A little light relief in these challenging times




I swear that I am going to write something lighthearted this week. I'm going to avoid all the national and international tremors and tragedies and politics and plagues.

It will be difficult indeed under the circumstances, but dammit there comes a time to call in the clowns too. And we're there.

That young Dubliner who took the woeful fall on one of the capital's icy pavements during the freeze-up and became an instant Internet star is as good a man to start off with as any. I was in a pub (drinking a soft drink for January) and was delighted when the conversation around me shifted away from the blacker headlines to discuss that heavy fall.

And what was beautiful about the discussion was the fact that several wise men said that the young man was not a Dubliner at all. All day previously the media were trying to identify the fallen one without success.

He was a Corkman was our view. He had the country strut of a Corkman rather than the gait of a metropolitan, he had a small plastic bag of canny cut-price groceries to bring back to his apartment, he was a cute boyo on his way up in the world until suddenly his feet flew up in the air and he was on his way down.

He was surely a Corkman, somebody said, because in those circumstances a real Dubliner would have used a far stronger oath than the fallen one did. And even that one word betrayed just a nuance of the Cork accent.

That subject engaged us all for the better part of a half-hour, during which the harsh edges of the modern world and its horrifics were totally forgotten about. We need those interludes badly about now.

And when we did turn away for a few minutes to watch the late night RTE news on TV there was a minor story at the end of the bulletin. It was about the fact that burst pipes around Dublin in the thawing process were causing such a loss of treated water supplies that some areas were totally without piped water, and others were on a strict rationing regime.

And the grave faced lady announcer was heard to say, "And the shortage of water in the city has led to problems for pee production!" The laughter was rocking the roof by the time she had explained that the Batchelors food company, which processes the bulk of Irish peas, had been forced to issue protective notice to its employees because of water shortages for the processing operation!

As we laughed and joked, willfully forgetting about the bleak top stories on the bulletin for just a while, I was remembering the old verse you often saw in schoolboy autograph books, "The optimist fell 10 stories/and at each window bar/ he shouted to his comrades/all right so far!
It's a bit like that now really.

The pint and the half-one are cheaper this year because the government cut the VAT rate to prevent citizens flocking over the border for the previously lower booze prices there. That's a bit of good news.

"Tis a cute Fianna Fail move," said our sharpest wit. "It's designed to make us all so drunk that we will forget to throw them out at the next election."

Unending rains and squalls are sweeping in from the Atlantic both day and night, and for once we are delighted because the rain is washing away all the patches of black ice on the mazy side roads that stopped us driving down to the pubs to avail of the cut-price pints.

And the midwinter evenings are getting four minutes longer each twilight as we get further away from the December solstice. Down here they call those four minutes "the length of a cock's step,” which is a lovely descriptive sentence.

A wayward wayfarer of no fixed abode known to all of us because of his unique way of living provided the conversation for the end of the night along the bar. He was released from Limerick Jail in the middle of the month, is now back in his old haunts, and met one of our number since his release.

He said happily that he'd had his best Christmas and New Year for a decade. He organized it in the middle of December by breaking the nearest big plate glass shop window to the police station, and then throwing a punch at the first policeman on the scene and resisting arrest.

He told the judge he would pay no fine and was disruptive in court. He was sent inside for a month, and during that month he was warmer and far more comfortable than he would have been in his squat.

He got a fine Christmas and New Year dinner and was better fed for the month than if he'd been outside in the snow and frost. He told our friend that he was going to do the same thing next Christmas!

By the time ye are reading this I will be far more than halfway through my "dry" month (I usually do November but forgot last year), and will be closer to the spiritual fortification of the hot whiskeys I have been missing a lot though the snows and frosts. And the Clare evenings will be longer and more golden in every way.

I hope one or two of you forgot the headlines during the course of reading this, and certainly the Irish American Sarah Palin Supporters Club will have no need to get hot under the collar and start attacking me again! Thank God for that.

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