Old Jokes, New Resolutions; and Same Political Pigs
“I have the most profound contempt for the system – a total alienation from it.”
Author John Le Carré, who died in December, explaining why he never accepted honours or a knighthood.
It’s funny, the things that come back to me during these months of self-isolation, in this strange year now ending as I write – this year of 2020.
I’ve been remembering an old joke. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but it’s the one about the sloth that is moving its lazy way through the jungle…very…very…slowly…
Next thing you know, an entire gang of sloths jump…slowly…out of the trees and mug him, taking all of his food with them.
When the Jungle Police arrive (eventually) and ask him if he can describe his assailants, the sloth just looks bewildered and replies:
“No. It all happened so fast…”
That’s the way I feel about Life sometimes. Back when I was a kid every day seemed slow, filled with that sweet honey-nectar that you never really taste again after a certain age; but looking back, well…they all happened so fast, those days. Like being mugged by a sloth.
Do you know something? Just the day before yesterday I was ten years old. I was ten years old and clambering around those great little rock pools that you find on the way down to the beach. Looking into those whole tiny, self-contained universes of crabs and wee stranded fish that will only exist until the next tide comes in…and out. And tomorrow there will be another pocket universe for another ten-year-old to peer into, in awe and wonder.
Lives will have been lived, miniature little communities will have passed, all in the time that it takes my brothers and I to clamber back onto the beach. Not slowly, though; ten-year-old kids don’t ever move slowly, don’t ever move like sloths.
And there we’ll find waiting for us our mam, with those great cheese and tomato sandwiches she used to make and that always seemed to get sand into them, no matter how careful you were.
And no matter how much sand there was, nothing ever tasted quite as good again.
That was the day before yesterday. Somewhere in this strange year it occurred to me that the ten-year-old kid had been away for quite a while. To be honest, I hadn’t really seen him at all for a fair bit. And that’s OK. Because ten-year old kids have no business in hanging around with grouchy old guys like me.
He’s still there, though; and every time I open a Ray Bradbury novel - ‘Dandelion Wine’, say -- I can hear him going:
“There you are, Charley; you thought that you had gotten rid of me. You thought that you had outgrew me. But I’m still here; and I’m still loving looking into those rock pools, just the same as you are.”
Another thing that occurred to me during these past months is that my dad and my dad’s dad and my mum’s dad…well, they all died at the same age, give or take a few months; they all died at 74. And it hit me that – on the likely chance that I’ll be exiting this dimension at a roughly similar age -- I’ve got twelve years left in me.
And do you know something? That’s OK too – because it’s been a hell of a life, between one thing and another.
So: the conclusion I came too – I was even thinking of making it a New Year’s resolution – was that I would not be wasting another single moment on politics.
But in the second week of the last month at the end of the year 2020, it is damned hard to avoid making at least some comment on the total chancers and wastes of space who make up the bulk of most Irish political parties. The snout-in-the-trough leeches who are so bad that they make you mix your metaphors. The career conmen who will lie to your face on the doorstep and laugh at your idiocy in voting for them as soon as they have their ludicrous expenses and their pensions sorted out.
You just know in your heart that these characters never looked into a rock pool in their lives.
In December there was a simple motion put forward – couldn’t really HAVE been much simpler – that suggested we pay intern nurses for the extraordinary work that they have been doing during this pandemic. Extraordinary work under more than extraordinary conditions –in fact conditions of very possible contagion -- that they could never have foreseen when they signed on for their thankless task.
We had previously been encouraged to light candles and clap for them in order to show our solidarity: that we were, in that nauseating and very untrue phrase, ‘all in this together’.
A friend of mine was genuinely shocked when I told her that I would not be doing anything so utterly moronic; if we wanted to show solidarity, I argued, we should be paying them more. Just as we should be offering tax concessions to all those who have remained at the front line, whether it be ambulance drivers or supermarket workers. After all, our swinish politicians found no problem at all in giving themselves no less than three pay rises whilst all of this was going on. And last week of course giving a pay rise of 2% to judges, who let’s face it, really need the money. Oh, and while we’re at it, here’s a raise of €5,000 for Bertie Ahern’s pension. I wouldn’t mind but according to himself he doesn’t even have a bank account. Under the mattress with it, I suppose.
Well, our student nurses found that the candle and the applause was expected to be enough. That in fact for the second wave of Covid, they were actually reduced to a €50 allowance for a twelve-hour shift and in many cases not paid at all.
Well, it’s a learning experience, innit? In fact, I’m actually surprised that some of our well-fed honking political swine didn’t take their snouts out of the trough long enough to suggest that the nurses actually PAY THEM for this marvelous on-the-job training.
So, when a motion was put in front of the swine that said maybe we should pay these heroic nurses the princely sum of a whole €14 an hour, those very same pigs -- you’ve read George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, right? -- stood up on their hind trotters, squealed ‘Some animals more equal than others’ and voted the notion down. DOWN.
Fianna Fail voted it down; and Fine Gael voted it down; and the virtue signaling Green Party, who I hold a special loathing for…well, they voted it down. Mind you, Sinn Fein didn’t; but we better not say that since the other three are putting the boot into them at the moment.
If you recall the end of ‘Animal Farm’, poor old Boxer the workhorse was worked to death, whilst surviving on shag all and still believing in the system that would kill him. And at the end the animals stare into the farmhouse window and they look from pig to man and from man to pig and back again. And they can’t see any difference any more.
That’s the way I feel these days. But do you know, as I wind this up, I find myself thinking of another old joke:
Sirens start going off in a hospital for the insane. And the doctors and nurses are running around, screaming and roaring as the flames begin to engulf the building. It all turns out well, though. The paranoid schizophrenics lead them to safety. After all, the paranoids are the ones who checked out the exits first.
Thanks to writers Neil Gaiman and the late, great Iain Banks for the jokes.
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Old Jokes, New Resolutions; and Same Political Pigs