Day 25

Social Distancing

It would appear that I have 12 followers. Given the day that’s in it, a few questions spring (unbidden) to mind. Is twelve the optimum number of followers for a cult figure, or should I aim for the baker’s dozen? Have you twelve nothing better to be doing? And which one of you is going to betray me?

Given the other day that’s in it (not really, though, the Easter Rising – the other one – actually happened on 24 April, 1916, and that was Easter Monday that year), if one of you is going to betray me, I advise you make full use of the touts’ website that the local Brits have made available for such purposes. Trust the local Brits to come up with something like that. Have they learnt nothing? Don’t answer that, given the usual warnings about the restrictions in size of the interwobble [three times! Is that a record? – Ed.]. All I will say [I’ll believe that when I see it! – Ed.] is this: why are the police bastards? because they RUC. Doesn’t really work as well – or at all – with PSNI, but you can bring a leopard to water, though a pencil must be lead.

Gives a new slant on the nudge department’s slogan, though, doesn’t it? We’re all in this together. Yeah, all spying out the windows together on each other from our captivity and shopping in our neighbours if we think they have gone to the shop too often, or walked too close to our hedge or gone out for an essentials trip in the car with one too many packed suitcases in the boot. Divide and conquer was always the Brits’ favourite tactic – that, and queuing – but there are well-researched guerrilla tactics to combat it. In this case, basically spam their page with so many fictitious complaints that they will be so busy investigating that we can all jump in our cars and get out of Dodge for an Easter break with no worry about police road blocks. Or start a riot in Derry to deflect attention away from social distancing misdemeanours in Belfast. [C’mon Derry, get the finger out, you owe us one; we did something similar for youse during the Battle of the Bogside.]

Fair play to Leo, too. When asked if he was minded to set up a similar website for touts down Mexico way, not only did he make a literary reference to The Valley of the Squinting Windows, he also said no. Which I took to be an implicit admission from the government that a blind eye would be turned to the annual Paschal Pilgrimage to Donegal of most of West Belfast. I mean, what other way could you take it? He was very clear in his message, and this is such an unheard of approach from a politician that it is as obvious as a duck that he meant us to take the opposite meaning from what he was actually saying. Maybe he was also trying to indirectly address some of the criminal neglect of the county by successive regimes in Dublin.

(David Attenborough voiceover required here; use you imaginations, I can’t afford to hire him.) ‘Yes … although we can never be certain in advance of the actual date as its designation is shrouded in the mysteries of Time and that smells and bells institution known as the Catholic Church, around this time of the year one of the most remarkable mass movements of the species homo sapiens occurs. With little or no preparation, save a quick trip to what most participants in the annual migration call “the offy”, nearly 93.2% of the population of West Belfast moves en masse to one or two small villages in West Donegal. There appears to be no apparent motive for this exodus: while some mating activity does obviously occur during the one or two days away from their natural habitat – very obviously, in some regrettable instances – this does not seem to be the purpose of the event, as it is for salmon, for instance. Neither has the staple food supply run out in their home region, as it has for the wandering wildebeest, as the chippies are still open even as their six-days-a-week customers drive westwards away from them. We will just have to put it down as one of those wonders of nature, like all those baby turtles appearing on the same night on that beach somewhere that slips my mind at the moment and trying to make it into the sea before they are eaten. In fact, if a full Moon occurs contemporaneously with the Westies’ migration, something similar to the turtle run can be witnessed on Machaire Chlochair strand as groups of male Westies strip off and run bare-assed in the moonlight past the remains of Eddie’s shipwrecked boat and out as far as the breaking waves. Unlike the baby turtles, though, they turn quickly back to land, blaming the temperature of the Spring sea on the paucity of their mating display to the obvious amusement of the chip-eating hordes of female Westies gathered on the dunes overlooking the strand watching their potential mates’ behaviour. Many’s a successful West Belfast divorce started in such a romantic setting. The attitude of the resident, local population to this annual invasion of their territory has never been recorded, except in their tills. Fascinating!’

See you up there. Last one into the sea is a wuss!

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