Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Colonel's First Indo Column

Like you, dear reader, Cruiskeen Eile was expecting great things of the nation's top polemicist and scholarship boy on his first day at big school. Alas, he produced one of those jobbies he used to knock off over a glass or two of claret whenever he was a bit stuck over at the Old Lady of D'Olier Street. Cruiskeen Eile managed to get hold of an earlier draft which we've reprinted in full in the last post. This is the version which finally made it into the Independent.

As I was saying, before being so rudely interrupted . . .

MAY, 1980, and I start from my sleep after the most extraordinary dream, one in which I am working for years and years as a newspaper columnist for The . . . no, no, I won't go into the details of where and who and so on. It's all too preposterously unbelievable.

I gaze at the alarm clock, before leaping up, yelping with horror. I'm late for my morning shift at The Indo! I leap out of bed, and in my panic, feel I am drawn into a strangely trilateral flush, which suffuses my entire being. Then I recover, and tumble downstairs from my flat above the Family Planning Clinic - my condominium - and hurtle through the doorway into Mountjoy Square, which is as you know, a sad wasteland resembling Berlin circa 1945.

What! Overnight, someone has completely rebuilt it with elegant offices and apartment blocks. A strange flat-faced gentleman passes by. "Excuse me, sir," I ask, "but can you tell me what's been going on here?"

"Xctlgh Abklds vhghta," he murmurs melodiously. "Bnhghstd mklllp."

"I see. Thank you very much."

How odd. The Dalai Lama apparently has moved here. But why? After catastrophic economic mismanagement through the 1970s, tens of thousands of people are fleeing this Ireland of 1980. I'm the lucky one: this morning I have a freelance shift in Independent Newspapers. I scurry past the ruins of Gardiner Street: but stay! The ruins are gone: vanished! Indeed, horrible old Gardiner Street appears to have been transformed into a boulevard in the 17th arrondisement.

Now I didn't touch a drop last night. So what is going on here? I head towards the once great Gate Theatre, now in an abysmal decline. No modern drama ever here. Sad, sad, sad. Yet hold on! Hoardings insist that the Gate is staging "Waiting for Godot". What? Mac Liammoir as Estragon? And Edwards as Vladimir? But that'd be like John Wayne - who died just nine months ago: RIP - playing Lady Bracknell. No, no, it cannot be.

Dizzy with incomprehension, I totter down O'Connell Street, of all of Europe's capital main-streets, perhaps the most depressingly dereli . . . My God. It's utterly unrecognisable. There's a big shiny yoke sticking out of the street between the GPO and . . . The Anne Summers' what? kind of shop? Indeed, just about the only thing that remains from yesterday is that newly-opened McDonalds, the first one in Ireland, and the last, I'll be bound. McDonalds will never catch on in this country. Irish people just won't take to fast-food.

Irish people? What Irish people? The Tower of Babel has come to Dublin. Everywhere there are Balts and Bosnians, Gauls, Galicians and Greeks, never mind Poles, Apaches and Pathans. Some are spouting languages without vowels, others flute ones without consonants, and others still without either. What's happening to me? Is there something in the Mountjoy Square water? I half expect to see a chanting impi of Zulu warriors come trotting over O'Connell Bridge . . .

Then I finally realise what's going on. This is all part of that mad dream, the same one in which I was writing a newspaper column for decades. So I lower my head and scurry to Middle Abbey Street, hoping to wake up when I reach the sanctuary of Independent Newspapers.

Except it is gone. Yes, it too has vanished. It was there yesterday; but not today. Should I go back to bed? Probably. A gentleman who rather resembles the prime minister of Ghana, complete with fly-whisk, passes by. And I know I'm having a true Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds experience when a ban-garda shimmers into view, and on horseback. Naturally.

"Excuse me, ban-garda," I cry to the she-Mountie, "What's happened to Independent Newspapers, please?"

She looks at me curiously. "Moved to Talbot Street. And a little less sexist talk, if you don't mind." She then clops out of my dream.

Talbot Street? But Talbot Street is Stalingrad. You couldn't have newspaper offices there. And what's "sexist talk"?

I stagger back to O'Connell Street, past bistros selling mysterious comestibles I've never heard of: lattes and chorizos and pannini and mochas and even wraps. Why, we'll be munching sock-pie next. Meanwhile, the dream is getting steadily more ludicrous: Talbot Street, once populated by wizened, whey-skinned jailbirds with soggy cigarettes drooping out of their mouths, is now almost as cosmopolitan as Manhattan. I ask a little Eskimo for directions, and with the aid of his harpoon, he politely points out the new Independent building.

"I'm feeling a little out of sorts today," I gibber haplessly at some swagman at reception. "Is this newspaper still run by that O'Reilly fellow?"

"Of course, mate."

"Hallelujah! I thought I was having the weirdest dream, in which Ireland of 1980 is incredibly prosperous and attracting immigrants from around the world, and the receptionist at this newspaper is an Australian . . . "

"Which I am, cobber. But the year is 2006."

"TWO THOUSAND AND SIX? What! Am I some sort of Rip Mac Winkle?"

"Rather well put, sport. You used to work here, until you missed your shift back in 1980. Did you feel your complexion redden first thing after you woke up?"

"Yes! How did you know?"

"Because you vanished into the Florider Triangle. You're just out of it. Do yourself a favour. Don't look in the mirror, not quite yet, anyway. Otherwise, welcome back to the newspaper you used to write for, 26 years ago."

Ah. Really? So, as I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted . . .

14 Comments:

Blogger Fergal Crehan said...

The opening line would be funnier if it weren't a rip-off from the equally wrong-headed but infinitly more talented Bernad Levin, who began his first column after a tear's sabbatical from the Times with "and another thing". Also, Levin was once punched in the face on live TV by the husband of the recipient of a poor theatre review. Despite the many provocations, Myers never gave us that particular spectacle.

3:21 p.m.  
Blogger Copernicus said...

Ah Bernard. I've a rake of his books. I think he's the reason my sentences are so long.

He took the punch well if memory serves.

4:26 p.m.  
Anonymous londoner said...

eskimo, harpoon

solid gold, the man is pure gas

5:02 p.m.  
Blogger Copernicus said...

Yes, pointed that out in the other version!

They eat frozen fish.

7:09 p.m.  
Anonymous Stellanova said...

A strange flat-faced gentleman passes by. "Excuse me, sir," I ask, "but can you tell me what's been going on here?"

"Xctlgh Abklds vhghta," he murmurs melodiously. "Bnhghstd mklllp."


This has to be the most appalling bit, although I suppose it could have been worse - I'm surprised he didn't put the word "inscrutable" in there. I mean, "flat-faced"? How very Sax Rohmer.

Also, foreign languages are just nonsensical gobbledygook! Who knew? Wish I hadn't wasted four years on that German degree now.

And as for the "little Eskimo" bit...

As I said in another comment, the colonel is at his worst and most unfunny (which is saying something) when he's being whimsical. And it looks like this will be the tone of his new column. While in the newsagents a few minutes ago, I saw the front page of today's Indo which described today's bulletin from the Colonel as a "fanciful frolic". The mind reels...

7:47 p.m.  
Blogger Copernicus said...

Jesus. Thank God I can't leave the house. It looks like he's just not going to bother his arse anymore.

8:15 p.m.  
Blogger Simon said...

I quiet enjoyed that in truth

1:23 p.m.  
Blogger Slartibuckfast said...

I actually done something I've never done before and bought the Indo the other day just to read his first column. If I hadn't thought I would have just ended up looking pikey I'd have went back to the shop and asked for a refund.

Here, what do any of yis know about him bursting into tears on the telly the other night? Seems he was crying about threats he'd received or something.

2:51 p.m.  
Blogger Copernicus said...

CE was out partying and so missed Mr. Myers on Turbridy. If anyone would like to You Tube it - long shot I know - post a link here.

4:21 p.m.  
Blogger Badman said...

Is there any independent evidence of this threat? Did Myers contact an garda? He gets so carried away by his histrionics sometimes that he makes things up.

6:37 p.m.  
Anonymous EWI said...

Here, what do any of yis know about him bursting into tears on the telly the other night? Seems he was crying about threats he'd received or something.

Oh, fer chrissakes. As Badman points out, is there any proof that he wasn't just striking a suitably O'Malley-esque pose of being in imaginary mortal peril?

5:39 p.m.  
Anonymous morgan said...

He missed his shift? How lackadaisical. No solid, upstanding work ethic, then.

3:21 a.m.  
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