My wife rings me.
"I've been shopping, and we've only 200 Euros left to do us till my pay comes in a week from now."
I'm in shock. I leave my friend's house and return home. I check the fridge to see how much food we have and how much we'll need.
"I think we're okay on food till our next shop," I say to my wife. "All we need is meat and a few bits and pieces. I'll take the child's fifty Euros out of the post office. That should help keep us going."
"No, you can't do that. That's her money."
"I can. She owes it to us. I bought her a fliker scooter out of our account last month and I never took the money for it."
I bring my 9-year-old daughter to the post office.
"Are you going to buy yourself something nice, pet?" the assistant says to my daughter.
I hold my breath.
"No, it's for daddy," she says.
I want the ground to open up.
"Eh, I bought her a scooter last month out of her First Communion money and she hasn't paid me for it. This is it now."
"Oh," the woman says.
I make a bee-line out of the shop and head to the dog groomer's. Our dog is booked in and I can't put it off, although I'd like to, because I don't want the groomer to know that we are broke. I pay her 35 Euro and buy some sweets for my daughter out of the change, which puts a nice smile on her face. We return home.
Oh, s**t, it's piano night for my 14-year-old daughter!
"I'll write a cheque tonight," my wife says, "and post-date it."
"No, don't! I can't have the piano teacher knowing we're broke."
I hand my wife my change from the dog groomer's. "Here, that should do it."
Next day, I drop my children to school. A friend rings me and invites me out to coffee. His treat, thankfully.
I tell him of my predicament.
"Adrian," he says, "broke is when you have debts of 100,000 Euro like me."
"Well, that puts perspective on it, but I still feel ashamed."
I pick the children up from school.
"Daddy, can we go swimming?" my 9-year-old says.
"No. Next week."
"Can I get my hair cut?" my 15-year-old says.
"No, next week."
"Daddy, we don't have any money. We're poor," my 9-year-old says.
"No, we're not poor. We just have to take it easy this week."
I ring my mother in Belfast.
"Adrian," she says, "your brother has left £30 here for your children - to buy them Easter eggs."
"You couldn't send that down to me, could you, ma? We're broke."
"Broke? In my day, the woman in the flat above me used to come down to me to borrow my chip-pan once a week, with the grease and all in it. And I used to borrow two shillings off your Aunt Anne to get me through till my Family Allowance came in, and then she would be up to me the following week to borrow from me. People lived on nothing, Adrian. There's no shame in rearing children in the hardest of times, son. It's to your credit."
Credit? Did my mother say credit?
She could have picked a better word - though, maybe not.Suggest a correction