WHEN did you last see a man leaning over a wall, letting the world go by — a happy philosopher, who had found the secret of being able to stop and stare? Until recently, I knew such a one.
In the country, you used to see such men, from time to time, leaning on gates, since it's impossible to lean on a hedge without discomfort or injury.
ThP nun ' was in a newly-developed urban area. The wall was just about the right height for a comfortable lean. His cottage, at one time, must have been miles away from the nearest inhabited building. Gradually it was being surrounded — Indians circling a beleagured caravan.
There, were rumours that he had been a great footballer in his day and a man of strength, who could lift a stone from a quarry that two or three men would find hard to budge. I don't suppose I had a dozen sentences from him over the years but they were always gentle ones, even though it was clear that, as each new house (Indian) arrived, he felt the world he knew disimproving.
The people were all right but they didn't have the passion or the respect for the place that he had. Trees he's known all his life were vanishing, cows, horses, even the last furtive foxes.
Finally, the Powers-That-Be decided that the narrow, winding road was dangerous and needed widening and surfacing and, most of all, footpaths. Soon the cars that used to chug by safely to negotiate the bends were streaking past at lethal speed. Worse than that, the widening needed a long strip of land, not much more than fifteen feet wide but coming right through his leanding wall.
Some held out, some accepted blandishments of token payments or new trees or imposing pillars — or all three; but he continued to lean on his old, crumbling wall. One felt, without ever being told so, that he might have said that, whatever a Compulsory Order meant, he didn't know or much care but wanted his wall where it was.
Of course, in the fullness of time and the beat of bureaucracy, his wall went. They built him a much better one but no one short of a tenfoot giant could lean on it and look over. I never saw him again; and somehow I wasn't surprised to find ourselves praying over his coffin in the church the other morning. He lived to a ripe old age so I'm not blaming anybody; but somehow I wonder if he'd still be around if the old wall was there.
ELECTIONS in the offing in Britian, Election in Ireland a reality. They say that, if you tell a politician at election time the moon is made of blue cheese,
he'll agree with you. It's bad enough that truth goes out of the window but it's much worse not being able to identify which is which.
If truth is indeed the first casualty in war, perhaps the first casualty in Election-time is belief. Since I feel deeply that everyone should exercise his or her vote, I have to confess to a sigh of cowardly relief that I am being forced to fly to Los Angeles ahead of Irish pollingday and dont have to sort out what or whom to believe.
I mention the election mainly to say what a courageous Parish Priest was Very Reverend Patrick Peppard, who asked Prime Minister elect (almost) Charlie Haughey to leave the grounds of St John Vianney's Church. He was breaking the unwritten rule that politicians dont canvass inside the grounds.
It must have been just as shattering for Mr Haughey and he reacted with dignified obedience. Embarrassingly enough, for all parties concerned, we saw the whole thing on television.
I must say that, before the parish priest did intervene, it seemed to me that some of the people coming out of the parish door didn't have much chance of not shaking the outstretched hand of Mr Haughey without appearing downright rude.
It's fair enough that political parties should be able to address crowds that have left a church, if they want to stay and listen, but sometimes there is the tiniest shadow of a threat when some canvasser eyeballs you in a public place. It's almost nibbling away at the whole principle of the secret ballot.
On the other hand — to give you another side of the picutre — my eighteen-year-old daughter was indignant that no one had thrust a leaflet in her hand or begged her support. She was positively miffed at the failure to recognise that she was now a vote-carrying citizen.
I cannot resist the mis-print. Listening to DJ Larry Gogan the other evening, I just had to jot down "Never a week goes by they're not in the top cellars".