The Heelers Diaries

the fantasy world of ireland's greatest living poet

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Location: Kilcullen (Phone 087 7790766), County Kildare, Ireland

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

god does not play dice

Evening at the church in Kilcullen.
The pews are filling up with a steady trickle of citizenry.
The mighty Heelers is ensconced alone posing prayerfully as is his wont in the central seating area.
As many of you know, I am a showbiz personality and it's necessary to project a certain image.
So there I am.
Presently I glance to my left.
I groan inwardly.
Barbara Baines has just sat herself into the seat beside me.
Oh heavens no.
Not Barbara Baines.
Quietly I address myself in formal fashion to the Deity.
"Lord," I hiss internally, "what are you playing at?"
You should know noble readers that one of the few things I regret in life is a temperamental clash with Miss Baines sometime in the dulcet Summer of 1983.
I was a callow youth of 17.
By callow of course, I mean I was a handsome, roguish, devil may care sort of lad, with a buccaneering grin that used to drive women wild.
"Stop grinning at us," they would say, "you're driving us wild."
But I digress.
I had spent that Summer with my grandfather fencing a field whose ownership was disputed by a neighbouring farmer.
The neighbour's tenants had been periodically breaking down the fences. Breaking them down as quick as Grandad and I put them up.
Now on this particular evening in ye aforementioned Summer of 1985, Barbara Baines, university educated daughter of the neighbouring landowner, had arrived in the field to challenge myself and Grandad.
I had met her with one of my rare soliloquies, a dramatic peroration, against the iniquities of those who tear down other people's fences.
My voice as per usual had all the strange high dignity of Mini Mouse.
It was a tantrum of rare beauty, gentle readers.
My frustration about the wasted Summer, the ruined fences, my unhappy school life, boiled over and I vituperatively and vindictively insulted the newly arrived daughter who was studying law at university and well equipped to give as good as she got.
But she didn't deserve me in this form.
I let the side down.
Which side?
Oh the Judaeo Christian tradition, my family, Ireland, Manchester United, all of them really.
And I spent the next two decades feeling guilty about it.
So we're up to the present.
Here we are in Kilcullen Church.
Enter Barbara Baines.
And as you can see, I'm complaining to God for putting her sitting beside me.
"I know what this is about Lord," I prayed. "You're putting me beside someone I've had a 20 year feud with to make a point. The whole idea is I've got to shake her hand at the sign of peace. Well listen God. I'm just here to pray. You don't have to prove to me you exist by staging any cutesy life lessons. I'm not going along with that."
By the way, in Catholic churches at a particular juncture in our ceremony the priest asks us to exchange a sign of peace with those sitting near us.
We are normally expected to shake hands with people to our right, and left, and behind, and in front of us.
The process is exhausting.
It was this that was really bothering me.
How could I look Barbara Baines in the eye and shake her hand, with both of us no doubt remembering clearly our unresolved conflict of so many years ago?
The whole idea was unthinkable.
I was going to spend the entire mass worrying about the approaching moment.
I lowered my head into my hands.
In my heart of hearts I knew Barbara Baines had sat in the seat beside me by chance. I knew it wasn't really God giving me a hint that I was to make an effort at reconciliation.
I raised my head again. Something made me glance around.
I took a sharp intake of breath.
In the pew directly behind me, the entire O'Brolchain family were seated. Teenage daughters, mother and father.
The bloody bifurcating O'Brolchains.
A family of loony Irish language activists.
Committed left wingers.
And yes.
Named parties in another of my 20 year feuds.
At least the parents are.
David and Judy O'Brolchain.
When they'd started fighting with me, they'd been a good looking couple of 1960's style liberals.
They're a bit more weathered now.
The years have not been kind.
Our original conflict arose when they took particular umbrage at an article I wrote for The Bridge magazine in the dulcet Summer of 1986.
The article had urged people not to support the revolution in the Phillipines.
Yup folks.
I was doing my best to save the Marcos regime.
Hoo boy.
I could really pick em.
David O'Brolchain wrote a letter at the time criticising my article and I'd dismantled his argument in the same issue.
But the real O'Brolchain action of 1986 was to come.
Darkly statuesque Judy O'Brolchain approached me that Summer while I was playing tennis with my cousin Mycroft in the sports grounds near Logstown.
Judy had walked up to me and delivered some mildly well observed objections to my points of view.
Her exact words were: "You're a lonely sad man who never socialises. You know nothing about the Phillipines."
It was like a gypsy curse.
Ring of truth and all that.
My exact reply began: "You... monumental... fish wife."
My reply then became a monumental discourse on Fish Wife's Inhumanity To Man.
It went on for a long time.
I was screaming at the end.
Doors in genteel suburban Logstown, which adjoins the tennis courts, had begun to open.
People had looked out warily and then decided this was too good to miss.
They stood in their doorways watching.
As though in a dream I was aware of the audience though in no way impeded by it in my excoriation of Fish Wife.
At some stage I paused.
Judy O'Brolchain unleashed an absolutely adorable withering glance and stalked away.
I turned to cousin Mycroft.
A part of me was beginning to suspect that my epic peroration might not have been as magnificent in reality as it had seemed in my head.
I needed affirmation.
Maybe I hadn't quite managed to evoke the splendour of the Gettysburg Address.
But I might have gotten close, mightn't I.
Already I had a nagging feeling that Mini Mouse had once more taken charge.
Mycroft would be a good judge.
Mycroft would know.
"Did that sound bad?" I asked Mycroft.
Mycroft favoured me with a stunned expression.
Then she allowed herself a seditious little laugh.
Then she said: "Oh James, that sounded terrible."
Well folks it was 20 years ago.
And here we are.
I'm mortified still.
Barbara Baines to the right of me.
David and Judy O'Brolchain to the rear of me.
I cupped my handsome preraphaelite head in my swordsman's hands.
Once more I presented myself to God.
"Good one God," I said frankly. "You got me there. Do I really have to shake hands with Barbara Baines and the O'Brolchains? On the same day? I'm beginning to believe you really are assembling in this church a congregation of people I can't abide. Abide not with me, ye O'Brolchains. But this is most impressive Father. Impressive in an insufferable way. One mortal enemy could be coincidence. Two is beginning to look like you're up there enjoying yourself. Ah, Lord what are you playing at? I just want to pray. I'm in church. I want to pray. I don't want to learn anything new about myself. I don't want to encounter my own lack of forgiveness towards others. I don't want to explore any deep seated unresolved issues at the core of my psyche or my soul. I just want to say a few prayers. Is it too much to ask Lord? And have you get any more surprises for me? I mean I don't see what else you can pull. There are no other bitter internecine 20 year feuds in my life. What have you got left God?"
I stayed in the stillness for a moment.
I looked up.
This bit is true.
I expect you to know bold readers when I'm joshing.
A pretty woman of middle years was stepping into the pew in front of me.
She was expensively dressed, coiffed and perfumed.
I recognised her as Cristina Goulandros the Greek shipping heiress.
Cristina Goulandros the Greek shipping heiress is nothing to me.
I do not care if she lives or dies.
I feel no urge to apologise to her about anything.
I have no feud with her.
But she is married to Sir Anthony O'Reilly, owner of Independent Newspapers, proprietor of The Sunday World, The Sunday Independent, The Irish Independent, The Evening Herald, and sundry other dreadful entities of their ilk.
Ireland's richest man.
At this moment Tony O'Reilly stepped into the pew directly in front of me and sat beside his wife.
Tony O'Reilly.
Bloody ephin Tony O'Reilly.
For 20 years I've despised him above all other human beings for what I perceived to be the deculturing effect of his newspapers on the Irish people and nation. I have detested him for what I believed to be the blatent anti Catholic agenda his titles shamelessly pursued. I have abhorred him for what I believed was the part his newspapers played in the theft of God from a culture, no, from a generation, crying out for divine mercy.
Have I a feud with Bloody Reilly?
I'm telling you folks.
From hells' black heart I stab at him.
On a lighter note, my feud with the great O'Reilly can also be precisely dated, to the dulcet Summer of 1981.
Before all the others.
The other feuds, I mean.
Not dulcet Summers.
I was about 15 years old.
I remember, his newspapers focussed a lot on life style. Advocating hedonism I called it. At the time they were reporting attempts to legalise abortion in Ireland.
I was not satisfied with their reportage and presentation of the Catholic position on this matter.
I... never... forgave... them... for... it...
Or him.
Back to the present.
Here he is sitting in front of me.
Baines to the left of me.
O'Brolchains behind.
Tony Bloody O'Reilly in front.
I was absolutely staggered.
What to do?
Three of my life long enemies, self chosen by me I admit, sitting right beside me in church.
It was the most extraordinary demonstration I've ever had of the subtle yet absolute reality of God.
The subtle absolute glorious unfathomable truth of the Creator of the Universe.
I knew this was a wonderful moment.
Yet I was truly mortified.
What, I repeat, what was I going to do at the sign of peace?
I thought of the mystery unfolding and prayed without words.
Time passed.
At the sign of peace I shook hands with Barbara Baines.
I held her hands gently in mine.
I looked into her eyes and she looked back.
I let her see all the way to the soul.
By the time I broke our handclasp, the sign of peace was over and there was no opportunity or requirement to shake hands with anyone else.


Blogger Genevieve said...

Congratulations on your narrow escape. I suspect it was all part of the master plan.

6:54 AM  
Blogger heelers said...

Gen, you got my number.

2:15 AM  
Anonymous MissJean said...

James, I tried hard not to laugh and failed. Your situation is what I call "The Holy Spirit's marching orders" because God writes them clearly and concisely. They're usually painful, and I dread them, but they're good for us, no?


11:45 PM  
Blogger heelers said...

I'm with you all the way Missj.
I don't know which of us should be more worried by that fact!

2:37 AM  
Anonymous MissJean said...

James, YOU should be worried. I'll be afraid, very afraid. :)

You forced me to blog about this subject. Shame on you.


2:07 PM  
Blogger heelers said...

I ain't got no shame!

4:05 AM  
Anonymous MissJean said...

You've got no shame? Well, that right there is a might shame. I'll knit you some out of mine. :)

7:07 PM  
Blogger heelers said...

Knitted shame? It'll probably look better on me than my jumpers.

12:44 AM  

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