Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Tolka Romance by Bill Zunmoon

Part 11
“Lionel?” said Karen.
Lionel looked up in surprise at the mention of his name. Karen usually flicked her fingers in exasperation when called upon to remember it.
“Yes, darling?” he replied, watching her eyebrows arch like some demented viaduct. The uninspiring football being served up between Shelbourne and Dundalk had caused him to glance down at his open programme and he had been reading some unadulterated tosh called “A Tolka Romance,” when Karen spoke.
Karen broke wind nervously. “Lionel,” she repeated and her face reddened. Then it browned, purpled and finally reddened again. There was no other way to say it, she realised. In the end, it all came out in a rush, together with a half a pint of spittle. “Do you think we ought to try for a baby?”
Lionel ducked suddenly as a Hedderman clearance slammed into the stands. “That was a close one,” he remarked jovially as the ball struck Karen square in the nose, splattering it all over her face.
“Go on, lad, show us what you’re made of!” he shouted loudly as the quick throw in was intercepted by the ever-dangerous Georgescu.
Karen wiped the blood and mucus from her face and repeated her question, watching the back of his head closely for a clue to his inner feelings.
When the ball went out of play on the far side of the pitch, Lionel turned and held her giant pudgy hand in both of his. “Sorry darling,” he said. “Something about gravy?”
“A baby,” Karen repeated again, gripping his hand tightly and causing sudden paralysis of his lower arm. “Do you think we ought to try for one?”
“Try for one? What do you mean - try for one?” he asked, clicking his tongue in exasperation as Keddy went down again.
“What do people normally mean when they say they’re going to try for a baby?” asked Karen incredulously. “Buy a raffle ticket for it?”
“Is that how it’s done?” asked Lionel in all seriousness, missing the sarcasm in her voice. “I always wondered. Do you think Bisto’s ever going to score again?”
“Oh forget about Bisto for once, will you!” she snapped and Lionel gasped audibly at the sacrilege. “This is important. This is you and me. Are you seriously telling me you don’t know how babies are made?”
Lionel opened his mouth to speak but Karen pointed a warning finger at him. “Don’t you dare tell me you think Dave Crawley raises his game every time he plays against us,” she threatened, breaking wind again aggressively.
Lionel closed his mouth, an act which probably saved his life. He thought a while. “No,” he said at last. “It never really came up.”
With a lot of finger pointing and with the help of the ring doughnut that she had been saving for the end of the match, Karen painstakingly and graphically explained to Lionel the facts of life. Lionel kept quiet, his face down, only looking up when Dave Freeman seemed for a split second to be in on goal. His face turned green at one point and Karen thought he was going to be sick but he held it in like a man until she had finished.
“I had no idea,” he said eventually. “How bizarre! And you say birds and bees do all that?
“Humans too,” said Karen quickly, afraid he might be missing the point of her spiel.
“Good Lord!” replied Lionel. It was like the relevations to Saul on the Road to Damascus. The pieces all fell into place.
“Well?” asked Karen. He looked at her quizzically.
“Do you think we should try for a baby?”
Lionel stood up suddenly. “He’s not one of the Untouchables of India! He’s only from Dundalk!” he yelled, as the Shels defence backed away. Muttering and shaking his head, he sat down again and turned to Karen. “You want a baby very much, don’t you?” he said tenderly, picking at the matted blood in her hair.
She nodded, not daring to her speak. This was her moment, she realised. His response would either fulfil her spiritually, mentally and physically or else she might as well be as barren as Anto Flood’s current scoring record.
Lionel looked at her and love swept over him like a bath of treacle. He could see the fear in her eyes, the snot hanging precariously down her nose and her beauty wart on her bottom lip. He knew he hadn’t the power to refuse such loveliness but yet... but yet...
Eventually he spoke. “I think,” he said, “that maybe we ought to wait until the end of the match.”
And he was instantly enveloped in a mass of slobbering kisses that Anto Flood would have given his right arm for.

Two paintings

At two ends of a great hall
Hang two pictures on the wall,
One small in size, the other somewhat bigger.
And in this great museum,
Joseph Public flocks to see ‘em,
The fav’rite, though, is not too hard to figure.

The smaller tells the story
Of a club that’s gained great glory.
Upon the pitch, a player holds high the Cup.
In the stands the fans are singing,
On the terrace, praise is ringing.
It seems this is a team now on the up.

But if you peer more closely,
Look! The chairman stares morosely
At those vultures that are circling overhead.
And regard those bailiffs knocking!
Not a happy scene, but shocking
And one that should be viewed with pure dread.

The larger one, conversely,
Shows defeat inflicted tersely,
The players sink to the turf, their heads in hands.
But although the fans are grumbling,
Those old terraces aren’t crumbling,
And no dandelions are sprouting in the stands.

Mister Keely, the curator,
Tries to talk to each spectator
‘Bout the special merits of the larger painting.
But that Cup is gleaming brightly
And the masses crowd round tightly,
So tight in fact that some of them are fainting.

Yes the team that’s won promotion’s
At the hub of the commotion,
The vultures and the bailiffs notwithstanding.
The curator, feeling slighted,
Claims they must be all short-sighted –
“You should see the bigger picture!” he’s demanding.
Following a poor run in form, criticism has been levelled at the club for playing friendlies in the middle of the season - Millwall, Leeds, Celtic. Dermot's response ids that the critics ought to see the bigger picture

The greening of Millwall

Oh Millwall, how thy name doth rouse
The passion in the purist’s heart
And raptures those that doth espouse
The beauty of this sporting art.
For though thy name brings forth to mind
Elysian fields of verdant hue,
And dappled brooks that twist and wind
Round hillocks moulded ‘pon the view,
Still I recall a distant time
When athletes played the noble game
For football’s sake, not fleeting fame,
Adored by thousands in their prime.

Upon the walls the names that we know,
Dunphy, Kennedy, Cascarino…

Ah, Dunphy, with his boyish grin
And reticence to get stuck in.
McCarthy, Eamonn’s nemesis
To whom he gave the Judas kiss.
Bold Tony, yet another scribe,
Adept with head and foot and pen,
And Kennedy, who felt the vibe,
Sometimes. Every now and then.
And giant Richard, tall and keen
To whom cruel fate was roundly rotten.
Oh they will never be forgotten
Who painted Cold Blow Lane so green.

Upon the walls the names that we know,
Dunphy, Kennedy, Cascarino…

Last night I dreamt of Paul Reaney

Last night I dreamt of Paul Reaney,
Still sporting those Boney M locks.
He was driving a red lamborghini
And was wearing an odd pair of socks.

And no, there was no Norman Hunter,
Nor Madeley, nor Charlton, nor Giles.
Just Paul and the Argentine junta,
Who chased the calm fullback for miles.

No Bremner, no Jones and no Cooper,
No Lorimer, Clarke, Sprake or Gray.
Just Reaney the curly-haired trouper
Who kept roving wingers at bay.

How wondrous the intricate workings
That power the cerebral machine!
Perhaps ‘twas that jar of fresh gherkins
That triggered this unlikely scene?

Or maybe ‘twas my fascination
With those who don’t get much acclaim,
Who don’t capture the hearts of the nation
But play a huge part, all the same.

Among the fine jewels assembled,
This quiet undemonstrative gem
Was noted because he resembled
The lad who sang in Boney M.

In my dream, that red lamborghini
Disappeared in the desert’s warm haze,
The same way that thoughts of Paul Reaney
Disappeared in my young adult days.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Tolka Romance by Bill Zunmoon

Part 10
It was shortly after Sporting Fingal hit the bar for the second time that Karen made her request.
“Hobnobs and custard?” echoed Lionel. “Where on earth am I going to get Hobnobs and custard at this hour of the night? Clear it down the line, will ya!”
“Of course if its too much trouble...” sighed Karen despondently, picking her nose and examining the contents forlornly.
“No of course not, darling,” whispered Lionel earnestly. “I’ll be right back.”
The girl serving in Burdock’s merely looked at him blankly, causing him to ponder a quick dash to Tesco’s on the Drumcondra Road. Thankfully the sudden appearance of the Hobnobs and Custard man – who had replaced the irreplaceable Rocket Man some time previously – saved him a journey.
“Thank you, darling,” said Karen and she bit his ear playfully in appreciation before wolfing down the contents in one foul swoop and belching loudly.
“No problem darling,” replied Lionel weakly, as the St. Johns Ambulance men tried to staunch the flow of blood.
It was a good match, keeping the fans on the edge of their seats throughout, particularly those who were sitting down. Some poor deluded souls even conceded that perhaps Torpedo Fingal had deserved all three points and Lionel, walking hand in hand with Karen out of the ground whispered that it took all sorts to make a post-match discussion.
“Do you know what I’d like?” said Karen, stroking one of her chins. “A packet of liquorice allsorts. Dipped in chutney. With a banana on top.”
Lionel raised one eyebrow then, exhausted, let it go again. “Tesco’s it is so,” he capitulated and they headed off into the night, like Laurel and two Hardys.
Tosh Travel departed Tolka Park at 2.30 pm the following Friday for the trip down to Waterford. As they boarded the coach, Lionel took Karen’s handbag as four burly supporters put their shoulder to her backside to force her through the door.
“Good Lord, what do you have in here, darling?” asked Lionel, rupturing a muscle in his back as he heaved it down the aisle to a vacant seat.
“Just a little snack,” she panted as a sudden exertion from the four men catapulted her onto the cowering driver.
Full of curiosity, Lionel snapped open the padlock and peered inside. There was a packet of crunchy nut cornflakes, three tins of semolina, a half pound of sausages, a packet of wagon wheels (not the confectionery – actual wagon wheels), a bowl of mashed potato and broccoli, a quart of red lemonade and a tube of toothpaste. And that was just in the side compartment.
“In case I feel peckish,” snapped a red-faced Karen, sitting down heavily in the two seats across the aisle and snatching the bag from his grasp, pausing only to wolf down three packets of Hunky Dorys and an olive and marmite sandwich. Hurriedly, Lionel tried to change the subject.
“What do you think of our chances tonight, love?” he asked. “Isn’t it great to have Bisto back?”
“Bisto??” she yelled incredulously and smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand.
During the game, Lionel tried to resist any references to feeding the forward line, nutmegs or Max Cream. He refrained from calling either of the own goals a cracker and he didn’t accuse the Waterford full-back of “making a meal of it” when he was accidentally scythed down. Bringing Sparky on might prove more profitable, he stated at one point, changing the adjective from “fruitful” at the last minute. He chose his words carefully when Chambers got sandwiched in the middle of the park and he made no reference whatsoever to Bisto or his poaching abilities.
On the bus home, Karen finished off the last of her Werther’s originals and cleared her throat, sending bits of caramel flying in all directions. “Lionel,” she said softly. He didn’t stir, tired after a hard day’s travelling and avoiding food metaphors.
“Lionel darling,” she whispered again, smacking him forcefully across the temple with her now empty handbag. Lionel snapped awake in an instant.
“Darling,” Karen said. “You know I’ve had these strange cravings for weird combinations of food recently?”
Lionel felt his heart simultaneously sink and leap. Could it be? He didn’t dare enunciate the words. “It isn’t because...because...” he stammered.
She looked at him and grinned. “Yes,” she said. “Its because I’m a greedy cow.”

Summer football at the RSC

The fans gazed around
The rain-spattered ground,
Unable to fathom the mystery.
In their years watching ball,
None could ever recall
Quite anything like it in history.

The God of the Wind
Blew his cheeks out and grinned,
As the ball swirled about with great revelry.
And the God of the Rain
Sang a lusty refrain,
Which many ascribed to sheer devilry.

“So what?” you might say,
“Just an ordin’ry day.
Our summer’s are often quite scuttery.
Full of rain, wind and sleet
And to make it complete,
The surface turns greasy and buttery.”

But this was not why
Faces turned to the sky,
Amazed at the unforeseen frippery,
For great numbered balls
Bounced down ‘mongst the squalls
As conditions got even more slippery.

Bright coloured and gay,
They broke up the play,
Like a bull in a shop full of pottery.
No it doesn’t make sense
But these lurid events
Had turned the match into a lottery.