An expert's guide to redheads and dope

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The Independent Online
MONDAYS here are frequently given over to the skite. One skips the morning, heading for a quiet luncheon with some close and dear friend, arranging to meet, perhaps, in the bar of the Shelbourne Hotel but forgetting, of course, that many others will have had the same idea. When one has chosen to lunch with Mary Finnegan, it may mean a crowd has gathered there with precisely the same intention.

So it proved this week. Some polo-playing acquaintances of ours were present, one on crutches (he claims he fell off a ladder). In the course of the afternoon (which extended itself, by an alchemy peculiar to this island, to well after midnight), we fell in with Kim Kindersley, the actor and film director, and with Miss Mary Tweedle of Austin, Texas, who has political ambitions.

She is a Republican who is in favour of legalising marijuana, and wanted to know if the climate of Ireland is suitable for its cultivation. She is a redhead, also, and lifts weights for recreation. I always try to oblige redheads. As it happens, I am an expert on the subject (of redheads and of this particular branch of Irish horticulture both: in an idle moment in the British Museum Library some years ago, I read up a monograph on cannabis culture in Ireland and committed it to memory). I gave her the benefit of my knowledge and introduced her to Kindersley, who was looking fragile. His conquests are known as Kimbos and I believe he was suffering from a surfeit of them.

'Hi,' said Mary Tweedle, 'I'm Mary Tweedle and I'm gonna run for governor of Texas in 2008. I'm 25 now, so I'll be around 42 then. What do you think of that?'

'Sorry,' said Kim, mistaking her intention, but polite to a fault. 'What did you say your room number was?'

POLO, I believe, was first introduced to these islands at the Phoenix Park in Dublin by British Army officers. The All Ireland Polo Club, founded 1873, camps out there still. There is no more splendid recreation on a summer's afternoon, in these recessional times, I find, than drinking beer or champagne while watching eight gentlemen cavort dangerously and expensively on lively ponies. I have become quite addicted to it. None of the expense, apart from the odd bottle of fizz, falls on me, nor have I any desire to mount a horse, though the sport is played by octogenarians, if they can afford a string of ponies, and by ladies. 'The only cure for polo,' said Grame Beere, who was carted off to hospital on Sunday after being struck in the eye by the ball, 'is poverty.'

From which God preserve us. Graeme got back in time for the last chukka and the dancing that followed until roughly 4am. Miss Finnegan was flung about a good deal by dancing polo players and I gave her a twirl myself.

It was Mary Finnegan who assisted Jilly Cooper in her researches into polo when she was writing her novel of that name and came to Dublin, it being the headquarters of the game. Many Argentinians spend the summer here playing at it and the question of victory or defeat is often a matter of whether one's Argentinians are better than the other fellow's.

They are no slouches in the other department, either. 'There's Vianini,' said Oliver Caffrey, commenting on the play, 'not known to miss an opportunity, either in a night club or on the polo ground.'

'Tinkers play this game in Dublin,' said Aisling Stuart, contemplating the play. This does not surprise me in the least, for a certain artful intelligence is necessary for its successful prosecution. 'If you get your knee behind the other fellow's knee, you can unhorse him,' said Robert Law. He should know. He learnt the finer points of the game at the expense of HM Government as a subaltern in the Scots Guards.

I HAVE been a good deal in Galway, eating oysters and drinking Murphy's stout, the local vin du pays. I presume it is under the influence of this wholesome brew that Klinke ascended the rigging of the Pride of Galway, a 94ft yacht, built in 1916 and formerly the property of the Krupps. It is used now for sail-training purposes. It would seem Klinke misinterpreted an invitation to look around the ship as giving him permission to climb its masts. This he did without a safety harness, to the horror of onlookers, who were no doubt contemplating with annoyance the prospect of fishing him out of the drink.

I am sorry I missed this spectacle but I do not care to set sail on a swell if I can help it and there was a nasty swell that day. Klinke, however, was able to fortify himself with fantasies of acting as lookout on the Alabama, a Confederate raider in what he calls the War Between the States.

Kim Kindersley I met in Galway city for the purpose of proceeding further west to Connemara, where he has been writing a film script with his sister, Tania, the gifted novelist.

In a pub in the city we fell in with Alan Dargin, an Australian aborigine who produces amazing sounds upon the didgeridoo, a 4ft- long musical instrument said (by himself) to be 120,000 years old. It has, we discovered, a profound effect upon seals, who congregated in the sea before him at Ballyconeely shortly after dawn, when the party we had improvised was coming to a natural conclusion.

Alan says that normally he accommodates six of our women in any given evening and we, Kim and myself, had encouraged him to bring some of them with him. None came, except those that were spoken for. The turf fire guttered out on the rock. The revellers in the boat sang 'I wish I were in Carrickfergus'.

'Carrickfergus,' said I, 'is that way,' pointing towards Ulster, and went to bed.

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