outwait outrun outwit


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With mysterious purpose, tits looked this and that way, before sneaking into a shed, one by one. Starlings cleaned under their wings, on the wind-bounced branches of an adolescent pine. Grey pied wagtails scurried all over the lichenous, loose-slatted roof, picking off the insects that had propagated during the unexpectedly warm late September morning.

We had just missed Tommy Burns, who had been in for tea. California? You're from California? As if she couldn't believe we'd ever want to come to her decidedly non-Californian part of the world, where her scallop-laced curtains reminded me of stylized waves or the surrounding limestone hills, hills for miles, hills carved by iceberg sheets that had melted ages and ages ago. Time is a funny thing.

While Jimmy chatted with the farmerís wife--herself in pale green plaid, braced by a scuffed cream-yellow house trimmed in worn brown--I waited in the car, listening to Clare FM:

While the TV's showin' Newlyweds a real fun game to play/ But here in Topeka the screen door's a bangin'/ The coffee's boilin' over and the wash needs a hangin'/ . . . one wants a cookie and one needs a changin' and one's on the way . . . Honey could you stop at the market and hello hello well I'll be/ The girls in New York City they all march for women's lib/ And Better Homes and Gardens shows the modern way to live/ And the pill may change the world tomorrow but meanwhile today / Here in Topeka the flies are a buzzin'. . .

Onwards we drove, on bouncy glistening roads to Lisdoonvarna, home of the Matchmaking Festival since the 1880s, now past full swing. Old farmers, in suits almost as old as them, blearily examined every passing female and her daughter; or patrolled the streets with anticipatory or desultory expressions; or flocked on church steps, listening to Mass amidst clouds of smoke issuing forth from the tips of Silk Cuts or John Players.

What happened to full breakfasts for under a tenner? From the dark, beery interiors of pubs, trad leaked into the street, already strewn with fallen chips and snack wrappers. In the town square, a sculpture of a dancing couple appeared ready to leap among the stalls hawking crystal bracelets, thick stockings, reiki sessions, and gilt-framed prints of tigers and waterfalls.

Where was Tommy Burns? Where was this needle in a haystack?


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