Revisionism and Slow Learners.


 When their heroes made a triumphant return from conquering The New World, the populace flocked in their millions to greet them. Some fainted with excitement. Some collapsed from hysteria. There was some Olympic-standard jostling. Others emitted piercing, high-pitched cries of ecstasy, at being in close proximity to gods. The idols remained pretty cool throughout. “How did you find America?” enquired an interviewer with a microphone in his hand. “Tzehned left at Gzeenland,” replied Ringo. I think it was he who gave the obvious answer. That god-like wisdom has remained with me ever since. Sometimes the answer to the great questions is simple. It doesn’t have to come shrouded in blackboards full of complex equations. Even Stephen Hawking has admitted to the odd mistake, a misplaced decimal point, a momentary lapse of attention that could shorten eternity or warp time. Be careful there. Keep it simple. My good friend’s wife refused deep down, to believe that the Earth is really round. Maybe in theory and in mathematics…”but look at it. It’s flat.”  She knew her man. I think she was winding him up for years. They flew the Great Circle Route from London to San Francisco. They flew over the southern lobe of Gzeenland. The horizon, bathed in the last glow of the fugitive sun, was a graceful arc. Proof at last. Q.E.D. “Look at that. Just look at it. It’s round, for Christ’s sake!  Round, I tell you. Now do you believe it?” She shrugged. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. That bit maybe.” Ringo would have been proud of her.

I was dismayed during the week to hear the soccer guru, Eamonn Dunphy declare that Michel Platini was himself, a great player. This was in connection with playing The World Cup in Qatar, where temperatures soar to fifty degrees and there are no pubs to refresh the weary fans. For years I had repeated Dunphy’s dictum that Platini was a good player, but not a Great Player. It’s probably the only thing I knew for certain about the Beautiful Game. I buttonholed blokes in pubs, jabbed my finger into their chests and snorted derisively: “Don’t talk to me about Platini! He’s a good player, I grant you, but he’s not a Great Player. [Eh, no I didn’t.] Now all is changed. Let the word go out that Platini was a Great Player. Fat is good for you. Doctor Spock was wrong. The eminent critic and former lecturer, Denis Donoghue, who spell-bound many of us half a century ago with his eloquence, has changed his mind. “I am no longer entirely convinced that Eliot alone set the agenda for poetry in the twentieth century…”  Jab…don’t talk to me about Eliot…jab He was a good poet, all right, but not a Great Poet…jab.. . Our gallant allies in Europe in 1916, didn’t start two world wars and put civilization in peril. They are our friends and paymasters. There is such a thing as a free lunch. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The last big controversy in Greece was in 2012 when the government suggested tentatively, that nightclubs should close at 3 a.m. so that people should be in a fit state to go to work in the morning. There was outrage. We gave the world democracy. An attack on the basic freedoms. People took to the streets. When the money ran out they took to the streets again, demanding more money. Paradoxically, they burned down banks, a strategy widely praised in Ireland by political ‘firebrands’. They elected Syriza, a party with loads of promises, but very little money. They found that they also had to turn, cap in hand, to ‘our gallant allies in Europe.’ They secured a fig-leaf extension of their bail-out, now revised as ‘an arrangement’. So their supporters have taken to the streets to protest. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. (Some old Greek said that. They also gave the world the fig leaf.)


Those lads on the cliff know that theirs is a risky sport. They lament the fact that they have lost friends on the mountains. There is a connection, a cause and effect. They proceed cautiously, taking care not to pull others down, if they themselves fall. They exult in the triumph of concerted effort and cooperation when they reach the summit. Of course, they could have scrounged a lift in someone else’s helicopter.


Them’s dollar bills up there on the ceiling of The Iron Door Saloon in Yosemite. They advertise Free Drink Tomorrow. Promises. Promises. You would need a stiff drink to steady yourself before scaling them there heights, to get to the money, or indeed before you go clubbing. Two lads climbed El Capitan over New Year, unassisted and without elaborate ‘arrangements.’ The did carry ‘pooptubes’ and cleaned up their own mess. Fair play to them.


During the stumblebum years, when we were persuaded that we were rich, Joe Higgins, leader of and sole Dáil representative of, the Socialist Party, complained that The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahearn, had stolen his clothes. Now that his party has trebled and sundry ‘firebrands’ have bought into his brand of politics and stolen his clothes, Joe is in need of a figleaf. He emerges now and then to reclaim his leadership and utter ponderous, doom-laden maxims on behalf of ‘the ordinary working people..’ He has a mountain to climb, before we all emerge, under his guidance, onto that broad, fair upland enjoyed by much of Europe in the good old days of Socialism. Incidentally. Tsipiras used to be a Communist, before the new arrangement. Yeah.

Old Faithful. Yogi, The Famous Grouse. Early Television.

old faithful 002 In the early days of television there was nothing but snow. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, went to her coronation through a blinding blizzard. The guardsmen were glad of their bearskin hats. I imagine that the archbishop used his crozier to probe the drifts in Westminster Abbey, for foreign heads of state. Only Queen Salote of Tonga stood out like a magnificent nunatak, above the all-pervading snow.  Hans and Lotte Hass dived to adventure through the ‘long snowstorm’  so wonderfully described by Rachel Carson. Armand and Michaela Denis pursued pygmies and elephants through the dandruff forests of the Congo. Adventurous cooking with Fanny Craddock was accomplished by giving her poor husband, Johnnie, a dog’s life in a an arctic white-out. My mother was pleased to see The Battle of the River Plate coming up on screen, Colour by Technicolour, but it wasn’t. She started saying ‘Let’s be ‘avin you,’ from watching too much Z Cars.  She advised her elderly cousin in New York, her lifelong correspondent, although they never met, to make herself known to her local precinct in the interests of security. ‘Who loves ya, baby?’ I don’t know why she watched so many quiz shows, as she knew all the answers anyway. She had a ‘thing’ for Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the archaeologist. He identified objects on Animal, Vegetable or Mineral.   ‘Palaeolithic,’ he would declare, turning an artefact one way and another.His magnificent moustache would bristle. ‘It’s so  baaad, it has to be Palaeolithic.’ All archaeologists tried to be Sir Mortimer, just as barristers all try to be Rumpole of the Bailey.

Television knocked the family Rosary on the head. I blame John Yogi Bear for  the infernal invention and its pernicious influence on the older generation. His first efforts were powered by steam and workhouse orphans pedalling furiously behind the scenes. He was obliged to move lodgings when he short circuited the building. He received 1000 volts of electricity through his body and  survived. (But did he really? Was his molecular structure not compromised?) He ran downstairs to find an apprentice  in order ‘to see what a human face looks like.’ Should get out more. That was the time to lock him up permanently. Nowadays government Spooks or the ubiquitous CIA would nab him as a threat to state security. Psychological profilers would have him’ taped.’ He would be picked up by the Fuzz. He would be grassed up by a geezer.  ‘Quiet sort of fellow. Kept himself to himself’. You know the type. The language is getting to me. I will have to stop watching so much crime drama.

He devised all sorts of ingenious gadgets for dissecting images and reassembling them somewhere else, long before Mr. Spock was beamed into our homes from a galaxy far beyond ours, where the hand of man has never set foot. Spock’s childcare methods have all been repudiated, even by his sons. Television is the baby-sitter now…. ‘childcare but not as we know it, Jim.’ Childbirth is a spectator sport. Do we vote on the participants? John’s methods did not gain acceptability with the BBC. He invented 625 line and colour television, but nobody believed him. It took another forty five years for the television companies to catch up on him. He was ‘smarter than the average television maker. Hey hey.’ Like many an unrecognised genius, he went into exile. He made the first transatlantic television transmission. That’s a well known fact. What is not so well known is that he dis-assembled himself and beamed himself across the Atlantic. (He was after all, a Scot, like the chief engineer on Enterprise.) For many years he terrorised the campers in Jellystone Park, raiding their pick-a-nick  baskets with his ruthless side kick, Boo Boo. I saw on television, that that place is on top of a vast hot spot below the Earth’s crust. It is set to blow up sometime in the next few million years, taking Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and most of the Missouri-Mississippi catchment basin with it. Life on earth will be unsustainable —again. As if the news isn’t bad enough.

To make a long story even longer, the ingenious Scot  left his name to our dog. Yogi arrived mysteriously into the coal shed. (Beamed in?) She was diffident and self-effacing. She was a wheaten terrier bitch, higher at the stern than at the bow. She was really a mongrel with a colourful pedigree and an eye for the boys. We fed her surreptitiously, despite the Old Man’s grumbling. Yogi kept a very low profile when he was around, but strangely, they became friends. After a few weeks Yogi gained the confidence to move around to the front of the house and bark at the postman, John Kearney. I always thought of him as Chilly John Kearney on winter mornings. He called twice a day and Yogi went bananas. (No postmen however, were harmed in the writing of this post.) It was all an act. We all act a part in life. Shakespeare had something to say about it.

Yogi had arrived. She went for a walk with the Old Man every day. It  was heart-warming to see… one man and his dog. I noticed though, that if anyone else took Yogi for a walk, she stopped at Val Hatton’s pub in New Street and looked around with a quizzical look. It seems that she always enjoyed a packet of Tayto crisps and a bowl of water in Val’s.  She was quite abstemious in matters of food and drink. Yogi enjoyed the delights of The Season in Skerries. Her season came around regularly and we were besieged by all the dogs in the town…’ Both mongrel,puppy, whelp and hound and curs of low degree..’ They knew that Yogi was in business before we did. The word was on the street.  The Old Man often found himself beating off a horde of amorous swains, with his umbrella. ‘Going beagling, Tom?’ asked Milo Carr,  his  neighbour and old friend. It probably wasn’t the best time for jokes.  Love laughs at gates and high privet hedges. Paddy MacCormack’s golden labrador, Grouse, went over that hedge like Arkle. He was top dog in Yogi’s affections, but she spread her favours elsewhere if the mood took her.

Love even laughs at buckets of cold water. Persons of a delicate or sensitive nature should look away now. Yogi and Grouse found themselves in an inextricable, compromising situation in the back garden. They were facing in opposite directions. It’s probably covered by the Kama Sutra, which I have never studied. Probably too late now anyway. I gather it’s all diagrams. I did try Victor Sylvester’s book on ballroom dancing. Do you remember Victor on the radio?   Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. The foxtrot, if I remember accurately. The book had no words, just pictures of footprints, black for the left and white for the right. Maybe it was black for the right…I never got the hang of it. He never made the transition to television. The whole thing  gave me a headache, as MacMillan famously said to J.F.K.  Yogi looked at me with rueful eyes. Grouse was in a panic, as any chap would be in that situation. I tried the cold water. Grouse backed away. He had no option. They found themselves on opposite side of the clothes-pole. (Kama Sutra page 37 perhaps?) Nah! that couldn’t be in the Kama Sutra. The situation resolved itself suddenly. Grouse any chap would, in the circumstances. You know how it is, yourself. Yogi should have pleaded a headache and saved herself a lot of trouble.

My mother came in one afternoon to find Yogi asleep in front of the fire. The Old man was watching horse racing. He was just back from his walk. He was annoyed.  ‘There’s something wrong with that blasted television, Kay. ‘ There was indeed. The horses were running upside down, like spiders on a ceiling. She was smarter than the average…He had knocked it off the tv table and put it back the wrong way up. They got it working properly, just in time for Blockbusters, with Bob Holness. ‘I’ll have a G and T please, Bob.’

The picture of Old Faithful has no subliminal significance whatsoever.  It is a geyser, not a geezer.