On the rare occasions when there's a heavy fall of snow in Ireland, the country's infrastructure more or less grinds to a halt. Snow is an unprecedented event in a country kept depressingly ambient by the Gulf Stream. When I was young, I often wondered what it would be like to live in a place where the seasons were seasons, punctuated by clear changes - hot in the summer, cooler but still sunny in autumn, snowy and crisp in winter. Spring, pah. Spring's a shite season. You never hear anyone say spring's their favourite season. Feckin lambs flouncing all over the place, the gays.
Anyway, Ireland's weather pattern is usually rain followed by scattered showers with intermittent periods of drizzle. Fo' shizzle, no dizzle. The slightest hint of sun sweating the streets dry triggers jumpers coming off on the pastiest fuckers this side of that albino lad in The Da Vinci Code (ie Irish men).
You can be sure that every year after Ireland's allocated two weeks of sun near the end of May, there's two or three stupid cunts whose backs look like burnt rashers. Great fun slapping them though.
Heavy snow meant that half the school (the ones from out the country*), including the fucking redneck teachers, would not show up. Lack of staff meant that us city boys who had no choice but to brave the elements and walk to school would be given the rest of the day off, free to chuck snowballs at the harassed public.
On this particular morning, we were sent home from school, and three of us were walking towards Woodquay, past the Town Hall. This was back when the Town Hall was still a rat-riddled cinema, not a fancy-dan centre for the arts and culture like you see in that link. Traffic was, as you'd expect, at a standstill.
We were playing a game, as stupid dickhead teenagers do. The object of the game was to, using utmost stealth, toss a concealed snowball over your head, so that it lands on the roof or (ideally) the windscreen of one of the cars stuck in traffic. Done right, this was a near-foolproof way of throwing snowballs without getting caught.
All was going well until one of us (not me) decided to throw a snowball at a Toyota Hiace.
If you're Irish, you will at this point be shaking your head and saying "Kav you stupid cunt. Big mistake." Well, I told you, it wasn't fucking me who threw the bastarding thing. Not that it matters.
If you're not Irish: Toyota Hiace vans -
- were (are?) the vehicle of choice for knackers, a breed best known to foreigners by Brad Pitt's role in the film Snatch (see top image). They were called pikeys in Snatch, but they're the same thing, more or less. Sound until you cross them, and then you're fucked. A large cross-section of them are dangerous creatures, ungovernable by society's laws and social etiquette.
So when Kevin hit that Hiace, we knew we were fucked. We didn't even need to wait for the sliding door to roll back, we just ran like zoo-freed chimps. No matter. Seconds later the van door rattled open and our legs turned to jelly as we caught sight of the bullnecked neanderthal bearing down on us, intent on tearing us to shreds with his bare hands.
He was a smart fucker; he went for Kevin first. He could probably smell the guilt. Kevin, sensing this gorilla's bloodlust**, regressed into an infant before our eyes, just as the guy's slab-hands wrapped around his throat. The tears flowed fat and quick and he bawled and begged and at that point he did not give a shite that he would be slagged mercilessly for this for months to come, all he wanted was for this big scary motherfucker to let him go.
It worked. He released Kevin, and leapt at me. He was possessed, fuelled by rage and liable to do anything because of it. One of us had almost damaged his Hiace, and that's worse than riding his sister.
You know how people say "Things went kinda hazy for me at that point?". That did not happen. I can recall that moment in high definition clarity (four times sharper than your average memory). As he wrapped his hands around my neck, I thought of Homer doing that to Bart in the Simpsons, and when he started to squeeze and snap my head back and forth, he was roaring "Was it yaw? Was it yaw yaw skinneh cont? I'll rip the fuckin head aff yer shawlders, wha the fock threw it yaw cont?" and while he shouted flecks of spit hit me in the face and one went in my mouth and all I could see were his red eyes and I knew that any second now he was going to slam his forehead down and burst my nose like a ripe tomato and somewhere a girl was shrieking over and over saying "It wasn't me, please please, it wasn't me" and then I realise it's not a girl it's me and my voice hasn't even broken yet oh Christ I'm far too young to be killed by a knacker and then he shoves me to the ground and I land in the slush and he storms back to the van because there's a break in the traffic and I've never been so grateful to have a cold wet arse as I am right then.
*in those days, out the country meant anyone living in Carnmore or beyond. Galway's expanded so much since then that there's no real distinction between city-dwellers and country-dwellers anymore.
**apologies to Mr Gorilla Bananas, this was written for comic effect and was in no way intended to stereotype gorillas.