At the devils' blessing

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UP ON to the White Hill above Luggala in the fading light proceed four of us, the Hon Garech Browne carrying with him a shovel and, enclosed in his right hand, a seed of the anciently sacred Rudhara tree sent to him by his wife, the Princess Purna, from India and blessed there beforehand by a Hindu priest.

I have inspected this seed. It looks remarkably like eucalyptus to me, but it is reddish in colour. It may be held only in the right hand, lest it lose its potency. If it is planted properly it will blast to damnation any person or persons attempting to build over it. It is our purpose to blast to damnation and utter destruction agents of the Office of Public Works seeking to erect their vile Visitors' Centre on the mountain opposite Luggala. The seed may be insufficient but we plant it anyway. I invoke all the gods of India and Ireland as we do so, and request of the One True God that he send 10,000 devils to our assistance.

This may have had some effect already; Mary claims her car suffered a seizure as she passed the hill and blames it on my devils, and consequently on me. On Thursday, Aisling Stuart volunteered to drive me into Roundwood without mentioning that she had run out of diesel. We made a slight detour to get some from the farm office but the car stopped 10 yards short of the pump. The hill loomed above us. Miss Stuart found a lemonade bottle and put a litre of diesel in the tank. We proceeded to Roundwood.

Some time later, on our way back, we ran out of diesel again on the brow of the hill but managed to get through the gates in the hope of freewheeling most of the way down past the lake to the house. It is a most precipitous hill and it would be unfortunate, to put it mildly, to lose control on it, but I did suggest to Aisling that she might go easy on the brake as I had no desire to lose momentum and face the necessity of walking.

'Don't worry,' said she cheerily, as the lake and the intervening trees flashed past us, 'the brakes don't work without power from the engine.'

On Saturday I behaved disgracefully, first telling some inoffensive person who displeased me that I would seek his company if I desired it, but could presently do quite well without it ('You won't get it again,' he promised me) and secondly telling off Aisling's civil and courteous child for rowing a boat ineptly, his oar clashing with mine, as if I had forgotten entirely that the first purpose of boats is to mess about in them. I put down this atrocious behaviour to the influence of the devils I have conjured up.

I WAS at the Royal Dublin Society last week taking luncheon with the people who run the horse show. I rather like horses and the people who ride on them though I am not in the least tempted to join in this sport myself.

The conversation was in part alarming. It appears that there is an outbreak, worldwide, of an equine clap which threatens the entire race of thoroughbreds. Were Jonathan Swift still with us he would no doubt, with entire justification, blame it on human agency, for horses are not naturally promiscuous and any sexually transmitted disease from which they suffer must be the consequence of our habit of putting them to stud without so much as consulting them as to their preference.

In the same week the Republic enacted for itself a new law permitting the sale of contraceptives over the counters of public houses but not in vending machines in toilets, as is the custom in Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions. I no more understand the logic behind this distinction than I do anything that is connected with the regulation of relations between the (human) sexes. I am only wondering what we are going to do about the horses.

ON Saturday night I attended a grand dance at which a stunningly beautiful Israeli woman performed the flamenco. I had never seen this done by an Israeli before and was suitably impressed. The house itself struck me as being better appointed than Aras an Uachtarain, the palace of Mrs Robinson, who is our president and was presiding over a Global Forum for Women.

I am, of course, highly interested in the Women question myself. Present there was Ms Bella Abzug, former Congresswoman, of whom Norman Mailer uncharitably remarked when I was in New York that she had a voice that would burst a boil on the back of a taxi-driver's neck. I found her charm personified. 'We are on the agenda now,' she growled at me in a kindly manner. I do not know what this means.

MARY has written an amusing account of the Horse Show. The newspaper illustrates it with a stunning photograph of herself in riding outfit.

'That was a lovely picture, Mary,' says one of her (female) friends. 'Who posed for it?'