Cleanliness is next to doggiemess

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The Independent Online
IN A cave beneath the sea at Dalkey lives St Augustine of Hippo. He is irascible and speaks with a broad Dublin accent, as you might expect from one so long resident in the district. So much is contained in Flann O'Brien's last effort and less than masterpiece, The Dalkey Archive.

I shall test the theory in the summer at the bathing place across the road, where gentlemen sit naked on Sunday mornings reading their newspapers, or so says Mary, who interrupts her morning walks to greet them. 'Morning, gentlemen]' says she, taking no trouble to avert her gaze from their paraphernalia. The bathing place was originally reserved for males only - hence the insistence on nudity - but this exclusivity was recently ended as being sexist. The gentlemen remain defiantly, and no doubt unappetisingly, naked, daring the likes of Mary to contemplate their un-private parts.

I have fetched up in Dalkey after several months roaming about. It is not a patch on west Cork, but if you are going to live in Dublin you may as well live here. It is a rocky place and I can see the Wicklow Mountains from my garden. The neighbourhood is, to some degree, infested with authors and pop stars but I suppose they can with care be avoided. It is the dog turds that bother me. Judging from their size and profusion, the residents of Dalkey favour large animals and feed them very well. One cannot therefore read the paper while walking to the station.

Hygiene is not in any case our strong point. I came across a fellow once in Kerry known as Harry Klane. A more usual surname in those parts is Moriarty. I inquired into Mr Klane's ancestry. 'His name's really Moriarty,' said the barman. 'He was given the job of sanitary inspector for favours received. Once a year he pokes his nose around the door of every pub between here and Dingle and shouts, 'Are ye clane?'.' I presume the sanitary department in Dalkey is run by one of his cousins.

IN KERRY also I met Hughie Moriarty, who had been banned from participation in the Dingle Races for the space of three years for the crime of 'ringing'. This consists of substituting a superior horse for a similar but inferior horse, to the subsequent grief of the bookies and enrichment of yourself and your friends. The same racket appears to operate with greyhounds. My friend in Kildare with the pig called Pinky has lost a fine racing animal after leaving it in kennels. When she went to pick it up, it looked a bit dodgy. 'That dog,' said she, 'looks distinctly yellow.'

'Nothing wrong with him at all,' says the kennelman. Two weeks later the animal expired of jaundice. A year later, a farmer came complaining that the same hound, identifiable by the number tatooed in his ear, had been worrying his sheep. 'Usually,' says my friend, 'they go to the trouble of cutting the ears off when they steal them. That dog of mine has probably been galloping around the country winning races for the past year.'

THE government here has made us the Christmas present of squandering pounds 4,000,000,000 on propping up the punt, thus increasing the national debt (presently half the size of Russia's) by 15 per cent in the space of a few weeks. I am putting what little I have left into German marks and praying for the crash of the national currency.

My Christmas present to cabinet ministers, could I but afford one, would be a ticket (one-way) to Lapland to see Santa Claus. The flights, I am told, are packed with screaming children with weak bladders, disoriented mothers who have never been further than the Costa del Sol, and guilty fathers doing their duty. Furthermore, there is no drink available in Lapland. Father Christmas might reward them with pounds 28,000,000,000, their health and sanity might be improved by alcoholic abstinence and they might even find employment in red coats with white trimming; after all, they have been in the business of giving away other people's money all their adult lives.

NO SHOOTING this year since my companion in the field, Winkie Stutchbury, has gone to God and, besides, I am no longer on the territory of the Castlehaven Gun Club. Winkie's friends were apprehensive, upon hearing that he was going shooting with me ('Fancy a bit of a blast?'), that I might send him to his Maker faster than he intended going. In fact, my gun manners were taught to me in Scotland, where they take greater care not to shoot one another than we do here. First time out, I shot a woodcock. Winkie was mightily impressed. He taught me also the trick of secreting bottles of booze in one's host's or hostess's wellingtons as one passed through the hall or conservatory, the better to guard against thirst during dinner, should they be parsimonious - as so many regrettably are. RIP.