I once knew a woman who talked aloud in the shower. Her husband said she did it to rid herself of the torment of l’esprit de l’escalier. Which means literally ‘the staircase wit’. It’s when you are on your way home, or just before you fall asleep or, yes, going down the stairs from somebody’s place, and you suddenly think of what you SHOULD have said during that argument when thingummybob said whatever it was. Grrrr and feck, you say. Dadblame it anyway, why didn’t I? I gather that’s what this woman used to say, except that she used far more colourful and forceful words.
I thought of her on my way home from BBC Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh yesterday. I’d been on Sunday Sequence and the subject under discussion had been RTÉ’s treatment of Fr Kevin Reynolds which has cost them (actually cost the southern tax-payer) a seven-figure sum. Allegedly. So there I was on Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh, throwing in my little two-cents’ worth and trying to sound coherent, even though I was on my way to the A & E at the Royal to get a few facial stitches, having cleverly stood on a dangling trainer-lace while jogging about two hours’ earlier. Anyway, I likened the deplorable treatment of Kevin Reynolds with the deplorable treatment of Martin McGuinness by RTÉ, when Miriam O’Callaghan saw fit to single him out and ask him, during a live presidential debate, “Do you go to confession?”
So what triggered my thoughts of that woman and her l’esprit d’escalier? Well, when I raised that “Do you go to confession” point as deplorable RTÉ journalism, presenter William Crawley brushed it aside: “Oh not at all, a perfectly acceptable question, John Kerry was asked the same question in a presidential debate in the US some years ago”. So I came back, quick as a flash and said “Uh er um, ah, mmm,ugh”. Very intelligent, you got that one. It was only when I was turning onto the M2 that l’esprit d’escalier struck: why in the name of all that’s rational hadn’t I responded with “How does doing it in America make it right?” Simple question, which would have exposed the flimsiness of Crawley’s comment. Grr and feck and dadblame and some other more colourful and forceful words. There’s no flagellation like self-flagellation.