Saturday, April 2, 2016

Irish Eyes

Our Long March

We had an interesting March here on this island.

       On 10th March newly elected TD Danny Healy Rae made his maiden- speech in Leinster House with all the eloquence of a Kerryman . Danny made history, along with his brother Michael when they became the first brothers, in the history of the state, to be elected for the same constituency on the same day. We still don’t have a government. There’s talk of a “Grand Coalition” and talks appear to be at a sensitive stage between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the smaller parties. The whole thing reminds of the following incident:

      It was September 1940. Serious things were happening in the world but Fianna Fail was in power.

      The Liffey Hydro-Electric Scheme was almost complete. The dam at Poulaphouca was in the final stages of construction. The sluice gate would be closed on October the first and flooding of the valley would begin.

  Eamon De Valera decided that he would do a day’s trout-fishing in the King’s River before it was subsumed, by what was to be known as the Blessington Lakes, for ever. He called the head of the Irish Meteorological Service and inquired as to the weather forecast for the next few hours. The weatherman assured him that there was no chance of rain in the coming days. So, he headed off and parked his car in Blessington.

      As he was walking across the Killeogh bog he met Jimmy Norton with a donkey and cart.

      Jimmy prefaced nearly every statement with, “what I mane to say”. “What I mane to say Sir,” says Jimmy, “ye should go back to your motor car, for it’s goin’ to teem outa the hoorin’ heavens.”

      Dev was polite to Jimmy and said : "I hold the head meteorologist in high regard. He is an extensively educated and experienced professional. And besides, we pay him very high wages. He gave me a very different forecast. I trust him and I will continue on my way." So he kept going.

       However, a short time later a torrential shower fell from the sky. De Valera was soaked to the skin. Not in the best of humour he returned to Dublin to sniggers in the office, behind his back, at how “the long-fellow got drenched.” He gave instructions that the head weatherman was to be dismissed at once.

      A senior Cicil Servant was despatched to Ballinastockan to offer Jimmy Norton the prestigious and high paying role of chief- forecaster.

      “What I mane to say” said Jimmy, “I know nothin’ about weather forecasting, to tell you nothin’ ony the f**in truth. I get me information from the donkey. If I see me donkey's ears drooping, it means with certainty that it will rain."

      The government hired the donkey. And so began the practice, whenever Fianna Fail was in power, of hiring asses to work in the government and occupy its highest and most influential positions.

* * * * *

We had a fine day for the feast of our patron Saint.

       Our care- taker Taoiseach got on Christian name terms (the colloquial term, that is) with the founder of his releign in Washington on the feast of our national apostle. And the head of another political party was refused admission to the White House an error for which the powers that be apologised profusely.

      I was in Boston for Saint Patrick’s Day and while north of Ireland women were always too smart for me I got talking to our Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaelteacht , Heather Humphrys, in the Boston Plaza Hotel. Through her I met a very interesting Professor was visiting Boston..

      Mr. Haakon Doherty, Professor of Orthopaedics, at Uppsala University, has found evidence in human feet of the evolution of “wheels.”

      He agrees that it took millions of years for legs to evolve from fins but he has claimed in a recently published paper that the rate of human evolution has accelerated to such an extent that as early as the year 3000 humans will be traveling on their own “wheels.” “One of the causes of the rapid acceleration is the population boom. With more people an advantageous genetic mutation will arise and spread.”

       When I cornered the professor I asked him two questions:

      “Where did you get your surname”? and

      “Why have species millions of years older than ourselves not grown wheels”?

      He told me that his Grandfather Hugh Doherty was Irish; Editor of the Barnasmore Bugle newspaper in Donegal and when the paper ceased publication he went to Stockholm where he married a Swede.

      In answer to my second question he said, “We didn’t grow wheels because there weren’t any roads or flat surfaces until a few thousand years ago, which is the blink of an eye in cosmic terms. When biology was facilitating locomotion the terrain to be negotiated was catered for. Legs, fins and wings were sufficient Evolution adapts us to suit our environment. Adaptation may cause either the gain of a new feature, or the loss of an ancestral feature. If there were motorways a hundred million years ago you and me would be moving around Quincy Market on our own “flesh-and-blood roller skates”.

      Then, in what he pretended was an afterthought he said, “The larvai of the mother-of-pearl moth (Pleurotya Ruralis,) when startled, will roll itself into a round shape and roll away and the bacterium Escherichia coli moves by spinning filiments called flagella like tiny propellers which rotate at a speed of several hundred times per second.” On seeing that I was taken aback he went on, “if those are not wheels they are fairly bloody close.”

      I was wondering about the blood supply but didn’t dare ask the question. The professor read my mind, “The flesh-and-blood wheel could use the umbilical connection similar to that used on merry-go-rounds”.

      Seeing that his erudite instruction was falling on barren ground he gave me a practical demonstration using a CD and one of my shoelaces.

      Back in my hotel I checked each foot beneath the ankle bone for traces of the beginning of an “axle” but drew a blank.

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