TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER
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Ah, the last day of a quiet respite in Leitrim, blessed on the first day by the best beef stew ever, farmer-style: in a heavy casserole dish, fry shin beef, add just a mug of water, a stock cube, parsnip and carrot, and, after some hours over low flame, Bisto. Delish! The beef is luscious and tender, the gravy just enough to wet your potato, steamed so the skin cracks and folds away from the flesh. Later, as the Olympic opening ceremony blares on the telly in the pub downstairs, I re-write the same paragraph for the umpteenth time. I also meet floppy-haired SM and his American girlfriend, discussing alcoholism in South Korea (where they taught English to precocious 4 year olds), anomic, novelty-seeking life in big cities, and the destruction of the black working class in Oakland and Detroit.
I leave the house once, to check out the show on the mucky town green. No sandals or dresses please, just parkas, mud-splattered jeans, wellies. Booths hawk Hello Kitty balloons, agri-cams, and tractor parts. Games beckon, already calculated for our failure, trios of bowling pins with coins balanced on top and the prize a damp stuffed cow or sheep. Crates of prize chickens glare at us in our freedom. Children laugh despite the muck and gloom, licking soft-serve vanilla ice cream under umbrellas as the sun roams among the swollen clouds. Long tables lie under marquees, bereft of the floral displays and scones and home-grown vegetables brought for competition, the honors conferred hours ago. I curse our predilection for sleeping into the afternoon, due to serpentine nights of craic and cognac. We skip the community disco and eat calorific readymade pizzas (with all the processed beef picked off) and chat in the din of welcome company, until gardai knock on the door and sky starts to blue and blush.
I drew the Ace of Swords. Time to focus. Wield a sword (or pen) with a firm grip despite what winds that blow.