'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I've seen some beautiful birds in the garden over the past few days. I'm not a bird-watcher, so I couldn't tell you what type of birds they were. The wife's uncle says that one of his friends has given up bird-watching and taken up bird-wetting. He shoots them with a water pistol. It gives him the thrill of shooting birds without the guilt of killing something so beautiful. He still hasn't given up bed-watching.

My cousin Alan was walking down a quiet street at the edge of the city one day. There was a high wall next to the pavement. When he came across a hole in the wall he looked through it, and he could see daylight at the other side. He remembered a story his cousin Hector told about putting his hand into a hole and finding a silver cigarette lighter, and Alan couldn't resist putting his hand into the hole in the wall. He was just about able to squeeze his hand all the way through. He moved his fingers around at the other side, but he couldn't feel anything. When he tried to remove his arm from the wall he found that he couldn't get his hand back through the hole. He was afraid of cutting his hand or dislocating his thumb if he pulled too hard.

He said, "I really, really wish I hadn't put my hand into this hole."

He heard a woman's voice from the other side of the wall. She said, "That's a politically naive reaction."

"What would be a reaction that isn't politically naive?" Alan said.

"I don't know. I suppose it would be one that has a reference to politics, and that reference wouldn't be naive."

"What if I said, 'I really, really wish I hadn't put my hand into this hole and I'm ideologically opposed to privatisation in the health service.' Would that be politically enlightened?"


"But if I had to add a statement about politics to make it politically enlightened, wouldn't that suggest that the first statement was devoid of any political content, rather than being politically naive?"

"I suppose so. I don't really know."

"Why did you say it was a politically naive reaction?"

"Most people are intimidated by that. I'll be more careful about saying it in the future."

"Are you at the other side of the wall?"

"Yeah. I put my hand into a hole too, and it's stuck."

Alan looked down the street and he saw a waving hand sticking out of the wall. He waved at her too. She said her name was Sophie.

"We must look a bit stupid," she said.

"We could pretend we're protesting about some political issue."

"Like what?"

"I don't know."

"What about privatisation in the health service?"

"No. People would say we're being politically naive to protest about that by putting her hands in a wall."

"That's what I'd have said."

"But I think I know just the thing we could protest about."

A general election was just a few weeks away. Alan's mother, Bridget, was sick of canvassers calling to her door. A man known as Bingo had been an elected representative in that constituency for nearly thirty years. He was a member of the governing party. When he called to Bridget's door she said, "Before you say anything, I'll only consider voting for you if you have a coherent policy on sugar? Do you have such a thing?"


"I'll take that as a 'no'," she said, and she closed the door.

She thought this would be an effective way of getting rid of canvassers, and it had worked on the others, but Bingo would do anything for a vote. He came up with a position on sugar. He didn't want to be pro or anti sugar in case he alienated anyone, so he came up with a policy that related to a very specific instance. He said that people with sugar in their shoes shouldn't be allowed look after animals.

When passers-by asked Alan and Sophie what they were doing they said they were protesting against Bingo's policy on sugar. Other people joined in the protest, and then the media started arriving. Alan was interviewed on the news that evening. He said that Bingo's policy was discriminatory and it was based on an outrageous prejudice that had no place in the modern Ireland. A man who owned horses arrived at the protest, and he said he often kept sugar in his shoes because sugar thieves would never think of looking there.

Bingo's party wanted him to back down, but he refused because he thought it would be humiliating. He had already backed down when they told him to apologise for calling a nurse a Nazi (as he tried to explain at the time, he didn't call her a Nazi -- he said her behaviour was Nazi-like). The press put pressure on him to explain why he came up with his sugar policy. They suggested that he was hiding some incident from his past, something relating to animals and a person with sugar in their shoes. He insisted that he had nothing to hide. He said he'd never try to conceal anything and his life was like an open book.

This was when his former mistress came forward. They had been together for seventeen years. He had always told her he'd leave his wife for her, but he never did. He spent seventeen years doing his best to conceal her and then he left her. Hearing him say he'd never conceal anything was what made her come forward.

Bingo's popularity nose-dived, but he was still refusing to back down on the sugar issue. He was trying to highlight this stance in the hope that it would deflect attention from his former mistress, but this strategy didn't work.

Alan and Sophie were getting tired of keeping their hands in the wall, but they didn't want to back down either. They had both taken their hands out of the wall and gone to get something to eat in the night while no one was around, but they couldn't stay away for too long. After spending thirty-six hours on the street they knew they'd have to find some other way out of it. They were feeling guilty about the part they played in the election. Bingo might lose his seat because of them. So they came up with a plan that would show Bingo in a positive light and would also allow them to get their hands out of the wall.

Alan got his sister, Rachel, to contact Bingo. When she told him about the plan he was willing to give it a go. Sophie knew a film director who had just finished work on a film that starred a German Shepherd. The plan was to film a scene in which Bingo would save Sophie from being attacked by a vicious dog. Alan wrote the script for the scene.

Alan had seen Sophie for the first time in a picture in the newspaper. He had never before seen a woman as beautiful as her with her hand stuck in something. Bingo had a weakness for beautiful women. When he arrived for the filming, Alan heard him talking to Sophie at the other side of the wall, and he could sense that weakness in Bingo's voice.

In the script, Bingo rationally discussed the issue of sugar with Sophie. He said he admired her for her protest, and she said she admired him. When they were filming the scene, she was too nice to him because she wanted to make him look good. He started flirting with her, and he completely forgot about the script. He was just about to ask her out to dinner when the dog arrived. She said, "Oh no, a vicious dog. I'm going to have to take my hand out and run away."

He was supposed to say, "Stay where you are. I'll defend you and your principles." And then he should have turned to the dog and said, "Leave her alone!" The dog would have walked away with a whimper (he was trained to do this for the film). But Bingo just told the dog to eff off. The dog was trained to attack when he heard 'eff off', and he did. He jumped up on Bingo and held onto his arm. Bingo's overcoat protected him, but he unleashed a stream of obscenities.

Bingo's popularity soared after the film was shown on TV. Alan and Sophie felt guilty because they had helped him get elected, but thanks to proportional representation, the candidates from all the main parties got elected, so everyone was happy, even members of the party that lost the general election.

The moose's head over the fireplace is very astute in political matters, but he has an aversion to politicians. It's a bit like his skill at predicting the winners of races despite his aversion to horses. Horses are more dignified than politicians because they don't talk, apart from Mr. Ed. I'd vote for a politician who didn't talk, someone who retained a dignified silence on all issues. I'd vote for a horse too.