Friday, May 30, 2008

Binlid: from the archives

The paid work (thank God for it!) keeps getting in the way of the unpaid blogging. Here are a couple of pieces from a column, Binlid, I used to write for Magill mag fadó fadó which you might find amusing.

Day-light robbery

I was in a bank robbery once. Let me rephrase; I once had the misfortune to be caught up in a bank robbery. It was in a bank in Andytown, in the time before the Provos found politics. I was chatting away with the bank assistant – F. She was gorgeous but I was ginger and gauche. Suddenly, she started to cry. I knew I was useless with the ladies but this bad even for me.

Then the shouting started, “Nobody move. Give us the money.” I turned and there they were: two men in balaclavas; one with a gun and the other holding a plastic bag from Curley’s supermarket. “Nobody move.” I was the nobody; I was the only body. There were no other customers in the bank and the staff were safely behind the bullet-proof glass.

I half expected the man with the gun to order me to raise my hands or lie on the floor but he didn’t bother with me and demanded the money. I folded my arms and leant against the counter. I wasn’t going to raise my arms and look like a tube in front of F. Ginger and gauche though I was, I might just have a chance.

The guy with the gun was waving it to and fro but it was the man with the plastic Curley’s bag I felt sorry for. Imagine robbing a bank with only a plastic bag. It’s not exactly macho, is it? Did they toss a coin to find out who got the gun and who got the bag? Did the bagman lose and demand the best of three?

Eventually, the man with the plastic bag moved towards the counter and F threw some notes into it. He had had his moment; he had played his part. I’m sure he was smirking under the balaclava at this mate with the gun: “You might have the short but I’ve got the dough.”

They left and I was still standing like a tube with my arms folded. F cried some more and one of the male officials put his arms around her to comfort her. The bastard! I had no chance. Ginger, gauche and on the wrong side of the bullet-proof glass. Happened all the frigging time.

The adventures of Effov

He is known only by his surname and no one has ever heard his Christian name. (Was he Christian?) Some say that his surname is his Christian name; that it is some sort of foreign affectation; a unique name that includes both forename and surname. No one knows its origin for sure because no one knows the country of his origin or even when and how he came to Northern Ireland. Some say that he arrived in Belfast on the Liverpool ferry after World War II, others that he came via Stranraer and Larne in 1910, others again that, in fact, he came via Holyhead and Dublin in 1969.

Depending on who is telling his adventures, he (and he is a he, one of the few agreed facts about him) he is – or was – either a comrade from eastern Europe or North Africa – Libya is a common rumour – or even, more outlandishly, Vietnam. Others of a less revolutionary mien say that he was an agent of both MI5 and MI6 or, perhaps, the CIA or the KGB. He was a mole, a double-agent, a man with a mission, a mover and a shaker, a doer not a talker.

There are no pictures of him anywhere and the verbal descriptions of him are, at best, vague. He was – or is – shortly tall and thinly fat. His hair was red, blond or black. His eyes were blue and brown and green and all the colours of the rainbow. He knew all the extremists and they all knew him. He was seen, it is rumoured, in the company of Ian Paisley in a red beret during the days of Ulster Resistance. Others maintain that he smuggled guns with Joe Cahill and only narrowly escaped arrest once by throwing himself to the mercy of the Irish Sea and swimming back to Belfast via the Isle of Man.

Some say he was the author of the bible of Ulster politics: “The slap it up them dialectic: how to make the body count count in democratic politics”. Others say he hadn’t the brains to tie his shoe laces let alone write. Yet his influence is pervasive; he is everywhere. Every time a Provo or a Paisleyite speak, the voter hears the voice of the mysterious stranger whispering in his ear: Effov! Effov! Tell the other side to Effov.

Acts of gross decency

Two Ulstermen – one Catholic and one Protestant – have admitted to journalists that they have both been committing acts of gross decency together over many years by actually listening to one another’s opinions. In a case that has shocked the North and has outraged extremists on both sides of the religious divide (ie, the vast majority of the electorate), the two men – who wish to remain anonymous – said that they had been muckers for over 30 years and could never find it in their hearts to hate each other.

Said ‘Ian’ (not his real name): “We’ve always gotten along and we like to have a quiet drink together. Obviously given the way things are up here, we have had to keep it quiet. It’s not like we’re perverts or anything. We simply believe that someone having a political opinion different to yours is not a good reason to kill them.”

“That’s right,” added ‘Gerry’ (not his real name), “it’s a bit silly, isn’t it? I mean this place is so small that you could hold the most extreme views and end up working with someone from the other side. You’d be scundered, wouldn’t you? We’ve a lot in common but you’d think we’d murdered someone by the way some people talk about us.” Both men said that they had middle-of-the-road tastes in most things but were adverse to bright colours, loud voices and spicy food. “Tacos give us wind,” said ‘Gerry’. “And it’s not just the tacos,” added ‘Ian’ laughing.

Asked if there was anything that they found abhorrent about each other ‘Ian’ cheerfully admitted that he just couldn’t for the life of him understand why ‘Gerry’ thought Fleetwood Mac were the best band ever: “He keeps playing the Rumours album and it drives me crazy. I keep trying to get him to listen to Paul Brady’s The Island but all he does is sing: tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies. Do you think it means anything?”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good stuff - it's the way you tell'em!