Sunday, 19 January 2014

Irish Elastic Airways.

It happens I had to go up to Dublin recently and chose a cheap flight with Irish Elastic Airways. With oil prices fluctuating and the globe hotting up, public transport faces ever-increasing challenges to get us from A to B cheaply and in a way that won’t leave polar bears selling the Big Issue on street corners. So news that people are commuting from Cork to Dublin and back by giant catapult, comes as no surprise. The man behind Irish Elastic Airways, Bernard Kerr met me on the docks in Cork. I have to say, I’m obviously not the only one to get butterflies about flying. Behind a vast iron ‘Y’ bolted to the quayside, a line of prospective catapultees were laughing nervously as they watched a man clamber into a pouch. As the elastic was winched back, I asked Bernard about his enterprise.
     “Hang on, there’s one just taking off........”
There was a colossal twang, then a whoosh.
As the man vanished like a missile over Cork City, Bernard turned back to me:
     “Bernard,” I asked, “Is shooting people from one side of the country to the other by giant catapult really the answer to our transport problems?”
     “Well it’s fast. Dublin to Cork takes twenty five minutes. It’s cheap. The elastic only needs changing after every ten thousand flights. We can send people for five euros return, and there are family flights, up to six all in the one pouch. If you don’t mind getting a bit wet at the other end, it certainly beats the traffic jams. Basically people are fired off in life jackets and land in the sea at the other side of the country. It’s perfectly safe, as there’s no sharks off our coastline. Catapultees from Cork land in the Irish Sea and face a ten minute swim into Dublin.” 
    As we watched a young couple clamber into the large pouch together, I asked Bernard about the safety of the system and talk of fatalities.
     “It is safe,” he assured me, “We tested the system by firing mice in lifejackets, then dogs and chimpanzees before moving on to humans. Last month a circus was late for an engagement in Galway and we fired five elephants over. That made a bit of a splash in more ways than one. You get fatalities on the road. And with us you’ll never crash at the top of a mountain and have to eat your crew, which happened with one airline. You have to accept that if you step out of your front door you could be run over. Hang on, there’s another.........”
     There was a double scream as the catapult twanged again. Bernard continued:
     “We’ve had a few people fall short of the Irish Sea, it’s true. But they weren’t holding their arms out properly. You see, you have to stay streamlined, make yourself aerodynamic or over several hundred miles you’ll create wind resistance and fall short of the target. We did have to change the colour of our lifejackets from red and blue, because people by the sea were complaining of a plague of Supermen. But though we’ve had a couple of pavement pancakes, a few collisions and fatalities from people trying to scramble round in mid-air and turn back, we think Irish Elastic Airways are flying in the right direction for the years ahead.
     “Any plans for the future.” I asked as I clambered up into the hot seat.
     “Oh definitely.” Bernard assured me, “Once we’ve got stronger elastic sorted from our suppliers we’ll be starting transatlantic flights – people will be fired to New York for 25 euro.”

Once I got over the feelings of terror the flight was unexpectedly pleasurable, though in trying to write the first draft of this article as I flew, I unfortunately dropped my laptop somewhere over County Meath. Hopefully there was nobody underneath. I have to say the lads at IEA probably won’t really get their project off the ground until problems like that are sorted out. However, don’t let my experiences deter you from giving IEA a twang.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Banshee in the Bath

Excerpts from a children's poetry collection
The Banshee in the Bath 
with illustrations by  the peerless Davy Dummigan

The Banshee
in the Bath

We moved into an old house,
On the west coast of the isle,
My Mam and Dad and Aoife,
Who’s my sister - I am Niall.

My bedroom had a perfect view
And we could see the sea,
Everything was wonderful
Or so it seemed to me.

But when we turned the bath taps on
We got an eerie noise,
A scream of water hit our ducks,
And other bathtime toys.

“There’s something wrong inside the pipes,
An airlock.” Father said,
But when the tub filled up a bit,
A screechy old voice said:

“I’m the banshee of the bath,
Don’t think you’re climbing in,
Nobody shares the bath with me,
Unless they make a din!”

And then she kicked her bony legs,
An old hag made of steam,
She splashed the water with her hands,
And gave a piercing scream.

She screamed and screamed and splashed and splashed,
Till father pulled the plug,
And as she gurgled down the hole,
She gave his hair a tug.

“We can’t have this!” My mother said,
“Run the bath once more,”
But when she turned the hot tap on,
We heard the banshee roar:

“I’m the Banshee of the bath!
It’s mine this ancient tin,
Don’t even try to wet a toe
Unless you make a din.”

Again she screamed - the toothbrush glass
Just shattered into bits,
We stuffed our fingers in our ears
As she had twenty fits.

She splashed us all and threw a duck
Which hit dad on the chin,
He pulled the plug and down she went,
Wearing a ghostly grin.

What could we do? For every night
Our bath-time she would stymie,
And shriek with laughter at our skin,
And say: You’re getting grimy!

Trying to reason with her, Dad said:
“Banshee, tell us why
You’re not screaming under windows
When some poor soul’s going to die!”

But all she did was splash him,
And throw flannels with a “Wheeeeeee!”
“You’ll have to smell you unless you yell
When you get in with me!”

We really had no option,
So we all agreed at lunch:
We’d leap in the bath that evening
And scream in one big bunch.

The four of us squeezed in with her,
That spooky wraith of steam,
Dad shouted: “All together!
Teach this banshee how to scream!”

We splashed the water in the air,
And threw ducks with a yell,
Her toothless mouth laughed wildly
At each rising decibel.

She slapped us with a flannel,
Whilst we screamed till we were blue,
And then most unexpectedly,
She bellowed: “That’ll do!”

And vanished in a vapour,
Not a hair or silver comb
Remained, and then we all felt sad
Our banshee had left home.

We dried ourselves and went to bed,
Then first thing in the morning,
We ran downstairs to turn the taps
And hear her cackled warning:

“I’m the banshee of the bath!”
But nothing trickled out
Apart from lots of water,
There was not one single shout.

“Never mind,” said Mam, “At least
From now on we’ll be cleaner,
Niall, feed the cat she’s at
The back door - I’ve just seen her,

The Puddle Jumpers

Beside a puddle, waiting,
Three sweet children stand,
When I pass they leap as one
And splash me when they land.

I gasp and feel cold dribbles drip
from chin and mouth and nose,
I look down in dismay to see
My saturated clothes.

‘Lads, why did you do that?’
I ask each wellied one
The littlest grins up at me and says:
‘Because it’s fun.’

Illustration for The Silly Sea

Spiders were
Frightened of Mary

Spiders were frightened of Mary

Her legs were incredibly hairy

She had twenty six, like twiggety sticks

That under a dress looked scary.

She had a despicable laugh
that made spiders leap out of the bath
when she hung from the ceiling it sent them all squealing
for help down the garden path.

For lunch she ate spidery pies
and crunched all the spidery eyes
with horseradish sauce, made from horses of course
and applauded by thousands of flies

“When I’m older I think shall wed
that spiderman guy” Mary said
We won’t have to make a three-tiered cake
Cos I’ll probably eat him instead.”


Tarantulas would shout at her shoooo!

Black widows would hide in the loo

but it wasn’t just spiders that couldn’t abide her
Humans were scared of her too!

The Blarney
Stone’s Revenge

One night up in Blarney,
The stone jumped off the castle,
Hopping mad, that humans had,
Been giving it such hassle.

In horrid grating grumblings,
It said: I’m going to clobber,
The next big twit, to coat my grit,
With all their slimy slobber.

The stone rolled through the parkland,
And kissed a little toad,
“Tell me muddy little buddy
Where’s the Dublin Road?”

Next it kissed a motor bike,
“Gerroff yer soppy brick!
“I want a ride,” the stone replied,
To Dublin, make it quick.”

Weird reports that evening,
Hit Gardai in a spate:
“Bits of rubble causing trouble,
On the Cork N8.

The Gardai laughed but drivers,
Were forced into a field,
By a boulder at their shoulder,
Ordering them to yield.

The stone that Dublin morning,
Went kissing here and there,
Lampposts, grids and dustbin lids,
“I want the Street Kildare,”

The Minister of Tourism,
That afternoon at four,
Screamed with shock, as a great big rock,
Came crashing through his door.

It broke his desk and grabbed him,
By the collar and said: “Oy!
Here have this, a great big kiss!
That’s what it feels like boy!”

The Minister’s nose got very squashed,
His spectacles all broken,
And since that day, I’m sad to say -
Not one word he’s spoken

Twit Language

Please be very careful
Whenever you say HELLO.
It’s rude in language of the Twits
I’m fluent in Twit so I know.

If twits were in this room right now,
You could say to them HI or LOW,
You can call them a stupid fungus-face
But just don’t say HELLO.

They’ll chase you round the table
In a horribly angry mood,
Throwing custard and hitting you
with a haddock for being rude.

I know it sounds ridiculous,
But to say HELLO is to curse,
However, in Twit language
There are several words much worse.

NICE, for instance, they maintain
Is a foul four letter word,
YOU is even nastier
And if you’re overheard

Muttering TO or SEE the Twits
Will stand in a sink and scream
And try to pull their ears off
Which are pouring jets of steam.

However, one word’s worst of all
Worse than any disease,
Say this to a Twit and they’ll 
attack you with Swiss Cheese.

Its ITS. It’s fatal to utter Its
to Twits. It’s incredibly rude.
Even just to think of ITS
Is ruder than being nude.

(In fact most Twits are embarrassed
or go right up the wall
if they think you’ve seen them wearing a suit 
Instead of nothing at all).

But if you like being covered in custard
And hit by a Haddock or cheese
If you want to see someone stand in a sink
And scream until they wheeze

visit some Twits in a suit and Tie
shout loud as your voice will go
these words as you shake their hand (or foot)

Illustration for I'm Deaf in Both Nostrils

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Weird Beard


A wizard who was very weird,
possessed a never-ending beard,
Whilst he slept his weird beard woke
and went to play strange tricks on folk.
It slithered out of his letter box
a rustling horde of silver locks
floating on the air as if
the tip was having a damn good sniff
for mischief and odd things to do
then to find them, off it flew.

Down a chimney the whiskers went
and swapped round every ornament
inside a room where fast asleep
a mum and dad were snoring deep.
On their bed the Weird Beard rose
then stuffed itself up father's nose
and mother's too! Yet neither woke
Not even when grey hair like smoke
emerged from out their ears in glee
and swapped their brains mischievously
To find that they'd become each other
Mother Father, Father Mother,
how they ran about appalled,
Dad wore lipstick, Mum was bald,
But by then the busy beard,
had looped a loop and disappeared

The night was young, the beard unrolled
along dark streets - as long as bold:
It wound up lamposts, slid down grids
noisily banged two dustbin lids
It broke inside bank and there
making hands of silver hair
turned the combination dial
opened the vault and grabbed a pile
of money. Then it dashed outside
and threw the money far and wide
handing fifty euro notes
to puzzled mice and startled goats.
It picked up cars and threw them high
juggling twenty in the sky
then got bored and put them down
on rooftops all across the town
Through a bakery weird beard stole
threading every donut hole
it mowed the streets, and swept a lawn
until the world awoke at dawn
to find that simply everywhere
was woven with entangled hair.

Whether this one night had got
stretched and stretched an awful lot
like the wizard’s beard, who knows,
I'll only say, as people rose
they found their houses mummified
in whiskers, big grey knots were tied
round chimney stacks and office blocks
Up church towers hair stopped the clocks,
The beard had somehow explored Peru
whizzed up Everest and down each loo
yes, yours and mine, the President's and
The Pope’s, the Queen’s, across the land
The roads were clogged with frizzy grey
Children struggled to school that day
To find their classrooms stuffed. The hair
Had climbed school roofs and written there
In chalk on slates for all to see
a sum saying one plus one makes three
in enormous letters ten feet high!

At last there rose a babbling cry
Around the world in every tongue
to whom does this weird beard belong?
As if it heard each groaning curse,
Weird Beard’s pranks grew even worse
It’s poured Niagara down my sink!
Painted the Eiffel Tower bright pink!
It pulled down politician's breeches
as they made important speeches
like: the beard is out of hand
chop it up and clear the land!
The more they cut it the more it grew
Seen from space, the world once blue
In satellite pictures looked all dull:
a grey and grizzled ball of wool
The Weird Beard grew inquisitive
Wondering where else it might visit? If
Mars for instance would welcome hair
In the wild abundance beard had spare?
And so the whiskers entered space
Floating from earth’s fuzzy face
To join the stars like dot to dots
It tied the man in the moon in knots
Then wending bending to and fro
Wrapped up Venus in a bow.
Singeing slightly on the sun
It amiably went to search for fun
With comets, meteorites, asteroids
Throughout the Galaxy’s chilly voids
A bristly river nought could sever   
Flowing on perhaps, forever,

All this while on earth folk flailed
In frolicsome hordes of locks and wailed
Save us from this beard’s behaviour
who will be our planet’s saviour?
A little boy who lived in Clare
Wrote to the Taoiseach: I know where
A wizard lives – a wrinkly sage
Perhaps his spellbook has a page
On beard banishment – we could ask him
Well, you’ve guessed it, folk went gasping
up a hill to the wizard’s door
the Taoiseach knocked but only a snore
was heard within, for all this time
all throughout this entire rhyme
the wizard had slept – his whiskers growing
from his letterbox never slowing.
Seeing hair push through this slot  
The crowd, a quite suspicious lot,
Opened the door and went upstairs
A waterfall of silver hairs
And tiptoed in the Wizard’s room,
Then stood beside his bed to fume
The hairs that they’d been floundering in
Were sprouting from their saviour’s chin!
They shook the wizard, tugged his nose
Tickled under his arms and toes
Wakey wakey! Time to shave!
Your beard must learn one word: behave!
But nothing seemed to stir the Mage
Regardless of the people’s rage
Shouts they bellowed in his lugs
Poking fingers, oaths and tugs
He snored serenely – maybe still
He’s sleeping there upon his hill
Surrounded by frustrated mobs
In vain massaging bubbly blobs
Of shaving cream across his cheeks
They could be at it weeks and weeks
We’ll leave them to it – life’s too short
For beards and poems never ought
to grow to such an absurd degree,
on that I think we’ll all agree.