Monthly Archives: February 2013

Above Par

This picture, of Dooagh village on Achill Island, is on the wall in the Irish Writers Centre and was our prompt for Tuesday night. I looked at it and could see only one thing…

Doonagh Achill Island

The fifth hole at Dooagh Golf Club is reckoned to be one of the most challenging in all of golf. When the Club was being set up it was decided that each member of the inaugural committee would design one hole each, and it was Mick-Frank Og MacAthair who got the job of doing the fifth.

If you live on Achill Island there isn’t a lot to do, which is why Mick-Frank had joined the club, even though he’d never played golf.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. On a stag weekend in Benidorm in 2004 he had played crazy golf, and it was from his hazy memories of this hungover experience that he took most of his inspiration.

The challenges start as soon as you address the ball. Indeed, addressing the ball – ie, putting it into an envelope and posting it to your house – may be your best hope of ever seeing it again. Your tee-shot is played from the brown patch at the front of the picture. This is made of pure cow-pat, making it hard to generate much distance with your shot and making shit, literally, of your white golf-shoes.

If you hit the ball to the right you land in the giant pit of quicksand. If you hit it left you land on the artificial ski-slope, down which your ball will roll for two miles into a trough of pig-swill.

Hitting the ball straight will find you on the escalator that runs across the centre of the fairway. If this happens you should race to catch your ball before it runs off to the right and drops off the island altogether.

Your second shot, if you ever get to play one, takes you past the giant sleeping walrus, and over the three custard-filled bunkers that guard the green. If you manage this, and walk up onto a green which is actually a giant duvet, you will notice that there is no flagstick. This is because there is no hole. Mick-Frank didn’t realise you needed one, he thought you just hit the ball into the windmill and that was that.

Windmill? Yes, the green did once have one on it. But windmills were invented by the Dutch, with their flat land and flat breezes, and were never intended for a wild island off the west coast of Ireland. The gales that howl in from the Atlantic caused the blades of the windmill to spin like a ballerina in a washing machine, blew all the lights in County Galway, and then the windmill helicoptered itself into the ocean.

So that’s Dooagh’s famous fifth hole – as I say, one of the most challenging in golf. But not the most challenging.

Joe-Pat O’Blaithin let his son, who has reached Level Twenty-Two of World of Warcraft, design the seventh, and if your ball lands in the rough it gets swallowed by a dragon.

Liar Liar

At last Saturday’s Workshop in the Irish Writers Centre we were given this prompt: “A woman knocks on the door of another woman’s house. She lies to get what she wants. Does she get it?”  I know I’ve slagged her before, but there’s only one possible person this could be about….

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She was told not to open the door. She was told not to speak to anyone. She was told, most definitely, not to let anyone in.

So when the knock came on the door she opened it, spoke to the person outside, and then invited her in.

Snow White wasn’t very bright.

The Queen, who had changed her appearance into that of an old crone, said “hello, dearie,” because she believed that’s the kind of thing that old crones say.

“Hello, old woman,” said Snow White, because she had never been to finishing school.

“Are you alone?” asked the Queen.

“At the moment, yes,” said Snow White. “The seven men I live with have all gone to work.”

“She lives with seven men?” thought the Queen. “Wow, what a slapper.”

“What are you doing in these woods?” asked Snow White.

“I sell apples,” said the Queen, showing her a basket.

Other women might have asked themselves how you could possibly eke out a living selling apples in a forest that had only one cottage in it, but Snow White was the kind of girl to whom the height of intellectual thought was that one day her prince would come. She was the fairy-tale equivalent of a WAG.

“They look really lovely,” she said. “Can I have one?”

“Yes, of course. Try this lovely red one,” said the Queen, holding out the apple which she had filled with poison.

“I prefer the green ones,” said Snow White.

This possibility had not occurred to the Queen, because nobody throughout history had ever preferred green apples to red ones before.

“Er, no, you don’t want a green one,” said the Queen. “They, um, show traces of horsemeat,” she finished desperately.

“Very well,” said Snow White, who soon wouldn’t be. She took a bite, then staggered about clutching at her throat as it’s recommended that you do when you’ve been poisoned, despite the fact that it doesn’t in any way help.

“Why?” she gasped.

“Because with you dead I’ll be the fairest of them all again,” said the Queen.

“Seriously?” said Snow White, looking at her gapped teeth, her hooked nose and her pebble-dashing of warts. “I haven’t met any of the other girls in this kingdom, but they must be a right collection of mingers.”

“Oh, just hurry up and die,” snapped the Queen.

Suddenly the door burst open and the seven dwarves rushed in. They saw that Snow White was dying and they all looked expectantly at Doc. Doc, however, was actually a Doctor of Fish Psychology, a quack qualification that he had picked up via a correspondence course, so he just stared helplessly. To everyone’s surprise it was Bashful who rushed forward, just as Snow White was gasping her last, and performed the Heimlich Manoeuvre.

Around her knees, unfortunately. After all, he was a dwarf.

But what was effectively a rugby tackle caused Snow White to fall forward, her chest hit the kitchen table and the piece of apple popped out.

The Queen ran out the door and, shedding her apples, her basket and her disguise, fled deep into the forest.

That was where she came face to face with the Prince. Her shoulders slumped in defeat, and she resignedly awaited her fate.

But the Prince had been searching for Snow White for months now and in truth was getting a bit tired of the quest. So when he saw the Queen, who was not only the second fairest of them all but also had a dangerous bad-girl aura about her, the Prince found himself hooked.

So the Prince found a bride, the Queen became the world’s first cougar, and Snow White settled for life with the dwarves, consoled, of course, by the fact that they owned a diamond mine.

It truly was a story where they all lived happily after.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

Tinman’s weekly camera-less attempt at the WordPress Photo Challenge…

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“Seriously?” said Lot. “A pillar of salt?”

“Look, I warned you,” said God. I said ‘don’t look back’.”

“Don’t you know anything about humans?” said Lot.

“Of course I do,” said God. “I invented them.”

“Well then you should know that we never listen to warnings. ‘Don’t go into that old house where horrible axe-murders have taken place’. ‘Don’t try to make a YouTube video of you skateboarding along a hand-rail’. ‘Don’t try to light your own farts’. I mean, once you said ‘don’t look back’ you might as well have set out armchairs for us, and given us popcorn to eat while we watched what was going on. What was going on, anyway?”

“I was destroying Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone,” said God.

“Why?” asked Lot.

“Because they practised sodomy and, er, gomorramy.”

“What’s gomorramy?” asked Lot.

“You don’t want to know,” said God, who didn’t actually know himself.

“Is it anything like Begorramy?”

“What, putting on a fake Irish accent? Nah, the punishment for that is to be turned into a pillar of Guinness.”

“Which brings us back to the topic of my wife,” said Lot, pointing to the nearby pillar of salt. “Adam and Eve only had to move house when they disobeyed you. This is a bit harsh, isn’t it, just for looking the wrong way?”

“There are pubs in many inner cities,” said God, “where looking the wrong way can get you killed.”

“Yes, but that’s actually better than what’s happened to my wife,” said Lot. “She’s not even dead, she’s just some sort of ready-salted zombie. She’ll have to stand there for the rest of time, watching in fury while people dab their chips against her.”

“Not for the rest of time,” said God.

“Well, that’s good news,” said Lot.

“Not really,” said God. “I meant it’s going to rain tomorrow.”

“Just great,” said Lot. “She’ll be bath salts.”

“How did you know that she’d become was a pillar of salt?” asked God suddenly.

“What?” asked Lot cautiously, feeling somehow that he was being led towards an abyss. “Well, we walking along together, and she was talking, and suddenly there was silence.”

“And how did you know that she hadn’t just stopped talking?” asked God.

“You’ve never been married, have you?” said Lot.

“No,” admitted God, “but you still would have walked forward a couple of steps. So how did you find out that she’d become a pillar of salt?”

“Well,” said Lot, very quietly, “I looked back to see where she was.”

“Gotcha,” said God.

“Very mature,” said Lot. “What was the point of saving the only righteous couple in the twin cities just to turn us into a condiment set a few minutes later?”

God was beginning to realise that he had saved a man who was always right. This was not what he had understood the word “righteous” to mean.

“Ok,” he sighed. “I’ll give you another chance.” He vanished, but just as he did so he snapped his fingers (he didn’t of course need to do that, but appearances are important) and Lot’s wife came back to life.

“Bloody hell,” she said. “You would not believe how thirsty I am.”

“Never mind that,” said Lot. “Just keep walking forwards, and whatever you do, don’t look – ah, crap. Er, hello, God? It’s me again…”

Say It With Cards

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “roses are red, violets are blue”….

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“Why are they blue?”

“What?”

“Why do we say that violets are blue? Surely they’re violet?”

David, in his coat and about to leave for the evening, sighed. Richard was in one of his moods again. They were becoming more and more frequent and David, who liked Richard, was becoming afraid for him.

“Well, they’re sort of blue,” he said, soothingly.

“Yes, the sort of blue that’s called violet,” said Richard. “The hint is in the name. It’s one of the actual seven colours of the rainbow. That means it’s pretty important – it puts it above things like purple, crimson, and ochre, whatever that is.”

“Well, very little rhymes with violet,” said David. “ ‘Roses are red, violets are blue’ makes our job easier.”

And it was a job David loved, writing Valentine verses for Happy Cards Inc. He was young and had a beautiful fiancée with whom he was madly in love, and all he had to do was look at her picture on his desk and stuff like “roses are red, violets are blue, I’m under the spell of the magic of you” just poured out of him. He had been employee of the month for the past four months. He had four “Congratulations On Being Employee Of The Month” greeting-cards to prove it.

But Richard had been with the company for fifteen years now, and was beginning to show signs of Good Vibes Stress Disorder.

He knew it himself. He’d known since the day when he woke from some daydream and he found that he’d idly typed “roses are red, violets are blue, I’m fed up with living and fed up with you” onto his computer. He’d sat staring in horror at the words on his screen, then quickly deleted them, but he knew that the first seeds were there, seeds that would not grow roses, or violets, but would eventually produce tumbleweed that would blow eerily through the empty streets of his creativity.

He would then be moved to the Plain Sentiments section, where they wrote lines like “with love on your birthday”. It was known as in the company the Brain-dead Department, and all of the creatives shunned them, as if the simplicity of their thoughts was contagious.

There was only one place after that – the Entirely Blank Card Section, for those cards with no message inside at all. Old Peterson “worked” there alone, waiting out the days till his retirement, making a paper-clip model of the Large Hadron Collider and reminiscing to anyone who passed about how “Roses are red, violets are blue, no-one in history’s been lovely as you” won him the Greeting Card Writers’ Association Loveliest Thought Award for 1974.

Richard looked nastily at David. “Well if it’s such a wonderful phrase,” he sneered, “then why is it only used in the Valentine cards?”

David shook his head sorrowfully. “Good night, Richard,” he said quietly. “You take care of yourself.” He left, and Richard stared into nothingness for a long time, then began to type.

David was in first next morning, saw what was on Richard’s screen and then went to see the CEO.

“I’m really worried about him,” he said, holding out what he had printed off Richard’s computer. It was a design for a Sorry You’re Leaving card, with the words “Roses are red, violets are blue, Fred got made redundant, now it’s your turn too.”

“Send him to see me when he comes in,” said the MD thoughtfully. When Richard arrived into his office the MD slid the printout across the desk at him.

“Er, look -” said Richard.

“No, you look,” said the boss. “The company is nearly broke – we’re being put out of business by the e-card, which is essentially someone saying “Roses are red, violets are blue, I didn’t bother going to buy a card for you”. I think a range of cards like this one might sell. Think you can do it?”

Richard did. He made a Congratulations On Passing Your Driving Test card that said “Roses are red, violets are blue, we all drive like loonies, now you can do too”. A Get Well Soon Card said “Roses are red, violets are blue, if you die in hospital your family can sue”. His Good Luck In Your New Home cards read “Roses are red, violets are blue, your mortgage will last till twenty-sixty-two”.

The cards were a huge success, saving the company and, more importantly, Richard’s soul. The biggest seller of all, and the one he was most proud of, was a secret joke between himself and David.

It was a Get Well Soon card that read “Roses are red, violets are violet, hope your runs go so you can get off the toilet”.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss

Tinman’s weekly camera-less attempt at the WordPress Photo Challenge…

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“Thwack!”

With one mighty punch Batman knocked one of Catwoman’s henchmen into another one, and they both fell backwards down a staircase.

“Biff!” A well-placed kick sent another though a mirror, onto a black-cat and flat against up against a door, causing the horseshoe above it to drop onto his head.

“Kapoww!!!” the final henchman, a stereotype of large muscle and small brain, flipped backwards under a ladder, had a bucket fall from it onto his head and stumbled blindly over to a window, fell out through it and dropped eleven storeys into the Gotham City river.

“Now there’s just you and me, Catwoman,” said Batman.

“Good job I brought my whip, then,” said Catwoman, flicking it with a loud snap.

“Good job I brought my Bat-Whip-Fighter-Offer, then” said Batman, seemingly oblivious to the suggestiveness of Catwoman’s remark. Her astonishingly long legs did not excite him either, nor her remarkably upright bosom.

This was because Batman was five years old, and Catwoman was his sister’s Barbie.

His name was not Bruce, though it was Wayne. He was Wayne Murphy, bachelor schoolboy by day, crime-fighter by, well, later on in the day. He fought the Riddler (an Action Man), the Penguin (a Happy Feet toy from Burger King) and he fought Catwoman.

He supplied all of the voices, all of the sound-effects of “thwack”, “biff” and “kapoww”, and even an imaginary friend, Robin, whose sole contribution to the proceedings was to say things like “holy evil dastards, Batman!” and generally recognise how brilliant Batman was, like a really dense version of Doctor Watson.

Batman put Catwoman into the Gotham City jail, an old hamster cage, late home to an even later hamster, and looked around for other crimes to solve. He jumped onto the Batcycle (well, Bat-tricycle, really), shouted “come on, Robin!” and set off down the garden path in search of further villainy.

Perhaps it was the speed at which Robin leapt onto the back of the Batcycle, perhaps it was the left rear wheel driving over the garden-hose, perhaps Batman was exhausted after his grappling with Catwoman (I know I would be), but for whatever reason the Batcycle suddenly toppled sideways, with disastrous results.

Batman grazed his knee.

His mouth opened and there was absolute silence for a second, as if his indrawing breath was sucking all of the sound out of all of the universe, and then all of that sound escaped in one long, tear-filled wail.

It was his very own Batsignal, summoning Batmum.

She ran to see what had happened and carried him into the house, his little arms around her neck, his little fists clinging to the back of her blouse. She dabbed at the graze with a wet cloth, and then she said the magic words.

“Would you like me to kiss it better?”

He nodded. She bent and kissed his knee, and he felt all of the pain drain away, as if she had sucked the poison from a snake-bite. She stuck on a plaster that would serve no purpose over the next few days other than to show the world how brave he was, and he snuggled down on the sofa, stuck one thumb into his mouth, and watched cartoons for the rest of the afternoon.

And Mum went back to her kitchen, with a heart full of love and a mind trying not to think of the fact that she had just kissed what was essentially an open sore.

Behind every Superhero there’s a supermum.

Simple Needs

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “simplicity”…

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Mrs Brown believed passionately in the power of given names to influence a child’s personality.

This makes as much sense as the theory that if you name a cat Fluffy it will grow up looking like a feather-duster, or that a dog Spot will contract measles, but she had had a schoolfriend called June who was actually born in June, so she was unshakeable in her belief.

She named her daughters Patience, Hope, Chastity and The Feeling Of Contentment That You Get On Sunny Mornings. She named her sons (she preferred girls) Forbearance, Schadenfreude and, in the hope that he would one day buy her a house, Professional Footballer.

Then she had one last daughter and Mrs Brown called her Simplicity, since she had simply run out of ideas for names.

Overall her plan had mixed results. While Hope was hopeful and Forbearance was forbearable, Patience had to attend Anger Management classes, Chastity became a lap-dancer, and Professional Footballer became a professional golfer (and bought her a house, I did say the results were mixed, not necessarily bad).

Simplicity, though, was her great success.

It began at school, with her stick-men drawings and her phonetic attitude to spelling. If asked to spell “through” she spelt it “throo”. The town of Dun Laoghaire (yes, it exists, it’s about ten miles north of here) she spelt “Dunleery”, ignoring all the sleeping letters in the centre.

Mrs Brown then sent her to the secondary school that the Tinkids attend, Colaiste Chroabh Abhann. She referred to it throughout as “the school”. There she was a star of the hockey team (get the ball, run in a straight line towards goal, hit the ball into the goal), the basketball team (get the ball, run in a straight line towards the basket, throw the ball into the basket) and the judo team (hurl your opponent onto the floor).

She was captain of the debating team who won the All-Ireland Championship after her speech in the Final, against the topic “This House Supports The Notion Of Compulsory Porridge”, consisted of the three words “don’t talk shite”.

After school she went to university, where she studied English, because it was simplest (she could already speak it, she reckoned she was halfway there). She then became an architect, where her house-designs all had four windows, a front door right in the centre and a plume of scribble rising from the chimney.

Now in her twenties she lives happily with her husband (John) and their three children, You, Little You and Baby You. She likes vanilla ice-cream, plain digestive biscuits, and films that you can guess the end of within the first five minutes (romantic comedies especially, sometimes she just watches the opening credits).
She likes the simple life.

Just Not Your Day

Having your very own Day sounds great, but it isn’t.

St Stephen, the Martyr, got stoned on his, and not in a college-student type of way. St Swithin spends his Day sitting in the rain. On St Patrick’s Day Patrick drinks green beer, sings nonsense about how his eyes are smiling, and chases away snakes. There aren’t any snakes in Ireland, but it’s amazing what you imagine you can see after drinking green beer.

And on his own Day St Valentine has to work.

In fact he works all year round. Just as Santa spends the other 364 days supervising as the elves build next year’s stock of Barbies, Power Rangers and toys with which batteries are not included, St Valentine has planning meetings. He meets with St Hallmark, designing the following year’s cards, and trying to think of fresh endings to the verse that begins “roses are red, violets are blue”. He and St Cadbury decide exactly where in the box of chocolates to place the one containing the luridly pink goo. He and Pan decide which saccharine love-songs will be pan-piped onto the kind of CD which is not available in shops.

But the day on which he has to work hardest is his own Day.

Every year he and his assistant Cupid, a cherubic-looking cherub with a bow-and-arrow, go from overpriced restaurant to overpriced restaurant, looking for couples in the early stages of a relationship (say about the fourth date, just around the time when he is admitting to her that his family has a history of schizophrenia, and she is admitting to him that she is not, in fact, 29) and smiting them with love. St Valentine nods curtly at them, Cupid aims his bow, and true love strikes, usually between the shoulder-blades.

The song says that Love Hurts. This is why.

And when it’s all over Cupid heads back to Mrs Cupid (for some Angel Delight), and St Valentine goes home. Alone.

It’s like having your own birthday party, and being the only one not invited.

It isn’t easy for him to meet girls. His frankly silly name, the fact that he has to work on the most romantic day of all and the whole celibacy thing puts many of them off.

The celibacy thing is, in fact, a myth, otherwise where do the next generation of saints come from, but he never gets as far as explaining that.

The tale now arrives at this very evening. Just a couple of hours ago he was patrolling a restaurant that had oysters on the menu and My Heart Will Go On on the sound system, looking for couples to bond until death, when he saw her.

She had the face of an angel, the figure of Jessica Rabbit and the heart of a saint.

This is because she was a saint – St Maria, Patron Saint of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Their eyes met. She walked toward him with the misty-eyed look of romance, he walked toward her with the determined look of a man who hasn’t had it for a very long time.

Cupid looked at his boss, and smiled and raised the bow towards his back (well actually towards his left buttock, Cupid wasn’t very tall), but St Valentine pushed it away.

“I’ve got this covered,” he said. “After all, I’m the expert around here.”

Valentine and Maria met in the centre of the room, and smiled at each other. His first words weren’t the greatest chat-up line of all time, but they were apt.

“Go ahead,” he said, “make My Day.”