NEXT year, with the help of two satellites and the Big One, who has been up there before any of them, I'll be presenting an international quiz called Top of' the World. Competitors in London, Miami and Sydney will answer questions being prepared by sharper minds than mine and checked via thumbs thinning away the pages of Encyclopaedia Britannica. I may well be allowed to submit some questions of my own and already have one prepared, should the need arise for some tense crucial tic-breaker. The question comes in two parts.
What is an Italian Heel Bar and where would you expect to find one. 'The answer, I feel, may well elude all but those lucky enough to read these pages. An Italian Heel Bar or rather the Italian Heel Bar that I know has nothing at all to do with Italy, or the lowest kind of lout you might find tchre, and even less to do with drinking, which, apart from music, is the only connotation that comes to me from "Bar".
It all has a kind of Groucho Marx concept. I brought a treasured but battered leather case to see if it could be restored to life if not longevity. I brought to a man called Joe Brennan who used to have a basement in Dublin, sheltered between the high-falutin' highways of Grafton Street and Dawson Street. He was a member of that vanishing race of craftsmen — those who repair things instead of throwing them away. Those who look and smile and don't think you're mad or mean to want to retain a treasured and possibly memoried article. Joe had moved, however, and now in grander premises on the ground floor, operates under a notice that says )talian Heel Bar. So, if you happen to be a competitor next January in Top of the World and this is your tiebreaker, you're in with a good chance so long as you know it has nothing to do with any of the three words but with a craftsman who cares. I'll try to find out some time later why the notice is there in the first place. It's all rather baffling.
I HAVE always maintained the best drivers in the world are in Ireland because they are survivors from the worst drivers in the world. Eugene McCarthy, exUnited States Senator from Minnesota and. I think, one time presidential candidate, has been saying something similar in the New York Times. It is a cry from the heart and I don't think he will ever again contemplate driving in Ireland as he did last summer.
"Whether the road be wide or narrow the tendency of Irish drivers is to stay in the middle. The sheep and the cattle have the same tendency. 1 sought in vain to find an explanation for this. With no better theory given me, I concluded that persistence in using the middle of the road until seriously challenged was a sign of resistance to British ways."
At least its a new explanation.
THE Institute of Bankers — Irish version or any version — is not expected to produce a barrel of laughs at annual dinners. Nor does it. Nevertheless, in Dublin the other night. President William D. Finlay managed to ripple a few decorous smiles. I was tickled by his toast — cautious, considered and philosophically sound.
"I wish you prosperity in wahtever measure May bring you happiness. HANGOVERS come in many categories but have one thing in common. They are — almost always — self-inflicted. It is out of that self infliction the casualty may draw spurious comfort. There is also the balm of sharing suffering with those who were 4Iso present — like a reunion, 1 Imagine. or survivors from Gallipoli. Remove, however, the props of malice aforethought and fellow victims and you have a grisly situation.
Forced — albeit subtly — to !lave the comfort of our home so tifat no parental cloud would chill daughter's birthday party, we took refuge in a nearby eating house. Dragging and chewing the meal to close on midnight, we crept back but were spotted and seized before we could reach the protection of our bedroom. Wine upon wine was pressed upon us as we provided a kind of freak interlude. Fascinating though the student conversation was I kept waiting to be dropped like a toy from drowsy fingers. It took longer than we could have guessed. Flattering perhaps; but next misty morning, lips cracked, skin tight as a kettle drum, I couldn't even begin to explain to the hearty greeter.
"Boy, you look rough this morning!"
I AM NOT at all sure what I'm talking about but, according to one of my kindest Irish correspondents in the English Midlands, Terry Wogan has pushed towards the halls of fame a pensioner who takes Timmy, his budgie, for a walk.
My correspondent is not envious of the man's notoriety and is delighted he's had his picture in the Sunday papers but asks me to say a small prayer he doesn't meet a man who works with her husband — Why'? You'll hardly believe this but I have the letter before me. Fred, she says, is a big softie who takes his cat Paddy! — for a walk every day. Naturally enough, her concern is — if ever the twain should meet. She also explains why the cat is called Paddy; but, since I have no wish to be sued by Garret FitzGerald on behalf of the Irish nation, I will leave it at that.
CONTINUING my occasional series in feminine logic, permit me to reproduce faithfully a recent snatch of conversation.
"You don't know the name."
"Oh. yes, I do."
"Oh no you don't."
"Oh yes I do," "Alright, what is it'?"
"I just can't remember it now."