AS THE man on BBC's Radio 4 said, in his best Portland Place Ballyporeen accent: "Mr Reagan is a terrible man for the speeches."
Certainly, if you were in Ireland that weekend, as I was, it seemed from the television screens, that the handsome President was indeed making a speech at every hand's turn.
What's more, he made them well and at such a brisk canter that even the fruity phrases were gone before you could wince.
His researchers were almost too good and the wonder grew that one small head could carry so much folklore and fact. Even as I left there were two more speeches to come.
I stood inside that huge glass eye of the departure lounge at Dublin airport and stared out as the bright setting sun added an unreal glow to the arena below me. It was like a James Bond
I have never, ever seen more helicopters in one place before. They flickered out, chopper after chopper after chopper, to the runway, paused for a moment, floated upwards, nose down for that first spinning moment, then up and away into the blue sky and the white clouds.
On the edge of this particular world lay the low silhouette of the Dublin mountains and peeping up further south, standing on tippy-toe to see what was happening, the Wicklow hills.
Still the helicopters came and, although they never seemed to hurry, it was strange how they disappeared so quickly, leprechauns of the air, take your eye off them for a moment and they've vanished. I was brought back from Fantasy-land by an English accent just behind me, muffled somewhat by a steady covering of potato crisps. Mum was answering her little boy, also blessed with the gift of being able to chew and speak at the same time.
"Obviously" (from far down her throat) "it's got to do with President Thingummybob."
President Thingummybob had, in fact, caused a great deal of heart-searching. Our old friend, Fr Peter Lemass (shortly to minister in Chile), had exhorted us to protest, listing again Central American countries and the Philippines.
Our curate, at Sunday Mass, was passionate but restrained on the same theme. He wondered if the newspaper headlines that hailed the multi-million pounds investment that could flow from the Presidential visit was really a twentieth-century case of selling your soul.
One young lady had flounced out of the room in anger as we watched the President being welcomed at Shannon. It seemed to me perhaps less a criticism of the President than embarrassment at what she took to be her kow-towing fellow countrymen.
It was a difficult situation all round. How can you invite someone to your country and then harass him, and, if you don't, invite him, how can you let him know what upsets you.
My guess is that President Reagan is a decent, honourable, God-fearing man, prisoner of a system so complex no one man could understand or control it. If a peaceful protest makes anyone, anywhere stop and pause before a possible injustice, then it's got to be worth it. The mood is sorrow rather than anger.
LAST YEAR, we had a tragic experience when we established a maternity wing for a broody hen. It ended in cracked eggs, frightened fluttering wings and a feeling of guilt through ignorance. Now, shouts of joy! Alexander, the cock, has had no justification whatever for throwing his chest out so far but, this weekend, the Matron of the Feathers quietly but triumphantly brought us the news.
There were two chicks. the broody brown bantam had been in there for three weeks, dreaming her dreams, and undisturbed except for discreet food and water. Last time, I fear we had been peering and poking and confusing the whole process of nature.
Matron said that, if we wanted to peep, we'd have to be quite and careful. She said the hen had practically gone berserk when she'd looked into the little
hut, unaware of the two chicks, one under either wing. I was astonished at such ingratitude.
However, although still wary, mother hen quietened down next day and we were able to see the little fluffy birds, bleeping like weak radio-active signals. The whole house was charged with emotion. It was almost, though not quite, as moving as when the labrador puppies had been born. Matron exonerated the brown bantam.
"She was quite right," she said. "She probably realised that the chicks' survival depended upon maintaining their temperatures and that I, unwittingly, might have done something to disturb this."
Such is charity. Chicken charity, I spppose.
NATURE brings out the best in everybody, especially readers of this paper. Matters of faith and morals have their place, of course, but, when it comes to reader response certainly in this part of the house a chicken or a cabbage or even a goldfish is sure of a helping hand in need.
So it was with my melon seeds. My pathetic and bewildered cry in this connection was heard in Dublin's Monkstown.
God Bless You, Sir. As you guessed, I could find no helpful details in my gardening books. You have taken me so gently through the pinching and the tipping and the laterals and the sub-laterals and the fertilisation that I am hopping up and down waiting for the action.
I have now transferred four healthy-looking plants into deeper and richer soil and can't wait to see if I'll strike it rich with sixteen juicy melons. Be sure I'll let you know.