The Heelers Diaries

the fantasy world of ireland's greatest living poet

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

sense and sensibility

The Tearman cafe on a winterishly sunny Saturday morning.
A lilting tenor voice soothes souls in the stillness of the traditional wood panelled eatery.
It is a young old voice singing with all the sorrow and joy of ancient Ireland,
Me of course.
I am singing a new version of the Whistling Gypsy.
"The whistling gypsy came over the hill
He was wearing barely a stitch
He whistled and he sang
Till the green woods rang
And he briefly won the heart of a..."
Before I can make the money shot I am interrupted by an exclamation of my name.
"James! If you're about to say bitch, you'd better not."
Araminta Baines my dining companion has emerged from the lethargy that normally accompanies my singing to assume the mantle of censor deptutatis.
"What's wrong with bitch?"
"It's a very wrong word. It has all sorts of connotations."
"Really?"
"Yes really."
"I can't say bitch?"
"No you can't."
"I can't even sing it."
"James you can't even sing anything. But that's beside the point. You can't use that word. The word is a hate word. A hateful word."
"I like it."
"I know you do."
"You're joking about not using it right?"
"I'm serious."
The noble Heelers goggles his handsome head.
"I was going to sing it at the charity fundraiser."
"Don't."
I goggle again.
Could I be wrong?
Or is this a case of the grand fembo pandjandrums of the Republic of Ireland ruining another perfectly good word by making it unsayable just like they did with fanny? Yes bold readers, Ireland is the only country in the Free World where a cute dialect word for bum has been deliberately misinterpreted as a synonym for the female genitalia. I kid you not.
Time to try a little rational empiricism with Araminta.
"But, but, but..."
"No but's."
"Look for crying out loud. Bitch is a rich and colourful, nay historic word, that cannot and must not be eschewed from the language."
"It's already gone. You're too late to save it."
"Noooooooooo."
My no was a bit like the aiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeaaaiiiiiiiiaaaa in the music to The Good The Bad And The Ugly.
When the dust settled I resumed in more debaterish vein, list off the irresistable bullet points on my fingers, and also singing a bit more when the mood took me.
"Joan Collins had a film in the 1970's called The Bitch. She's a feminist like you. And the theme tune to The Bitch by the Olympic Runners is a classic. You can't ban a classic. Let me demonstrate:
There are good girls, and there's bad.
The bad are all I've ever had.
I can't tell you which is which.
but trust me to choose the bitch,
Ah ha,
God help I got the bitch.
She will ruin me I know.
But I love her and I can't let her go.
She's like a wicked wicked witch.
And I God help me I chose the bitch.
Aha
God help me I chose the bitch.
They sang it at my brother's wedding. Araminta you can't just arbitrarily ban a part of our heritage like that."
My friend stared at me with something beyond disapproval.
I essayed boyish innocence on my handsome preraphaelite forty nine years old and eleven months features.
"Thumbs down to the Joan Collins song?"
"Yes."
"Joan Collins is more of a feminst than you are."
"Not the point."
"What about Sigourney Weaver? In that opprobriously violent James Cameron film Aliens. She goes after the boss alien and at the end she snarls: You bitch. You going to ban James Cameron's Aliens too? Well I wouldn't mind if you did because it's dysfunctionally violent but I mean, you know, where are you going to draw the line? And Sigourney Weaver is more of a feminist than you or Joan Collins. She got into films by marrying the head of a Hollywood studio. You don't get more feminist than that. Then there's Grandad."
"Grandad never said bitch."
"He did yeah. When I was a teenager I stuck a pitch fork in his face and he looked at me with quiet dignity and said 'Ye bitch.' That was Grandad to a tee. He might be angry for a moment but once he'd said what he had to say it was all over. There was no more about it after that. Anyway I didn't mind a bit. I thought he showed a lot of restraint actually."
"James how did you do that?"
"We'd been stuffing bushes into gaps in the fence on his farm and I'd picked up a bush on the fork, turned around without thinking, and shoved before I aimed and got him right in the face."
 Araminta was looking distant.
"Don't sing it James."
"You know I once wrote a play called Lady Windermere's Fanny. Think what the world would be like if I'd listened to the Paddy Whacks who cried foul. Remember John Coleman in the chemist shop and his: Don't perform it James, It's the last taboo James. And the postman was looking at me as if I'd two heads for years afterwards. But the censorious pharmaceutical and postal service nay sayers did not prevail. If they had Lady Windermere's Fanny would never have happened."
Araminta tried a different tack,
"Okay sing the song but put in a different word."
"Such as?"
"Well how about wench. Or wagon."
I weighed her words and warbled experimentally:
"The whistling gypsy came over the hill
He was drinking out of a flagon
He whistled and he sang till the green woods ran
And he briefly won the heart of a wagon.
No. It's awful. The bitch stays in the show."
"James you're not really going to do it are you?"
"Araminta old pal, I have a strong yearning to break another taboo. It's been years since the last last one. And hey. It's for charity."

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