know the price. I searched for it online and couldn’t find it. So I widened my search to all of county Cork, and was silly enough to show my mother the results. There was a house in Glanworth for €25,000. €25,000 is cheap. If I really wanted to, I could afford €25,000. But I don’t want to buy a house. And I don’t want to live in Glanworth.

However, my mother was excited and we decided to go and see it on Thursday morning. Glanworth is about 45 minutes away. My dad drove, even though he had no time for the silliness of going to view a house that you weren’t going to buy. He sat in the car while my mother and I went to view the house.

The house was a bungalow. It looked nice and solid, though the roof was corrugated iron and beginning to rust. When my mother rang the estate agent, he said that we could get inside if we opened the gate at the side and went round the back. The gate was rusty and jammed a little, but after a bit of pushing and pulling I got it open and we ventured round the back of the house.

Two of the house’s back windows were broken. Weeds from the garden were growing into what had been the kitchen sink. We moved a plastic gutter pipe and opened the back door. It was a big house, well proportioned with lots of space – two big bedrooms, a huge living room, a bathroom, a decent kitchen, even a utility room. But it was terrifying.

The house clearly hadn’t been lived in for at least ten years, and probably more like twenty. Besides the broken back windows, the floors were bare concrete, some of the walls were rotting and bits were missing from the ceilings. But what was spooky was the fact that it had clearly been lived in since its owner stopped living in it. There were recent food wrappings lying around – a polystyrene box that looked like it had housed curry chips and an empty bag of Meanies, as well as quite a few empty beer cans and a Lilt bottle. Even though the paint had peeled off the walls, there were posters up from recent newspapers. There was a massive teddy bear hanging from one mouldy wall, like some kind of awful Chernobyl documentary. The bathroom door had “Toilet” scrawled on it in huge blue letters, as if this was a guest house of some sort and there was writing on lots of the walls. One wall said “I love my dad” and another had some joke about Durex that I didn’t look at closely because I didn’t want to have to explain it to my mother. There were a few piles of rags and blankets on the floor.

What awfulness was this? It felt like The Wire. Like we had somehow got stranded in the Projects of Baltimore and had ended up in some kind of apocalyptic crack den. I half expected a sleeping junkie to emerge from one of the piles of rags, or to bump into a naked New Age Hippie in the hallway. My mother was inspecting the place a lot more confidently than me. We got out of there after five minutes. Five minutes that felt like ten years. We sat back in the car and my mother rang the estate agent to tell him that we wouldn’t be going for it.

*****

When I was leaving Cork to go back to my country cottage yesterday morning, I called round to my brother to say goodbye to my little nieces and nephews. They asked why I had to go so early, demanding that I stay longer, and I said I wanted to drive in the daylight just in case I broke down. My older niece asked if I broke down in Ballincollig would I have to stay longer.

Out of the mouths of babes…

I was about three minutes away from the house when the car stopped. It just stopped. And wouldn’t go again. I was driving around a busy roundabout at the time, not the ideal place to sit helplessly and curse the gods. My dad rang the AA, who came, looked, and towed my car to a garage, a garage that wouldn’t open again until Monday morning.

So I’m staying the weekend at home and praying that I get to Longford tomorrow evening so that I can go to work in Dublin on Tuesday. According to my younger niece, “Uncle Connor’s car fell down so now the builders have to look at it.” I hope the builders can help it get back up again. I really do.

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