'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Summer Holidays

I cut the grass a few days ago, before the rain. We definitely had a few days of summer weather before the wind and rain. I’m starting to get the hang of this weather thing. It changes - that’s what I’ve noticed.

My cousin Hector booked a holiday home by the sea for a few weeks in the summer. His daughters, Alice and Grace, wanted to bring their puppy along, but Hector wasn’t too keen on this because of the puppy’s habit of clinging to his leg, so he asked his brother, Albert, to come with them, just to provide another two legs for the puppy to play with. Hector and his wife were hoping that Albert would do a bit of babysitting too. On the first day of their holiday, Albert went water-skiing on a lake. When he had finally managed to stay upright for a few seconds, he looked to his left and saw a woman dressed up as Mary Poppins flying by on water-skis. She was holding an umbrella in one hand. She waved the umbrella at Albert, but he fell over before he even tried to wave back. On the following day, he agreed to look after the puppy and the kids for a few hours. They went to the beach, and the puppy found a better way to pass the time than clinging to legs. He attacked the seaweed but he got tangled up in it almost straightaway. Albert freed him but the puppy started fighting with the seaweed again, and again he got caught up in it. Albert untangled him and told him to stop fighting, but it was just like saying ‘stop clinging to my leg’. Albert had to keep an eye on the girls too. His attention was only diverted away from the puppy and the girls when he looked out to sea and saw a windsurfer, and when he looked closer he saw that it was the woman in the Mary Poppins outfit. She was still dressed as Mary Poppins. When she came back to the beach, Albert told her that he saw her water-skiing yesterday, and she said she remembered him. Her name was Becky, and they were talking for about ten minutes before Albert remembered the kids and the puppy. When he looked around, the puppy was tangled up in the seaweed again and the kids were burying his shoes. Maybe it was just because she was dressed up as Mary Poppins, but Albert thought she’d be able to help him out with the babysitting, so he told her about the trouble he was having. She untangled the puppy and she taught him how to guard the seaweed, instead of fighting it. It worked too. The puppy never got tangled in the seaweed again. He guarded it, like a sheepdog herding sheep, only the seaweed never moved. Sometimes the puppy would move slowly across the sand, crouching low, then he’d jump up and bark. He’d run to the other end of the seaweed to make sure it didn’t escape there. As for the kids, to keep them occupied she told them how to control the puppy when he was guarding the seaweed. So instead of burying shoes, Alice and Grace passed the time by calling out various commands and whistling at the puppy, like farmers with a sheepdog. They weren’t really controlling him at all, but they thought they were. If they felt that the seaweed was unprotected at one side, they’d call and whistle and point, and the puppy took no notice of them but he’d go where they wanted because he could never leave any side of the seaweed unprotected for too long. Albert thought that Becky was even better than the real Mary Poppins, but then he wondered why she was dressed up like that. He asked her and she said, “I had a bet with a friend of mine about a moth. She bet me two hundred quid that the moth wouldn’t be frightened by a bee. We’re always betting on things like that. I thought it would be frightened, but the moth was dead. And I didn’t have the money. I was so sure of winning that I didn’t think about that. So when I couldn’t pay, she made me dress up like this for the rest of the holiday.” Albert asked her if there was anything he could do to return the favour, and she said, “The one thing I most want now is to get out of having to wear this Mary Poppins costume.” Albert was tempted to say that the one thing he most wanted was to help her out of that costume, but he thought it might go down the wrong way. As they stood on the beach, looking at the kids and the puppy guarding the seaweed, Albert came up with the perfect plan. He said, “What if we set up another bet, one that you can’t lose. I’ve never met your friend, so if she were to see me walking along the seafront with the puppy, she’d think I was a stranger. You could just casually say something like, ‘What are the chances of the puppy barking at that bin?’ I’m guessing she’d think it would be unlikely, so then you could suggest a bet - that if the dog barks at the bin, you get out of the costume. And we could put seaweed in the bin to make sure he does.” She was delighted with this. They put the seaweed in the bin straightaway and she went off to get her friend. Albert took the puppy and the kids to the end of the seafront and started walking in the direction of the bin. Becky arrived with her friend and they sat on a bench overlooking the sea. As Albert and co approached the bin, Becky said, “I wonder what are the chances of that dog barking at the bin.” Her friend said, “No chance,” and Becky said, “Do you want to bet on that?” “Okay.” “If the dog barks at the bin, I get out of the costume.” “And what if he doesn’t bark at the bin?” “Ahm… I’ll pay you two hundred quid.” “Alright.” Albert started walking a bit slower as they approached the bin, and the puppy chose this moment to cling to his leg. Albert tried to get him off as he walked on, but the puppy’s attention was focussed completely on the leg rather than on the bin. The girls normally stood back and watched when the puppy clung to legs, but they knew about the plan, so they helped free their uncle’s leg. When they finally removed the puppy, Albert fell backwards over the railing and onto the beach below. When the puppy no longer had a leg to play with he noticed a bit of seaweed hanging out of the bin and he started barking at that. Becky threw off the Mary Poppins costume and ran to Albert on the beach. He was a bit dazed after his fall, and embarrassed too, but the sight of Becky in her bikini was some consolation.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looks very intelligent in his Sherlock Holmes hat. The wife got it for him, and she’s started calling me Watson too. I knocked over a vase the other day, and I was going to blame it on the dog, but then I noticed the moose’s head in the hat looking down on me. I got the impression that he’d be able to identify the real culprit if I blamed the dog, so I admitted to it. I’m beginning to wonder if this is why she got the hat.