December 99

It has come to my notice that certain readers of a nervous disposition have been unsettled by the names of some of the places I have recently visited - Lickey End, Wyre Piddle, Wanken, Titz, Kunstwet etc. In order to minimise the danger of future unpleasant surprises, I append hereunder a list of places I hope to visit in the Third Millenium.

Nobber - Co Donegal
Muff - Co Donegal
Noon's Hole - Co Fermanagh
Arsoli - Lazio, Italy
Bastard - Norway
Twatt - Shetland, UK
Twatt - Orkney, UK
Dildo - Newfoundland, Canada
Wankie - Zimbabwe
Climax - Colorado, USA
Shafter - California, USA
Dongo - Congo
Dong Rack - Thai border
Intercourse - Pennsylvania, USA
Brown Willy - Cornwall, UK
Lord Berkeley's Knob - Sutherland, Scotland
Shitlingthorpe - Yorkshire, UK
Stains - Near Paris, France
Staines - Surrey, UK
Seymen - Turkey
Turdo - Romania
Fukum - Yemen
Fukue - Honshu, Japan
Fukui - Honshu, Japan
Fuku - Shensi, China
Wankie Colliery - Zimbabwe
Wanks River - Nicaragua
Wankendorf - Germany
Wankener - India
Shag Island - Indian Ocean
Sexmoan - Luzon, Philippines
Beaver - Oklahoma, USA
Beaver Head - Idaho, USA
Wet Beaver Creek - Australia
Pis Pis River - Nicaragua
Gobbler's Knob - Pennsylvania, USA
Tittybong - Australia
Dikshit - India
Middle Intercourse Island - Australia
Chinaman's Knob - Australia
And finally, Knockin in Shropshire, and its famous Shop.

So, What do we need to discuss? The Dragon Lady, as threatened in our last session, judged Best in Show in Cloghran last week. It is a sourse of constant wonder to those of us who sit beside her as she describes all other road users in sphincteral or onanist terms, or observe her when she opens the Visa bill, what a pleasant gentle and good-humoured person she becomes when surrounded by dogs on strings. I think she must enjoy it, which just goes to show. Anyway, she gave top billing to an enormous placid Wolfhound, and reserve to a tiny hyperactive Pom. I think this is called type judging.

I have always wondered what decadent delights lurk behind the door marked "Judges Only" at dogshows. Leather-studded armchairs, petit-fours, whiskey, gin and vintage port served from sparkling cut-glass decanters by attentive and respectful committee members in dark clothes. Soothing chamber music softly masks the murmur of erudite conversation as the learned judges analyse the latest thinking on Ground Support in the Diagonal Trot, or grapple with the deeper philosophical issues

( ".....This logically leads to such questions as 'Why does the dog have a tail? What is it used for?' " The Dynamics of Canine Gait - Hollenbeck 1971 page 139. I mean. Really.)

The reality is slightly different. Behind the door marked "Judges Only " is a freezing narrow room containing a jumble of hard chairs and a few tables and a harrassed Susan Kealy dispensing biscuits and the sort of coffee that tastes like oxtail soup (The lunch, on the other hand, was fabulous. Or so I am told. I had by that time lost the will to live and gone home to bed). The silence is broken mainly by the sound of massed chattering teeth, with occasional alarums and excursions - "Mr McAleese is worried about his Agility!" (I don't know the man, but he looked alright to me) or "We have no Leonburgers" (Couldn't get the buns?).

Eventually Mick Drennan appears and, employing every method short of a cattle prod, releases the judges into the community, where they are magically transformed into Gods, as opposed to the objects of hatred or indifference they normally are. This can cause a personality change. I saw one judge, a young man I've known and liked for years, who suddenly became Caligula, haughty, imperious, cruel and all-powerful. And the exhibitors, who normally would hit him a dig, cringed around the ring, trembling with fear at his frown and all but weeping with joy at his (rare) smile. Weird.

Just hear on the RTE news this morning that a man was found stabbed in the chest beside his burning caravan. The Gardai are treating the death as suspicious. You can't put anything over on our boys. Happy Christmas and a prosperous thousand years.