Rottweiler Soup: Zeroes and Ones
The sun was setting by the time we left for the ambassador’s residence, nicely sozzled for the party. To be honest, I rarely enjoy parties: as a guest, one has no control over who else might be there, and people are such cunts. The last party I attended in Dublin was over a year ago. I say party, but actually it was a reception at the French embassy on Ailesbury Road after a particularly filthy rugby international in which both sides lost and two players from either side were dismissed for fighting, which is how rugby players bond. You can imagine what the reception was like, trying to make conversation with people whose idea of sophistication is raising their pinkie as they drink a pint of the scrum-half’s piss. I spent the entire night talking to guys whose breath smelled of telephone kiosks.
In a moment of the most outlandish optimism, I managed to convince myself that this evening’s affair was going to be different, a sombre, respectful tribute to our nation’s dead. I was comforted by the knowledge that it was taking place on home turf, at the ambassador’s residence, a building I think I know my way around fairly well. The hotspots are easy to avoid because the usual debauchery one finds at parties attended by the rich and obnoxious is corralled into rooms on the upper floor, where the sane and less well-heeled fear to intrude.
We walked through Phoenix Park, it being such a balmy and gentle evening, starting from the St. James’ Gate end of the park, allowing us plenty of time to chat, flirt, tease each other. I found myself relaxing in Maggie’s company, and she revealed herself as something of a wit, sharper than I had given her credit for, and I managed to overcome my contempt for her faith in the intrinsic benevolence of nature, a faith shared only by New Agers and lions.
Halfway across the park we encountered an assortment of English ex-pats, West Brits, and Jackeens playing cricket, all dressed in whites. I was bemused and distracted by this bizarre and ostentatious display of anti-social activity when Maggie said
‘Smile, Joe. You’re on Candid Camera.’
I failed to get the reference at first, but she directed my attention away from the cricketers toward where they had parked their cars, along the opposite kerb. The third car in the row was in gear, its engine running, and sat in the driver’s seat was none other than Seymour Stiveley, amateurishly snapping away on a zoom-lensed digicam pointed straight at us. The moment he realized I had recognized him, he dropped the camera onto his lap and grabbed the steering wheel. He pulled out without checking his mirror—disgraceful—and stuck his foot to the floor. I briefly considered giving chase, and as he was passing, I leapt in his general direction. The smirk on his face vanished in an instant at the thought that I might catch and humiliate him, a response sufficient in its pathos to satisfy the sadist in me. There was no need to run too far: I wanted Maggie to see that I was fit and virile, but I didn’t want her to see me get knackered.
Stiveley accelerated away in first gear and I returned to a more pleasant pursuit.
‘Who the hell was that?’, she asked as I returned to her side, making a show of how out of puff I was not.
‘That, Maggie, was Seymour Stiveley. MI6’s resident secret agent. His secret is how he manages not to kill himself.’
‘Stiveley? What kind of name is that?’
‘Ridiculous, isn’t it? I understand it’s an old Norman name, meaning “symptom-free bearer of syphilis”.’
‘Ah. That would explain the odd behaviour. Someone you know?’
‘Only too well, Mags. He’s the chap I got booted out of Athens.’
‘I seeeee.’ I wish I did. Maybe she could explain it. ‘And he’s been after you ever since?’
‘No. Only since he found out. Which wasn’t until he was posted here.’
Now it made less sense.
‘That was a bit of bad luck, wasn’t it? How did that happen?’
Now, at this point, I could have explained to Maggie how all the rejects, the liabilities, the unreliables get sent to Dublin, but modesty didn’t seem to be the right note to strike.
‘I told him.’ Yes. Because stupidity was the right note to strike.
‘You told him? Why? How?’
‘I was pissed. We were having a laugh. It was an accident.’
We had almost come to a standstill. On the upside, it meant we were spending more time together. On the downside, I’m an idiot.
‘Joe, you’re an idiot.’
‘Tell me about it. Look, he paid me a visit when he arrived in Dublin, just because we’d known each other in Athens. He had no idea I’d set him up for deportation, so I kept up a pretence of goodwill, bonhomie, you know. On a couple of occasions, he came round to my place, for dinner parties, that sort of thing . . . with some of the guys from Special Branch. We got on famously. Only, well, the third or fourth time, you know how it is, it was getting late, we’d all had a few too many piña coladas and were winding each other up, telling stories on one another, that sort of thing. Oneupmanship. Alcohol. I went into excruciating detail explaining how I’d framed Stiveley, organized the theft from the museum vaults, broken into his car, tipped off customs, and everyone else just rolled around laughing—it was easily the best story of the night—and Stiveley, well, what can I say? At the time, he seemed to take it okay. He might have grimaced a little, but he played along and hung in there for the rest of the night with the lads, endured being the butt of the joke in that proper, decent, English way.’
‘And then?’ We stopped walking.
‘Well, from then on he became a bit more . . . distant.’
‘I’m not bloody surprised.’
‘Yeah. He was a little standoffish when we met on subsequent occasions, but I just figured that this was what happened when the English got upset and that that was about as bad it got, the height of their anger. Diffidence. But then the anonymous letters started, and then the death threats, and then the break-ins.’
‘Joe, are you serious?’
‘Have you alerted the Guards or the military police?’
‘No, Mags.’ Her silence required that I elaborate. ‘Oh, look. You’ve seen him. He’s totally useless. And the very fact that you have seen him is proof enough. He’s the least clandestine clandestine operative I’ve known. I mean, normally the English are great at blending into the background, with all their apologies for existing and what have you. But not Stiveley. He’s not even good at being English.’
She sighed gently, but it was as though her entire body was surrendering.
‘I do hope you’re right, Joe. I wouldn’t want to lose you so soon after finally finding you.’
‘I’m not going anywhere, Mags. I promise.’
Not career-wise, anyway.
‘Well, maybe to the odd party. Shall we?’
From the September issue of The Irish Lady magazine:
Just because there’s a recession on, it doesn’t mean you have to give up looking great. Here are 18 inventive and inexpensive ways to keep you looking beautiful.
1: Use cauliflower florets to clean your teeth. They have a gently abrasive action and you can eat them afterwards. Also, they won’t leave bits between your teeth the way broccoli does.
2: Teabags are great for the eyes and can create the impression of a deep luxurious tan if you bathe with them beforehand. Put around 30 in your bath water before immersing yourself. Add milk to soften your skin and provide enough tea for two for the week (just pop the mugs in the microwave). You won’t need sugar: You’re sweet enough as it is!
3: Insects are free! You can grind down yellowjackets, bees and fireants into a powder that makes a great blusher, and a couple hundred butterflies, providing they’re all the same colour, put in a blender for three minutes, will give you a fabulous eyeliner (incidentally, if you mash them up, strain them, and put them in the fridge, they make a reasonably palatable pâté substitute or a scrummy treat for your dog.)
4: Tie your hair back with coloured twine or string dyed with tea or maybe some old rope from the shed.
5: Instead of anti-perspirant and deodorant, try rubbing the kids’ Play-Doh or plasticine under your arms. It has a clean, soapy smell, and the colourful smear invites conversation.
6: Ounce for ounce, vegetable oil is far cheaper than hair conditioner and you only have to use the tiniest amount to lightly coat your hair and leave it looking shiny and healthy. Rub it into your skin every night before going to bed to prevent psoriasis, dry skin, bed sores, cankers and bunions. Put a sheet of plastic between you and the sheets or you’ll ruin them.
7: Not washing your hair at all saves on water (and in these eco-conscious times we know it’s the rarest and most expensive of commodities) and it’s also great for your scalp because you don’t wash away all the natural oils that protect your skull from those dangerous UV rays from the sun or radioactive particles carried on the wind from Chernobyl. In any case, your hair becomes self-cleaning after 6 months, so no one will notice the difference.
8: Use a hedgehog to brush your hair like in the cartoons. Why waste money on combs and expensive stylist brushes when you can pop outside and use nature’s bounty, plucked fresh from the hedgerows or the middle of the road?
9: A jug of crushed berries makes a great hair colour and smoothie. You’ll find friends will literally think your hair is good enough to eat! Try it on your ladybits for a cunnilingual treat.
10: Put your head in the fridge if it’s hot.
11: A bottle of red wine every day tones the skin and provides the necessary iron to give you a healthy complexion. Plus, it’ll make you feel good, and who needs an excuse in times like these to enjoy themselves?
12: Wash your face in milk before you use it in the bath or your tea. The lactic acid exfoliates the skin, leaving it looking soft and glowing. If you have pets, their milk works out cheaper than anything you’ll get from the store and it probably contains fewer carcinogenic chemicals.
13: Banish brown spots on your skin by scrubbing really hard with a Brillo pad. You can hide the bleeding by using the appropriately coloured Play-Doh (see 5)
14: Plump up your lips by drinking lots of water (to stay hydrated throughout the day) and by bruising them slightly. Pucker up and then get a friend to slap them repeatedly with a ping-pong bat. A dark red rubber is best.
15: Define your lips using a marker pen, carefully drawing a line just at the outer edge of the natural border of your mouth in a shade that exactly matches your bruising. Don’t try to draw on a bigger pout: It’ll only look fake.
16: Baking soda and water make a great mouthwash and are good for the digestion. Don’t drink too much water, though. It’s very expensive. Doctors recommend eight gallons a day. Your bank manager recommends none at all.
17: Use makeup sparingly, especially around the eyes and the mouth, where any excess can easily settle into the crevices. Use a bathroom sponge to smooth and blend makeup after applying it, dabbing gently without smearing or wiping, otherwise you’ve just wasted it all. Better yet, don’t use makeup at all. Why not present an all-natural look to the world? And with the money you save from not splashing out on makeup and sponges, why not treat yourself to some biscuits?!
18: Save on toothpaste by not cleaning your teeth. You won’t have to so long as you don’t drink red wine or tea.
A recent ‘Where Are They Now?’ column in the Saskatchewan Herald updated readers as to the whereabouts of the legendary championship-winning (32–3) Saskatoon Quakers hockey team of 1957–58.
Dennis Andrews: Atlantic Institution Maximum Security Prison, Renous.
Frank Ashbee: Saskatchewan Federal Penitentiary.
Nick Clark: Dead.
Hugh Charleroi: Dorchester Penitentiary, New Brunswick.
Wayne Edwards: Special Handling Unit, Quebec.
Kevin Costello: Dead.
Joe Duchesne: Dead.
Pat Mulligan: Dead
Guy La Rue: Special Handling Unit, Quebec.
Doug Lazarides: Dead.
Pete LaFontaine: Saskatchewan Federal Penitentiary.
Bob Muntz: Dead.
Don Guibaud: Atlantic Institution Maximum Security Prison, Renous.
Earl Rabbit: Dorchester Penitentiary, New Brunswick.
Gordy Sikowski: Dead.
Ivan Pollett: Special Handling Unit, Quebec.
Al McDonald: Dead.
Skip Baille: Dead.
Larry Djemnjanjuk: Wanted for crimes against humanity.
Paul Tarte: Atlantic Institution Maximum Security Prison, Renous.
Lou Williams: now Louise Williams. Burnaby Correctional Facility for Women, Vancouver.
Gerry ‘Lover’ Ducks: Dead.
Maurice Zendel: Whereabouts unknown.