The Heelers Diaries

the fantasy world of ireland's greatest living poet

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

Thursday, June 04, 2009

great commies i have known

Flicking through a copy of the Irish Times which someone has left at an adjacent table in the Costa Cafe.
And lo!
What light through yonder article breaks.
It is the east.
And Ellen Hazelkorn is the sun.
I goggle at the name and check the short biography which the Irish Times sometimes gives its guest writers.
It informs me that Ellen Hazelkorn is in charge of some Third Level Education think tank funded by the Irish government.
Bloody hell.
Memories come flooding back.
Alas poor Hazelkorn.
I knew her Horatio.
Well you know what I mean.
Back in the dulcet Autumn of 1992, when I was a young man (okay, youngish) with a jutting jaw and sparkling eyes, ambitiously, nay ruthlessly, pursuing a Certificate In Journalism course at the College of Commerce in Rathmines, no less a personage than Ellen Hazelkorn herself had given me a few classes in political science.
This very Ellen Hazelkorn.
The Ellen Hazelkorn now writing for the Irish Times.
She and no other.
I remember her clearly.
She was a crackpot.
A New York commie intellectual crackpot.
I mean, I don't want to go casting no aspersions.
But we didn't see eye to eye me and Ellen.
For a start she never quite appreciated the rich elagiacally humorous import of my referring to her as Hazelknut.
It was almost as though we were destined to disagree from the word go.
Or at least from the word Hazelknut.
Hilarious, no?
But our relationship wasn't all fun and games.
In my own humble studenty way I did attempt to cross intellectual swords with her on a few occasions.
I remember once she was telling the class about the inequities built into western societal norms and the attendant evils of capitalism or some such nonesuch.
She'd met my gently proffered admonitions with a series of rapier thrust put downs, the most salient of which was: "James you just want to build a wall around the unemployed."
Ironic, eh?
Ellen if you're reading this, the unemployed is me.
Anyhoo.
I had then challenged her to name a single communist society that we might legitimately aspire to imitate.
My exact words were: "Just one. If you can name just one communist society that is a success, I'll accept all your criticisms of the Free World. Just one communist society that works. One communist society where they don't murder their own citizens with gay abandon. One communist society where everyone isn't secretly dreaming of escape. One communist society in history that wasn't a heap of crap. In all history. Just one."
Ellen Hazelkorn fixed me with a beady stare.
"Bologna!" she cried.
I took a step backwards.
It wasn't easy since I was sitting down.
"Pardon me?" I murmured, my voice imbued with a delicious note of confusion.
"Bologna!" she cried again.
I shook my head in bemusement.
She hastened to explain.
"Bologna in Italy," she said. "It has a communist administration. Has had for years. Things are going pretty well there."
It was the best she could do.
I wasn't really in a position to argue.
Of all the societies on earth, she'd managed to find one I wasn't familiar with.
Proof enough of her genius, I suppose.
I let her have Bologna.
Sweet memories indeed.
Me and Ellen Hazelkorn may have absolutely nothing else in common, but we'll always have Bologna.
A few weeks later, the same Hazelkorn would have cause to dispute with me again in the same classroom watched by the same intellectual duds who are now, let it be said, the mainstays of Irish journalism.
Bitter, moi?
Ah folks, you don't know the half of it.
She was describing how the conservative mores of western countries forced certain political figures to hide their sexual proclivities.
I thought she was implying people who believed in the sanctity of marriage were somehow hypocrites.
I commented that I didn't think womanising had hurt any politicians recently.
"Give me examples." she shrieked calmly.
"Bill Clinton, Paddy Ashdown, President Mitterand," I answered without hesitation, "when their pecadillos became public knowledge, their poll ratings went up."
"They're not typical," she shot back.
I let her away with it.
She'd be grading my exam paper in a short while.
Best not to belabour the disparities in our knowledge.
Teachers rarely like to be too far behind their pupils.
Me and Ellen shared a few larfs about Catholic doctrine too.
She thought abortion was a human right.
I thought it was the murder of unborn children.
She argued that overpopulation created hunger and starvation.
I replied thusly and to the point: "The problem is never too many people. The problem in Africa and Asia is too many wars. In South America it's too many dictatorships. But people themselves are never the problem. People are wealth. And where the population control policies you advocate are introduced, whole countries simply cease to exist. The very notion of wealth becomes impossible. The future ceases to exist. The British, the Germans, the Italians and the Austrians are already terrified of the demographic time bomb they've unleashed with their abortionist condom cultures. Those countries are being referred to as the glittering coffins. They're rich. But they've got no one to leave their wealth to. The next generation has been aborted."
In ringing tones my adversary roundly rejected the notion of the glittering coffins.
A strange high eloquence seized her.
The class applauded.
I was red as a beetroot when she finished.
She'd kicked my lily ass and I knew it.
But I still wonder which of us will be proved right over time.
My final run in with Ellen Hazelkorn came towards the end of the school season.
On the wettest day of the year, I walked across Dublin to get to the College in time for the Summer exam.
An Irish Summer.
Pouring rain.
It was like a bloody monsoon.
Like many Irish people I heroically refuse to use an umbrella.
At the time I was also boycotting the Irish bus company CIE because of the rudeness of their employees.
Le plus se change le plus se reste meme.
So I walked in the downpour which was of historic proportions.
A veritable deluge.
Doe eyed foreign immigrants peered at me curiously from under their own umbrellas as I splooshed up the road to Rathmines.
I arrived at the classroom looking like a drowned rat.
No sign of any other students.
There was no one there except Ellen Hazelkorn.
She looked at me owlishly as I entered the room.
"Class has been cancelled," she barked. "It's too wet. We'll have the exam tomorrow."
I walked into the room and sat at a desk in front of her.
Then quite deliberately I began to bang my head upon the table.
I gave the old Heelers noggin some fairly decent bangs.
Ellen Hazelkorn watched me with the firstlings of amusement touching the edges of her Patrician features.
I stood up and walked to the door.
I turned and faced her.
"I've been Hazelkorned," I said bitterly.
That was the last I ever saw of her.
She lives now only in my memories.
And as Head of the Irish government's policy unit on educational something or other.
And, it goes without saying, as a guest writer in the pages of the Irish Times.

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