Day 27

swans at lough begSocial Distancing

(Those second two are less than 2m apart, surely?)

My Icelandic swans have left me. This is not a euphemism for ‘I’ve lost my marbles’ by the way, but neither is that, as I actually have lost my marbles, particularly the big, blue, cloudy Booler one I won off Aidso in p7. I would like to blame it on part-time wife’s vindictive practice of throwing my things out, or ‘tidying up’ as she calls it, but I am only approximately 98.2% certain that I did not mislay them myself, so I’ll keep that one off the charge sheet for the time being. When the first in line to the throne (not a position in the queue for the facilities in the hacienda) was young(er) and innocent(er), he once asked for marbles as a Christmas present. Pretty easy job for Santa, you’re thinking, but these had to be special marbles, to wit, they were to have miniature, 3D figures of Cú Chulainn encased within the glass. I wonder was that the same year he found out about the non-existence of Father Christmas?

The same boy has recently found out, due to the GCSE Religious Studies course he used to be following, about (what he believes to be) the non-existence of God. Illogically, he is very angry with God, even though He doesn’t exist. This takes part-time wife to the fair, but I actually enjoy the crack of engaging with what teenager 2 thinks are irrefutable arguments about why we should blame all the inequities and problems of the World on a deity that doesn’t exist. It’s not really a fair fight, as son and heir has only the one O Level so far (one he picked up before the meltdown) and it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting any more ‘real’ ones according to the latest fiction from the Department of Education. On a practical matter, he inquired as to when his new-found faith in the non-existence of God would result in his excusal from the (previously) weekly, family trundle to Mass. ‘When you’re paying rent,’ I replied, which both of us understood as a euphemism for ‘when you leave home’ as the notion of resident wage-earners actually handing over any dosh to their poverty-striken parents seems to have gone the way of all flesh. When he then produced the standard teenage whine that that wasn’t fair, with admirable patience and good grace, I explained to him, again, that nobody ever said life was going to be fair. He’s a good guy really, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have prayed (illogically – he is a teenager) for something like Covid-19 in order for him to get out of going to Mass. But I don’t wish to saddle him with complete blame for the Kerfuffle in case he gets Twitter-shamed.

In yet another silver lining to the pandemic currently sweeping the World and causing countless deaths, Toome Fair was called off yesterday. Actually, it was called off a couple of weeks ago, but yesterday was when it didn’t take place. Which is a blessing without parallel for me, in particular, but also, I suspect, for most of the residents of Greater Toome. Because the whole thing is a crock of shite: Nutt’s Corner goes to the country for the day sort of affair, stalls selling plastic on both sides of the main street, a funfair with only about two good rides in it, more fast food-poisoning outlets than you could shake a stick at and, down a side street off the main drag, a herd of straggly, knackered horses and ponies whose proper, humane habitat should be the inside of a can of dog food. But, because it is there and within the carrying distance of one of the sounds a type of hunting dog makes if the wind is in the right direction ( a beagle’s gowl, for newcomers to the blog), the annual debate about to go or not to go plays out for about two hours on Easter Monday before I eventually force the resident teenagers into the car and drive in the direction of the nearest village to the extensive estate where I have been living for thirteen years now in social isolation – this lockdown stuff is old hat to me. The debate occurs because the teenagers are never actually sure whether or not they want to go, when they get there refuse to go on either of the two good rides in the crappy funfair, do not want to risk a trip to the hospital by trying any of the fried delicacies on offer and generally slouch from one end of the town to the other as if it is the last place in the World they want to be and are there against their will. Which they generally are, as it ends up being me who physically stuffs them into the back seat of the car before driving off in a mood that can best be described as not holiday. The part-time wife, being a local and having had her fill as a teenager of drunk, Lent-freed, old farmers passing comments on her nubility outside the one hotel in the half-horse town, waves us off from the front entrance to the estate with a smile bordering on the malevolent but firmly in the vindictive region. She’ll get hers later when she has to deal with the returned teenagers traumatised with the embarrassment of having been present when their father drew attention to himself by speaking in public – the second worst crime in the teenage faults of parents book. Work out the worst crime for yourselves; I shouldn’t have to do all the work.

My presence is a sort of community service to my disadvantaged neighbours. (Their main disadvantage lies in not being me.) It affords them the opportunity of pulling their one joke out of their dry well of humour [well of dry humour? – Ed] (I know what I meant – me) as they meet us on our derogatory slump past the nearly dead equines. ‘Gonna buy her a wee pony, Philip?’ they mock-inquire, one after the other like it is the wittiest line known to mankind. Some of them, though, are obviously spouting the line out of near maniacal desperation, having themselves fallen for the line one year and actually purchased a pony for wee Jacinta, now finding themselves saddled (did you see …?) with the expense of hay, building a stable and a good field ruined by being churned into mulch by the hooves of the death row escapee. Like your first mate who gets a mortgage, the only way out of their Hell that they can imagine is by dragging everyone else into the same pit of pestilence they are in. Sorry lads, I did not come down the Lagan in a bubble and you would need to get up earlier in the morning, or later at night, to catch me out with that one.

So, yeah, the swans. Upped and left with not so much as a ‘Thanks for all the grass, Phil. See you next year!’ Gone just like they came, akin to a practitioner of larceny during the hours of darkness. You can read more about them here, but be warned, there are more inaccuracies in that article than there are Icelandic swans on the shores of Lough Beg. I might come back to them, but one of the main ones is in the first sentence: Lough Beg is not in County Derry; neither is it in County Londonderry, wherever that is. My semi-private lough is the border between Antrim and Derry, and so, like hailstone accents à la Graeme McDowell, MBE, it is neither one thing nor the other, neither here nor there.

I have no idea what prompts the swans (Whopper swans they are called, as opposed to their disabled cousins) to leave so suddenly. I would advise them that two sunny days in a row here is not a reliable indicator of a change of season. In fact, I would further advise them to stay the odd year and enjoy the severity of an Irish Summer if it is blue-knuckle cold they are after. But, there they are, gone, just like les neiges d’antan. They always piss off in the middle of the night though. Maybe there is less air traffic between Lough Beg International Airport and Iceland at that time of the day and this means fewer traffic jams on their way home. Or maybe they are just a bit embarrassed about all that free, Irish grass (will only our grasses grow free?) they have been stuffing into themselves for the past six months or so without express permission from the owners of the amphibious fields. I am pretty sure some of the fat fuckers will have to pay an excess baggage fine when they arrive in Reykjavik airport, and good enough for them, I say. (For clarity’s sake, I will point out that I am referring to the overweight swans, not to the fat fuckers of farmers who own the watery fields.)

I will miss them, though. But they’ll be back. And so, worse luck, will Toome Fair.


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