>I had a dream last night that I was picked for the Irish Rugby team (don’t ask how that came to pass – I have no idea and neither do the IRFU).

Anyway, I found myself in the Irish dressing room on match day. The atmosphere wasn’t great. There were all these rules that I was breaking out of total ignorance – “Don’t talk too loud, Eddie hates it before a match”/”You can’t sit there, that’s Bod’s spot”/Hey, mind Rog’s bag!” That type of thing.

Naturally, with that type of vibe, coupled with the fact that I have never played rugby in my life (and against the All-Blacks, probably, no less…), I was feeling rather jittery and was not at all enjoying myself.

Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, I had a very strong need to find a tradesman to tarmac the drive. I had no idea who to contact. I asked around the dressing room. Most of the guys were deep in pre-match concentration and either totally ignored me or told me (quite rightly, I felt) to fuck off.

Only Paul O’Connell gave me the time of day. He said that Peter Stringer had loads of contacts in the building trade and he gives me Strings’ mobile number (where Strings was, I have no idea – he was definitely picked for the match but was nowhere to be found).

I dialled the number and introduced myself. “Hi, Peter, you don’t know me but I’m on the team for the match today…”

“Oh right”, said Strings, sounding a bit distracted.

“Paul O’Connell tells me you might know a guy who’s good at tarmac…”

“What?!” came the incredulous response. I have no doubt he was wondering who the hell was this clown at the other end of the line. But I had no choice but to repeat myself and press onwards – if I was going to be sharing the park with Strings, then I was going to have to act like a man.

“Ah”, Strings said eventually, “right. I know a guy. He’s not cheap, but he’s good and I reckon he’s available.” He gave me the guy’s name. It took a number of attempts as the line was very bad. I got it down eventually but I wouldn‘t vouch for the accuracy of the spelling.

“Have you a number for him”, I asked. He had to think about this for a while. The line went quiet, so I asked him again. “Hould tough, pal, I’m thinking – right”.

So he gave me a number. I had to ask him to repeat it a few times, as I couldn’t hear all the numbers and I wasn’t sure about the format.

“Look, I have to go”, String said at last. “I’ve got to get to the match”. “Right”, sez I, “I’ll see you later”.

I gazed down at the piece of paper on which I had written the number. There was an obvious look of puzzlement and bewilderment on my face, as Paul O’Connell came over to me and asked was everything OK.

“This number – I’m not sure that it’s a valid phone number”, I said. “Here, let me have a look”, said Paul. We both perused the paper for a moment, and then the penny dropped for us both simultaneously.

“It’s not a phone number at all…” I said. “…it’s a VAT number!” said Paul.

We looked at each other and shook our heads.

Tcheh! That’s Strings for you”, Paul laughed.

Regards,

djp

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