Gardening: Bathing costumes: who needs them when you look like me?

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The Independent Online
IN TORULA'S wine bar, in the village of Dalkey, it is explained to me, at length, precisely what a torula is. It is, apparently, some class of fungus that grows on wine barrels in Spain. It lives off the evaporation of alcohol (drunk mushrooms? why not?), which reminds me potently of certain acquaintances of mine, one of whom is under the impression that he was once married to a movie star who died, in his arms, of cancer. The fact that she is still alive and well and has recently, 40 years after her reputed death, published a new volume of memoirs, does not in the least matter. Why should it?

Torula's is a fairly louche establishment, which is entirely to my taste, as are similar joints in London and New York. There is a fellow in there who is obsessed with rugby, another who is obsessed with jazz, and a deliciously bronzed lady who swims, most days of the year, in the Irish Sea, a couple of hundred yards from me. I have so far resisted invitations to join her and her companions, some of whom swim naked. I swim naked for preference myself, for there is little that a bathing costume can do to disguise my comeliness.

I am not certain that swimming in the Irish Sea is, in any case, a wise policy. One might come out of it glowing fluorescently. Patrick Gribbin, an English inventor whose beautiful daughter, Tristan, has taken to the stage in Dublin, asked me just this week if he might wave his newly patented geiger-counter over the plate of mussels I was eating. I said of course he might. The background radiation level shot up by 50 per cent. I ate them anyway.

The principal amusement at Torula's, apart from gossip, is looking out of the window. I was sharing this sport with Mary when we spied a sprightly octogenarian leap off her bicycle opposite us to enter the chemist's shop. 'Gone in to get her supply of condoms,' says the nearest wag. This is the level of conversation at Torula's and why I like it. It puts no bother on you at all.

KLINKE had been invited to address the Gerard Manley Hopkins Society at Monasterevin. 'But I've never read Gerard Manley Hopkins,' Klinke says.

'That's no problem,' says Susan McKeon, who invited him. 'You'll be fine.' Susan threw a party this week in anticipation of an Independence Day barn dance a week after Independence Day, if you follow me. Bea looked very fetching, got up as a cowgirl, for this is American Independence we are celebrating. The country was strewn with parties. I chose the one in Castle Townshend, home of Somerville and Ross and widely believed to be the last bastion of the Anglo-Irish in Eire. It more resembles a Texan colony.

Klinke is in two minds about celebration. As fireworks form part of the festivities, his incendiary instincts lead him to participate. 'But Southerners don't really celebrate July Fourth,' he informs me. 'We know what really happened that day. That's the day we lost the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863.' As this tragedy means little to me, I eat too many hot dogs and drink too much wine.

'When did you say I was giving that talk?' Klinke asks Susan.

'Tomorrow,' she says. I wish him luck.

DANCING with Brighid in Fitzwilliam Square to the sound of second-rate Dixie, which is all the rage at present. So is Edwardian costume, which suits Brighid's ethereal beauty. I try to avoid treading on the hem of her dress, attracting envious glances from members of the Arts Club, whose bash this is. Brighid has just come back from Morocco, where she was attending King Hassan's bogus elections and evading the clutches of his security police, one of whom, she claims, addressed to her a poem in Irish.

'I got a new job,' she growls in my ear. 'I'm a white slave.'

'You would make a lousy white slave,' I whisper gallantly into her blonde tresses. I have sworn off falling in love ever again after my imminent 50th birthday, but, if I were to break this resolution, Brighid would most likely be the occasion of it. Come to think of it, I have been in love with her already.

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