Butt-pumps etc [2008]

I was walking with my beloved through a crowded city square one afternoon recently, when a high-flying seagull, braver than most men I’ve met, crapped on her from a great height. And not just on her head, but down the back of her neck, in and out of the structural steelwork of her undergarments, everywhere. This occasioned an explosion of profanity such that old ladies fainted and drunken sailors clustered around taking notes, because , in addition to its olfactory properties, seagull crap, she loudly complained, is acidic, and had started to burn its way through to her spine. And, of course, she couldn’t really tear her clothes off in the street without attracting adverse comment, so she had to suffer through until we got home.

Lord, how I laughed. But then it occurred to me that I was taking this too lightly. The Lotto jackpot that night was around eleven million euro, and that very afternoon the Dragon Lady had been precisely targeted by a laser-guided seagull-shit. This could be a Sign.

So I left my spouse writhing on the floor trying to apply calamine lotion to her enflamed back, and drove quickly to the local supermarket, where I bought ten euro worth of quickpicks and skipped confidently out into the carpark again. Just outside the door was a litter bin, so there like a good citizen, I disposed of my till receipt. And there, like a geriatric gobshite, I also disposed of my quickpicks, a fact I only discovered on my return home.

Wise in the ways of matrimony, I said nothing, but immediately drove back to the store, parked the car, and tackled the rubbish bin. This had, of course, been used by other customers in the meantime, many of them evidently disappointed consumers of ripple ice-cream, but after some grim rummaging I emerged triumphant, to find a half a dozen people observing me carefully from a distance. With a deranged giggle I brandished the crumple rasperberry-stained paper at them, but they turned pityingly away.

So, if anyone reports that your correspondent has taken to rifling his local litter-bins, that’s the explanation.

And no, it wasn’t a Sign.

So I’m writing this as I sit, lonely and ignored, at my Bring and Buy stall at the fiftieth anniversary show of The Irish Model Soldier Society. It may come as a surprise to you, surrounded, like all dognostics, by people whose idea of a good day out is to walk in circles around a muddy field dragging a puzzled animal behind them, but there are other forms of lunacy available. There are people whose purpose in life is to determine the precise shade of epaulettes worn by the 18th Suicide Kitchen Battalion of the Duke of Boxes Regiment 1878, and then replicate it on a home-cast pewter figure four millimetres tall.

You have no idea of the passion such matters excite. I once, I swear to you, observed two friends of long standing almost come to blows over the correct length for a dragon’s tail. (I could tell them - I’ve been married to one for forty years. But I digress.) And every year dozens of ordinary looking people, indistinguishable from dog-freaks, gather for their National Competition. Platoons of lovingly crafted figures, flotillas of carefully rigged tiny ships, notional tons of miniature tanks and artillery are assembled and judged. And, in the middle of all these strange people stands a proud and determined body of intellectual giants, the aircraft modellers, to which I am proud to belong.

Not for us the childish squabbling about uniform facings, or indeed the unseemly disputes about hind movement, apple heads and tail set so common among our separated brethren. If we fall out, as we sometimes do, it’s about interesting things, like the true camouflage of the Humbly-Pudge Gallipoli heavyish bomber, or the typical load-out for a Wild Weasel mission.

This year the annual orgy is being held in the Coach House at Dublin Castle. (Too late. You’ve missed it) This is very prestigious, but has no windows. The sun is splitting the stones outside, and a group of men old enough to know better is performing close-order drill on the lawn outside while wearing the uniform of the 25th Massachusetts Regiment, 1865. No one is watching them except a group of very surprised American tourists. Get a life, lads.

Oh, Lord, a Roman soldier has just come in. He’s wearing a shiny helmet and a skirt. I don’t know where to look. I’d like to get up and go outside but I had an accident with my coffee, where it wasn’t coffee but hot water, and I tried to pour it back into the flask but I forgot you’re supposed to press down on that thing with your thumb and it all spilled and I have to sit here with my legs crossed until my trousers dry out.

I’m trapped. Hang on, what’s going on outside?

Larry’s radio controlled 1/16 scale Tiger Tank is in stealthy pursuit of three little girls crossing the lawn. Every time they look around it stops. When they move it moves. If they approach, it reverses. They know it’s a model but they’re not sure. Suddenly the turret swings around and goes “BANG!”. Infant hysteria. Who says ve Chermans haff no sense of Humour?

I was at a boozy all-night tenth birthday-party for the band last night, where after-dinner conversation turned to the special offers available from time to time in Lidl’s

“Oh yes”, Claire Anne announced proudly “I got a butt-pump there last month”.

Now a butt-pump is, as I’m sure you know, a device for extracting the water from your rainwater-butt and spraying it on your plants. But this fact was not immediately apparent to the rest of the company, and I have never witnessed so devastating a conversation-stopper. A short period of deep silence was broken by the bass-player’s wife.

“Well”, she said with bright politeness, “I suppose it’s better than suppositories.’’

Finally, I understand that there is now a man who facilitates artificial insemination for dogs. I don’t know this individual. He many well be a pillar of the community good to his wife and children beloved of all. But there is one thing I can say without fear of contradition.

This man is a wanker.