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Com’all ye

by Oonah V. Joslin

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

Jack was getting cramp. “Nuala was right. This is ‘stuff left over from the past’,” Caitlin said. “That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? There’s too much stuff left over from the past and we have to get round it if we can’t get rid of it or we’ll never get anywhere.” This speech had all the hallmarks of the best Ulsterisms, so she added lamely, “This is the twenty-first century after all!”

“So, we can throw this lot away?” asked Sean.

“Yes, let’s get rid of it.” said Nuala. “Hands?”

It was a cathartic decision.

“We’ll have the usual band of course.”

Since Erin provided craic at the local pub as well as the music at every wedding reception, christening and New Year ‘Do’ in Glenslade, nobody said a word and Jack wrote it down.

“Do you think a karaoke might be an idea as well?” he added, already writing that it was his own contribution.

There was a bit of concern that somebody might sing the wrong kind of song, but then Jack came up with the brilliant plan that they could charge a small entry fee to the contest and ask people to put their choice of song forward on entry to make sure all the tapes were available.

“That way we could vet the program and make a wee bit o’ money towards expenses at the same time.”

Jack, who fancied he still had a voice, signed up to sing “Paddy McGinty’s Goat,” and because he paid his fee up front, nobody could object but there were a few faces pulled. Jack knew all eight hundred verses of “Paddy McGinty’s Goat,” but he’d been known to get confused after a nip or two of Bushmills and put some in twice or more times by mistake.

“That’ll take up a good bit o’ the evening!” offered Eithne.

Jack was pretty sure that was an insult, but Eithne looked as if butter wouldn’t melt... It took a bit of persuasion to get Eithne to agree to sing “Danny Boy,” but she gave in eventually, when they reassured her that she wasn’t entering the competition, just singing while the judges made up their minds. Nobody could compete against Eithne in any case. She had a voice that an angel would give its wings for and even Jack wouldn’t deny it.

Nuala decided to pick up the pace. “I hate to ask this again but what about decorations for the hall?”

“Well, green is out!” reminded Jimmy Boyd to a general groan. “Because, let’s stop pussy-footing around here, we all know the deal, everybody will associate that with the Loyal Order of Hibernians.”

The honesty of this remark caused momentary embarrassment but on some level everybody was grateful to Jimmy for taking the spade by the horns! Only a farmer could do that. They dealt with real life all the time and a spade can be a tricky beast.

They discarded white, gold, yellow, red, blue, orange, purple and black for similar reasons.

Then Eithne noticed a slight problem. “Don’t want to be picky here, but that’s the entire visible spectrum plus absorption.”

“Maybe if we all got together and prayed to God for some new colours...” said Mike facetiously.

“I thought you were an atheist, Mike.”

“So I am, but I’m a Methodist atheist!” Mike was enjoying the insanity he called unadulterated Ulsterosity.

“What if we use all the colours of the rainbow, then?” suggested Sean, looking quite pleased with himself.

“That’s a good idea, Sean only...” Colin had been sitting in silence. Now all eyes turned towards him, he was stunned back into silence.

“Only?” Nuala prompted

“I don’t think Saint Patrick was gay.”

Colin could see that his comment wasn’t sinking in.

“The rainbow — that’s the gay flag,” explained Colin.

A few people round the table, who hadn’t known that, had begun to wonder how Colin did.

Nuala covered up the speculative hush with an encouraging “Okay, so what do you suggest, Colin?”

“Saint Patrick has his own flag, you know, and nobody could object to that, surely?” Colin drew a rectangle with a diagonal red X marked on it and held it up.

“Is that not part of the Union Jack?” said Sean.

More groans.

“I like the idea,” said Barry Tierney.

“They’d be easy enough to make,” Eithne enthused. “We could get all the school children to make the posters and flags and if we get them involved, maybe their parents will become involved too! We could offer prizes for drawings in each age group. How could anybody argue with that? It’s educational.”

Nuala was delighted. “Will you be in charge of that then, Ella and Colin?”

“I just had a thought.” Jimmy was surprised to discover his brain still functioned so late without a pint in his hand. “What’s wrong with brown? After all, that’s what’s underneath all the green.”

It was dazzlingly simple! Everyone agreed that brown was as good a colour as any, particularly as the hall would be festooned with as many Saint Patrick’s flags as could be produced by enforced labour.

“Jean, can we get the brownies to help lay out the food?”

“No bother! They’ll love it!”

“I’m coming as a beefburger,” said Sean. He hadn’t really meant to voice that thought.

It was an easy stretch.

“Or you could join the Brownies.” Bill had stood Sean enough pints to get away with that quip and everybody laughed. It was a wonderful image.

It was on the tip of Sean’s tongue to pass the privilege of being a Brownie to Colin, but Nuala led into the vote.

“So we can tell everybody that the fancy dress is based on the colour brown? Hands? Carried.”

“Now what about food?”

“Yeah, I’m starvin’!” Sean was always starving.

“For Saint Patrick’s,” Nuala urged.

“Do you remember the year we had all green, white and yellow food?” Caitlin reminisced. “And there were those yellow peppers stuffed with spinach and ricotta and...”

Pandemonium won at last.

SHUT UP YOU LOT!” shrieked Nuala.

“Don’t you mean ‘order,’ you lot?”

“Mine’s a pint!”

“Come on now, be sensible! I thought that was all settled?” croaked Nuala. She had no shriek left.

“We could have a running buffet.” Nanette was in charge of the kitchen at the Country Arms Hotel when chef wasn’t. It was only fair they should get a slice of the action.

“Yes, that’s been done before. The trouble was it became too literal.”

“How’s that?”

“The chicken drumsticks had been out too long and a lot of folk ended up running from the buffet.”

A few people laughed.

“It was no laughing matter,” interrupted Jack in serious tone. “Auld Mattie O’Toole nearly pegged it. We were aye friends me an’ him, even though we were on different sides o’ the fence.”

Eithne was incredulous. Wait till she’d tell Robert that.

“That’s why we should steer clear of anything that’s likely to go off within the course of the evening,” said Nanette.

“All the more reason to give the job to the professionals,” said Bill.

Bill Workman was the landlord of the Harp and Crown. He was anxious to promote his claim and quick to point out that the infamous ‘running buffet’ had nothing to do with his pub.

“You know the Harp’ll do its bit if you want us to.”

Nuala guessed what Bill was up to.

“Well since the theme is brown, how many brown foods can we think of?”

Jack’s arm had gone into spasm ages ago and with the ensuing cacophony his tenacity followed.

treacle scones
wheaten bread
brown bread ice-cream
beef ‘n’ Guinness pies
Irish stew
onion soup
sausages on sticks
bacon rolls
baked potatoes
chocolate cake
coffee sponge
fruit cake

Jack passed round sheets of paper. “All right! Everybody write down as many things as you can think of and pass them here. I’ll type them up for the next session and...”

“And then Nanette and Bill,” said Nuala, “We’ll sort out who’s doing what. There’ll be no monopoly.”

“Good. I hate that game,” said Mike.

“Do you know, I think it’ll be a great night,” said Eithne.

“Aye, so it will!” said Jimmy.

“Any other business?”

Arms got folded. Hands got sat on.

“Is anybody for the pub?” asked Sean. “I’m starving!”

Copyright © 2009 by Oonah V. Joslin

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