Gardening: Officer, there's a transvestite standing on the roof

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The Independent Online
One sees the former US Senator Gary Hart passing through Dublin quite frequently. He has Sligo antecedents and seems quite at home in the place, particularly in the bars and lounges of the Shelbourne Hotel, where he cuts quite a dashing figure. He has been telling us that he has been to Moscow 21 times, assisting his friend Boris Yeltsin in the composition of the new Russian constitution, a byzantine document compared to which (cf, Articles 2 and 3) our own appears a model of clarity and precision.

We take a strong interest in such matters here, constitutional referendums being a sport we indulge in every two years on average. (The next is likely to be on divorce, a question we have neglected since we voted on it seven years ago.) Mr Hart, you will recall, is the gentleman who, in pursuit of the Democratic nomination for the presidency, dared the press to catch him in flagrante delicto with a bimbo. It did; and he was not nominated.

The American Constitution is an ingenious construction that has survived, by the application of copious amendment, for more than two centuries. We may wonder whether the Russian constitution, which appears to be designed to protect the people from despotism on condition that it is exercised only by Mr Yeltsin, will last two years. Mr Hart's input may very well be invaluable. I hope for his friend Boris's sake that he has included the Bimbo Factor. Russian governments have been overthrown by monks, assassins and insurrectionists, but none, so far, by a bimbo. Neither has an Irish government, which is quite surprising when you come to think of it.

I CONTEMPLATE the curvature of the world through the windows, standing in them usually with a glass of something in my hand and the music playing. Periodically, the bay is lashed by hurricane-force winds that send spray over the top of this elderly house and rattle its timbers. Being subject to vertigo, I cannot look down too long before I imagine myself precipitated into the waves, and Brighid alarms me mightily when she steps out on to the roof. (I met a fellow once who jumped off low-slung buildings for fun, but could not look out of a first-storey window unless he was wearing a parachute.)

The last gale ran its course in three days. In the middle of it, I ventured out to dinner at Dalkey, in most pleasant company. There was a fabled beauty, Glynis Robins, who designs exquisite knitwear; her husband, Ronnie, the Irish equivalent of a QC; Carmel, our estate agent, who lives a few doors from me; Marguerite, who knows about computers.

Now, we are used to lunacies around here, priding ourselves on being the looper capital of Ireland. 'Looper' is a new and useful word, which has entered the vocabulary here - I think via the horsey fraternity, for I first heard it from Mary Finnegan. It signifies people not quite in possession of their faculties, who may take a chance on there being a mild drop across an unknown fence, for instance, when in fact there is a chasm.

'I had a plumber in last Sunday,' Carmel remarked, an event of such rarity as immediately to rivet our attention. 'He was working up on the second storey when he let a terrible screech out of him.' She ran to his aid. 'Am I going mad or what?' asked he, pointing out of the window with his plunger. 'Not,' said Carmel, 'if you're seeing what I'm seeing.' What both saw was the apparition of a slender youth, aged about 20, standing on the roof, clad only in frilly stockings, suspender belt and sequined negligee.

'In a Force 11 gale?' said I. 'Why was he not blown to Scotland?' Marguerite is more practical. 'How did you know it was a man?' she asked. 'How did you know it wasn't an ugly woman?' (I took this to be a feminist remark.) 'Because,' said Carmel, 'he hadn't shaved.'

The guards were duly called, and they asked for a detailed description. 'Are you sure this fellow was a redhead?' asked the officer in charge. 'Positive,' said Carmel, 'but why do you ask?' 'Because,' said the guard, 'that means there's another of them loose in the Sorrento Road. He hasn't got red hair.'

A convention of mountaineering, cross- dressing loopers loose between Dalkey and Killiney? I wouldn't be in the least surprised. Had they any sense, they would be wearing Glynis's knitwear.

AS WE contemplate whose invitations to accept over the forthcoming hiatus, some seek advice on how to behave in country houses. My own is to memorise the corridors in daylight, but that is commonplace. Oliver Caffrey, who knows his way around, advises looking under the sheets, as well-mannered hosts always leave a signed, blank cheque there for fear that their guests are embarrassed by the lack of local currency. I cannot say I have noticed that this is his own custom.

Oliver is a most generous host, in any case. Another friend, who found himself entertained parsimoniously, bade the househould an early farewell. Several days later, the master of the house, noting the frequent absence of his guests and doubting their enthusiasm for long walks, discovered them proceeding to one of the stables, accompanied by servants laden with food and drink. His disgruntled guest had set up his own party there.