Cork Bus Driver’s Dogging Den

Cork

Just another normal evening, you think, as you board the bus in Iniscarra at the end of another sweltering day in the Irish heatwave of 2018.

July in Ireland, you can usually get relief, as the weather breaks and rain falls again once the state exams are over.  Not this year.  Irish Water has declared a state of emergency, hosepipe bans, asking people to ease up on the showers, baths are a big no-no.

Two sweaty and tired lads knocking off from their summer job climb onto the bus.  It is not full.

Near the front is a lad who appears to be a little touched.  He is singing to himself.  Back from him is a good looking young girl.  She is heading into Cork for a night on the tiles.  Dressed to the nines.  Hair and makeup all done.  Black fingernail polish.  She looks a bit ridiculous in broad daylight, not yet 5pm, but she will look amazing tonight in the club.  For now though she must be melting in all that makeup.

Down the back is a parody of the stereotype of an American tourist.  Grossly overweight, shorts and polo shirt, wearing hat and sunglasses, backpack, camera round the neck, map spread out wide over his bare knees.

The two lads settle in for the 40 minute trip to Cork.  The driver guns the engine and goes into rally driving mode down the narrow winding country road.

Sadly this bus is not destined to complete the journey.  In the Lee Valley a car is attempting to pull out of a side road and the Bus driver careens into it.  Then the fun begins.

Instead of doing the thing required by the law, you know, stopping at the scene of an accident, the driver takes off.  In dramatic style he swings up a side road and begins a madcap speed chase through the Irish countryside.  Behind the poor divil in the smashed car does his best to follow, but the Bus driver has no trouble shaking off his pursuer.  You see, the bus driver knows these roads, very well, as we shall see.

The bus driver pulls into a remote site where he can park the bus.  He declares to his passengers “I had to leave the scene of the accident, because I would have caused a traffic jam.  This bus can’t go any further, the axle is damaged.  If you wait a while we will get a replacement.”

The passengers are looking around at the uninviting site surrounding them.  Should they stay on the bus or wait in the parking area outside?

The man who was singing to himself at the front of the bus looks round and finds a comb on the floor.  He picks it up and proffers it to the heavily made up girl.  “You dropped your comb” he says.

“No” she replies “It’s not mine”.

“But you can have it” says the man.

“No thanks” she replies politely, realising that the guy is a bit special.  Otherwise she would probably have flipped him off by now.

“But you have long hair” says special guy, “you would need to comb it a lot”.

Makeup girl decides to sit outside.

The guy at the back asks the bus driver “Hey, buddy, how long will we have to wait?” confirming for everyone that he is indeed an American.

The Bus Driver has no idea.

The passengers drift out into the blazing 30 degree heat of another stifling day.  It is not a pretty vista.  They are in some kind of area for cars to pull in.  There are some large concrete blocks, the type the Council use to prevent Travelers from parking caravans and setting up an unapproved halting site.  It is an unkempt, ugly site, what you might expect in an industrial city suburb, but perched out here in the countryside.

There is a field beside the pull in area.  The grass is burned brown by the heatwave.  In the field is a dead horse, flies buzzing lazily over the corpse.

There are two cars already in the car park.  It is hard to see into one.  The other contains a shirtless guy with a dog on his lap.  The guy seems annoyed by the arrival of the bus.

The passengers file out and find concrete blocks to sit on.  The two young lads and the girl are immediately into their smartphones, rearranging meeting times around the delay.

The two cars at the site start their engines and pull away.  Silence descends.  There is the song of birds, the cheeps of shrews and grasshoppers.  The bus driver remains on the bus and his five passengers sit in the sun like so many marine iguanas on the rocks of the Galapagos, absorbing energy directly through their skin.

A car arrives.  The passengers are hopeful.  Is this some emergency response by Bus Eireann?   A rapid response team to rescue stranded passengers?

The car pulls up.  A woman opens the drivers door, leans out and vomits.  She closes the door and pulls away.  The pool of vomit remains, providing a balancing contrast to the carcass of the dead horse in the field.

The lads are looking at each other and cracking up.  You could not make this up.

Another car pulls up, neatly avoiding the pool of vomit.  A middle aged man steps out of the car.  In his hand is a smartphone.  On the smartphone they can clearly see that he has a Tinder page open.  The man scans the area and looks annoyed.  He pauses for no more than a minute, re-enters the car and drives away.

Now it sinks in.  The shady parking area.  The concrete bollards.  The remoteness of the area.  The lads parked up.  Tinder.

The bus driver has parked them in a hookup site, and when the sun sets it is in all probability a dogging site!  The bus driver found it unerringly.  He has been here and more than once.  If they could see what these concrete bollards have seen…….

The replacement bus arrives.  It is a city bus, not the usual coach used in the countryside routes.  The passengers are whisked away, leaving behind the damaged bus, the driver who fled the scene of an accident, the dead horse, the pool of vomit and the memories held by those concrete cubes.

 

 

Air crash investigation

Today an Egypt Air flight went missing on its journey from Paris to Cairo.  We now presume it is in the sea.  “Experts” suspect a terrorist act.  It is unlikely to be a story with a happy ending.  I could go on a rant about terrorism, the pointlessness of causing random death, the theft of lives.  I could, but it would be just as pointless.  It amounts to nothing more than slactivism.

So instead I’ll give you a poem about drowning which I find very funny in a black kind of way.  Life is too short for misery and moaning.  Laughing feels better.  Laugh in adversity.  Laugh at the absurdity of the small mindedness of those who believe that their murder death kill will make any difference to the flight of a swallow.

 

This is a photograph of me: by Margaret Atwood

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
eventually
you will see me.)

Taking Stock

charging_bull_sculpture-01 (1)

October 24th is an inauspicious day for stock market trading.

In 1929 Thursday Oct 24th was called “Black Thursday”.  It saw the market shed 11% of its value at the opening bell.  A panic meeting on the trading floor saw the big banks pour money into the exchange to buy back 5% and avert a panic.  Their strategy was ultimately futile.  Investors spent the weekend scouring the newspapers and thinking about what was happening and the following week saw Black Monday and Black Tuesday and a crash in the value of the DOW.

In 2008 Friday Oct 24th was labelled Bloody Friday.  The US stock market had already been gutted in early October.  The 24th saw record losses posted on stock exchanges all across the globe.  Banks were collapsing like dominoes and we all learned about securitization of “sub-prime mortgages”.  I remember reading “Liars Poker” by Michael Lewis and learning that these had been created in the 1980’s.

In Ireland we were comforted by the Government which under Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan, had decided to give a blanket guarantee to Ireland’s banks.  Still, people were spreading their money around from bank to bank, to keep within the guaranteed amount.  I should take this opportunity to thank the two Brians for saving the Irish banks and for plunging the country into five years of recession marked by misery and austerity.  You taught me a valuable lesson guys!  Politicians haven’t got a clue, and they make it up as they go along.

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining.  If you have the cash, a crash is a great time to buy bargains.  I just wish I had the cash!

Lorca, the Spanish poet murdered by the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, was in New York during the Wall Street Crash.  He captured the emotions of that time in his poem, Dance of Death.

Dance of Death; by Federico García Lorca

The mask. Look how the mask
comes from Africa to New York.

They are gone, the pepper trees,
the tiny buds of phosphorus.
They are gone, the camels with torn flesh,
and the valleys of light the swan lifted in its beak.

It was the time of parched things,
the wheat spear in the eye, the laminated cat,
the time of great rusting bridges
and the deathly silence of cork.

It was the great gathering of dead animals
pierced by the swords of light.
The endless joy of the hippopotamus with cloven feet of ash
and of the gazelle with an immortelle in its throat.

In the withered, waveless solitude,
the dented mask was dancing.
Half of the world was sand,
the other half mercury and dormant sunlight.

The mask. Look at the mask!
Sand, crocodile, and fear above New York.

Canyons of lime imprisoned an empty sky,
where the voices of those who die under the guano were heard.
A pure, naked sky, identical with itself,
with the down and the keen-edged iris of its invisible mountains.
It finished off the slenderest stems of song
and was swept away toward channels of sap,
through the stillness of the last parades,
lifting pieces of mirror with its tail.

While the Chinaman wept on the roof,
not finding the nude of his wife,
and the bank director was watching the gauge
that measures the cruel silence of money,
the mask arrived on Wall Street.

It isn’t a strange place for the dance,
these cemetery niches that turn the eyes yellow.
Between the sphinx and the bank vault, there is a taut thread
that pierces the heart of all poor children.
The primitive impetus dances with the mechanical one,
unaware, in their frenzy, of the original light.
Because if the wheel forgets its formula,
it will sing nude with herds of horses;
and if a flame burns the frozen blueprints,
the sky will have to flee before the tumult of windows.

This isn’t a strange place for the dance, I tell you.
The mask will dance among columns of blood and numbers,
among hurricanes of gold and groans of the unemployed,
who will howl, in the dead of night, for your dark time.
Oh, savage, shameless North America!
Stretched out on the frontier of snow.

The mask. Look at the mask!
Such a wave of mire and fireflies above New York!

I was on the terrace, wrestling with the moon.
Swarms of windows riddled one of the night’s thighs.
The sweet sky-cattle drank from my eyes
and breezes on long oars
struck the ashen store windows on Broadway.

The drop of blood looked for light in the star’s yolk
so as to seem a dead apple seed.
The prairie air, driven by the shepherds,
trembled in fear like a mollusk without its shell.

But I’m sure there are no dancers
among the dead.
The dead are absorbed in devouring their own hands.
It’s the others who dance with the mask and its vihuela.
Others, drunk on silver, cold men,
who sleep where thighs and hard flames intersect,
who seek the earthworm in the landscape of fire escapes,
who drink a dead girl’s tears at the bank
or eat tiny pyramids of dawn on the street corners.

But don’t let the Pope dance!
No,
don’t let the Pope dance!
Nor the kind,
nor the millionaires with blue teeth,
nor the barren dances of the cathedrals,
nor builders, nor emeralds, nor madmen, nor sodomites.
Only this mask.
This mask of ancient scarlet fever.
Only this mask!

Cobras shall hiss on the top floors.
Nettles shall shake courtyards and terraces.
The Stock Exchange shall become a pyramid of moss.
Jungle vines shall come in behind the rifles
and all so quickly, so very, very quickly.
Ay, Wall Street!

The mask. Look at the mask!
And how it spits its forest poison
through New York’s imperfect anguish!