Ah, the lilt of Irish laughter — did you hear the one about...

In his final column of the year, John Arnold talks about his wife's new pet, a chicken stuffed with Echos and windy trips to church.
Ah, the lilt of Irish laughter — did you hear the one about...

“Didn’t he meet a neighbour who invited him into a public house, ‘just for the wan drink’... Unfortunately, the craic was mighty”

ANYONE that knows me is aware of the fact that, though I love my home and native place, I spend a lot of time ‘as láthair’ — here, there and everywhere.

Between matches, meetings, funerals, parties, Active Retirement Groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, plays, book launches, poetry recitals, tracing relations and other pastimes, it’s true to say I’m often away from home.

Generally, I’m in the country, though of recent years two trips to Lourdes annually has become a sort of normal pattern, in June and again in the winter.

I really do love farming and especially working with, rearing and caring for animals. As regards machinery, I’m not telling a lie when I say ‘useless’ — the same applies to carpentry, DIY and electrical repairs.

My wife Mary has the patience of Job and the ‘tractor sense’ that all her family had and have. Most importantly of all, though, she has the caring nature of a daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother all rolled up in one smiling woman.

Our family are grown up now so in modern parlance we are deemed to be ‘empty nesters’, but we are not lonely as there’s always company and callers in and out.

I suppose about a month ago, a distant relation who for years has been following my ‘career’ as a writer, storyteller and raconteur (his description of me!) — well, says he, it must be tough on herself at home alone most nights and she not a great woman for the telly.

Yerra, says I, she’s a fierce woman for doing crosswords and puzzle books — which I myself have little interest in.

I was thinking afterwards on what he said and, on reflection I felt there was a lot of truth in his wise words.

The following Saturday, that would be last Saturday fortnight, she was going to Cork. “Mary,” says I, “here’s a gabhaill of cash for yourself, maybe you’d buy a little pet to keep you company the nights I’d be away.” 

Yerra, she was thrilled as she drove off for Cork — promising she’d be back to milk the cows, and she was.

I was jobbing around the yard when I heard the car coming down the boreen. Over I came, anyway, to see what she’d bought, thinking maybe she’d got a little dog, you know them small fellas, a Mitsubishi or a Shitsui or something like that.

Well, around she went to the back of the car and opened it, and lads what did she take out of the boot only a monkey! Yes, a fully grown, live, African black monkey — not a stuffed toy now, mind, but the real thing!

She held him up and asked me what did I think of him? I said he was lovely, what could I say, and I after paying for the animal?!

She said she bought him in a pet shop. “But,” says I “what’ll he eat?”

“Well,” says she, “the girl in the shop said he’d eat the very same as you eats.”

“Right,” says I, “and what’ll he drink?”

Apparently, the girl told her the monkey would have the same beverages as myself: water, milk, tea and coffee!

“OK”, says I, “but where’ll he sleep?”

“Well,” says Mary, “he can sleep in the bed with you.”

“And,” says I, “what about the smell?”

“Yerra,” says she, “he’ll get used to it!”

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure ’tis like a morn in spring.

In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing.

When Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay,

And When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure, they steal your heart away.


On Christmas Eve, a bachelor was in town to get a few purties for the season just beginning. Didn’t he meet a neighbour who invited him into a public house ‘just for the wan drink’.

Unfortunately, the company was great, the craic was mighty and there was no clock on the wall. It was after six o clock when they wished each other ‘Merry Christmas’ and parted at the corner.

’Twas only then he realised that one item on his ‘list’ — in his head — was a bit of meat for the dinner the next day. Turkey or ham would have no attraction for him but a chicken would be nice he thought.

His choice at this time of the day was fairly limited, but he chanced into one butcher’s shop he kinda knew. They had precious little left but when he explained his dilemma to the butcher’s wife, she said she’d see what was left in the cold-room.

She returned with a chicken wrapped in three or four pages of the Evening Echo — the last ‘bird’ left in the place. “There,” she said “for a fiver you won’t do better.”

He opened the parcel and surveyed the contents, shaking his head. He twisted it and turned it and held it in one hand, then in the other. 

“Wisha,” he said, “I must cook it in the morning and give a leg to Tom near me and half of one breast to Maggie above, to tell ya the truth ’tis a very small chicken entirely — could you do any better?”

Well, the butcher’s wife was trying to close up after a long day to go home and see after her own culinary preparations for the next day. And he wasn’t even a regular customer! Back she went into the cold-room again.

She got five or six more pages of the Echo and she balled up each page in her hands. Then she stuffed all of these spheres deep into the cavity of the chicken.

In fairness, it caused a substantial transformation to the bird. She looked bigger and plumper now — lord, she’d nearly pass for a small turkey!

She then took her bag needle and thread and sewed up the craw of the chicken so there’d be no further ‘inspections’. She wrapped up the bird again and back out into the shop with her parcel. 

“Here now,” says she, “there’s a fine dacent chicken for you”. He unwrapped the parcel and looked at the contents and, smiling, he said: “Do you know what, I think I’ll take the two of’ ’em”!

******

During one of the days of storm Ophelia last year, this elderly lady decided to brave the elements to attend morning Mass. She was well over 80 but sprightly enough. She wrapped up well in her coat and hat and walked to church.

As she walked up the churchyard to the door, the priest was waiting above holding the door open. Well, a most ferocious gust of wind blew and she put her two hands up on top of her hat. As she did the wind rose up her dress and it flew up around her shoulders.

When she approached the church door, the priest said: “Nell, I thought just there you’d have put your two hands down to cover, ahem, your modesty?” 

“Yerra no Father” says she “shure the hat is new!”

As Eamonn Kelly used to say: “I’m only saying what I heard, I only heard what was said and what was said I’m afraid was mainly lies.”

Best wishes for the remaining days of this Christmas season and a Happy New Year to one and all.

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