I HAVE a friend who says very little and sometimes nothing at all. He recently swapped the big smoke for the peaceful seclusion of West Cork, where he takes long walks, meditates and has a friend who is a lumberjack. It seems right that his lifestyle now befits his temperament.
But he's not going to get away that easily. You're only true friends with someone when you can expose each other's shortcomings to generate a cheap laugh. So my sister and I have christened him Father Stone, both a tribute to the taciturn, emotionless priest in visited Craggy Island in Father Ted.
But he is not in favour of this nametag and has beseeched us to refrain. "You'll give me a complex," he said out of nowhere one afternoon. And then he went back to watching the television.
He later argued that he is only quiet in comparison to us two, who have mouths as big as the Mitchelstown Caves. You can imagine my delight when I learned that Father Stone was coming to stay in our family home last weekend. I derive a perverse pleasure from introducing him to my talkative mother and watching as he implodes in acute awkwardness.
The last time they met he just stared into the middle distance like somebody in the later stages of catatonia. "He doesn't say much," she remarked later. Naturally, I told him this as soon as I could.
Father Stone didn't find it as funny as I did. In fact, he was determined that this wouldn't happen again.
So when he arrived on Friday he went marching into the sitting room where he thought he would get a fourth chance to make a first impression. "I want to make amends for the last time," he said, extending his hand forward. My mother smiled and claimed not to know what he was talking about. Father Stone smiled back.
I don't know how he was intending on "making amends" because that's all he did: smile, sneak glances at the telly and furiously pet our dog. Poor creatures, they absorb all the anxiety during awkward interludes...
You're probably wondering what our relationship is based upon. Well, you're also only true friends with somebody when you can enjoy rather than endure silence together. I like to think we communicate by telepathy.
It's wonderful to be able to articulate everything you want to say with a grunt or an eyeroll, or even nothing at all.
They say house guests are like fish -- they start to stink after three days. Father Stone is like a dormouse -- he squeaks once every three hours. His only needs are a sausage sandwich and a cup of tea.
His company is incredibly relaxing, meditative even. While the actual Father Stone drove Ted and Dougal around the bend, our Father Stone is the perfect house guest.
I suppose you only know good house guests when you've had bad ones. Yanks and Canadians are the worst, mainly because they actually believe us when we say "you'll have to visit".
Three months later, they're standing on your doorstep. A woman that my brother dated in Canada when he was 19 did just this. She was a glamour model who was 10 years his senior -- for some reason he had failed to tell us about her.
After a month of trying everything to get rid of her, he came up with what he thought was a humdinger of a story. She had to leave because he was in mourning -- his ex-girlfriend 'Aoife' had died. He was sorry but he just couldn't be around women until his heart had mended. She took it on the chin and there were whispers in the house that she was going to leave.
Later that night, as the house slept, I heard footsteps along the landing. My door soon creaked open. "Kedie, Kedie -- are you awake?" She turned the light on. "I heard noises."
"It's probably the immersion," I said groggily.
"No, Kedie, I know what it is. It's the ghost of Aoife! She's back to haunt me!"
And so we had two unwanted houseguests: a love-sick Canadian (who went on to stay three months, spending most of her time with me and my mum) and the 'ghost' of a fictitious girlfriend.
A Canadian also landed in my friend's family home five years ago and has been doing so ever since.
He rarely puts his hand in his pocket unless it's to fish out his tobacco. He chain smokes rollies, lighting up the next one with the last one and drinks somewhere in the region of 30 cups of coffee a day. He once tried to get my pal to join the Freemasons. Mercifully, he didn't ask his dad.
It's different when it's not your own space. You have to endure the excruciating awkwardness and incur the wrath of your parents. Or you have to explain the little idiosyncrasies of your parents to your guest.
I was an unnoticed rather than an unwanted house guest when I slept on my friend's couch one night. Her father came thumping down the stairs at 6am, before turning on Teletext. He didn't know he had company. When I opened my eyes I was greeted by the sight of a bare bum, just inches from my face.
I had to make a quick decision. Should I humiliate him by speaking up or take the risk of him sitting on my face? I took the path of least resistance -- in this case the risk of arse suffocation. I lay frozen in terror, like a secret agent in a fast-paced thriller.
I prayed to St Paul, St John and all the Corinthians. I think I actually shapeshifted into the couch at one point.
My prayers were heeded when he eventually turned on his heel and went back upstairs, blithely unaware that he had just performed an early morning nudie show.
I told Father Stone this story, expecting him to get a good laugh. Do you know what he said?