When false teeth denote a firm proposal

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The Independent Online
Ex-Councillor Bernie Murphy of Cork city, who has reading difficulties, was in Lisdoonvarna when I was there. He is described on his calling card as a doctor of letters and a publicity consultant. Both these descriptions are quite accurate; the doctorate proceeds from one of those universities in California which are generous with their distinctions, though scrupulous in the selection of recipients, and was conferred upon him, I am informed, by the university president, who is a Jesuit priest.

Bernie, as he is universally known in Cork, was employed as a sandwich-board man before being elevated to the city council, wherein he served with distinction for six years. He has returned to this honourable and blameless trade after having been unwisely rejected by an ungrateful electorate upon his second appeal to them.

That particular error might have been avoided had La Cicciolina, the Italian actress and MP, been able to lend him her support, as she wished to. But by the most unfortunate coincidence she was busy getting married in Budapest during the week of the election. I often bump into Bernie around the streets and bars of Cork. Usually the encounter costs me between pounds 5 and pounds 20, depending upon his circumstances and his eloquence, plus a pint of Murphy's stout. I do not believe he has an interest in the brewery, though he is certainly interested in its product.

Ex-councillor Murphy was much taken by Mary Finnegan (as who is not?) and proposed marriage to her. Sadly for him, she is not available. When discussing this proposal afterwards with John Lennon, who manages his campaigns for him and attended the Cicciolina nuptuals by the Danube, Mary mentioned that he had produced a small box from his pocket while requesting her hand. 'I thought it was an engagement ring,' said Mary, 'but it was his false teeth.'

'If he put his teeth in before he asked you,' said Lennon, 'then he really meant it.'

KLINKE has given me the belated birthday present of a pair of southern (US) share croppers' overalls, the sort that are made out of blue denim and have straps over the shoulders. These were intended for use in the garden but, of course, I no longer have a garden so they will have to wait a while before I find some other employment for them. I may wear them when writing in the winter, as Churchill wore his boiler suit. I do not think Irish polite society is quite ready for the spectacle of my appearing in company in overalls.

No self-respecting moonshiner, says Klinke, would be found otherwise dressed, but he comes from the Mississippi Delta where sartorial precision counts for rather more than it does in Dublin. Klinke, however, has taken to wearing this garb around the city. It raised no eyebrows in the Unicorn, which is where the bright and elegant gather for an extended Saturday lunch, but in the Shelbourne he was pounced upon by Ann Doyle, our most clever and beautiful television presenter, who has been landed with the task of overseeing the Culshie Festival tomorrow in Mayo.

'Culshie' is a term used by Dubliners to signify a person not from Dublin, a rude fellow, fresh from the bogs, devoid of intellect and lacking polish, a bumpkin. Like most abusive terms originating in Ireland ('Tory' is another), it has been embraced by those against whom it was directed. Indeed, I used to describe myself as a voluntary Culshie when I was living in Cork. 'My God,' said Doyle to Klinke, or words to that effect, 'you could be Culshie of the Year]'

Klinke, consequently, travels to Castlebar for this contest and will be provided with a female escort for the duration. If he is elected, it will be the first time that distinction has been conferred on a graduate of Harvard and Oxford. Meanwhile he tells me the fashion editor of one of our newspapers wants to feature him in this outfit. Possibly it may catch on. If so, I will be spared the expense of buying a new suit.

I AM sorry to have to report that my great friend Gerald Hanley has gone to God. I know it will cause grief to everyone who knew him, and to many who knew him only through his writings. He was a novelist of the first rank, compared favourably, upon his debut, to Hemingway, and wrote superb film scripts, including the best bits of Blue Max.

Like most writers he had his indigent patches, and I seem to recall that he finished writing Nobel Descent, a wonderful novel set in India at the end of Empire, sitting in bed and wearing socks on his hands, for the cold can be fierce in Wicklow and coal was scarce. That would be 1982. Calling upon the hospitality of a mutual friend, we smoked a great deal in those days and sat up until the dawn, I listening to his immensely entertaining accounts of adventures and skites in Africa and India, where he had served with the British Army.

Nicotine, he understood very well, took the edge off hunger. The larder might be bare, the cook paralysed and our host absent, but we managed still, by fearsome threats, to get the keys to the booze cabinet out of an insolent butler. We were happy enough then, talking about the Himalayas and the loveliness of maharajas' daughters, and he, poverty-stricken himself, lent me the 50 quid to get back to London. If you can meet in nirvana, I know I shall meet him there.

(Photograph omitted)

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