Almost a pinch of Miss Ireland

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The Independent Online
I AM the guest of Klinke in Dublin, hard by Camden Street. It is good of him to put me up while I seek accommodation of my own somewhere on this island. Klinke is established in a flat within easy walking distance of St Stephen's Green, where I remember being taken to feed the ducks when I was a small, irascible child. I was given occasionally to diving into the ponds in the hope of drowning some of the ducks.

The Green, the gift of one of the Guinnesses to the people of Dublin, was then surrounded by pendulous iron chains, since flogged off, on which I used to swing. My grandfather, Adolf Gebler, used to conduct a wind band there from time to time, but nowadays when I walk through the place, I am forced to give way to phalanxes of Spanish youths, who hunt in packs, allegedly here to learn our brand of English. I do not understand this phenomenon. I presume it has something to do with the EC. Spaniards are very loud when abroad. I have never noticed this trait in Spain itself.

I walk across the park to the Shelbourne Hotel, whose Horseshoe Bar, where Dublin meets, was designed some years ago by my friend Sam Stephenson, who is credited with the destruction of parts of the Georgian city. He says he is sorry if he has pulled anything down which he ought not to have, and apologises profusely for one street in particular, but mentions in his own defence that they would have pulled it down anyway, and how is an architect to build if there are no clear sites? I leave this question to bien pensants: there is no shortage of them here. Sam is, in my opinion, the most delicate brutalist in his profession. I particularly admire his Central Bank, which creates such a vortex of wind about it when the breeze is in the right quarter that one is obliged to cross the street in order not to be bowled over.

In the Horseshoe Bar last Friday, I had my bottom pinched by Annie O'Neill, a prominent barrister. I do not in the least mind having my bottom pinched by Miss O'Neill; there are worse things that can happen to you in Dublin. Miss O'Neill first pinched my bottom in a public house about a year ago, for fun, and with the intention of convincing me that some male person had done it. She did this by hiding behind a partition, and I must say she was so successful in her subterfuge that I was led to believe that yet another of my favourite haunts had gone down the drain. This time she was quite open about it.

'Do you mind if I introduce a friend?' she asked. 'She would like to pinch your bum also.' I did not in the least mind. The friend obliged. She was young and pretty. 'I am the sister,' she said, 'of the boyfriend of the current Miss Ireland.' So I have had my bottom pinched, at two removes, by Miss Ireland, or so I choose to think of it, and I am very pleased.

I AM, rightly, rebuked by readers for having eaten mussels illicitly taken from Lough Hyne, a wonderful place that contains sea animals not found anywhere else. I thought there would be no harm, since mussels are by no means scarce, and neither did the person who put them on my table (as then was) but, of course, they are part of the balance that must be sustained there. The pair of us apologise most humbly.

IT IS a mistake, I think, which might be classed under hubris, to have address cards printed when one is not certain of one's address. I thought I knew where I lived when I had mine knocked up by Michael Hague of Skibbereen, but I was mistaken. Michael is a most excellent printer, the grandson, it happens, of Eric Gill. He did an elegant job. As a consequence, I have roughly 450 address cards that are superfluous to requirement. No one has so far suggested any use for them.

KLINKE, who is from Memphis, Tennessee, has come to Ireland via Harvard and Oxford universities. In general he has taken well to our climate but does insist on wearing a three-piece suit to social functions. When questioned (not by myself) about this choice of costume, he answers that our summers are very like his winters. He has taken now to wearing an assemblage of garments - khaki shorts, etc - which closely resemble outfits worn by our planters in Kenya or Ceylon some years ago. He threatens to add a pith helmet.

I advise him that he may well be taken for an eccentric, even in this country, but then I recall the Church of Ireland (Anglican) rector who thinks he is a peer of the realm (he is not, more's the pity) who wrote to his bishop offering to resign holy orders as he had become a priest of Isis and Osiris; the bishop told him not to bother since nobody would notice.

I come, without any reluctance, to the conclusion that it is impossible to be eccentric in Ireland.

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