The Croquet Lawn – Flann O’Brady Hastings

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There exists a certain character that I, in my capacities as a scientist, and you The Simple Students of Ireland, are well acquainted with. Heading home to Laois, Maynooth or Skibbereen on the Bus Eireann, and not too fancy for it, thank you very much, one regularly encounters this nefarious individual. Indeed it must be said (Must it? It must, for what else could it be?), that the fellow has been the baneful plague (from birds, to swine, to men, and so it goes) of our existence.

Your journey starts as May be expected (and indeed as June, July and August be expected). Cheddar sandwich wrapped and ready for the ten minute nose-powering break at Athy (why it is that noses one and all become so dramatically and instantaneously in need of powdering at this point in the journey, when till then they have survived naked and leaky as nature intended, shall eternally remain a mystery), plastic bottle of Fanta orange sealed and stilled between the folds of a ‘grand towel for your fingers’, and miles ahead ‘the Mammy’ in her idling hatchback, waiting to take you those last six miles of lane and eerie scraping hedges, home to milky tea and warm electric blankets.

The beast in question attends his work a mere fifteen minutes into the journey; just as the mumbling susurrus of the autobus, its gentle to and fro, and comfortable eggy guff seem all set to lull Dame Binchy’s large print pages to sleep in your lap. “Can you blame me, and you the same?’, he asks, “Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile” he says, and “Sure I’ll leave you alone, if you’ll leave me alone.”

Begob, wouldn’t you think Keats himself had set to write a naturalistic sonnet? The bore is at his work, and no reasonable or accepted limits of battery power or telephone credit can be expected to temper his idle banter. At first, thinks you, ‘It’s the young wan yer man is on to, and isn’t it an argument they’re having?’. Indeed it seems the devil’s set himself the task of confounding your quite reasonable curiosity, when suddenly he says (while, mind us both, and bless us and save us, on that same confounding call), “Well sure isn’t she your own wife and my sister and isn’t it our job to look after her?” A pause, “Well sure I’m glad I’m not related to you the way you go on”, and “Well it’d be rude of us not to go to the funeral, considering he was your uncle and mine.”

At this line (be it Parallel, Euclydian or Lobachevskian), you The Simple Students of Ireland, will each independently (sure who votes for the parties these days, aren’t they all the same?) have arrived at one conclusion. The fella on the phone is engaged in biggamy, inappropriate affections of the worst order, and an argumentative auld sod to boot. The whole thing would be laughable were it not so tragic. Is it any wonder you turn to your neighbour and whisper, “Don’t mind me Daddy, he can’t risk the bus at all till he’s had a sip.”

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