Diary

Share
I have just a few friends who share my enjoyment of really bad films. James, for instance, is happy to be invited to look at a 1960s surfing movie. Paul has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the "My daughter turned into a pterodactyl" film school. Una is an excellent companion with whom to appreciate a bodice-ripper. So I seized the occasion of her visit to London last week to hire a video of Scarlett, the mini-series sequel to "Gone With the Wind". The whole thing takes six hours, so we confined our attentions to the second half, set in Ireland.

I faithfully record some nineteenth-century dialogue for you: "I believe I've exhausted my reserves of solicitude"; "That bright light in the sky behind you is my bridges burning"; "Where's that blarney-stone anyway? It's a long time since I kissed it"; "Absent yourself from the geography of your grief"; "The child she carries is mine, you piteous fool"; and - my favourite - "Her cup's running over with trouble. Are you going to drown her into the bargain?"

It was not surprising that perfectly decent actors like Joanne Whalley- Kilmer (the heroine) moved through the film as though sleep-walking.

I accompanied Una back to Dublin and thence to County Clare to attend Merriman, the most Bacchanalian of the many Irish Summer Schools. I join the Merripersons for a few days every second year or so in order to meet old friends. A major pleasure this year was a long lunch with the novelist Maeve Binchy, whom I've known for decades but see too rarely.

Maeve is one of the great raconteurs, and she made us laugh for two hours, but it was her husband, the writer Gordon Snell, who told the story that most delighted me. It concerned a barrister acquaintance of his who was prosecutor in the matter of an indelicate and illegal relationship between a chap and his Alsatian. "It was, I believe," explained the barrister, "the only known case of Rex vs Rex.

Merriman was not all socialising, for I had some work to do. A crisis arose the day we arrived, when on checking into the hotel I attempted to plug in my laptop computer to allow it to charge its battery. This simple deed could not be done, for - as we say in the vernacular - the plug on the battery charger was banjaxed; at some time during its journey from London a heavy object had knocked one of the pins so hard that it had a 45 degree list. And since it was a sealed plug, I couldn't change it myself.

"I need an electrician," I said to Una. "There isn't an electrician in Ballyvaughan," she said.

"Then I'd better take your car and drive to the nearest big town."

She looked reproving. "Don't be so hasty. We'll take it to the pub."

So we went to the pub, met some friends, ordered a round and Una displayed the offending object to the publican. "Leave it with me," he said. When there was a lull, he retired to his back room for a couple of minutes and by some mysterious means restored the pin to the vertical condition. There was no charge for this service.

Since I had left London that morning and was still thinking logically, it had not occurred to me that a publican would perform an electrical repair. Una lives in Ireland and always thinks laterally, so it hadn't occurred to her that he mightn't.

I am notorious among my friends for total intolerance of particular kinds of detail - makes of car, motoring routes, 'flu symptoms and technological innovations - which I impatiently dismiss as "M25" conversations. Una hibernicised this some time ago to "Athlone Bypass", for the midlands town of Athlone has a bypass a certain type of person likes to talk about a lot.

The phrase has been taken up enthusiastically and has proved invaluable as a conversation-speeder-upper. Though initially perplexed, newcomers to a conversation readily see the virtues of being able to interrupt with the cry "Athlone Bypass" and have the offending speaker instantly apologise and desist from being boring. It is also used to deter criticism, as in "I know this sounds rather Athlone Bypass, but I thought you should know ..."

After a few days of Merriman I always retire to convalesce with friends who live nearby. They are a tranquil couple who do things like gardening and pottering along the river in their boat. Alva, however, put me into a state of intense intellectual curiosity with the following anecdote. On a recent river expedition, having gone up the Shannon to Enniskillen and found the wind nippy, she and her husband went into town in search of woolly hats. Sorting through the many colours on offer in the nearest hat-purveyors, Alva extracted from the pile a hat in mossy green. Except it wasn't a hat. It was a pukka balaclava, with properly stitched eyeholes, cavity for nose and so on. And, she realised, it was in a colour much favoured by the IRA.

Now what has been puzzling her and Colm ever since and is puzzling me is what kind of person goes into a shop in Enniskillen - the site of one of the worst IRA atrocities - and asks for a green balaclava? Yes, we know balaclavas are handy for fishermen, motorbike riders and bank robbers, but ceasefire or no ceasefire, in Northern Ireland a balaclava is a piece of clothing with very scary connotations.

This leads on, however, to the question of where one would expect a terrorist to find a balaclava? Were there specialist terrorist outfitters? Or did terrorists perhaps knit their own? Perhaps their womenfolk organised First World War-type knitting circles? Any ideas?

Since I have been staying in the vicinity of Listowel, here is a verse about it by Tennant Brownlee:

A hack who lived in Listowel

Wrote limericks straight from the soul

But his troubles began

When the lines didn't scan

And nobody thought they were droll.

A couple of printable conclusions to: "A Sheffield museum curator/Found a bar on a hot radiator": "'Not Norman...' mused he,/'Nor Roman, I see./Victorian? ... check with her later'" (Peter Everall); "'It's by Damien Hirst'/Thought our hero at first,-/But Hirst's was the soused alligator" (Leo Phillips).

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
More From
RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee