Forty-five minutes. That is how long I waited on the number thirteen bus last night on my way home – possibly the unluckiest bus in Dublin. I waited from half past eight in the evening to a quarter past nine in the howling wind and the rain at the number 104 bus stop at Belclare Crescent on Balbutcher Lane at a bus shelter without one of them electronic timetables. No sooner than I had arrived at the scene of my purgatorial wait than I was joined by a young couple and a baby. Your man was bedecked in a blue tracksuit with white ‘go faster’ stripes, and your one was pushing a little baby in a push buggy. At a push I reckon I could have taken the young woman and the child, but he made me nervous. Here was me with my corduroy jacket and my poncey briefcase (beats the man bag) all alone in the dark at a bus shelter. Lads in tracksuits pose, at least in my imagination, a serious threat to chaps in corduroy jackets with poncey briefcases. My assumptions of his dress were nothing more than my own prejudice. Both of them were fine. We sparked up a conversation; they were delighted I was from Scotland, and I was happy just to be alive.

Our craic made the wait seem shorter, and before too long the number thirteen came trundling along. Only the young woman and the baby were getting on the bus. It turns out that this lad was being a gentleman. He gave her a kiss and she clambered aboard the bus with her child, and I climbed on behind her. We were both headed for O’Connell Street so we continued to chat away. It turns out that she was from Ballymun, and comes all the way out every day to spend the day with her mother and see her new boyfriend. Her baby’s father had been stabbed to death in the city, and every penny that they had had went to cover the cost of his funeral. He had been the bread-winner and shortly after his death she and their child were evicted from their home. Since so many people who had mortgages were now renting all of the rents around her had gone up and she could no longer afford a deposit or the cost of rent. She was homeless. Now she and her child live in one room of a B&B on Gardner Street. Her new boyfriend can’t look after her – he, like so many, is unemployed, and because he is not yet twenty-five he receives only €100 a week from the dole.

O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear.
– Psalm 10:17

Reader, whoever and wherever you are, I am tired of listening to stories like this, and I am tired of living in a country that is so cold-hearted as to allow this to be innocent people’s reality. Maybe it’s just me, but still the image of the Mother and Child is important to me. More, so much more than this holy image, this mother and child matter. By God they matter. Heaven will incline its ear, and what it hears will be one hell of an indictment.


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