In honour of Valentine’s Day,  this excerpt from Chapter 30 details the blind date Amy was forced to go on by her Nan (because she’s only mad to get her up the aisle). Amy flatly refuses, until Nan tells her that the man in question’s granny (her mate Nelly) has a bockety heart, and if she doesn’t go, the poor unfortunate will probably die.

Yep, that woman is a skilled manipulator!

Not wanting blood on her hands, Amy concedes defeat, and agrees to meet with slimy salesman Richie Tubritt – who turns out to be a nightmare. Well if your blind date was trying to get a contract to supply the pub’s condom machine in the jacks (and ordered a bowl of chips to share  and two tap waters) you’d think it was hellish too…

AMY’S BLIND DATE WITH CONDOM-AND-JACKS ROLL-PUSHER RICHIE TUBRITT

According to Nan, Richie Tubritt was an “eligible bachelor” with a “good income” looking to settle down with a “fine lass”. All the buzz phrases to make any interfering biddy worth her salt lose her life with excitement. The way she painted him, he was a cross between Bill Gates (business acumen), Ryan Gosling (looks) and a young Richard Gere (charm).

Which sounded great, but I was experienced enough to take the opinion of an auld wan who was dying for a day out with a pinch of salt. I knew for a fact that if I told her a sweeping brush looked attractive she’d be sizing it up for a top hat and tails, just so she could get plastered on sherry with her biddy cronies and have a dance to “Crocodile Shoes”.

So, despite the honeyed promises of my dream man, I informed her that although I cared for her deeply, she wasn’t a credible source, so there was no way in hell I was going to go on a blind date with Richie Tubritt. Thanks but no thanks Nan, I told her firmly. If you want to wear a hat you can do it on your own dime and your own time.

But as usual it was like talking to a brick wall. Oh no angel features, she informed me sweetly, this was “non-negotiable” (a buzz phrase she had picked up from CSI: Miami) because it had all been arranged and Richie couldn’t wait to meet me and if I didn’t go I would be offending Richie’s granny who was already quite weak and old. A gammy heart, apparently, that I would probably shag up once and for all if I didn’t give her beloved Richie a chance.

“And don’t forget,” she whispered, inspecting her nails innocently, “there’s only so much time left before Nelly shuffles off her mortal coil. That dicky heart has only a few more goes around the wheelhouse before it packs up.” More innocent nail inspection. “Oh, and did I tell you Nelly was a woman of property? Howth. Not too far from Gay Byrne. And with Richie her only grandchild. She can’t take it with her…”

In the end I agreed to go, not because I was hoping to move into poor old Nelly’s Howth semi when her bed was barely cold, but because if I didn’t, I’d never hear the bloody end of it. So off I trotted the following Sunday to a non-descript gastro bar on South William Street at lunchtime, in defiance wearing scruffy jeans, a white shirt and barely any makeup.

When I arrived there was a man shivering outside in a shiny suit and a briefcase. Instinctively I knew it was Richie. It was December, and quite cold, so I couldn’t understand for the life of me why he wasn’t wearing a coat. He was thin and pale, with greasy wheat-coloured hair and a brave strip of downy fluff across his upper lip that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Transition Year student.

I decided to go for it. “Hi are you Richie Tubritt?” I asked, striding up to him confidently. Now that I knew there wasn’t a snowball’s chance I was going to fancy him, I felt an almost tender pity for him.

“The man himself,” he replied with a booming, cocksure voice totally at odds with his mousey appearance.

“I’m Amy Reid.” I smiled conspiratorially, as if to say, the things our crazy grannies make us do.

“The woman herself,” he boomed back at me, blowing on his hands theatrically and rubbing them together. “So, will we do this?”

Yes, I told him. We will. Although I knew immediately there was absolutely no point. I was never going to fancy him. Sure, love can grow. But sexual attraction can’t. It’s either there or it isn’t. My system was pretty simple: if the thought of a potential suitor grunting away on top of you at some point in the future made you want to puke, there was no point taking it further. Done, easy. But despite knowing I would never touch Richie’s penis, I couldn’t very well leg it off. There was Nelly’s heart to consider, and besides, I was starving.

We walked in and took a table near the window.

“The menu looks nice, doesn’t it?” I started, once we had settled in and I had divested myself of my coat.

“Yeah, I see they’ve used a nice, thick paper. The lamination job is a bit sloppy though. Few air bubbles there around the edges. I wouldn’t have signed off on it.”

“What? Oh, no I meant the food.”

“Oh right. Between meself and yourself Amy love, I’m a businessman. Stationery. Fastest growing business in Ireland. Here’s my card. So as I’m sure you would understand, I don’t get the time to stop and smell the waffles like the ordinary layman, if you catch my drift.” I didn’t, but instead of saying so I replied, “Oh right,” and went back to studying the menu. Thanks Nan, I told myself bitterly, thanks a bloody bunch.

By now all tender feelings were gone. He was clearly an irritating shite. Who now that I got a good look at him up close, was a dead ringer for Gareth from The Office.

“Chap, chap!” Richie shouted over to the waiter, clicking his fingers. Chap? His voice boomed with false bonhomie and I began to wilt with embarrassment that people in the pub would think we were actually together.

‘Chap’ sidled over, a nonplussed look on his face. “Hi man, what can I get you?”

“Information lad, information. Tell me, who does your toilet paper?”

“Sorry?”

“Kimberly Clark is it? Wipes and Swipes? You tell me your toilet costs and I guarantee I can slash them by fifty per cent. Four ply on the bog roll so the punters’ hands stay nice and clean if you get my drift ha ha. Throw in six packs of Cadbury’s Fingers to sweeten the deal if you act fast.”

“Oh I don’t know. Ahm…”

“Lad, who makes these exec decisions? Your operations manager is it? Tell him I can do him an annual deal on till roll that’ll put a few extra bob in his pocket to the treat the wife, if you get my drift? Wink wink, nudge nudge. Oh and hey, on that subject, who does your johnnie machine in the jacks?”

“I’m not sure. I… eh… I can find out for you?”

“You do that squire. And we’ll take two tap waters and a bowl of chips to share. Good lad.”

The good lad in question was tall and burly, while Richie looked about fourteen years of age. Squirming in my seat I covered my red face with the air-bubbled menu, not for the first time resolving to strangle Jean Elphadora Reid.

“I’m a businessman Amy, no point wasting money on a meal if this isn’t going to work. Investment, checks and balances, risk, the bottom line, if you get my drift? Let’s give it half an hour and if it all goes well we can take the next step in this relationship, and order a panini.”