Deirdre is all stressed again. “Halloween Mammy. Honestly, it’s like my generation looked at the calendar and said, ‘How can I get that Christmas stress feeling all year round?’”

She’s in a tizz because young Adam’s birthday is around that time and they wanted to share the birthday with another child. You’d think that would be sensible but Deirdre is not happy. “Mammy, I thought first it’d be a good idea. You know Liadan’s mammy offered on the WhatsApp and that was grand. But she’s very…”

Deirdre leaves the sentence hanging there. Adam has just walked in and she can’t say it in front of him. As far as Adam is concerned, everything is on the record. “Very what Mammy?”

“This is not a conversation for you pet.” Adam is not put off. He’s like Murder She Wrote. “But you’re talking about Liadan’s mamma and Liadan is my friend. I put on the telly. Cartoons are the only way now to distract him now. He’s too old to just give him sweets. Deirdre waits ‘til he is engrossed.

Precious child

“She’s just a lot Mammy.” She means she’s hard work. It turns out Liadan’s Mammy will not let her precious child anywhere near the newly opened Kilsudgeon Funland Softplay. Much to Deirdre’s dismay.

I always say about the soft plays – look it, let them go in, pay the money, eat the shite and you come out and it’s done. But somehow Deirdre has found herself a friend who’s really ‘into parenting’. She seems to spend more of her life listening to her children’s concerns. “She’s a brilliant mother and all that, Mammy, but she’s raising the standards too high for the likes of me. I prefer the easiest way to keep them alive. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be as bad as you.”

“Yes, what do you mean ‘not as bad as Nana’, Deirdre?”

“What do you mean not as bad as Nana, Mammy?” says the voice from the sitting room. “Yes, what do you mean ‘not as bad as Nana’, Deirdre?”

“Well you were a lot more relaxed. Remember us going out trick or treating with a torch? Two miles along the country roads. And we ended up nearly getting served pints above in the pub when we went in out of the rain and Jim Dooley had to bring us home.”

“And didn’t ye get on fine? That’s the kind of thing that softens your cough.”

“I had a cough for a week Mammy. Anyway, Liadan wants us to have a Halloween themed joint birthday party, but the themes have to be inclusive. So she wants posters up explaining about where the stories of vampires and zombies came from and all the traditions. Cultural appropriation she says.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing? “

“A bad thing. She says the vampires is discriminatory against the Romanian people. So we need to place it in context. Now I’m up all night writing information boards for the party in the hall.”

“But isn’t Adam’s little friend Florin from Romania?”

“I know Mammy! He doesn’t give a shite. He’s going around the school saying he’ll drink your blood for a joke. He’s gas. But Liadan wants to make sure. I’d better go. I have to get responsibly sourced snacks. Honestly Mammy these birthday parties are gone off the charts. And then there’s the money. Some eejit set the amount at ¤20 a head. I’m spending more on other children’s birthdays now for the two of mine than I am on Centerparcs.

“And they want new outfits. Ailbhe had a fit because there’s a stain on hers from last year.” I look across to what Denis is wearing as he reads the paper. There are more stains on his clothes right now than that child will accumulate in a lifetime.

Deirdre leaves with the two after a while. The blood pressure of the house goes down. And then she rings me later. So late I’m half afraid that there’s been an accident.

“Great news Mammy! Liadan has nits. The whole thing is off. We’re going to the softplay for the worst chicken nuggets possible and they will never taste so good.“

Nits. It’s good to see some old traditions kept alive.