It was shortly after Sporting Fingal hit the bar for the second time that Karen made her request.
“Hobnobs and custard?” echoed Lionel. “Where on earth am I going to get Hobnobs and custard at this hour of the night? Clear it down the line, will ya!”
“Of course if its too much trouble...” sighed Karen despondently, picking her nose and examining the contents forlornly.
“No of course not, darling,” whispered Lionel earnestly. “I’ll be right back.”
The girl serving in Burdock’s merely looked at him blankly, causing him to ponder a quick dash to Tesco’s on the Drumcondra Road. Thankfully the sudden appearance of the Hobnobs and Custard man – who had replaced the irreplaceable Rocket Man some time previously – saved him a journey.
“Thank you, darling,” said Karen and she bit his ear playfully in appreciation before wolfing down the contents in one foul swoop and belching loudly.
“No problem darling,” replied Lionel weakly, as the St. Johns Ambulance men tried to staunch the flow of blood.
It was a good match, keeping the fans on the edge of their seats throughout, particularly those who were sitting down. Some poor deluded souls even conceded that perhaps Torpedo Fingal had deserved all three points and Lionel, walking hand in hand with Karen out of the ground whispered that it took all sorts to make a post-match discussion.
“Do you know what I’d like?” said Karen, stroking one of her chins. “A packet of liquorice allsorts. Dipped in chutney. With a banana on top.”
Lionel raised one eyebrow then, exhausted, let it go again. “Tesco’s it is so,” he capitulated and they headed off into the night, like Laurel and two Hardys.
Tosh Travel departed Tolka Park at 2.30 pm the following Friday for the trip down to Waterford. As they boarded the coach, Lionel took Karen’s handbag as four burly supporters put their shoulder to her backside to force her through the door.
“Good Lord, what do you have in here, darling?” asked Lionel, rupturing a muscle in his back as he heaved it down the aisle to a vacant seat.
“Just a little snack,” she panted as a sudden exertion from the four men catapulted her onto the cowering driver.
Full of curiosity, Lionel snapped open the padlock and peered inside. There was a packet of crunchy nut cornflakes, three tins of semolina, a half pound of sausages, a packet of wagon wheels (not the confectionery – actual wagon wheels), a bowl of mashed potato and broccoli, a quart of red lemonade and a tube of toothpaste. And that was just in the side compartment.
“In case I feel peckish,” snapped a red-faced Karen, sitting down heavily in the two seats across the aisle and snatching the bag from his grasp, pausing only to wolf down three packets of Hunky Dorys and an olive and marmite sandwich. Hurriedly, Lionel tried to change the subject.
“What do you think of our chances tonight, love?” he asked. “Isn’t it great to have Bisto back?”
“Bisto??” she yelled incredulously and smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand.
During the game, Lionel tried to resist any references to feeding the forward line, nutmegs or Max Cream. He refrained from calling either of the own goals a cracker and he didn’t accuse the Waterford full-back of “making a meal of it” when he was accidentally scythed down. Bringing Sparky on might prove more profitable, he stated at one point, changing the adjective from “fruitful” at the last minute. He chose his words carefully when Chambers got sandwiched in the middle of the park and he made no reference whatsoever to Bisto or his poaching abilities.
On the bus home, Karen finished off the last of her Werther’s originals and cleared her throat, sending bits of caramel flying in all directions. “Lionel,” she said softly. He didn’t stir, tired after a hard day’s travelling and avoiding food metaphors.
“Lionel darling,” she whispered again, smacking him forcefully across the temple with her now empty handbag. Lionel snapped awake in an instant.
“Darling,” Karen said. “You know I’ve had these strange cravings for weird combinations of food recently?”
Lionel felt his heart simultaneously sink and leap. Could it be? He didn’t dare enunciate the words. “It isn’t because...because...” he stammered.
She looked at him and grinned. “Yes,” she said. “Its because I’m a greedy cow.”