Thursday, 25 December 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Christmas

Last night after closing, I was putting out some barrels when I spotted Robbie Condan wobbling up the street full of the spirit of Christmas. Well full of spirits even if they had come from a bottle. He was singing Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer and wearing a paper hat while his feet took two steps backwards for every three steps forward.  

"Evening Robbie," I called. He waved in the general direction of the noise and nearly fell on his ass. He managed to hold himself up by grabbing the iron railings outside the park. I started to run across the road expecting him to  crash into the pavement. Even as drunk as he was, Robbie managed to hold himself up using the fence for support. He wobbled and staggered but stayed standing. I could only watch the amazing sight of Robbie pulling himself up the street bar by bar, singing with gusto as he went.

This morning after mass I happened to bump into Robbie. He was a shocking sight, eyes as red as the devils skin and his face as white as a sheet. There's always a price to be paid for our pleasures.

"Happy Christmas Robbie," I said. "I hope you got home safe last night."

"I sure did," he said with a cheeky grin. "I traveled by rail."


Happy Christmas every one and see you all in the new year.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Make it so number one.

I heard this story on the radio while coming home from work the other night and thought you might get a kick out of it. In setting the scene, it's important to remember being famous world wide is often of scant importance when viewed from a parochial viewpoint.

A while back William Shatner was holidaying in Ireland. From what I heard he was a most affable and unassuming man. During his time here his host took him to a Junior Club Hurling match. The teenagers put on a performance of such skill that Mr Shatner was blown away. His host suggested going along to the medal presentation in the clubhouse.

Being one of the most recognisable faces on the planet, it's not unusual that he made a stir but he didn't want to take from the achievements of the kids. Some of the club members approached the chairman when they heard who was in the audience. The chairman was a man who lived and breathed hurling and little else,

"Why don't you ask Captain Kirk to present the medals, it would be great crack," said one of them.

"Captain Kirk?" asked the chairman.

"Yea Captain Kirk, you know. He's the fella in charge of the Starship Enterprise, the space ship."

The look on the chairman's face left no doubt that he had no idea who the man was talking about.

 The exasperated club member said,"Just ask William Shatner to come to the stage."

"Alright," said the chairman and made his way to the rostrum. After a lengthy speech on the merits of the game it came time to call up the impromptu guest of honour.

"Could ...," started the chairman but he'd forgotten the man's name. Several people below the stage began whispering 'William Shatner' and 'Captain Kirk' which only added to the man's confusion. Frustrated to the hilt, the chairman grabbed the mike and said, "Will your-man from space come up here please."

When William Shatner eventually got his gales of laughter under control he made a great job of the presentation.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Loo Door Logic

At some time or other, we'll all end up staring across the table at a warming glass of Chardonnay that's destined never to be drunk. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a moment of enlightenment in life of a wine swilling alcho, I don't even like wine. The bottle of Heineken opposite the Chardonnay is mine, my suddenly called away lady friend is the wine drinker. I don't know why I thought internet dating would be any better than all the other hopeless ways of trying to find a girlfriend, if anything it's even worse. She looked nothing like her profile picture either. They say the camera adds ten pounds, in this case it seemed to subtract a couple of stone. Sandra was her name or was it Sandy, something with sand in it at any rate. She was nice in her messages, chatty, intelligent, even bubbly. Nothing at all like the woman who turned up at the Eight O'Clock showing of "Inglorious Bastards."

I stood in the lobby for ages, feeling like a spare part, waiting for her to arrive, tickets booked and paid for. The trailers had already started when she showed up. She looked like she was going to a premier or something, I felt very under dressed even though I was wearing new skinny jeans and fancy V neck tee-shirt that the salesman promised was all the rage. I was as nervous as a turkey at Christmas, so I made a joke about the traffic being murder which she didn't seem to get. By the time we had popcorn and drinks, the movie was started. Don't you hate that, the first few minutes set up the whole film.

The movie was good, but I had seen it before. She didn't try to grab me or anything, actually she hardly said a word through the whole thing, well it was a movie I guess. When the lights came up I suggested a beer in a trendy music club not far away so we could get to know each other better. Would you believe it cost a fiver to get in, each, on a Wednesday. She didn't even take her coat off. By the time I came back with the drinks her phone was suck to her ear, a flat mate apparently with some emergency or other, her cat I believe. Just like that she was gone leaving me sitting alone, thirty quid out of pocket on a movie I'd already seen, in the most uncomfortable jeans ever sown by the hand of man, with a drink I was never going to drink. Bloody typical.

One way or the other I was finishing my beer, along with a second, why the hell not. Two Heineken and a bucket of cola will not all fit in my bladder so before trudging home, alone as always, I decided a visit the loo was in order. Yet another massive mistake in a night of terrible decisions. The place stank to  high heaven. The urinal trough was blocked with fag butts and half dissolved loo paper. It was full with strong smelling piss. One of the cubicle doors was missing, regardless of which a heavily tattooed biker was taking a dump. No door and not a damn given. Thankfully the other stall opened just in time, I barged in as soon as it was vacated only to be assaulted by a cloud of overpowering ass gas. Could this night get any worse? As I stood, peeing and holding my breath, I began admiring the hundreds of scribbles left by previous occupiers of this filthy space. Floating right in my eye line was a message, penned by some sadistic prophet, for this exact moment in time. "Love yourself, nobody else will." My life in a nutshell.

The next day started as always, far too early. The bus, too crowded and smelly, delivering me to a job I hate. Have you ever meet someone that actually wanted to be a telemarketer, I haven't and I'm one. When I took the job it was only while I figured out what I wanted to do in college. That was five years ago and I am still in this soul sucking hell hole. Five years and not even promoted to supervisor. Mind you I don't blame them for that. I have a habit of wearing my heart on my sleeve, and my annoyance in my voice, unfortunately. Tony is about the same age as me and has the cell, sorry, cubical next to mine. We've been lunch buddies since the first day I started here. Today we took our sandwiches outside to eat on the front steps of the building.

"How did the date go?" he asked between chomps of ham and cheese roll.

"She legged it as soon as the movie was over, didn't even finish her drink."

"Sorry mate."

"Ah don't be, I should have expected it, shit like that is always happening to me. I am just never destined to find the one."

"Don't say that," he said after another bite. "The perfect girl might be waiting around the corner."


"Why's it rubbish?"

"Women don't want guys like me, they want Mr Flash, Mr Good time, not someone like me."

"You can't say that,"

"Why the hell not?"

"Because not all women are the same, at the very least they're not all as shallow and self-centered as you think they are."

"You could have fooled me," I said, feeling a little sneer creeping into my words. It was how I felt so why the hell should I hide it?

"Did you ever think you might be the problem, not them?" Tony asked his sandwich forgotten. He was getting angry and for no good reason.

"Hang on a minute, what the hell did I do?"

"Nothing , you did nothing," Tony said backing away from the argument. I wasn't having that.

"NO,no no, you started to say something, you should spit it out,"

"I don't want to get into this, I shouldn't have said anything. It's none of my business."

"I want to know what you were going to say, is that asking too much?"

"It's just you always expect so much and react so badly at every set back,"

"I do not,"

"Yes you do, Greg,"

"Fuck you," I said. I don't like being looked at too closely, my cracks were too jagged to withstand close inspection. When Tony exploded it took me by suprise.

"NO FUCK YOU, I've listened to your griping long enough. Everyone has shit days, everyone has disappointments, but we get on with things. We don't inflict our misery on everyone around us. Its no wonder women run a mile from you, who the hell wants to be around that kind of crap all the time. Relationships are meant to be fun, FUN! Try having some now and again." Tony stood up, glaring at me, his roll bunched in his fist, I actually thought he might hit me.  As he walked away he threw his sandwich in a bin saying over his shoulder, "And you ruined my lunch."

I sat there for a long time feeling bad about what Tony had said, I was nothing like that. When I got back to my desk, a pink post-it was stuck on my computer screen.

"Sorry buddy, just having a bad day." Tony's chair was empty and remained so for the rest of the day. I worked through my list, saying the prepared lines of salesman gibberish without passion or care. What Tony said reverberated around my head again and again. No matter what way I looked at it, life is what makes a person happy or sad. Just because I smiled my biggest smile would not make Katie Perry appear in my bed. Mind you, that thought did make me smile a little bit. Actually what Tony had said proved he was wrong. Tony said I was miserable, which made me angry, resulting in my bad feeling. Stick that in your self-help pipe and smoke it, buddy, I thought as I heard my voice say, "Joining Group-Tricity Electric could cut your power bills by twenty five percent." The next thing I realised, I was talking to nobody. The person on the other end of the line had hung up and the phone was beeping into my ear. How did I miss that? Just as well it was nearly half four. Just an hour to go.

I tidied my desk for a bit, played snake on my phone and ran multiple colored highlighters through my caller list, speeding up the process for all involved. At five twenty nine my clock-in card was hovering over the machine waiting for the wonderful number thirty to arrive.

On the ride home I still couldn't get Tony's words out of my mind, knowing he thought I was miserable had upset me. I didn't what him or anyone thinking like that about me. Was I miserable? Sad sometimes, angry a lot of the time but miserable? There were no seats on the bus and I was standing with at least five more people when the driver pulled up at yet another stop. It had begun to rain and no one got off, only more people flooded the already over loaded coach. A little old woman with a shopping bag was trying to get on. I moved back a step and what came out of my mouth was an accident, some marketing Pavlovian response, "Hello."

She turned to look at me, "Do I know you?"


"But you just said Hello."

"Yes," I said not knowing how to explain that.

She smiled a lovely smile. "How very nice," she patted my arm and moved along the bus aisle, where she remained standing for three more stops.

Now there was two things running around inside my mind, all night in-fact, making sure I got very little sleep. That lady on the bus had made me happy, made me feel happy in a situation that would have normally driven me crazy. I disliked bus journeys, I hated standing on them, and shuffling old ladies normally made my blood boil because they jump in your way as soon as you're in a rush. The second thing was that Tony might not be as completely wrong as I had thought. I decided to try a little experiment when the opportunity arose. Take something bad and feel good about it.

The bus presented my opportunity sooner than I had expected. I rounded the corner as it was pulling away from the bus stop. I tried running and waving but it kept going. I felt my rage bubbling up inside and had to actually talk myself down.

"OK, that bus is gone. Getting annoyed at it won't bring it back. The next one will be along in twenty minutes and you will still be more or less on time for work, there is nothing you can do so just enjoy the wait." When I said talk, I was actually doing it out loud, not in my head. A woman passed me from behind looking back which a face that said, "Weirdo."

So I sat at the bus stop in the early morning sunshine, watching the birds flutter among the bushes. I watched the people rush by with steaming travel mugs and angry faces. I watched the cars inch along the road, everyone intently holding their wheels and going nowhere. When the bus turned up if felt like seconds had passed not minutes and I got on, happier than I could ever remember going to work before.

As the days passes I tried other things. I stood and gave people my seat on the bus, I let people on the lift before me, I held doors for people, I smiled, I said Hello to people in shops and supermarkets, I was nicer to tellers and they were much nicer to me, I made coffee for colleagues at work without being asked or expected, to customers I gave honest information about what was good or not about the service being offered, I asked if they wanted to talk to me or not before launching into a sales pitch and remarkably my sales figures went up. The biggest thing I learned was that even when someone refused my offered seat or did not want to hear about the benefits of changing power supplier I still felt better.

Just before lunch time today I went looking for Tony and found him finishing a call in his cubicle. I placed a ham and cheese roll on his desk along with a double chocolate muffin.

"Sorry I ruined your lunch," I said when he hung up the phone.

"I wanted to talk to you about that, I was having a bad day and I took it out on you, that wasn't fair."

"Fair or not Tony you were right about a lot of things, things that I'm sure a lot of people say behind my back but it takes a friend to say them to my face."

"I'm relieved you feel like that, I thought I might have broken us. Fancy eating this with me later,"
Tony said pointing at the muffin.

"That's a date, which reminds me, I have another one later."

"Your kidding with who?"

"Julie from accounts."

"Julie from our accounts? That Julie?"

"The one and only," I said with a beaming smile.

"So where are you taking her, not Transformers I hope."

I had to laugh at that. "No I've something else in mind."

What I actually had in mind was an early dinner in a cute little cafe on the banks of the river, which was going fantastic. Julie thought my slightly sarcastic wit was actually funny, now that the moodiness had been shined off of it. I have to say the world looked so different to me now and not just because I'm in the company of a fantastic, gorgeous lady. My days are flying by, full of tiny things I never saw before. I'm far from a reformed character but I like to think of myself as Greg mark two. After dinner I asked Julie if she fancied catching a gig in town, which she jumped at the idea. I knew just the place to take her.

This time the glass of wine was on the same side of the table as my bottle of Heineken. The middle of the table had several empties rubbing shoulders. As is natural, I had to excuse myself before long. I opened the door and the loo and it was just as bad as I remembered. The urinal had been unclogged but the door was still missing from the first cubicle. I tried the cubicle with a door and found it empty. I slipped inside and did what had to be done. There before my eyes was the quote which seemed to perfectly sum me up a few days ago. Reading it now, it seemed not quiet finished. I rummaged in my pockets and found a pen.  A few minutes of scribbling later and I'd scored another victory for my new view of the world.

When I left the cubicle the message I'd left behind was one of hope to others which may walk in my foot steps. "Love yourself Or nobody else will," and of course the obligatory smiley face.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Doctors, Robbers and Wakes

This isn't a story but a wacky bit of history. I just found out today the reason funeral wakes came into being.

I just thought that the Irish loved a good party and any reason would do just fine. The beginnings of the Funeral Wake had a much more serous start. Medical science was in its infancy and they were mad for bodies to work on, expanding their knowledge. Annoyingly people were not so keen to co-operate. The number of people willing to be cut up in the name of science was tiny. Enter the greatest evil, cash.

The doctors began paying good money for a body. Enter the second great evil, people. Supply and demand did the rest. It was not long before freshly planted loved ones were just getting up and vanishing. That was when the wake was born,

Relatives would have to wait with the body while it was prepared for burial and stay awake, watch it while it was placed in the grave yard staying awake all the time. Lastly they had to stay with the body for several days afterwards particularly at night to make sure it was not dug up again while still usable.

Today a wake is a way to say good bye to a loved one but once it was a way to make sure you didn't loose them for good.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

King Rat

Have you noticed how determined everyone seems to be to leave a mark on the world. It must be a natural reaction to our mortality. Fame comes in many shapes and sizes. Some people are destined to be known throughout the ages, immortal through the annals of history, Achilles for instance. The rest of us have to accept that our own little glimmer of notoriety will dwindle slightly more quickly. Sadly we don't often get to pick how we are remembered, that duty falls to the ones we encounter on our way.

In the eighties there was a man called Mr O'Gorman living in my town, he was a crooked old fella with withered features and a wicked scowl. He was determined to see the worst in everyone and everything. Nothing seemed to bring joy into his life. Hardly suprising really, he rattled around in a huge old store all by himself. What was once a thriving Grain and Feed business now was just a shell, falling into decay around the old man. Weeds sprouted through a massive yard unused in years. The painted sign that stretched the length of the building had once announced  "O'Gorman and Son" proudly to the world in gold and black,  now it was fading and flaked, a symbol of hope forever lost. It looked like a building abandoned to the mice and spiders.  Mr O'Gorman was not a verbal man, he let his emotions crawl over his face like storm clouds racing over a sunny valley. Bumping into this shuffling figure could never be described as a pleasure which Billy Nugent found out to his cost.

A small town is a microcosm, and one that can easily thrown into uproar. One sunny Sunday morning the mass bell was still pealing high in the blue sky when Mr O'Gorman was literally swept away from the steps of the church by a vision of evil. That was how the scene was retold later at any rate. What had actually happened was Billy Nugent, recently returned from New York City, came careering down the pavement on something called a skateboard. Clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack went the hard little wheels, faster and faster, as they pumped over cracks in the concrete. Along with the skateboard, Billy had returned from America with a whole collection of hoodies, an equally deadly addition to his arsenal of mayhem.  The sad truth of the matter was that Billy had no control of the board and nearly no view of what lay ahead of him. The first time he saw Mr O'Gorman was when they combined as a flying ball of limbs, soaring through the air. At first some of the women thought it was the Grim Reaper come to take the grumpy old sod down below. When they eventually untangled the mess it was a major disappointment to see a spotty teenager emerge from the cowl.

"You guttersnipe, you should be arrested," growled Mr O'Gorman as he was helped to his feet.
"It wasn't my fault you jumped right out in front of me," stammered Billy.

"Rubbish you moron, this is a footpath not what ever the hell that is path," roared the old man waving his blackthorn stick at the upended skateboard.

"I have as much right to be on here as you, and its a skateboard you old goat," said Billy as bold as brass getting to his feet. The name calling was a step to far for Mr O'Gorman who lashed out with his knobbly walking stick. Billy deftly avoided the blows and scooped up his skateboard as he raced for safety.

"I'll get the Sargent after you, you PUP!" yelled the old man at the disappearing teenager.

Mr O'Gorman was nothing if not a man of his word. After several heated telephone calls to the Garda station the Sargent finally agreed to call on the the Nugent's but refused to arrest the teenager for attempted murder as the old man wanted. Now whatever the Sargent was expecting to encounter it was not the disinterested, disrespectful irreverent young man he found Billy Nugent to be. Every time the Guard attempt to explain the gravity of the situation to the spotty teenager he was greeted with rebuttal. Most annoyingly the kid's points were difficult to refute. In the end the Sargent could take no more, he blew his top, telling the sheepish parents of the boy, that "Billy would end up seeing the inside of a cell before long," then storming out of the house.

The following few days saw several more irate calls to the Garda station from Mr O'Gorman wanting to know, "Why that hooligan was still roaming the streets terrorising law abiding people?" Being told that there was nothing illegal about skateboarding did nothing to ease the situation.
"What do you mean nothing illegal, didn't he nearly clean kill me?"
"I understand Mr O'Gorman but it was only an accident and I've had a stern word with him and his parents"
"For all the good your words seem to be, didn't I have to run him out of my yard only yesterday with that devil board of his, and he gave me the finger, did you hear, THE FINGER"
The Sargent sighed heavily into the phone and said "I will have another word." You could nearly hear his back creak in defeat over the phone.
"You do that Sargent and I'll start selling chocolate tea pots, they are just as useful as your words."
"I have to act within the law," said the Sargent having nearly enough of being hectored by this old codger.
"Well the law is an ASS," roared the old man.
"Are you calling me an ass," said the Sargent not believing what he was hearing.
"If the cap fits, wear it." snapped Mr O 'Gorman slamming down the handset.

The Sargent was not the only one to feel the sharp side of Mr O'Gorman's tongue. Having given up on the law, Mr O'Gorman turned his attention on the head of the County Council for whom he held little regard anyway. That phone conversation went even worse as the Town Planning Officer was a jobs worth with a lazy streak a mile wide. After listening disinterestedly to Mr O'Groman's rant, the Planning Officers reply was "And what do you want me to do about it?"

Mr O'Gorman's blood pressure went stratospheric.   "What do I want you to do? I want you to get off that huge lazy backside of yours and make this town a safe place to live. I want to know what you lot do in that brand new, state of the art, tower block besides ripping off pensioners like me."

"We certainly do not rip off pensioners and I resent you're tone Mr O'Gorman," said the Planning Officer hoitily. "We take no revenue from the retired of this community I will have you know."

"Why then are you charging rates on my home?"

"Technically it is a business premises Mr O'Gorman."

"Technically I haven't sold anything ten years but the rates bill comes regardless."

"That is a different matter entirely," said the Planner hastelly.

"Different matter my arse, you mark my words you little shit, if you don't do something about these kids you will be sorry," ranted Mr O'Gorman before driving the handset into its cradle with a crash. Another dead end but he was a dogged old man and once he got the bit between his teeth little would distract him. He contacted the National Roads Authority, the local TD, the Parish Priest as well as every member of the tidy town committee. It seemed no one could do anything.

The Sargent had his own axe to grind with Billy Nugent. He was not used to being belittled or ignored, making Billy a marked man. When ever the opportunity arose the Sargent gave the young lad a grilling or a clip around the ear. He even hauled him into the station on several occasions. The affect of this was to bolster Billy Nugent's legend among the youth of the town. Soon the number of hoody wearing skateboarders began to grow, Billy's rein of anarchy was gathering an unwitting army to itself.

Billy was far from a criminal mastermind, he wasn't even a bad kid. He just let his mouth lead the way long before his brain knew what was happening. He never intended to knock over the old fella outside the church or even get the Sargent so mad. It just seemed to happen to him. People said he was moody, most of the time he just had nothing to say. The biggest thing about Billy was that he didn't seem to fit in anywhere. When other kids began to copy the way he dressed and wanted to hang out with him he thought it was wired. Creepy even. In the end the lure of company was too much and he begrudgingly accepted his new roll as the bad boy in town.

Mostly Billy loved to skateboard. He and his new friends made little ramps and tried to perfect tricks using the steps of the church or the school play ground when nobody was around. Once he even skated in O'Gormans yard thinking the old man was out, that had been a mistake. As the number of skaters in town grew so did the number of voices raised in protest at there existence. Billy couldn't understand it, after all what the hell were they doing that was so wrong? It wasn't like they were selling drugs to kids or mugging the bloody wrinklies. It just made no sense why they were hated so much. When the council tried to get a bye law passed banning the use of skateboards on public pavements, Billy was hopping mad, something had to be done.

That was when the rats began appearing. Not real rats, ones even more insipid. Small graffiti rat's, on public buildings. They seemed to spring up over night like magic. People thought the first one was cute as it depicted a old rat walking on its back legs with a little walking stick. The next one had the same little rat but this time he held a bunch of flowers, it was when the third one appeared holding a severed head that the public outcry began. Guess who was first on the list for questioning? It was Billy with a bullet.  Of course he said he had nothing to do with it. The night after Billy was questioned a whole family of rats appeared on the county council building with the slogan "Freedom For the People," blazened in bold letters above them. Billy's feet hardly touched the ground before he was hauled back in for further questioning, this time he did see the inside of a cell, a whole nights worth. At a minute to five in the morning Billy was released with a boot in the arse to help him on his way home.

Billy trudged the sidewalks of town, his trademark hoody pulled low over his head. He had told the Sargent a dozen times he had nothing to do with rats but he may as well been taking to the wall. If the sargent wanted proof he should just talk to any of his past teachers who would have been delighted to atest that Billy hadn't an artistic bone in his body. Billy was beginning to wonder if his new found popularity was worth all the hassle. The town was eerie at this time of the morning, it was so quiet. Billy walked along rows of houses thinking that dozens of heads were dreaming, seperated from him by only the thickness of a pain of glass. He actually stopped and laid his palm on a window imagining who might be asleep inside. He was standing so, thinking random thoughts, when something moved ahead in the darkness. Billy froze. If it was the Sargent he would try and do him for breaking and entering for sure. Billy didn't twitch, just turned his eyes towards the movement.

In the distance a hunched figure shimmied around near the ground. Whatever it was, it was near the Water Works Office. Billy decided to get a better look, he tip toe'd closer and was just about to stop when his foot landed on a patch of gravel causing the figure to spin round. You could have knocked Billy over with a feather when a smiling Mr O'Gorman regarded him with twinkling eyes. Where he had been kneeling there was a still wet drawing of a little rat shaking the last few coppers from a coin purse into the begging bowl of huge suited figure with the slogan "Power Corrupts Completely" underlining the figures. Billy heard Mr O'Gorman chuckle for the very first time and in a wink he was gone into the mist.

The very next day Billy was back in the clutches of the Sargent. He never mentioned a word about what he had seen but continued to protest his innocence.  One or two more rat's appeared after that but no one ever identified the artist responsible. Billy continued to skateboard up and down the pavements of the town and Mr O'Gorman continued to rail against the world.

A few years after that Mr O'Gorman passed away in his sleep. His funeral was attended by only a handful of elderly towns folk and distant relatives. It amazed everyone when Billy Nugent turned up at the grave side and remained for the full service. It was even more baffling when Mr O'Gormans will was read. Hadn't he donated the yard attached to his shop to the community, under the stipulation that it be concreted over and used only as a free skate park for the young people of the town, and as such any rates due on the property would be the responsibility of the town council.

The day after the newly concreted skate park opened, people were amazed to find, overnight a giant rat with a crown on his head appeared on the largest jump in the place. Billy and his friends continued to skate there for many a year under the happy observation of a smiling rat, who was a king at last.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Eamon's Monument

Sometimes I think the romance has been sucked from life by the technology we surround ourselves with. It is hard to describe the feeling computers, cars and such devices leaves with me. Detachment is close.

I often think of the days when we were connected to our surroundings in a more basic way. When a man plunged his hands into the heavy loam of the earth, working it with skill and passion, to bring forth a bountiful harvest. Perhaps it is because I'm an island dweller that I feel this way. So many men in the past have faced death just to put a meal on the table. I think that accepting ones own mortality paints the world in wondrous colours. I love the ocean and respect it. It has shaped the very land I stand on, given birth to the all life. The vast expanse of water, that has made us what we are, is the greatest thing I have ever seen. I am drawn to it like so many that have gone before me.

Today the waves are gentle and inviting. They lap against the limestone cliff as it plunges into the sea, diving deep, where light has never shone. The wind is sharp with just a taste of winter. Gulls hang in the air, effortlessly riding the currents with skill. A watery sun sinks slowly into the west as I wander the contours of Kerry Head. I know this land well, it has a feeling of history. The walls, built by hands long vanished from the earth. Coves, worn into the rock by eons of erosion. All this existed before I was born and will continue to exist long after I am gone.

I visit the old grave yard remembering those who went before me. I wander among the stones, some new, some older than time. The ones that fascinate me most are the ones so weathered that all trace of inscription has vanished. These blank tablets of rock ignite my imagination with possibilities. As chance would have it, I stumbled on the final resting place of Sheila Lennihan. Her headstone inscription reads;

Sheila Lennihan (ni Brennan)
1905 - 1978
Beloved wife to Eamon, on whom she still waits. 

The story of Eamon and Sheila Lennihan is well know in these parts and sadly their story is not uncommon. You could search for a year and a day amoung the headstones in this grave yard but you will find no monument to the late Eamon Lennihan. He left a more personal reminder of his passing. This is his story.

Eamon Lennihan farmed a small holding, clinging to the very edge of the land before it gave way to the harsh Atlantic Ocean. Like so many others he had to turn to to the sea to make ends meet. Early each day he would take his battered old bike and ride the short distance to Kelly's Cove and his Currach. For those that don't know, a Currach is a traditional Irish boat, made from pitch and hide. The hide in modern days had been replaced by canvas, but the intention remained the same. In these simple craft, Irish men have challenged the might of the sea for hundreds of years, gathering what little they needed to survive. Sometimes the saddest facts are also the simple ones. Not every man that left in a Currach came back.

On a morning like any other, Eamon waved goodbye to Sheila and set off on his rickety old bike. Before the sun was high in the sky, Eamon pushed the boat into the waves forcing the Currach away from the land with powerful strokes of his narrow oars. The little boat creaked and groaned as it rode the swell, laden with its cargo of lobster pots. Before long Eamon and his Currach were out of sight. The day was a bright one with a gay breeze, the ocean rose and fell gently. 

In Lennihan's cottage, Sheila prepared a pot of stew, tended the chickens and looked after the few cattle they possessed. When the sun began to dip towards the west, the pot of stew remained untouched and cold on the kitchen table. Shelia had worn a trench of worry, from door to window, as she waited for Eamon to return. He had never been this late before. In the end she could wait no longer and hurried toward Kelly's Cove. As she raced past men toiling in the fields she asked if they had seen her Eamon? None had. Soon the news spread and concerned friends began to gather. 

When Sheila reached the end of the path she saw Eamon's bike leaning against the dry stone wall bordering the sheltered inlet, his Currach was not on the shingle beach. Sheila searched the ocean for her husband as people rallied round. Men ran to boats, launching them into the evening sun and stroking for known fishing spots. Women gathered around Sheila but she would not be move from the edge of the cliff. She searched the horizon and cried with joy when she spotted a boat, only to sob with anguish when she realised it was a search boat returning empty handed. 

The last boat returned just as the sun touched the western edge of the ocean. Sheila refused to be moved and the women built a fire on the edge of the cliff to keep her warm and to guide the lost Eamon home. The beacon burned all night and in the morning everyone except Sheila accepted the tragic loss.

Sheila never would, or could, accept that her Eamon was not coming home. Every evening before the sun would set she made her way to Kelly's Cove and watch the horizon until dark, waiting for her man to return. Having no body to bury there was never a grave stone erected in memory of Eamon Lennihan, that is not to say he was forgotten. 

I give Mrs Lennihan's headstone a touch for luck before walking down the path that took me to Kelly's Cove, to stand on the headland, as she had done every night to watch the sun go down over the wild Atlantic Ocean. As I rounded the last corner I caught a glimpse of Eamon's Monument, still lying against the wall where he'd left it, all those years ago. An old bike waiting to carry its owner home. 

Perhaps I was a bit harsh about technology at the start of this piece, when used right, there is majesty in just about anything.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Work In Progress

I was delighted to find the fantastic Teagan Kearney had nominated me for this blog challenge, it is just the kick in the arse I needed. If the truth be known, the work in progress over the last few weeks was a demanding repaint of the house and laying timber floors, which has muted most of my efforts on my blog of late. All that is about to change.

Here are the rules:
Provide the link back to the post by the person who nominated you.
Write a little about your work-in-progress.
Give the first sentences of the first three chapters of your current WIP.
Nominate four other writers for the challenge.

Teagan Kearney, where do you start with a personage as deep and complex as Teagan. The simple fact of the matter is you just have to dive right in, that is just what she does with each and every post. They say that every writer has a voice, or should have a voice. Teagan's voice rings out crystal clear, filled to the brim with honesty, passion and courage. She helps without asking anything in return while laying bare her very soul for all of us to wonder at. As for her talents, they seem boundless. A taker of pictures, a blogger of sanity and fountain of wondrous fiction, where to start with Ms Kearney is not the problem, its the ability to drag yourself away from her posts is always an issue I have. I am proud to count her among my friends.

Now onward with the challenge. 

So what have I started but not yet finished? The answer is loads but the biggest thing is a monster called Honeysuckle Lane. 80,000 words and counting ( not saying many of them are good) with a hazy image of a finish line on the horizon. I have no idea what to do with this when it is done except to say that it's finished. I think I over extended myself when starting this by choosing four intertwining story lines with a cast of characters Ben Hur would be proud of.

Here are the first couple of sentences of the first three chapters ( I feel I should apologise in advance here).

Intro Honeysuckle Lane
 Frank's palms slipped on the steering wheel. This was a full on panic attack now. Was the car following or not? His eyes flicked constantly to the rear view mirror. Hunched up over the wheel, his body hummed with tension.“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” he said. He hit the brakes hard when a red Micra pulled out in front of him

Chapter One
“Is that you Frank?” called Barbra from upstairs.
“Hi Bar,” he called back with just the hint of exasperation.
Who did she think it was? Every night the same thoughtless question. Frank yearned for the woman Barbra used to be. That woman wouldn't call such banal rubbish at the sound of an opening door, far from it, that woman would have playfully called “Bill you know you shouldn’t be here, Frank will be home soon,” knowing full well it was her husband who listened.

Chapter Two
Mary Sweeney stood inside her sitting room window watching the grey haired man outside the O’Shea’s house. She was on the verge of phoning them when Frank come out. It was hard to be sure but he did not seem overjoyed with his visitor. A few minutes later they both got into Franks fancy new car.

I am not expecting anyone out there to swoon at these opening lines, far from Joyce they are, at least they are mine.  

This is the bit that I have been wanting to get to. The four fantastic people who light up my days when I read their words. Sadly I cannot re nominate Teagean as she surely deserves it, I would have also nominated Gendon Perkins but he has withdrawn from blogging of late. Considering these notable exceptions, here are my picks for the challenge.

A Long. AJ is one of my oldest friends on G+, a poet of extreme talent and a hell of a nice guy.

I love Ali's blog posts, her craft is beyond question. She fills each and every post with information, intrigue and joy. She what a real writer is all about.

Erica Gore displays all the polish you would expect from a professional writer and journalist without any of the distance. She is the possessor of the biggest heart with the sharpest mind around.

Rob Tobor is one of the zaniest bloggers out there, every post leaves me amazed at the world his brain occupies. Always amazing always way way out there.

That is my work in progress blog post, I hope my four nominated people don't mind too much and will take part. Thanks everyone and keep tuned for the next story.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Baa Baa Birdie

Baa Baa Birdie

Father Tom liked nothing better than going down to the pub, having a quiet pint, and reading the Irish Times. Whenever he went to O'Connor’s he always sat at a table tucked away around a corner, it was his regular spot and always had been, since his first disastrous night in the bar.

Father Tom would forever remember that first visit with a deep sense of shame, unfounded shame, but shame none the less. All those years ago, when he was a new priest, fresh off the boat as they say, Tom went about meeting his flock. Where better to meet those most in need of guidance, than the local watering hole? The fact that Father Tom loved a creamy pint of Guinness, had nothing to do with it. The whole exercise was one of public relations. Father Tom trundled down the road, filled with good humour and levity. The first hour in O'Connor’s was an unbridled success. Father Tom occupied a spot at the counter and was getting on famously. That was until six elderly bridge club ladies arrived for a sherry. Their mouths dropped open, with the shock of seeing a priest drinking openly at the bar counter. Father Tom blushed, but brazened it out. If anything, that only made the situation worse. The barely veiled looks of wrath, whispered conversations, and very loud tutting that came from the group of withered old women, would have put Hitler himself on the run.  Poor Tom couldn't have felt worse, had he been caught snorting lines of cocaine from a stripper’s cleavage. In the end, he downed the remainder of his pint, and hurried home on some mumbled pretext, to the amusement of the men gathered round. Was it any wonder, he now chose the most secluded spot in the bar, as his own?

On this particular night, Father Tom had been all but forgotten by everyone in the bar, when the door opened and Birdie Kerrigan tumbled in from the early evening gloom. Birdie was a mountain farmer, the height and frame of a thirteen year old boy, despite turning sixty five last year. It was a back-breaking life, working the stony mountain soil, which stripped many a man of joy. Birdie was far more resilient than his slight frame, he whistled a happy tune almost constantly, which was the reason he got the nickname, Birdie.  On this night, Birdie's lips were pinched with worry, and unusually silent.

"Dead man walking," roared Podge Carroll, from his stool at the counter, bringing gales of laughter from the rest of the men drinking at the bar. Podge, a bachelor, believed God had given him the right to comment on any bloody thing he liked. Most of the time his fun was good natured, but if his jibes drew a little emotional blood from time to time, he didn't care much.  Birdie gave the group a worried look, with just a hint of annoyance, as he plonked himself on a stool at the far corner of the bar.

"A Jameson, Pa. Make it a double," Birdie said.

"A last drink for the condemned man," taunted Ian Barry. Now, Ian was a horse of a different colour. He was a blowhard, with an over inflated opinion of his own importance. Most of the time, he was the butt of the joke, a fact he was nearly completely blind to. But when the ridicule turned on another, he was very quick to join in, with spite and venom.

"Shut up, you lot, what would you know, anyway," said Birdie.

"I know that the Department of Agriculture takes these things very seriously Birdie, I think they call it fraud?" said Ian. Birdie gazed into his drink and shrank even deeper into his overcoat.

"Yea, and wasn't it EU money that you were getting? I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn't have Interpol on the job," goaded Ian, causing another round of laughter. Father Tom peeked over his paper, not liking the tone of Ian's comments. He saw Birdie throw back his drink, in one huge gulp. Perhaps it was the burn of the whisky that caused the tear in the little farmer’s eye. He slammed the glass on the counter and stormed out the door.

"We'll send you a cake with a file in it," shouted Ian Barry, never knowing when enough was enough.

Father Tom flipped his paper closed, and said in his booming voice, "What was all that about lads?"

"Ah, nothing, Father. The Department of Agriculture sent Birdie a letter to say they were coming to inspect his flock, next week," said Pa, from behind the counter.

"So why all the teasing?" asked Father Tom.

"Birdie has been letting on he had more sheep on the mountain, that he actually has," said Pa, while filling a pint of Guinness.

"What was the point in doing that?"

"So he would get a bigger Headage," said Podge, with a smirk.
"Headage?" asked Father Tom.

"It's a grant the European Union gives farmers, for grazing mountain sheep," explained Pa O'Connor, admiring the pint in his hand.

"I don't think it was very generous, teasing Birdie like that. You could see he was worried," said Father Tom, getting to his feet and tucking the paper under his arm. Podge and Pa had the good grace to look abashed, but Ian Barry's stupidity swam to the surface once more.

"It was only a bit of fun, Father," he said, with a sneer in his voice. Father Tom stopped close to Ian's shoulder, and rose to his full six foot two inches.

"People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, Mr Barry. You never know who might start throwing them back." Father Tom eyes were flinty, as they regarded the man, several inches below him. Ian withered under the glare.

After a long few seconds, Father Tom smiled and said, "Good night, men."

When the door closed behind him, Father Tom heard Podge bray with laughter, saying, "You better check your underwear for brown when you get home, Ian."

Up ahead on the road, the little farmer was shuffling away into the night. Father Tom broke into a trot to catch up with him. When he got close enough, he called, "Mr Kerrigan, can I have a word, please."

The little farmer spun around, looking shocked. It was clear he was expecting trouble to come rushing down on top of him, at any moment.

"God, Father you startled me."

"Sorry, I just wanted a word. I overheard what they said, back there. Is everything alright?"

"They’re only messing, take no notice," Birdie said, but his face was a mask of guilt.

"How many extra sheep were you claiming, Birdie?" The little farmer shuffled from one foot to another, not answering the question.

"It's okay, you can tell me."

"Maybe a few extra." Birdie said. Getting a straight answer from a Kerry man is hard, getting one from a Kerry farmer is nearly impossible.

"What’s a few Birdie, ten, twenty?"

"A hundred and fifty, give or take a couple."

"Sweet Mary Divine! How many sheep do you actually graze?"

"About two hundred, give or take a couple."

"That is nearly half your herd again, how come the inspectors never spotted it before this?"

"’Twas old Mr Ryan that did the inspections. His hip was bad, no good for traipsing all over a mountain, counting sheep."

"So he just took your word for it?"


"Why are you so worried now?"

"Mr Ryan retired last year. Now it’s some young lad, fresh from the college, that's calling up. I don't know what to do, Father."

"The first thing I want you to do, is show up for confession tomorrow morning. After that, we will see what we can figure out, okay?"

"I think I need a bit more help than God’s forgiveness. Them boys in the pub might be stupid, but they are not wrong. I could go to jail, Father. That would just kill me, I'm sure of it." Father Tom looked down on the hardy little farmer, he’d spent every day of his life out on that mountain, as free as the bird he was named after. Father Tom had to agree, to cage this little man might just kill him.

"God works in mysterious ways, Birdie. I am sure he'd want me to help you," smiled Father Tom. Knowing he wasn’t facing the whole thing alone, seemed to take a great weight from the farmer's shoulders. Birdie seemed to grow right before Father Tom's eyes, filling out his overcoat a little more than a few seconds before.

"Fair enough Father. You don't think they'll send them Interpol fellas after me, do yea?"

"Let’s get my boss sorted out first, and worry about everything else after that," said Father Tom, laying a massive, and reassuring, hand on the little farmer’s shoulder.
Birdie smiled at the touch and nodded, "Right you are Father, see you first thing in the morning. Father Tom watched the little man walk away into the night with a lighter step. When the farmer was nearly out of sight, Father Tom heard the twittering whistle that had gotten Birdie his name.


Father Tom spent the next few hours on the internet, and had been shocked by what he found. Podge Carroll was right, Birdie Kerrigan could be facing up to five years in prison, for falsifying grant applications. What Birdie did was wrong, but nothing that deserved such a penalty. The next morning, Father Tom opened up the church, taking his position in the confessional. He was immediately joined by Mrs Walsh, the most devout of all his congregation. She came to confession every second morning, despite having nothing at all to confess. She was so terrified of dying in a state of un-grace, she took no chances. After giving Mrs Walsh her standard, two “Hail Marys”, Father Tom's mind began to wander. It was so relaxing in the dark warm confessional, he actually drifted off into a snooze. When the sliding window rattled back, he jerked awake.

"Bless me, Father, it has been six months since my last confession," Father Tom rubbed the sleep from his eyes and blessed Birdie Kerrigan. The farmer launched into an act of contrition.

"Tell me your sins, my son," said Father Tom, once the act was completed.

"Ah, Father, you know them already, sure, I told you last night."

"I know, Bir- my son, but you are telling our Lord this time, not me."

"Do I have too, it’s embarrassing."

"If you want my help, and God’s forgiveness, you'll have to."

"I lied to the Headage man," the little farmer responded, guiltily.

"Yes, my son, anything else," asked Father Tom, in his best confessional voice.

"Nope, that's it," said Birdie, through the mesh.

"What about the money, Birdie?"

"What money, Father?"

"The money you got for the extra sheep, which you don't actually have."

"Oh, that money."

"It didn't belong to you, Birdie, so it was stealing."

"Only technically."

"Technically or not, Birdie, it was stealing, and you will have to confess to it, to receive forgiveness."

"You’re the boss, Father, I stole, and that's the lot for me."

"For your penitence, I want you to say a decade of the rosary, and do one hundred and fifty hours voluntary work for Saint Vincent de Paul."

"Jesus, Father, one hundred and fifty hours."

"We’re going to have to add taking the Lord’s name in vain, Birdie," said Father Tom, sternly.

"Sorry, God," said Birdie, crestfallen.

"That will have to do, I guess," said Tom, and absolved the little farmer of his sins, before he added any more to the list.

"Thanks, Father," said Birdie, rising from his knees and leaving the confessional. Father Tom took a few moments to gather his thoughts, before leaving the warm, dark box, himself. Outside on a pew, Birdie was kneeling, mumbling through a decade of the rosary. When he was finished, he blessed himself quickly, and trotted up to where Father Tom was waiting.

"I've been thinking about this whole thing, can't you give them the right number of sheep you have now, for this year’s count, and say nothing about last year?"

"I would love to, Father, but I sent in the paperwork in January. They are just checking on it, now. Next year will be spot on, I promise."

"Given that, how do you know this new man won’t just come and sign the forms, like Mr Ryan did?" asked Father Tom.

"The new fella, Quigley is his name, said in his letter, I was to have all the sheep down from the mountain and penned, ready for a count."

"That gives me an idea, when's he coming?"

"Monday, sometime."

"Make sure the sheep are as high on the mountain as possible, and scattered to the four winds. I will meet you at your house, first thing Monday morning," said Father Tom, with a delighted twinkle in his eye. Birdie had no idea what the priest had planned, but Father Tom was always full of good ideas.


Monday came, and it was eight in the morning when Father Tom's little Fiat Panda pulled into Birdie Kerrigan's yard, amid a cloud of oily smoke. The huge priest looked like a clown stuffed into the tiny car, but he love the little thing, and refused to get a bigger one. The little farmer stood in the door of his cottage, with a steaming mug in his hand. When Father Tom eventually levered himself out of the car, he was clutching a rubber hot water bottle, in one massive paw.

"Morning, Father Tom, what's with the hot bottle?" said Kerrigan, waving his chipped mug in the direction of Tom’s hand.

"That's for you, Birdie," said Father Tom, with a huge smile.

"I’d only use one of them yokes, if I was dying," laughed the little farmer.

"Exactly, Birdie, exactly."

When the man for the Department of Agriculture pulled into the yard, Birdie Kerrigan was buried under a mountain of blankets, with a hot water bottle resting on his chest, sweating like a turkey at Christmas. Father Tom walked into the yard, when Birdie’s sheep dogs began barking. A man in his late twenties, wearing a suit, stuck into a pair of wellington boots, was getting out of a shiny new Volvo.

"Is this the Kerrigan farm – err, Father," he asked, noticing Tom's collar.

"It is, and who might you be?

"I'm Tom Quigley, from the Department of Agriculture, to check Mr Kerrigan's herd."

Father Tom smiled. "I'm Tom too, Father Tom. It seems we're a tom-tom," said the huge priest, laughing hard at his own joke. He did the same thing every time he meet another Tom, he just couldn't help himself.

"Yea, very good, Father. Is Mr Kerrigan around?"

"He is, he’s in the house, come on in."

The dapper young man followed Father Tom into the dark little cottage. When Tom, Father Tom that is, opened the bedroom door, revealing a damp and steamy looking Birdie in the bed, Department Tom stopped in his tracks.

"What's wrong with him?" Department Tom whispered to Father Tom.

"Poor Mr Kerrigan, he’s in a bad way, burning up with fever," said Father Tom.

"Sorry you’re not well," shouted Department Tom, at Birdie. Why do people do that, he was sick, not deaf. People seem to do the same thing when they meet foreigners, like saying the words louder, will make them understand better.

"I'll just count the sheep, and leave the paperwork in the kitchen for you. Which paddock are they in?"

"On the mountain," croaked Birdie, like Tom had told him to do.

"Oh I see," said Department Tom, with a frown. "That is very inconvenient. I will just have to come back another day, then," he said completely wrapped up in his own needs.

"You could sign whatever you need signing, now. I am sure Mr Kerrigan wouldn't mind," ventured Father Tom.

"I have to survey the flock first, and that’s hard to do, with them spread all across a mountain. You might count the same sheep twice. Another day so, Mr Kerrigan. I will write to yea." said the suited official, as he walked out of the house.

"Well, that didn't work at all," said Birdie, sitting up in the bed and throwing off the covers. Just then, Father Tom heard the cottage door open again.

"He's coming back," said Father Tom, shoving Birdie back down in the bed, and throwing the covers over him, in the nick of time.

"Take it easy, Mr Kerrigan," Father Tom said, for the benefit of the Department Man, pretending to feel for temperature on the farmer’s forehead.

"I've just had a thought. We could do an SS." said the Department Man.

"Jesus, the Interpol," squeaked Birdie, trying to shoot out of the bed. Father Tom's hand on the little farmer’s forehead, was the only thing that kept him in place.

"Easy now, Mr Kerrigan," said Father Tom, keeping up his nursing persona. "What exactly is an SS?"

"A Satellite Survey, we can take a photo of the mountain and then count the sheep grazing on it."

"You can do that?"

"Sure can, I'll arrange it for tomorrow, just leave the sheep where they are. God bless." with that, Department Tom was gone, and all hope left with him.


Birdie Kerrigan refused to leave the little cottage, telling Father Tom he would rather wait until took him away, than going on the run. Father Tom had no choice, but to go home. When he got there, he told Jane, his long suffering housekeeper, everything.

"Can they really do that with satellites these days?" she asked.

"Apparently so. I read that the CIA have satellites that can read the time on your watch, from outer space."

"That may be true, Father, but I sincerely doubt that the Irish Department of Agriculture would have anything like that. They hardly expect the mountain sheep of Ireland to launch an attack on the governments of the world."

Father Tom huffed into his coffee. "Perhaps not, but they must be able to make out the sheep on the mountain."

"If you took a photo from a plane, what would a sheep in the heather look like?" asked Jane.

"A white blob, I would imagine," Tom ventured.

"What we need to do, is to add another hundred and fifty white sheep size blobs, to the mountain."

Father Tom jumped to his feet, sending the coffee mug flying across the table. He grabbed Jane, and spun her around and around in his arms, before landing a kiss on her forehead.

"Jane, you’re a genius, come on, we got work to do," he said, dragging his blushing housekeeper towards the door.

"Where are you taking me, Father," she giggled.

"The pub, where else?"

That night, O'Conner's bar was all but deserted. Only Mrs O'Conner was there, watching a rerun of Friends. Pa O'Connor, the O'Connor kids, Podge Carroll, Smoky-Joe, Birdie Kerrigan, Father Tom, and Jane were all trudging around on the top of Kerrigan's Mountain. About ten in the evening, Ian Barry looked in the door, and was surprised how empty the bar was.

"Where's everybody?" he asked.

"Operation Baa Baa, whatever that is," said a bored Mrs O'Connor. Ian Barry just shook his head and left, feeling he was the butt of yet another joke he didn't understand.

The next morning, when the satellite turned its lens on Kerrigan's Mountain, it got a lovely shot of three hundred shiny white blobs. If you were to take a closer look, you would see that half of them were sheep, happily munching on lichen and mountain grass, the rest were plastic fertilizer bags turned inside out, and stuffed with heather. 

A week later, a letter arrived from Tom Quigley, on headed Department of Agriculture paper. Birdie ran all the way to O'Connor’s pub, to show everyone. Father Tom was at his regular table, when Birdie burst through the door.

"It worked, Father, It worked!" giggled Birdie, dancing on the spot and waving the brown envelope around.

"Give me a look," said Father Tom. Everyone in the bar gathered round, to read over the priest's shoulder, including most of the members of 'Operation Baa Baa'.
Inside was a bunch of signed Headage forms, along with a short letter. 

Dear Mr Kerrigan,

We are delighted to forward your herd survey. We find everything is in order, and we will carry out our next assessment in 2015. I have enclosed a copy of the satellite image, as your sheep seem to be exhibiting some unusual social behaviour. I have also forwarded a copy of this image to the animal research department. I have circled the specific group in question. 

I hope you feeling much better now.

Mr Tom Quigley
Department Of Agriculture Ireland.

Father Tom pulled out the photo. The mountain was covered in white blobs, just as Jean had said it would look like. In the right hand corner, circled in red pen, were twelve little blobs and when you looked at them from an angle they made a huge P. 

Father Tom took one look and roared, "Podge Carroll, you devil!"

The End.

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