Wednesday, June 25, 2008

335. Ottoman

The red silken cord, for three long weeks,
lay coiled and hidden in the messenger's pouch.
Having struggled along rain-drenched muddy tracks,
crossed white swollen rivers, climbed over mountains,
he debouched, at last, on the plains of Hungary.
What news from the Light of the World?
croaked the stooping figure of Multan Pasha,
eyes aglitter in a face like mildewed parchment.
Wordlessly the messenger handed him the pouch,
and in silence Multan retired to his chamber
from which he never again would emerge.

European officers facing disgrace and scandal favoured a bottle of whiskey and a loaded pistol; the Sultan simply sent a silken cord to the officials who displeased him.

Monday, June 16, 2008

334. Blog Anniversary - Four Years!

Today is Bloomsday and also the fourth anniversary of this blog, begun on June 16 2004. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, not to mention wars, hurricanes, tsunami, earthquakes, death of loved ones, emotional joinings and sunderings. During these four years I’ve posted something like 350 articles, poems, opinion pieces and general silly maunderings (the numbering scheme is close but inaccurate since I never really bothered to actually count from the beginning). There’s been something in the neighbourhood of 35,000 visitors, which works out to about 24 people a day. I’d just like to take the opportunity now to thank each and every one of those 24 people and gently urge them to take a break …

Anyway, it’s been fun and it’s created a public record of sorts (what was on the brain, for example, in January 2006?). And it’s not over, by any means. All that happens, really, is that we move on to the fifth year. Check in from time to time, if ou’re reading this. Failte Romhat, in the Irish – you’re always welcome!

Friday, June 13, 2008

333. stamping grounds

Down Knightsbridge way the other day
in my psychedelic condition
I moseyed slowly along the way
to a philatelic exhibition;
I had my tweezers in my hand
when I had to stop for the band
of the Royal Scots Guards
magnificent six-foot retards
prancing about for the English Queen
a lady I’ve talked to but never seen
when she rang me out of the blue
last Tuesday, I was home with the flu,
and asked was I the chap selling the Corgi
and I said no, that would be Georgie
and she said kaindly put him on the lain
and I said at the moment he’s not so fain
and I’m afraid in fact he’s beastly dead
since the 21 bus ran over his head
on his way home last night from the pub,
such a delightful charming musical Dub
and he in the street singing clear and strong …
Well, the draiver mustn’t have cared for the song
says the Queen, and then, Airish, I take it?
in that clippy little voice, you could not fake it,
and she hangs up on me, the snippy oul bitch,
my first (and last) contact with the rich.
The thing about stamps is
they’re such tidy little creatures,
just tiny little oblongs of gummy paper
that combine all the best features
of the crummy little countries they represent.
I floated along, I made no fuss,
and did not jump on a passing bus
out of respect for dear old Georgie
and the poor wee flattened Corgi.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

332. Disneyworld with Joe

(Joseph O'Connor, brother of the singer Sinead, is a well-known journalist and novelist in Ireland. He wrote a running account in the 'Sunday Tribune' newspaper of his misadventures in the USA while accompanying Irish fans to the 1994 World Cup which had the whole country laughing itself silly and became an instant classic. The following is an excerpt from the diary covering the day when Joe and some of the lads took a day off to visit Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. Being able to guess what 'a ride' means in Irish slang sort of helps things along ....)

Our tour guide Wanda is waiting for us. Wanda is a very nice young woman from Kissimee. "There are some rully good rides here at The Magic Kingdom," she says, to a chorus of snuffles and titters. "We have big rides, small rides, scary rides, happy rides, whatever kind of ride you like you can find here at The Magic Kingdom." One fan is falling about the place now and another -- Crocko by name -- is laughing his bloody dentures out. Wanda must be wondering what it is she is saying that has all these grown men nearly widdling with laughter. But, true professional that she is, she continues.

"Er ... some of the rides have been here for a long time, but other rides are new, and here at Disney we're constantly looking at ways to make rides more exciting." The fans are slapping their thighs and guffawing at this stage. One usually quiet man from Laois is actually honking with laughter, throwing his ponderous head back and honking like a great big white-legged hysterical mallard duck. Honko, I'm going to call him from now on.

"What's so funny?" Wanda says.

"Nothing, Wanda," Honko replies.

"No, c'mon," she says, "Am I like, saying something funny?"

"Not at all, Wanda. You're grand, sweetheart. And c'mere, tellus, do you like the odd ride yourself, Wanda?"

"Oh yes, of course."

"And how many rides would you have a day?"

"Oh, I dunno, three or four I guess. Depends how much spare time I get."

Well, at this stage several of the fans have to go and sit down in the shade, or pour water over themselves, so frantic are their cackles. Some are actually sobbing with laughter. Donald Duck wanders over to one of them and begins gently to peck him on the head with his enormous yellow beak. "Go away ye big feathery fairy," the fan says. A hearty chant soon begins, the scheme of which is based on the considerable rhyming potential of the words Donald Duck. What a talent for poetry the Irish have! Seamus Heaney would have been proud.

Things are about to get even worse, however. An enormous structure depicting Mickey Mouse is pointed out on the horizon. Wanda tells us, her voice fairly brimming over with pride, "and guys, you know what, that's the largest self-supporting Mickey in the whole of the United States."

Well, I don't think I have to describe the communal reaction, really. It is as though the entire party has been blasted with laughing gas. Several of the supporters will need medical attention soon.

"Oh, there are other Mickeys," Wanda sniffs, dismissively, "there's a rully big Mickey in California, of course, and there are some rully large Mickeys in some of the other states, and a big old Mickey over there in Eurodisney. But I gotta tell you, we're real proud of our superb superbig Mickey that we got down here in Florida."

The sun is blazing hot now, and the white stone floor seems to be sucking the heat into itself. Tears of laughter are spilling down the faces of my companions. The seven dwarfs saunter past us, pursued by the mad hatter, the wicked witch of the west, the queen of hearts and various assorted fluffy tigers holding hands. The fans are chanting again now. "You'll never beat the Irish. You'll never beat the Irish." If Wanda smiles any harder, her eyebrows will disappear into her hairline. I close my eyes. I try to imagine just how much money you would have to spend on drugs to achieve this weird a feeling.

Monday, June 09, 2008

331. hometown (line edits)

original version:

I'm looking for a way
on this long and rocky road
between life and love
while the heart she
still stays pure, somewhere
between Inchicore and Terenure;
and I know you well, too well,
you shabby old city on the peatbrown Liffey,
so stony grey and sharp and blind,
and I pretend I do not mind
the apologetic smiling betrayals
that we all grow up with
under the shadow of your mountains
and never overcome.

edited version:

The heart is sound, the thoughts impure,
as I dance along the rocky road
from Inchicore to Terenure;
and I know you well, too well,
you shabby old city on the peatbrown Liffey,
so stony grey and sharp and blind,
and I pretend I do not mind
your apologetic smiling betrayals,
the memories we all grew up with
in the shadow of your mountains
and never overcame.