'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Charge of the Light Brigade

A neighbour was admiring the garden the other day, and I was telling her about how my grandfather planted the orchard because he felt he needed somewhere to hide. It's becoming more difficult to hide amongst the trees these days, with the leaves beginning to fall.

My cousin Gary was in a shop one evening, and he saw a piece of paper on the notice board that said 'Rodeo, near the tree by the lake'. This was just a short walk away, so on his way home he went to the lake.

A small crowd had gathered to see the rodeo, but it was really just a man with a donkey, and the donkey didn't feel very well. The man with the 'This is a rodeo' sign said, "This is not a rodeo at all. We're, ah... we're recreating a scene from the Crimean War. There's Florence Nightingale, the lady with the shoes."

He pointed towards a woman in high heel shoes, and then he started talking about the historical background of the scene, but it sounded as if he was making most of it up as he went along. Gary started talking to the woman in the shoes. She was bored with the Crimean War recreation, and he asked her if she'd like to go to the pub just down the road. She said she'd love to, and they left the man with the donkey.

Gary bought her a drink, and they were getting on very well until he asked her how she knew the man with the donkey.

"He's my boyfriend," she said.

"You might have mentioned that before," Gary said.

"Yeah. He does get very jealous."

"You really could have told me that before."


They went back to the tree, and there was a bigger crowd for the Crimean War recreation than for the rodeo. The donkey looked much happier. The man was using a brush to illuminate some historical detail, and when he saw Gary he said it was time to recreate The Charge of the Light Brigade. All it really amounted to was chasing Gary and hitting him with the brush.

Gary tried to object that this had no historical basis whatsoever, but no one took any notice. The chase lasted a few minutes before Gary got away. He went straight home, and he wished he'd never gone to the rodeo.

Gary's sister, my cousin Chloe, was on her way to meet a friend of hers when she met another friend, Vincent. He was part of a group of bell ringers, and they were getting ready for a performance on the following weekend. Vincent used to practise the bell ringing by throwing stones at things. That's what he was doing when Chloe met him. She applauded as he threw stones at a bin. He went with her to the park, but he was always looking for things to throw stones at on the way.

Chloe's friend, Emma, was standing in a fountain when they got there. She was eating chocolates and staring off into the distance. Chloe said to her, "Why are you standing in the fountain?"

"Hm?" Emma looked all around her. "I'm... I'm standing in a fountain."

Chloe remembered that Emma was going to a wine-tasting class with her aunt earlier that evening, and she was competing with her aunt to see who could taste the most wine. Chloe assumed that Emma must have won.

"Isn't it about time to come out of the fountain now?" Chloe said.


Chloe wondered how she'd get her friend back on dry land. Vincent said, "I could throw stones at her, if you like." But Chloe said that wouldn't be necessary.

She eventually said, "Emma, my mother has some wine that she wants to get rid of, if you'd like to try it."

"Yes," Emma said as she walked out of the fountain. "I was just thinking that some wine would be the perfect way to round off the evening."

They walked back towards the house, and Chloe was kept busy trying to keep Emma upright and to stop Vincent from throwing stones at things. He wanted to throw stones at a van and a road sign. He very nearly threw a stone at a garden gnome in someone's garden while Chloe was distracted by Emma's conversation with a lamp post.

They arrived at the house just as Gary arrived back from the war recreation. Chloe asked him if he knew of anything that Vincent could throw stones at, and he said, "Actually, I do. I know just the thing."

He took them to the Crimean War recreation near the lake. The crowd was still there, listening to the man talk about ammunition. He stopped when he saw the new arrivals.

Gary said to him, "I've come back to teach you a historical lesson. We're going to recreate The Charge of the Light Brigade again. Vincent will stand on a hill and you'll run by beneath him while he throws stones at you. Are you ready?"


"Why not?"

"It's stupid."

"Yes, it's very stupid, but that's what the Light Brigade did. You do want to be historically accurate, don't you?"


"If you don't take part, Vincent will throw stones at you anyway."

"You could do anything at all and I'll throw stones at you," Vincent said.

"Do you apologise for hitting me with the brush?" Gary said to the man who had hit him with the brush.


"And do you apologise for being so historically inaccurate?"

"Yes. I'm very sorry."

"That's okay so. I still can't guarantee that Vincent won't throw stones at you."

But then Vincent saw a jogger on the road, and he recognised the man. The piece of music they were due to perform was composed for piano, bells, and sore oboe. They didn't know what a sore oboe was, but then one of them met a trumpeter with a limp and that seemed close enough. It was closer than a perfectly healthy oboe player anyway.

So they allowed the trumpeter into the group and he continued to limp, but now he was jogging on the road, without any sign of a limp. Vincent shouted at him, "Hey, you're not injured at all."

The trumpeter saw Vincent with the stones, and he seemed to get the impression that his uninjured state wouldn't last long. His jog became a run and Vincent ran after him, leaving Gary completely undefended. The man with the brush took his opportunity to attack. He chased Gary around the field and hit him with the brush again. The crowd had no idea which side the jogger was on, but they enjoyed the recreation anyway. Emma thought she was still in the fountain.

The moose's head over the fireplace seemed to be listening very carefully to something. I thought I could hear music from somewhere. I asked the wife if that was the song about the man who was trying to say he had an eagle who fell off a bin, and his girlfriend thought he was proposing to her. She looked at me as if I was mad, or stupid. The moose's head over the fireplace seemed to be looking at me as if I was stupid too, so I don't know what he was listening to.