I’ve been to all sorts of meetings, and I admit that half the time I am unsure of what is going on., but this was a Lulu! Kitty and Helena had arranged everything.. At 11 a.m. Bonnie was coming to sort things out. To sort ME out, I thought.

The meeting was at the Riordan’s house. I was present, with Helena, as my consultant; Joe and Kitty-well fair is fair-after all, it was their house; Bonnie, and-surprise, surprise-Gazza.

‘G’day, Gary McGinnis, good friend of Bonnie’ he introduced himself to Joe and Kitty. Did I mention he was big?

Joe was equal to the occasion. ‘Come in, come in.’ he said ‘Sit y’self down now. Make y’self comfortable.’ He bustled about. ‘Would annyone like a drink now?

Bonnie sat down. She was businesslike today. What do they call it-‘Power Dressing’. She was wearing a tan business suit, shoul-der pads, and a scarlet cravat. Her blonde hair was freshly coifed, her glasses horn rimmed.

Helena was not to be outdone. Today, she was the academic: dressed in grey, with a white blouse, her owl glasses gave her an air of distinction. But that was not all: There was an air of breeding.

The most surprising participant was Kitty. Kitty Riordan, in her own parlour, was a force to be reckoned with. Her presence was undeniable. She was judge, she was jury, she was queen in her own house. Both Bonnie and Helena succumbed to her calm gaze.

‘I think it is time to begin,’ said Kitty. ‘First, ’tis plain that you folks have something to discuss, but this is my parlour and I make the rules. There will be no ructions or shenanigans. You are here because you all want to be here. Anny one who doesn’t is free to leave. Have I got your agreement to that?’

We all nodded.

‘An’ secondly,’ she continued, ‘Joe and I are neutral. It is not our quarrel, if quarrel it is. We will help where we can. The Third thing is that it is your business.’ She bent a fierce glance on Joe. ‘I know I speak for both of us when I say that anny thing you say will not be repeated outside this room. We will lave if you want, but per-haps you would like us to stay to see fair play.’

I hastened to agree, and Bonnie, after a muttered aside to Gazza, nodded her head.

‘Right,’ said Kitty, ‘Then let us begin. But first, there’s no sense in you all talking at once. Far better you should take it in turns. You Bonnie, you asked for this meeting, so perhaps you should go first. Take ten minutes or so to say what’s on your mind. And I’ll ask the rest of you not to interrupt, you’ll all get a turn.’ She looked at Helena and me. ‘If you disagree with somethin’ make a bit of a note. You’ll get your chance later.’ Nodding to Bonnie, she invited her to begin.

And Bonnie began …

For me, from that point on, the affair had a weird feeling of un-reality. With a growing sense of dismay and disbelief, I heard Bonnie’s version of the months that had passed since we left Australia; of my thoughtlessness, my ingratitude, my sexist attitudes, my opportunist seduction and my subsequent callous abandonment of a hardworking assistant. Bonnie, it seemed, wanted compensation for sexual harassment, breach of contract and unfair dismissal. It was laughable, it was ridiculous, but I didn’t feel like laughing.

My inner self, my observer, noted my feelings. With almost clinical detachment, It – I- decided that what I was feeling wasn’t anger, or fear. It was a leaden falling away, centred somewhere near my solar plexus, as though some bottomless abyss of emptiness was opening up.

Suddenly I realised that the talking had stopped, and that everyone was looking at me. ‘Well,’ said Kitty, ’tis your turn now. Would you like to say how you see the situation.’

For a long moment I looked back at them-at their various ex-pressions; Kitty alert, impassive; Joe dismayed; Helena concerned; Gazza angry-and Bonnie? Hers was strange combination of righteous anger and a smugness that silently shouted ‘Gotcha!’. I was tempted to walk away from the lot of them; to find somewhere quiet to think.

Then something strange happened, something so rare that I had almost forgotten it possible: ‘Survival Self’ appeared.

It sounds silly, I know. But did you, too, read comics as a child? The stories filled with super-heroes, ordinary folk who say SHAZAM and acquire superhuman powers. As a solitary child, I had fantasised a rich inner life with myself as the hero, the self I called ‘Survivor’. For a while I thought he was ‘Observer’ but no; He ob-serves Survivor too. In the few critical situations in my life, Big S has proved his existence. When in real danger, I slip into ‘survival mode’. It is a strange state of Being – Acute Clarity, Instant Action, and a calm certainty I would never dream of claiming in my everyday life. But crises are not everyday life.

Survivor confronted Bonnie. And Smiled!

Swiftly he-I-demolished Bonnie’s flimsy story. I was not her employer. She had been wished on me by the Trust. She had resigned her position of adviser in Germany by announcing that she was re-maining with Fritz. I had extricated her from that situation. She had destroyed our relationship with an infidelity which I had not forgotten but had attempted to forgive. I had, out of kindness, brought her to Ireland to regularise her position with her true employer but she had betrayed me again (Gazza looked distinctly uneasy). She had spread false rumours by claiming that we were engaged, thus imperil-ling a very important friendship I had formed (Helena smiled back at me with glistening eyes). As for legal action: I had no quarrel with her employer and I was sure that the Trust had none with me. The claims of Sexual Harassment were nonsense. What happened between us was due to propinquity (Joe looked puzzled) and I would always be grateful for her contribution to my education in such matters. Here Helena flashed Bonnie a glance of such pure venom that it startled me, and I hurried to my last point.

I was willing to contact her employers and inform them that I no longer wished to avail myself of her services, and I offered to pay her air fare back to Australia in return for a written assurance that she had no further claims on me. Furthermore, I added magnani-mously, I was willing to write a glowing reference extolling her excel-lence as a travel organiser.

I looked across at Kitty. ‘Perhaps it is time we all had a cup of tea.’

The latter part of the meeting seemed almost an anticlimax, but that was due, I think, to Kitty’s skill as a mediator. I marvelled at her ability, but then, of course, she comes from County Cork, the home of the Blarney stone.

The cup of tea lessened the tension, and Gazza stepped outside for a smoke. accompanied by Bonnie, no doubt wishing to confer with him, and to neutralise the effect of my references to Fritz (Gazza had looked distinctly surprised). Joe and Kitty tactfully withdrew to the kitchen leaving Helena alone with me in the parlour.

‘Well,’ said Helena, ‘That was a very surprising session. I was impressed. I never knew you were so eloquent. And how did you keep so cool? There were times when I could have joyfully strangled that woman!’

‘I was in my survival mode. It is an odd state of mind. Remind me to tell you about it later. It has some very interesting ramifications.’

Helena was intrigued. That is what I love about her. Present her with a new idea and she is off on the trail of an intellectual challenge. We would have been quite happy to wander off hand in hand through the fields of applied psychology but the return of the others brought us back to earth.

Kitty took charge once again. ‘Joe ‘n’ me have been talking. And it seems to us that both of you have some things in common. You both seem to have sorted out y’r love lives,’ and she twinkled a glance at Gazza, who surprisingly blushed. ‘Charlie doesn’t need Bonnie as a guide any more. You don’t really want to resume the job, do you?’ she looked at Bonnie. ‘I thought not.’

‘The thing now is to make the parting as painless as possible for all concerned, now isn’t it? Well?…’

After a few moments, Bonnie nodded her head reluctantly, and I hastened to agree.

‘Right,’ said Kitty, ‘Charlie made an offer earlier. Can we use that as a basis for negotiation?

With a negotiator like Kitty in the country, Ireland should be able to sort out the Troubles. She never told us what to do. She put no words in our mouths, but somehow, with a question here and skilful paraphrase there, she guided our move from mutual recrimination to the exploration of eminently sensible solutions.

Soon we were discussing timetables and written agreements. Suddenly I realised that Bonnie and I. were talking together normally; even suggesting beneficial outcomes from the point of view of the other. For one mad moment a burst of nostalgia transported me back to the Swiss hotel, and the memory of my excitement as I bought Bonnie’s little computer as a surprise. Bonnie must have had her memories too. Her attitude relaxed and her rigid facial expression softened. We found ourselves talking in conversational tones and our business was quickly concluded.

After Bonnie and Gazza had gone, and Kitty had bustled off to the kitchen to prepare us a meal, Joe poured us a whiskey. ‘A toast!’ he said, ‘To a happy ending!’

‘And to the Lady who made it possible! I said ‘You have a really remarkable wife there, Joe. Where did Kitty learn her negotiating skills?’

‘Hasn’t she been sortin’ out the Riordans for the past twenty years? Believe me, your little problem was child’s play compared to that.’ He grinned.

I was happy with the result and Bonnie had got quite a good deal. Better perhaps, than she deserved. Ah well. The past is past. And I looked across to where Helena was talking to Joe, Now all I have to worry about is the future.

© Copyright H.St V.Beechey July 1997

 

Next Episode: Good Fortune

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