'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I've been watching a TV show about digging holes in gardens. It's presented by a man called Toggy Glocken. He dug a very interesting hole with a hammer. I tried it myself, but it didn't look right.

My cousin Alan was looking after his niece and nephew, Daisy and Graham, on one summer day. Graham was counting caterpillars. There were four of them. It didn't take long to count four caterpillars, so he counted them about ten times.

He turned away from them for a while and when he looked back, one of them was missing. "How come there's only three?" he said. "I'm fairly sure there were four the last time I counted."

"They have loads of legs," Daisy said. "What do you think happened?"

"Are you saying he just walked away?"

"Of course he just walked away. If you had that many legs, all you'd ever do is walk away."

Graham imagined having as many legs as a caterpillar, but he just saw himself kicking things.

They went looking for the caterpillar. Graham said, "Do you think caterpillars ever kick really small things? They must be tempted, if they came across something really small."

"They don't kick," Daisy said. "They just walk."

They found Alan, who had a fly swatter in his hand. He was standing still, waiting to pounce.

Graham said, "Have you ever accidentally hit a caterpillar, instead of a fly?"

"I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of," he said.

They asked him to help them look for the caterpillar. It was really just to keep an eye on him, to stop him hitting caterpillars. Graham identified things for him, so he wouldn't hit anything he shouldn't. "That's a spider. That's a bike. That's a bird. That's a flower. That's a bottle. That's an opera singer. That's another bird. That's a tree. You could put the tree before the bird if you wanted to, but I put the bird first. That's a stone..."

Daisy eventually stopped and said, "Did we just pass an opera singer?"

"Let me see," Graham said. "There was the stone, the bird, the tree, or the tree and the bird. Hang on, I'm working backwards now. So it should be the tree and the bird. Because I said the bird and then the tree first. Or was it the other way around?"

"You said the bird and the tree. And before that you said there was an opera singer."

"The tree, the bird, and the opera singer. I did."

They went back, and yes, they had passed an opera singer. She sang a song about how the man she loved had cheated on her with a woman he met in a wardrobe. "It's a true story," she said when she finished the song.

"I'd hit him if he was here," Alan said, and he held up the fly swatter.

Graham said, "If you had loads of legs you could kick him as many times as you wanted. If he kicked you once, you could kick him twenty or thirty times, if you had twenty or thirty legs. Hitting someone with a fly swatter is fairly pathetic compared to that."

Alan picked up a stick and said, "Let's see if he thinks this is fairly pathetic."

They walked on and continued their search for the caterpillar. Graham said to the singer, "Do you believe in Martians?"

"I don't know. Maybe. Yeah. Why?"

"I saw this thing on TV the other day where they had these Martians. They were all green and they had loads of eyes, but if you think about it, caterpillars are all green and have loads of legs, so..." Graham shrugged his shoulders.

The singer stopped moving. She looked frightened. Alan held up the stick, just to re-assure her.

Graham focussed on pointing out all the bigger things, to make sure Alan wouldn't mistake them for a Martian. "That's a car. That's a house. That's a tree. I'm not going to bother with the birds now. For one thing, it'll only confuse things, and for another thing... Well, there isn't another thing. But let's not confuse things. There is one thing, and I can't remember what that is now, but I remember I was pointing out the big things. That's a car. That's a house. That's a Martian. That's a cow..."

Daisy eventually stopped and said, "Did we just pass a Martian?"

"Let me see," Graham said. "There was a house. There was a car. Am I going forwards or backwards now? There was a rabbit somewhere in there too. Or am I thinking of something else? Because I was pointing out the big things, so... Unless it was a really big rabbit. But there was a house..."

To cut a long story short, later that afternoon they ended up listening to a couple arguing. This was after they crept through a corridor in an abandoned mansion and found a brass band who were covered in dust. They wondered if the band were really ghosts. Alan held the stick up just in case they were Martians.

The argument started because the man had said something about her hat. It's never a good idea to comment on a hat within earshot of the person beneath the hat, although with some hats you'd wonder if their owners could hear anything above all the radio signals they must be picking up. It's comments like those that start arguments. And you'll never win because the voices in their heads will provide plenty of ammunition. If you comment on the voices, you're finished. I commented on a hat once. It was meant to be a compliment. I asked a woman if her dog liked the hat she was wearing. Maybe the hat impaired her hearing, because she heard it as 'Has your dog ever been sexually attracted to your hat?'. Actually, there was nothing wrong with her hearing. But there had been an unfortunate incident involving the dog and the hat. It was more unfortunate for the hat than for the dog.

So the male half of the couple made a comment on her hat (he said she had an interesting hat and she thought he wanted to add 'it's a shame about the head') and the female half retaliated with a comment about his ears. Under no circumstances should you make a comment about ears when those ears are there to hear it. It doesn't matter how positive the comment is -- it'll get you in trouble.

He saw the Viking helmet on the opera singer's head, and he said to the female half, "That Viking helmet is more appealing than your hat."

She said, "The horns on the helmet would be more appealing as ears than the things on the sides of your head."

"You must have ears of steel to hold that hat up."

Alan and the opera singer got bored of the argument and they started talking. The couple eventually got bored of the argment too and they listened to Alan and the singer's conversation. They heard her say, "My uncle was always finding pliers. My aunt used to call him Mr. Pliers-Finder. 'Have you washed your hands there, Mr. Pliers-Finder?' He thought there was more to it than just a coincidence. He started reading things into it. It was almost a religion by the end. I'd say he found two or three of them. Probably just two. In fairness, pliers aren't the sort of thing you come across every day. If you found two newspapers you wouldn't think anything of it, but you find two pliers and the next thing you know, you're God."

Alan said, "I have an uncle who says 'Scooby Doo' a lot. He can make it mean lots of different things depending on the way he says it. It can mean 'F off' or 'That's one hell of a cake.'"

"We have so much in common."

"Yeah. We should go out some time."

He dropped the stick, she threw her helmet off and they started kissing passionately.

The couple thought they should distract Daisy and Graham from this. The woman said, "Look over there," and pointed in the opposite direction from Alan and the singer.

Graham saw the caterpillar. "There you are," he said. He went over to the caterpillar and picked it up. "You're number four."

The couple made sure the kids were looking away when they heard Alan say, "Scooby Doo!"

The moose's head over the fireplace seems to miss the Christmas decorations, especially the ones on his head. We had a Santa hat up there, and some tinsel on the antlers. We tried putting a scarf around his neck to compensate. The wife's aunt knitted it for him, and it has little reindeer on it. But he hates reindeer as much as the dog hates my green trousers.