There’s a great, puckered scar running up the centre of Eamon’s chest, the kind of crimped-up seam that holds in the meat on a Cornish pastie.
‘I thought I was a dead man,’ he says, scratching his belly, good eye half-closed, false eye glaring. ‘I seen that big ol’ light descending from the heaven. But I tell you what, Jimmy. Them surgeons up the hospital, they know a thing or two about pumps, that much I can tell you.’
Despite all his problems, Eamon’s still as ruggedly optimistic as the man who used to sit all day in a mechanical digger, all weathers, gouging out pipe trenches.
‘They used the veins out me leg, there – look!’ he says, hitching up his trousers, showing me the scar. ‘It’s a miracle what they can do nowadays.’ He finishes his sentences with a sharp little intake of breath, something like a yes, but only half-made, like he’s tasting the air for agreement.
‘Now – be honest wi’ me. Wha’d’ya make of this whole Brexit business?’
‘I think it’s a mess, Eamon. I think it was badly run. People didn’t really know what they were voting for. It was all based on emotions rather than facts. It certainly didn’t help they had buses driving around with lies about the millions extra we’d have to spend on the NHS.’
‘That’s true. I seen that bus. In the papers. Not the street.’
‘They should have a second referendum. You wouldn’t decide to buy a house, find out it’s got subsidence, and carry on and buy it anyway just because you said you would. And this is way more important than buying a house.’
‘You might have to if you signed a contract, though.’
‘But if you hadn’t.’
‘No. I suppose not. Not if you hadn’t. You’d be crazy to buy a house like that.’
‘At least with the General Election you get another go in four years. This is so final, I don’t think it would hurt to run it again.’
‘Yes, but – Jimmy. Imagine if you had another referendum, and the answer come out as Stay. What would all the Leave people do about it? They’d straight away be wanting another vote. And then another vote. And there’d be no end to it. We’d get nothing done, ‘cos we’d be spending all our time voting.’
‘Maybe. It’s a mess, that’s all I know. Just hold still for a minute whilst I take this ECG…’
Eamon holds his position, glaring at me with his glass eye whilst dozing off with the other.
‘Okay. That’s it. Done,’ I tell him, and start packing up.
‘It’s all that there David Cameron’s fault,’ he says, tentatively peeling off the dots. ‘He only done it to clear out all them right wingers. Didn’t work so well for him, though, did it, eh? It’s like a beater going in to beat out the pheasants, and then getting torn to pieces by a tiger. A big blue one, wi’ stars on its tail.’
He sticks the dots together in one sticky mess, and hands them to me.
‘What makes it worse – they don’t seem to care what happens to Ireland,’ he says. ‘Mind you. Did they ever? It’s al’ays been the same, now. From that bastard Cromwell to the DUP. But that’s the British for you. They talk the talk and they throw their weight around like the bullies they are. It was the same with America. The same with India. Bullies, the lot of ‘em. All you can do is stand up for what you believe – that’s it! That’s all there is!’
His glass eye shines. ‘Present company excepted,’ he says.
‘Thank you. So how are you feeling now, Eamon?’
‘Never better!’ he says. ‘Tip top! Ignore the needlework.’
I chat to him whilst I fill out some forms.
‘I bet you found a few things when you were out digging trenches,’ I say.
‘Oh plenty!’ he says. ‘Bottles. Pottery. Bones. You name it. Not much in the way of gold coins, but plenty other stuff.’
‘What was the oddest thing you found?’
‘Well now – I suppose – that’d be a meteorite.’
‘Really? How d’you know it was a meteorite?’
‘It was all glittery inside. And anyway, the man said so.’
‘What man? An alien?’
‘No, I don’t think he was an alien. I think he was the man jes’ owned that there particular stretch of land. I’ll show you it, if you’d like?’
‘I would! I’ve never seen a meteorite.’
‘Well you’re in for a treat’
He pulls on his shirt, then shuffles out to the kitchen. In the cupboards under the sink are rows and rows of neatly stacked Tupperware boxes, each one filled with an assortment of things. I stand next to him as he pokes through one: a pink yo-yo, a plastic soldier, a nodule of flint with a perfect hole through the middle, a conch shell, the side of a Victorian marmalade jar.
‘Nah. I thought the meteorite was in this one,’ he says, clipping the lid back on. ‘Most o’ this stuff is Gloria’s. She passed when she was sixty, some year ago now. You know what she used to do? She used to tuck the legs of her trousers into her socks and then drop what she found inside.’
‘That’s quite a technique.’
‘It was! You should’ve seen her fill up when she hit pay dirt. That was something to see, alright.’
‘I bet it was.’
‘It was. It was something to see.’
He puts the box back with the others, as carefully and precisely as if he were re-interring a saintly artefact.
‘Now then. What the hell’ve I done with that meteorite?’