'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

German Football

In one corner of the garden, in amongst the trees, there’s a row of three small sheds with stone walls and iron roofs. There are a few holes in the roofs now. I went into the sheds after the rain cleared in the evening and the metal buckets beneath the holes were full of rain water.

My cousin Ted once pretended to be a German footballer. He didn’t realise what he was doing, but that was it – pretending to be a German footballer. He only noticed it when he wrote his memoirs and called them ‘Eine Kleine Hospital Passe’. The book was about his years in German football, but he’d never even been to Germany. He married a woman called Anne who used to do odd things after a few drinks, like stealing traffic cones or writing letters to the International Olympic Committee asking them to make her field an Olympic sport. After they moved into their new house, Ted bought a desk for the study, but he was never good at assembling these things. He read the first line of the instructions: “Once upon a time there was sugar on the table and the sun was shining…” He spent an hour standing there with the instruction manual in his hands, trying to figure out the meaning of the line. When Anne came into the room and saw that he still hadn’t started putting the desk together, the excuse he came up with was that he had been reading the German instructions. Anne said, “Remember Ted, you don’t speak German. You’re not a German footballer.” She left him to put the desk together, but he still couldn’t get past the first line, so he decided to look at the German instructions. At least he was able to get past the first line, even though he couldn’t understand them. He assembled the desk anyway. Later that afternoon they had some unexpected visitors. A delegation from the International Olympic Committee called to inspect the field. One member of the delegation recognised Ted straight away. He shook my cousin’s hand and said that he had read his autobiography, and that Ted’s profile would be a huge boost in their bid to make the field an Olympic sport. Ted tried to keep up the pretence of being a German footballer. He answered all questions with ‘Ja’ or ‘Nein’. They went out into the field and the delegation seemed very impressed with it. They asked about the building schedule and Anne said, “To build what?” “I don’t know really… But usually in situations like this when we come to visit a field, it normally means that something is going to be built there.” “Oh… I suppose we could come up with a schedule for building one of those.” “Splendid.” They asked Ted what he thought, and he felt he should try to say something other than ‘Ja’ or ‘Nein’, so he said the first line of German that came into his head. A German member of the delegation translated it for everyone else. “He said something about inserting the B screws into the holes on the surface.” “Oh yeah,” Anne said. “He’s talking about building a desk. Maybe that’s what we should build in the field.” The delegation were enthusiastic about this idea, and they were delighted when they heard that Ted and Anne had experience in building a desk. They went inside to inspect it. They were very impressed with the desk, until Ted put a book on it and one side of it collapsed. But even then they were enthusiastic about the proposal, and it would have been successful if the delegation hadn’t been bribed to make a field in another country an Olympic sport instead. Ted and Anne weren’t disappointed. Ted would have found it difficult to keep up the pretence of being a German footballer during the Olympics, and Anne didn’t like the idea of all those visitors in their new home when they hadn’t even finished the painting.

The moose’s head over the fireplace seemed to make a sound when I moved a piece on the chess board, almost as if it was clicking its tongue, so I moved the piece back and made another move, but I heard that sound again. So I kept making a move until I didn’t hear any sound. I was playing against my wife, Iris. She made her next move when she came in an hour later. The moose knows nothing about chess.