R is for Redundant Encounters (Irish Edition)

On the phone 

Mother – ……………And then she died.

Me – Ok.

Mother – It’s very sad.

Me – Right

Mother – Isn’t it. Isn’t it very sad?

Me – Yes. It’s very sad. I would be slightly more moved if I had ever heard of this person before.

Mother – Oh she was great friend. She was always around. I often talked about her.


Many years ago, my mother would only call me when someone died. Every week or 10 days I would get the local obituary through the phone line and if I was lucky a good 5 or 6 seconds to update her on my life.


Mother – ……. but anyway I made sandwiches and everyone said they were lovely.


The only thing more enjoyable than a good funeral is going to a funeral armed with sandwiches. This was not a philosophy my mother invented. It’s a common trait of all Irish mammies, they just absolutely love a good funeral and regardless of who it is that has died or how and why they died, all can be forgotten about over a nice sandwich. But there is a dark side to this routine. Like most Irish people there is a competitive nature about them.

Mother – ……. ham wasn’t fresh. I don’t know what she was doing, I wouldn’t have shown up with sandwiches like that.

Me – I see.


Generally I listen for about a minute before completely turning off and doing something different. On one occasion, Mother was regaling me with a tail of yet another tragic funeral which she saved by providing ham, while I was getting off the bus. I put the phone in my pocket, walked the ten minutes home, stopped to by a sandwich ( ironic ) and she was still talking about the funeral. In conclusion, Irish people love funerals. Even I kind of like them.

The redundant encounter part should probably be more accuracy titled – Redundant Conversations or Redundant Arguments … but they are still encounters none the less. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.


In August 2011……

Mother – Are you OK?

Me – I’ve moved to Barcelona

Mother – What? Are you not in London?

Me –  No. I’ve moved permanently to Barcelona.

Mother – Have you enough towels?

Me – Yes. I packed a towel.


2 weeks ago


Brother – I’m having a shower.


In our house, we have to ask to have a shower, we can’t simply just walk in. This will be explained later.


Mother – Don’t use the towels. I have them folded.


Exit brother.

Brother is a bit of a rebel. Notice he broke the rules by announcing rather than asking if he could shower. A mortal sin. You see, we need to ask because there is a cosmic balance at play. Home isn’t a hotel. This is a philosophy we a reminded about constantly. Also a philosophy that Mother didn’t invent.

Mother – Do you pay for the water?

Me – No one pays for water Mam. It’s free. 

Mother – Did you pay for the shampoo?

Me –  Yes. It’s mine.

Mother –Exactly. You don’t pay for the water and you don’t pay for the shampoo. You can have a shower but be quick. And don’t use a good towel.


Now, this is philosophy, that Mother has invented……. Towel categorization. Mother has more towel categories than Microsoft Word has fonts. Towels need to be respected. They are organized, folded, ironed and stored. The categories of towels are based on a complex system unknown to anyone. There are divided based on color, age, fabric and size.

The really good towels are fluffy and white and MUST NEVER BE USED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. They are storage towels only. After about a year, the packaging is removed and after about another year, they move from New Towels to Guest Towels. The towel categories are as follows.

New Towels – –  Never to be used by anyone ever, on pain of death

Guest Towels – – Not to be used by guests and only to be used by Mother.

Secondary Towels – – To be used by all guests and on occasion by people living in the house ( subject to Mother’s approval) –

Standard towels –  – 4 to 5 year old towels suitable for every day use.

Ensuite towels –  – Only to be used in the shower ensuite and never to be used in the bathroom as they don’t compliment the tiles, curtains or toilet seat.

Basic Towels – – A soft form of sandpaper, these ancient towels have been here since the dawn of time. If you are out of favor with Mother – these will be the only towels you will be permitted to use. A note of caution – – it may be better to just dry yourself naturally and risk serious flu than to use these weapons.

In total there are about 55 towels in the house.

Early 2007 …….when I was 17. ….. And working in Dublin.

Me – Good Afternoon A.I.G insurance, Shane speaking, how can I help you?

Mother -Did you leave the green towel on the floor?

Me – Excuse…… What ?

Mother – Thrown there on the floor. Is it for me to pick up? I’m not your slave.

Me – Oh my God, you psycho, get off the phone.

Mother – It will be there when you come back ,


I hang up the phone

Boss – I hope that was a personal call.

Me – It was my mother.

Boss – You talk to you mother like that?

Me – Yeah. Do you?


It would take me most of my adult life to figure out that other people don’t roar obscenities at their parents every couple of days. I do…..

One Week ago…

Mother – Where has the new towel gone?


A week or so ago, we had a very serious towel incident which prompted this blog post.
This would be the climax of the post where the tension really gets going. Like that part in Titanic where everyone realizes the ship is sinking ( only this is way more dramatic) Someone had actually used a new towel.



Me – I did. I just grabbed the first one I saw.

Mother – They are my new towels?

Me – And.

Mother – They are not to be used.

Me – I’m writing a blog post about you. This is so stupid.

Mother – Don’t you threaten me.

Me – This is ridiculous. Your logic is ridiculous. It’s a towel.

Mother – These are my towels, use an old one.

Me – It is a piece of fabric. They don’t age. They are not people.

Mother – I’ve no nice ones now for the guests.

Me – There are ….. .1 …2……3……………..16. There are 16 towels here. And you more stored in that cupboard in the bathroom that no one is allowed to open.


The towel cupboard in the ensuite shower room is one of the most important pieces of furniture in the whole house. You can look at it but you can’t open it. It contains most of the new towels.

Mother – These ones are soft. They are new.


Mother – If you want a towel you can buy your own.

Me – Can I please introduce you to all of my friends?

Mother – What?

Me – People think I make you up. No one actually believes that someone could be this ridiculous over a  towel.

Mother – It’s not you that does the washing Shane. I have guests coming very soon and I need to get ready. I have 4 beds to make. Washing, ironing, hanging out the clothes.

Me – Mam, no one irons towels. I will help you with the washing, but maybe we could all use all the towels and they would last just as long …if you didn’t iron them.

Mother – There is just so much washing, I’ll never do all of it.


5 mins later

Brother – Mam did you take all the bedsheets off my bed.

Mother – Yes.

Brother – I just put them on two days ago. Why did you take them off again?

Mother – They needed it.

Brother – They didn’t.


Talking about washing, clothes, bedsheets, ironing and towels forms about 80% of the dialogue between everyone in our house. The other 20% is mostly made up of talking about tea. The washing has recently increased as I put the house on Airbnb and Mam and Dad have started to accept guests from all over the world.

If you have ever used Airbnb then you know that reviews and feedback from guests are so important. The reviews for my parents are insane. Everyone gives them 5 stars. I’ve been doing it for years in Barcelona  and never got 5 stars, all the time. Everyone loves them. 

“Best airbnb experience ever.”

“Nicest, most welcoming people I have ever met.”

“Beautiful home, delicious breakfast,”

“I felt like part of the family.”


One after the other, like clockwork, everyone absolutely loves staying here, so maybe there is some method to the madness and maybe it’s me that is insane. But every now and then, I get some redundant phone calls which reminds me that …. I’m definitely the sane one.

One Sunday in June – at 7.30am.

Mother – Shane.

Me – Yes

Mother – It’s your mother.

Me – I know. What.

Mother -I have a question about this thing, it’s not. Its just not letting me do it. It’s awful.

Me – Do what? Explain.

Mother – Well, there’s a woman her who sent me a message on Airbnb.

Me – Ok

Mother – She’s 46, a teacher. The picture is of her and her husband and daughter. Well, I think that’s them. I’m not sure. I didnt ask… She’s got a red hat…

Me – What?

Mother – She wants to stay for 4 days

Me – And ?

Mother – Get this, she says… There are 4 families not a family of 4. That’s 4 different families. Sure that could be 20 people. I don’t know how many people that is.

Me – Ok. What is the problem.

Mother – I can’t fit 20 people in here. Where will they go? It says 4 people, I can host 4 people. Not 4 families. She obviously can’t read.

Me – Ok

Mother -What will I do? I’m not letting them all stay here. Does she think I live in a palace. She mustn’t have the read the advert properly. They need a hotel, a big hotel, sure no B&B can fit that many people.

Me – Ok.

Mother – What will I do?  I’m stressed out. I don’t want them to come.

Me – Scroll down the page.

Mother -What?

Me – Move the bar down, go to the bottom of the page.

Mother – Ok, hang on .


This takes an inexplicably long time


Mother – Ok. Yeah. I have it.

Me – Do you see a massive red button?

Mother – Yes.

Me – What does it say ?

Mother – Decline this booking.

Me – Goodbye Mum.

Mid June

Me – Hello

Mother – Hi Shane

Me – Hey.

Mother – It’s Mam.

Me – Is it? Is it really? I can’t believe it. What’s wrong

Mother – Nothing is wrong.

Me – Yes it is. Do you have an airbnb problem?

Mother -No. I just rang to see how you are?

Me – I’m fine.

Mother – Ok. Lovely.

Me – Are you OK?

Mother – Well, I got this message on Airbnb and I don’t know what do to about it.


I know what your thinking and it’s true. There are times when I think it must be the worst written dialogue ever. But this actually happens. No degree of humor whatsoever. She has literally erased the previous sentence from her mind and gets right into the problem.

Me – Ok.

Mother – Dear Host, We saw your advert….

Me – Don’t read the whole bloody thing to me. What’s the problem?

Mother – He has a cat. What the hell am I going to do with a cat.

Me – I thought we accept animals.

Mother – We do not. I don’t animals .

Me – Oh Mam, sorry that’s my fault. When I was making the advert, I selected that we accept animals.

Mother -Why did you that. That ridiculous. How on Earth could we possibly accept peoples animals? Where would they go. What would I do with their animals?


Really resisting to point out that we live on a farm and there is tonnes of space. But not wanting to throw on the fire, I just left it.

Me – Ok. Well you can just decline the booking.

Mother – How do I do that?

Me – I told you this like three days ago.

Mother – Yeah, but there is no red button now.

Me – Is the a green one?

Mother – No, there’s nothing.

Me – Ok, so he just messaged you and asked if he can come with his cat.

Mother – Yes, that’s what I told you.

Me – Then just write back and say no.

Mother -OK.

Me – Did you really need to call and ask me that? I’m at work.

Mother – I’m sorry. But you will have to remove that from the advert. We don’t accept animals. You need to remove that.

Me – Yes, but you didn’t know that when you rang me. Your original reason for calling me was pointless. If someone messages and says can I bring my giraffe, just say no. If someone says, I’m coming with 45 people is it OK, just say no. If someone says, I want to use your home as a base camp for all my terrorist activities, just reply and politely say no. You don’t need to call me.

Mother – Imagine if his cat died. God, that would awful. It could run away, the dog could eat it. All kinds of stuff could happen. Very bad. Don’t put things like that on the advert without telling me. God. We could have been in real trouble.

Me – Alternatively, I could just take the advert down and you could make your own one.

Mother -….No…Thank you. I love you. Right so I’ll just say no to this.

Me – Yes. Do that.


3 days later

Me – Hello,

Mother – So John arrived with his cat. Its a gorgeous cat, ginger.

Me – WHAT ? But you said….

Mother -They arrived about two hours later than normal. Wife is lovely, school teacher, 47, no children, never wanted any, from Kentucky, 2nd time in Ireland, came here in the 80’s. Lovely people. His wife is beautiful, I gave her a new towel.


I hang up the phone. And go for a smoke.

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