'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Video Killed the Argument Tent

I can't remember a May that's been as wet as this. Not that I go about the place remembering how wet Mays are. The grass is growing very quickly, but it's too wet to cut it. The rain didn't matter to Munster, who won the Heineken Cup under a roof in Cardiff. Arsenal could easily blame the rain for their loss in the Champions League final, but they're sticking to their approach of pinning the blame on the ref.

My cousin June got all the family together in a restaurant one evening to celebrate her mother's birthday. Before the dessert arrived, June's kids,
Daisy and Graham, went to look at the fish in a fish tank. There was a small plastic canoe in the tank, with a small plastic canoeist in that, but the canoe and the little plastic man were upside-down. One of the goldfish turned upside-down to look at the canoeist, and then he swam away to the other end of the tank. When he came back to the canoe, he turned upside-down again.

When Daisy and Graham got home, they turned lots of things upside-down, just to see what they looked like. The mugs weren't very interesting upside-down, but they were more than very interesting when Daisy and Graham turned their heads around to look at the mugs the right way up while everything else was upside down.

They turned a bucket upside down for their pet duck, Sleepy, to look at. They were hoping he'd try to turn his head around, but he just fell asleep.

They turned the patio table and chairs upside down, which was good. They stuck the handle of a shovel into the ground, with the metal end pointing up, but they both agreed that that was a waste of time.

They held clipboards as they examined upside-down garden gnomes.

"I just drew a cloud on mine," Graham said as he showed Daisy his clipboard.

"I knew you would. That's why I drew a plane on mine... Your cloud looks more like a fire engine with little elves on it, and the elves have claws."

He turned it upside down. "Now it's a cloud."

They stood on top of a tall building. "What does this have to do with anything?" Daisy said.

"Do you think I know?"

They went to see a tree that fell over in a storm. Daisy checked the weather forecast in the newspaper before they went -- it said it was going to rain, so they wore their rain coats.

The forecast was right about the rain. They didn't mind that, but the tree turned out to be a disappointment.

"If you look at it sideways," Graham said, "it looks a bit like the rabbits when they're wet, both of them together."

"Yeah... But you might as well just look at the rabbits."

"I know. Was there anything else in the paper?"

"Oh yeah, there's an ad here for Uncle Ronan's folk festival."

Ronan was setting up a folk festival with some friends of his, Joe and Primrose. It was meant to be just a small event on a Saturday in July, but it grew into a weekend music festival. They saw the chance to make a nice profit from it, but costs were rising too. When they started planning it, they never thought they'd need security. They wouldn't have needed security if the festival was just the few people in a field they initially thought it would be, but thousands of people were expected to attend. Hiring security guards would really eat into their profits.

Ronan came up with the idea of an argument tent, a place where people could go to argue and let all of the aggravation out of their systems. He said, "Do we want them hammering the crap out of each other in a field, or arguing about crisps in a tent?"

"Wouldn't they just hammer the crap out of each other in a tent?" Joe said.

"You wouldn't see them in a tent."

So they set up the argument tent. It was big enough to hold about fifty people. Any more than that would have aggravated those people even further. They put a few TVs around the tent, and they planned to play a video of something relaxing.

Primrose had a pet trout called Greg. Ronan and Joe thought it was just an imaginary friend, especially when she said that Greg didn't like Angelina Jolie, but there really was a trout called Greg in the pond behind Primrose's house. He might not have known he was called Greg, or that Angelina Jolie was Angelina Jolie, and he might not have known he was a trout either, but he was definitely there.

Joe had a video of fish swimming in a tank, and Ronan suggested they play it on the TVs in the argument tent, because it's just the sort of thing that would relax people who are there for an argument, but the real reason they wanted to play it was to see what this would do to Primrose's mind.

They took her into the tent and showed her the TVs with the fish. They watched the screens as the fish swam back and forth. "Talking to Greg is more relaxing than this," she said.

After a few minutes of this, the fish disappeared from the screens and they were replaced by rowers competing in a race.

"I meant to tape the football," Joe said, "but I taped that by mistake, and I used the wrong tape too."

"Some rowers used to practise in the pond behind my house," Primrose said. "They were banned from the lake. For spitting, I think. But it only took them a few seconds to get from one side of the pond to the other. Even Greg thought it was a bit odd."

Ronan and Joe thought it was a bit odd too. They didn't think the rowers were real because they didn't think Greg was real, and how could an unreal trout think that real rowers were odd.

"Maybe we've implanted the idea of the rowers in her mind," Ronan said.

"Wow. I've always wanted to be able to do that with women. Not to be able to make them think of rowers, but to be able to make them think of me, and see me as a sort of a muscle-bound rower."

"I wonder what else we could implant in her mind."

"I have a tape of mud-wrestling."

"I don't know about that," Ronan said. He did know about that.

"I'll bring the tape tomorrow."

"I don't know." That was a yes.

Later that day, June brought Daisy and Graham to see the site of the festival. Primrose showed them around, and the tape of the rowers was still playing in the argument tent. She told them about Greg, and the rowers in the pond.

"Did they ever turn upside down?" Graham said.

"I think they did once. But they couldn't go completely upside down because the pond was too shallow. They just got a lot of mud on their heads."

"Did Greg try to turn upside down to see them?" Daisy said.

"Maybe. I don't know. He wouldn't have turned completely upside down anyway, because they didn't either."

Primrose took them to see Greg. Daisy and Graham brought Sleepy with them, and he swam around the pond. Primrose had a small model of one of Christopher Columbus's ships. "There's Christopher Columbus on the front. Greg likes him."

She turned the ship upside down. "He's not going to discover anything like that," Graham said.

Greg did turn around a few times to look at Mr. Columbus. Primrose filmed all this, and she played the tape in the argument tent on the following morning.

"There's Sleepy discovering Christopher Columbus," she said as the duck swam into the shot. "Well done."

"You'd think it'd be more exciting," Joe said.

"Y' know," Primrose said, "I just thought of something. You could pronounce 'rowers' as 'rowers', as in having a row. And that's really what we want people to do in here, not relax. They need to let it all out."

"I have just the thing," Joe said. He played the mud-wrestling video.

"Or maybe we do want them to relax," Primrose said. "I mean, we really don't want them to copy that at a folk festival. Why don't we just play the video of Greg, Sleepy and Christopher Columbus instead."

After Primrose left the tent, Ronan said to Joe, "I planted that idea in her mind."

"About the rowers?" Joe said.

"No, about the argument tent."

"You didn't plant it in her mind. You just told her about it."

"Same thing."

"It's not the same thing."

"And all that other stuff with the duck and Christopher Columbus -- I implanted all that in her mind too."

"You're full of crap," Joe said. "Who implanted all that crap in your mind? God?"

Ronan thought that the only response to that was to implant something in Joe's mind, so he made a few alterations to the argument tent.

The festival was starting on the following day. June brought the kids there in the morning. There was something very odd about the argument tent, but the kids loved it, because almost everything in it was upside-down.

The upside-down TVs were playing a Kylie Minogue video -- 'I Can't Get You Out of My Head'. There was also an inflatable kangaroo, a toy koala, a hat with corks hanging from pieces of string and lots of beer cans. All of these things were upside-down. There was a model of a ship with a tiny plastic man on it. He looked like Christopher Columbs, but a sign said it was Captain Cook.

Joe looked around the tent with them, and Ronan kept asking him questions, like what do you think of kangaroos, or have you ever seen a boomerang.

Joe didn't think much about kangaroos and he'd never seen a boomerang. After ten minutes of these questions and answers, Joe finally said what Ronan had been waiting to hear: "I'm not really interested in Australia."

"Aha!" Ronan said. "I just planted the idea of Australia in your mind."

"You didn't."

"Australia is in your mind. I put it there. Woooo." Ronan held up his hands and moved his fingers about as he said 'woooo'.

"That's like saying that quacking implants the idea of a duck in my mind."

"Yeah. It's scary, isn't it."

"You're an idiot."

"If I'm an idiot, and I can control your mind, what does that make you? And whatever you answer, I made you say it."

Joe's response was to push Ronan, and Ronan pushed him back. The pushing took about half a second to descend into violence. The fight made its way out of the tent and into the mud outside, before Primrose managed to restore peace.

"I think we'll just drop the argument tent," she said when things had calmed down. "It was a very good idea, but I think we'll just drop the argument tent."

It became an upside-down tent instead. This was Daisy and Graham's idea. The tent itself wasn't upside-down (Graham put a lot of thought into it, and in the end he had the concede that the tent itself would have to remain upright) but everything inside the tent was upside-down. It proved to be one of the most popular features of the folk festival.

The moose's head over the fireplace loves to watch paper planes flying by. So do I. They're so unpredictable. You aim for one place and they end up to the west of your intended destination, and then you have to get a bus to go to the place you wanted to go to. The surprised looking hen in the painting seems to like Knight Rider. That came as a surprise to us all.