Thursday, December 8, 2011

Icarus and the Magpie

You are 100% right about Ireland..or Oireland...we really are a bunch of old codgers, driving around in last century's mercedes, rooting in deep pockets for shallow change for the priest and the poor box, we haven't changed really, we're still the Gombeenmen of Europe...rarely paying for our round, but always the life of the party...charming...but always so charmingly non-commital...perhaps living for so long as we did under the yoke of John Bull, shivering in caravans or tents..or under the bush on the side of the road has made us that way...we were landless tenants, we didn't own our own houses..even our poor patethic little bogside bohans, so why would we pay taxes for well as rent...? To improve the roads, hah, sure a bad road will keep the Peelers away, and the Agents, and the feckers with the bad news. We made sure we spread the pig-shit across the street, and they kept well away from us, only visiting when there was someone to be buried or hanged, or both. We were a miserable bunch, not willing to pay the piper, but always calling the tune, or the piper a bolix, and swearing to God that the Brits were exporting their potholes here, much like the holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.

And then one day the fairy godmother..or the Pookie as we call her, came along and waved her 'sciathan' and hey presto, in the blink of the eye, we actually could afford real houses, real clothes, real cars, real holidays, to be really whom we always acted as..or aspired to...and for a fleeting day, or maybe a fortnight, we truly believed, we believed in ourselves and our dreams, we drove at speed around the potholes in our new fancy cars, we built things only the Americans built, we started to join up the dots with autobahns across the island and we began the climb, up the ladder to acceptance, to respectability, combing our hair and polishing our boots as we went, one-eyed on the road, one-legged, looking back awhile, in dis-belief!

T'was the Colour Purple, it was, 'cept we were Green...and sure green suits us, we decided, and the greener we got, the closer to the sun we flew! Flew? We soared, higher and higher, mastering the rising currents, then the current-torrents, like no one before, and the more we soared, the more we heated up, sweating in the unfamiliar glare, the clothes came off, we stripped down to the buff, preening, tanning ourselves, while soaring, between soaring, soaring upsides-down, no hands, always soaring, gliding was for cowards, we soared...roaring like the mighty Celts we were, bating our chests, defying gravity, sure weren't we born to it, everyone cheering us on, glad the duck was a swan...and so we roared and soared and then suddenly, in one feiry burst, we were burnt, burnt to a crisp, exposed for the ordinary folks we were, unprepared for sun-burn, limelight, fame, champagne hangovers, or money, money damnit, lots of money, mullah, or responsibility, maybe, just maybe we can buy our way out of it, buy new wings, and new wings were bought, and we borrowed more for wings for friends, for singers, for entertainers, ya need music for such a tragedy and musicians don't come cheap, so we borrowed and paid, and partied, while we tried desparately to learn to glide, on inferior wings, in dangerous winds, on bad days, ...and no one said stop, why did ye not shout stop?

And so, pretty quickly after it all began, we recalled our envoys, we cancelled the parties, we tightened our belts, but it was too late, far too late for such measures. Alas, we had failed, we lost our semblance of sensibility, our mantra of maturity, our dreams were shattered, taunted for what they were, unrealistic aspirations of an unworthy race...typecast for so long as curs and gombeens, we failed to realise our destiny, to grasp our future with both hands, and so, slipping, did as they all do falling down an Everest, we reached out and grasped at straws, or ropes and stabbed blindly with pithons into the passing grikes and helping hands, praying for any slim hope, for a finger- or toe-hold on that hallowed ground we had glimpsed, and had briefly gained, shamefully kicking out and squirming, hoping to dodge our fate, melding and morphing into what we were not, though such seemed our lot, we eventually fell back, and as we fell, the slack from the rope around our swollen bellies, tautened, tightened on our climbing buddies, our backers and our back-slappers, those who would dare to soar with the marauding Celts, to scale to the exciting new highs, and yet, when we fell, they, forewarned, or in true fore-knowlege, for hadn't they lent us the money, they in turn braced for the impact of our fall, on the one hand supporting us, their team-mate, on the other hand, bemoaning at the unfairness of it all, disbelief and a re-born, re-remembered morality in their shrieks, we were kept awake at night.

So bad was our sudden cataclysmic fall, and so great was the dead-cats rebound that our jolt dislodges all their hard-won, foot-holds and upwardly-only strangle-holds and all at once they were exposed them to the rising tide of bitter mis-fortune, and thus dislodged, and sliding, slipping, screaming, their collective momentum brings them out over the precipice, all strung together, connected inexorably to the first faller, or climber, depending on your perspective, screaming ineffectually at the passing cliff-face, at the rising reef of mis-adventure and happenstance...but the rush is great and so is Allah, and life is ...hmm, I suppose good...enough! Musha, isn't it good to be alive.

C'mon....Be honest now though, ....wasn't it great while it lasted?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Texas Challenge

A friend recently explained to me in great detail how a pendulum, swinging in an arc, never again reaches the height of the point that it started at. In truth his explanation was, when couched in simple terms is always good for interesting after-dinner or over-pints conversation. Speaking of dinner and pints and pendulums reminds me that I once went to a Texas steakhouse, near Houston, a cavernous music-hall style place on whose menu was 'The Texas Challenge', a 72oz steak, served with Texas fries and refried beans, which if the patron finished it, entitled him (inevitably an 'him') to a meal on the house, like you'd ever eat again after consuming 41/2 pounds of a Texas steer in one sitting. Needless to say, there are several takers for this challenge each night and this night was no exception.

The 'Hall' was filled with hundreds of diners, many in Stetsons, huge and high-ceilinged, with a grand piano onstage at the front...being played by a nonchalant pianist, when suddenly, mid-tune, a sultry, scantily-clad, long-legged, long-haired, long-horned Texan temptress, stepped onto the stage, her impossibly high stilletto heels shimmering, she crossed the stage and with an athletic tour de force, summersaulted onto the piano, and side-saddle mounted onto a white-silk-ribboned swing, which had been, until that moment, invisible to me, suspended by 30 foot silk-ribbon ropes from the high ceiling's centre-point, far above the pianist's head, simultaneously capturing the attention of most of the diners in the restaurant, in particular the males.

She slowly started to swing to his melody, back and forth, slowly, tantalizingly slow at first, the effort, seemingly impotent as she stretched and kicked to get the swing to respond, her pumping legs and breasts and hair, the arc getting longer as she pedaled her legs, back, and forth, hypnotic, daring, sexually-sensuous, higher and higher she swung to the music, whooshing across the huge room, above our heads, impossibly high, her dress and hair extended against the wind's flow, pressing against her breasts, her flowing hair alternatively revealing and hiding her gloriously rapt face and smile, the room, growing more and more silent, as all conversation lulled and ceased entirely, ceding to the interloper's performance, all eating and drinking forgotten, as she accelerated, the swing responding now to her obvious effort, her face intent, her flight, back and forth, swiftly swooping down from across the room, at each pass, ruffling the pianist's hair, trifling with him, daring him to flinch, impossibly rising again from her death-dive, to cross and soar up over the other half of the room, and turn, at the breath-taking peak, to swoop again, the music crescendoeing now, faster, faster, higher, higher, closer, closer, everyone holding their collective breaths, hundreds of pairs of eyes fixed on her flying folly, her graceful legs, toes pointed, stilettos shimmering, sword-points to cleave the pianist's head at each pass, the danger, obvious, thrilling, hypnotic, whish, swish, beads of sweat on every watchers brow, stop her, stop her, she will fall, he will die.

Unspoken, breathless, all frozen now, the scene was set for the inevitable climax as she approached the apogee of her arc, her knees almost touching the room's roof at the end of each pass, her whole being now a comet, her dress a glimmering meteor shower, approaching the point of no return, the final pass, the music deafening now, impossibly tortured notes shook the whole room as she reached out one long, slender, tender leg to break her collision with the roof, but instead, at the last moment kicked out, hard and fast..... to ring the heretofore un-noticed cow-bell suspended there, ding-ding, and turned to swoop again, to repeat her feat by kicking the second bell, on the opposite side, and again and again, and again, the music poised, stopped mid-note and finally, carillons of joyous peals rang out over the room, a collective panting pent-up breath-release, as she turned her knowing face to ours and satisfied, exhausted, she lays back flat on the swing, prone, spent, her swing slowing, gliding back to earth.

We breathe again, conversations resume, cutlery clinks, yet everything has changed, all of us now, fading embers, aglow in the evening fire, sated; Our steaks were well and truly done!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Duffys Circus - One Night and One Night Only

You should've seen their faces as we waited in the lee of the huge Big Top to get to top of the the box-office queue and take our seats inside the coloured canvas-covered arena. The boys clutched their Circus tickets tightly, €15 each for them, through Ticket-master no less! Used to be they cost ten shillings or ten pennies! They stared fascinated at the posters either side of the entrance, showing brave lion-tamers and daring fire-eaters, while as each minute passed they were being wound up further by the sound of trumpets blaring brassy tunes tunes, tunes only circuses play, sending excited pulses out to us through the flaps of the canvas dome.
Finally we entered the tent, and picked our way up the tiered benches to where we sat amidst the smell of sawdust and wet grass rose up to greet us as we took in the scene. The boys were beaming with expectation from the stories they's heard in school, vying to see cast of characters and curiosities that makes the Circus special; acrobats and trapeese artists, tumblers and jugglers, llamas, elephants, camels, lions and tigers, miniature horses...and big-footed Clowns! The Circus is come to town, same as ever it was, and the smell of sawdust, and oh so-expensive candy floss and the wind howling, rain spattering on the canvas tent, held up by huge poles and guy wires, garishly painted hard bench seats tiered around the arena, and the Ring-master, with his red coat-tails and top hat and booming voice...'Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, it is my pleasure to present to you, and at great expense, the finest troupe of circus performers gathered together under one big top, from the 4 corners of the world, from Mongolia, from the Steppes of Russia and the sands of Arabia.... Duffys Circus'... transported me right back to the Fair-green in Loughrea, and the open-mouthed, wide-eyed stares of a little boy in short pants, vying with his friends to volunteer to help erect the big top with the 'carneys' in the hopes of a free ticket, or a chance to pet the animals, fascinated by these exotic visitors in their painted caravans and sequinned women!

A dreamed-of escape from the bleak 1960's reality of grey old Ireland. The Circus, a window to another world...Aaaah, Priceless!