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.