To the airport with Emma Bunton.
(The other one.)
At Departure Gate 666 she handed me a package.
It had been wrapped in the style known to social scientists as Faux Jane Austen.
I eyed it suspiciously.
"What's this Hodders?" quoth I.
"I got you a present," sez she.
My handsome preraphaelite features creased into a rugged McGyverish frown.
"As long as its not a coffee mug from that horrendous Bewleys Cafe."
"Or a candle with Padre Pio's big face looking out at me."
"Or a photocopy of one of your paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the BVM looks suspiciously like you."
"Don't worry. It's none of those things."
Around us the airport hummed.
Au Pres De Ma Blonde, I think it was.
I ripped off the wrapping.
A book. Hardback. Photo on the cover of a rugged Irish coastline.
I glanced at the title.
Voices And Poetry Of Ireland, A Hundred Poems.
"Hoddlebun," I cried. "This... actually... doesn't look too bad."
I was struggling to find the words.
"I can't believe it," I said frankly. "After all these years. You've finally bought me a good present."
She kissed me and disappeared through the departure gate.
I went to an airport cafe and sat down with a latte.
The book beckoned.
My eyes beheld the full title.
Voices And Poetry Of Ireland, A Hundred Poems (Selected By A Hundred Of Ireland's Best Loved Personalities).
Always read what's in the brackets folks.
The devil is in the detail.
I opened the book and looked at the list of poem pickers.
Ireland's great and good.
Ardal O'Hanlon, Joe Duffy, Dave Fanning (a friend of Gavin Friday's), Gavin Friday (a friend of Bono's), Bono...
Dreadful, dreadful people.
I read on with slow widening eyes.
Eamon McCann (who used to write such nice newspaper articles about Colonel Gadaffi, I mean really nice), Sinead O'Connor, Bob Geldoff.
It was a most amazing list of best loved personalities.
Every one of them vaguely opprobrious.
I mean, I don't want to go casting no aspersions.
I checked their choice of poems.
A thin smile creased my you know whats.
Sure enough Ireland's great and good hadn't settled for poems from the established canon.
Their selections had taken a more avant garde turn.
I suspected many of them had chosen poems by friends and family.
Only Senator Edward Kennedy, the actor Milo O'Shea and broadcaster Terry Wogan, had chosen poems I recognised. The senator, the actor and the broadcaster also had the virtue of being, if not quite likeable or completely Irish, nonetheless and indupitably the three least unlikeable people in the book.
I laid my new gift down on the table.
"Hodders you devil woman," I murmured. "You got me again.