Drumcondra journey over snow

Diarmuid Breatnach

     The heights around Phibsboro and Glasnevin were reported snowbound so I decided to head down to the Tesco post for my shopping. Bundled up warm and with boots coated in dubbin, I stepped out into snow powder whipped up by the icy wind.  I had to close my eyes to slits when it blew against my face.

Heading towards Drumcondra Tesco station

A whistle woke the dogs and they came out of their snow-holes, shaking themselves and trotting over. Handing out small pieces of meat which they wolfed down, I called Buck to follow me over to the sled, where he sat supervising while I put the other dogs in harness. They were eager to go, skittish, whining, tail-wagging, occasionally growling at a perceived trespass by a team-mate. Buck stared down the most fractious but ignored Bríd altogether. Lately she’d been getting at Buck, undermining him. I didn’t know what to do about it. I couldn’t put her in the lead as, apart from that reversing the problem, the team probably wouldn’t follow a bitch. A dog team is like a wolf pack – there can be a dominant male and a dominant female but in almost all cases the male is the lead, the top dog.

Heaving the sled to left and right a couple of times I broke it free of its ice, took the leads and, with my shouted “Mush!” we were off.

A little later, going down towards the frozen Tolka, I had to apply the brakes a little to ensure the sled didn’t run into the hindmost dogs. They all felt the drag and then the jolt as the left brake hit something hard frozen under the snow, canting the sled momentarily to one side. Buck looked back at me reproachfully. You think dogs can’t look reproachful? Many can … and Buck is a master at it.

“Sorry, Buck, couldn’t help it … couldn’t see it.”

But he was already turned away, his shoulder muscles bunched, pulling along, leading. We crossed the Tolka no trouble despite one of the hindmost dogs slipping for a moment, righting himself some what embarrasedly, continuing. The sled runners hissed from the snow, then a grating tooth-gritting high-pitched scraping and then a low hiss across the ice.

Crossing the frozen Tolka

“Up boy, pull away!” I shouted but Buck was already bunching himself for the slope of the far bank, pulling steadily, all dogs in the traces pulling together. As soon as the sled was clear of the ice I jumped off and ran alongside it, one hand on the sled. As it gained the top of the bank, the dogs already over, I jumped back on and mushed them on to the Tesco post, the wind whipping ice powder towards me, sometimes higher than my head but often only at knee height.

There was another sled there, hitched to the rail outside the post, its dogs still in traces, huddled down against the wall. Swinging the team around by pulling on the leads, I got the sled in near the other dogs with my team furthest away. I didn’t want to come out to the aftermath of an argument between that team and mine.

Hitching the sled to the rail, I walked up to the front entrance, scraped the snow off my boot soles on the steel scraper and slapped it off where I could reach on my fleece-lined jacket. Opening the door, I stepped in quickly on to the mat and closed the door behind me.

Arnka Flaherty was on duty at the register and flashed me a smile.

“Fuar go leor duit?” I enquired.

“It is, yes it is cold enough,” she replied, still smiling, the blue eyes and curly hair looking a little out of place on her broad Inuit face. But her smile would light a dance hall.

I saw a few pairs of snowshoes by the door and guessed some customers had hiked it in. Not too bad really at the moment with snow only a foot to two feet deep most places, though in some hollows you might sink up to your waist in drifts.

Bart was there, a big Dutchman from over Santry way, as I already knew. I’d recognised his sled and some of his dogs outside.

“Bart”, I nodded.

“Diarmuid,” he nodded back.

“Looks like getting worse,” I said.

“Yes, says on the Internet.”

“Best get supplies in then, right?”

“Right.”

So saying, we went about our separate business. In that little exchange, we had enquired without the exact words about one another’s mental and physical health, whether we each had enough fuel and food. And said that we cared about one another and would help, were it needed.

Going through the aisles picking up my items I nodded to the other customers, a spry old woman who must have snowshoed in and two young students from the college not far away, a male and a female, perhaps a couple, perhaps not. Their winter clothes looked on the expensive end of the range.

I picked up some tins of fish (though I might catch some fresh later, hole-fishing through the Tolka ice), frozen meat for the dogs, a bag of tatties and a smaller one of rice, a parcel of briquettes, a bag of porridge oats and laid them in front of Arnka. Then I went back for milk powder, beet sugar, frozen butter, olive oil, frozen greens and a butane cylinder.

Arnka raised her eyebrows at the latter. “Where’s the empty?” she queried.

“I forgot and left it at home. I’ll bring it in tomorrow. I promise.”

She said nothing and started to tot up my account. Perhaps she minded, perhaps not. It was hard to tell with Arka. I paid, bid her slán on my second trip outside with the last of my supplies, waving to Bart and to the old lady on the way.

Outside, the wind had died down below but up above the clouds were moving fairly fast, leaving a clear starlit night. Beautiful but cold and soon to get colder. The dogs were already on their feet, shaking themselves, some whining. I loaded up the sled, pulled by scarf across my nose and mouth and we mushed back homeward, the dogs glad of the exercise and knowing they’d be fed soon. We crossed the Tolka ice, now glittering in the starlight or ghostly shining in places and up the opposite bank, the dogs straining, me pushing the heavy sled this time and trying not to slip ….

Then clear and pulling away up the rise into Drumcondra proper and soon to be home. Hot food and warmth for me, defrosted meat for the dogs and their own holes in the snow, curled up inside and soon warm with the snow piling up around them.

End

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The Lark

The Lark

Diarmuid Breatnach, London, May 1981.

Bobby Sands, Officer Commanding Provisional IRA prisoners in H-Blocks before hunger-strike (Image source: Internet)

Last night, from afar, I watched the Lark die

and inside me, began to cry,

and outside, a little too.

There’s nothing more that can now be done,

to save the life of this toilers’ son;

another martyr – Bobby, adieu.

Imperialism takes once more its toll,

another name joins the martyrs’ roll

and a knife of sadness runs us through.

But sorrow we must watch,

for it can still,

yes, it can kill

the song that Bobby listened to.

And if his death be not in vain,

let’s fuel our anger with the pain

and raise the fallen sword anew;

and this sword to us bequeathed:

let its blade be never sheathed

’till all our foes be ground to dust

and their machines naught but rust ….

Then will the servant be the master

            and our widening horizons ever-vaster

                  and our debt

                       to Bobby

                            paid

                                 as due.

 

(Written in London as the death of Bobby Sands was imminent or had just occurred, after the author had attended pickets and demonstrations in solidarity with the hunger strikers in attempt to avert their deaths by pressurising the British Government to accede to their just demands. Bobby Sands died on 5th May 1981, to be followed by nine others in the weeks and months that followed. The struggle was one for the human dignity of Irish Republican political prisoners of Britain in the Six Counties British colony).

Senior Metropolitan Police officer accompanied by Constables harass Sands solidarity protesters in London
(Image source: Internet)

Skylark in Flight
(Image source: Internet)

Gates Long Kesh
(Image source: Internet)

 

 

 

Comrade Hessy Phelan murdered in New York 21/01/1996

seachranaidhe1

Hessy Phelan who was murdered this day in 1996. Hessy had escaped the SAS bullets that claimed the live of his comrade Colm McNutt in 1977 only to be murdered by a thug member of the NYPD two decades later.

Hessy was a former member of the IRSP and the INLA and long term political prisoner prior to moving to New York.

On 21 January 1996, a friend of Hessy’s, a bartender at a New York pub, asked her boyfriend, a New York cop with a record of excessive force complaints, to take Hessy to his apartment.

Once there, according to witnesses and trial testimony, the boyfriend shot Hessy in the head, and was convicted of manslaughter in 1999.

With many thanks to the: James Connolly Association Sydney, Australia

Below is a copy of the Irish Times about his murder

NY policeman on charge of killing Derry immigrant
A NEW…

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John F Kennedy and US Imperialism

WeatherEye

WEBPAGE_20171117_230312

Liberals have a nostalgia for John F Kennedy, many of whom believe he was assassinated by the CIA for defying their pressure to invade Cuba.

Even if this entirely plausible scenario were true (the question is academic since the CIA has committed many, many crimes, which the obsession with Kennedy’s assassination only serves to distract from), that Kennedy’s spat with the CIA was due to its warmongering is purely illusory. As Youssef El-Gingihy explains[1]:

“The Kennedys may have fallen out with the CIA over Cuba, but this was more a question of methodology than ideology. For both parties, the ultimate prize remained the overthrow of the Castro regime…JFK authorized multiple CIA ops against Cuba in 1963. True, Operation Mongoose had been disbanded and they ordered the FBI to clamp down on the more extreme groups such as Alpha 66. However, the Kennedys were merely transferring the Cuban project under their…

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PARALLEL UNIVERSES …. AND FLIES

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

I knew there was a parallel universe long before I heard about the theory.

No, I don’t mean the parallel universe where lots of people live, particularly middle-class, where justice and democracy and the rule of an objective and impartial law governs. In that universe, oppressive powers who have plundered the earth and committed so many crimes to enrich themselves will meekly give all that up once you show them how many people disapprove of what they’re doing. They won’t repress you instead, with baton, plastic bullet and gas, jail, guns, helicopters, drones …. Sometimes, in my more idle moments, I wish I lived in that same universe instead of this one.

But it’s not the one I mean here.  The parallel universe I mean is another one where there is oxygen and what is necessary for carbon-based life forms to breathe and live — but it is not this one. And I didn’t find out about it through carrying out complicated mathematical computations – me, maths? Are you joking? All the same, I did use a scientific method: observation. And I have to thank flies for the discovery.

Have you ever tried to catch a fly, or to swat it with your hand? There’s the fly, lazily buzzing, wheeling around in the air. You prepare yourself. Fast, so fast, you grab and you know you got it, open your hand– and it’s empty!

Where did the fly go? Into a parallel universe. It’ll come back soon, when the danger is past for the moment. Conditions must not be that great in that parallel universe (unlike the one where those liberal middle-class people live) so the flies never stay there long. Maybe there’s a giant frog or toad there, its tongue flicking out right and left, catching flies that stay there too long.

OK, a different scenario. You see a fly on the table and move your hand evvverrrr so-o-o-o slowwwllly towards it. You must get close enough so it doesn’t have time to avoid your swat.

The fly does that strange thing, kind of like stiffening, apparently getting ready to jump and fly. It has seen you, you think. But you don’t give up. You slow down, almost stop. Maybe it will forget or won’t think your hand is dangerous.

The fly is now cleaning its face with its front legs.

“Good,” you think, “It’s not alarmed any more.” It doesn’t occur to you that the fly was not cleaning its face before and is only doing so now. You don’t suspect that the fly is thinking: “Oho! Fancy your chances? Come on then Big Thing. See, I’m just relaxed here, cleaning my face.”

Swat! Your hand has streaked out. The plate rattled and the mug jumped, spilling some coffee on the table-top. But nothing flew out from under your hand. You got him for sure!

You remove your hand and …. no dead fly! No bloody smear. Incredible! How did it do that? In that instant before your hand, ever so fast, came down to crush it, the fly simply shifted to another universe. It will be back soon, circling nonchalantly and may even return to the table, walking innocently on it and waiting for you to try again.

And not only is there a parallel universe but parallel universes! And I have reached this conclusion too, without even a pass in mathematics in the Irish State’s former Intermediate Examination (abandoned in 1991) or much study of physics. Again, achieved through observation. Sometimes, particularly when I am tired, I have observed a rapid movement of some small object across my line of vision. It is there for a moment only, originating ‘out of nowhere’ and disappearing again a few feet away. I propose that this is a fly, originating in another universe, flying across this one and, presumably, heading for yet another. No doubt fleeing from a swatting hand or other pursuer in another universe. Sometimes I can even hear what sounds like it might be fly laughter.

Why observable mostly when the eye is tired? Because the brain at this time is less receptive to the normal distractions and so therefore is the eye, making observation of other less normal phenomena more likely. Of course, this theory has not been proven, despite my efforts to catch this fly. It has not proved possible to predict the day or time when this “fly-through” might occur and also, being often tired at the time, my reactions tend to be slow. But one day ….

Of course, theoretical science has now caught up with my observations and a number of reputable scientists have been discussing related theories for decades (though also dismissed by other reputable scientists). Those supporting the theoretical concept even speak of a “multiverse”, i.e of a universe consisting of many – and some propose infinite — variables of the universe currently observable to us. Interestingly to a Dubliner such as myself, the term “multiverse” was first recorded in scientific discourse in a 1953 Trinity College Dublin lecture by Erwin Shrodinger (1887-1961), an Austrian Nobel Prize-winner in physics (and achiever of an even greater distinction, managing to live successfully with not one but two unslaved members of the opposite gender).  According to Wikipedia ‘he said that, when his Nobel prize-winning equations seemed to describe several different histories, these were “not alternatives, but all really happen simultaneously”. That is the earliest known reference to the multiverse.’

In one of those parallel universes there might be a version or iteration of myself who did not fuck up so many times, who is more disciplined and productive in the use of his free time and ….. well, that’s enough to think about. This other iteration might even like heavy metal music, be good at maths, like eating flatfish and not get into trouble with authorities.

The arguments in favour and against the existence of a multiverse have been equally convincing or unconvincing logically.

Against: We live in the universe that we do because that one provides the conditions for the existence of life. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. Therefore it is the only universe capable of sustaining life and the only one in existence.

For: There is no logical reason why other universes capable of giving rise to life and therefore populated, could not exist, but with some different conditions to ours. All possible permutations. Or indeed that some would not consist of completely different life-forms, not even carbon-based. Life keeps turning up in situations previously thought impossible even here on Earth and we have long known about anaerobic bacteria.

Against: Such speculation is fruitless. We have not observed any effect or trace of these other universes.

For: However, there are some factors in quantum theory which do not explain what we can observe of this universe. And lack of proof does not rule out the possibility of the existence of something.

Against: That is true so far about quantum theory. But unless it can be proven or disproven, it is not worthy of scientific theory. We might as well fund investigation into the existence of God.

For: Aha, funding! That’s why you don’t want it studied – it might reduce the funding available for your work.

Against: How dare you!

And so on and on. And on.

And now, if you‘ll excuse me ….. There’s a fly nearby on the table …..

 

End.

 

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

HORROR STORY

Diarmuid Breatnach

“I try to, Papa, but I can’t.”

“Why do you think that is? Are you thinking about exciting things, things you’re going to do tomorrow, perhaps?”

He gently ruffled her blond curls on the pillow. She gets those from her grandmother, on her mother’s side, he thought. He and Julia were both dark-haired.

“No, Papa, it’s not that.”

“Are you sure? You know that niňas need their sleep.”

“And niňos too, Papa.”

“Yes, hija, and boys too.” A painful pride filled his chest. Already standing up for equality!

“So why can’t you go to sleep?”

“I get frightened. I know I shouldn’t …. but I do.”

“Frightened? Of what?”

“Of ….. of monsters.” Her voice dropped on the last word so that he could barely hear her.

“Monsters? Here? What kind of monsters?”

“River monsters. Joaquin says they come out of the river at night, creep around the houses and take children ….. back to the river ….. and …. and drown them. And then eat them.”

“Joaquin shouldn’t be frightening you with stories like that.” A different kind of pain in his chest.

“It’s not true?”

“No. Sometimes the caimánes do come up from the river, looking for rubbish to eat. That’s why we shouldn’t leave the basura out, remember?”

“Sí, Papa.”

“But they are not looking for people. And they can’t climb up houses, can they?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. You’ve seen them in the river and on the river bank. You ever see one climb a tree?”

Las iguanas do.”

“Yes, and very well. But they eat plants. You haven’t got any vegetables in here, have you?”

“No,” she giggled.

“Are you sure?” he reached into her armpit.

She wriggled, squealing.

“Or here, perhaps?” reaching under the bedcovers, he tickled her ribs.

More wriggling, squealing.

“Ok, so no hidden vegetables, no iguanas. And alligators can’t climb. And you know what else?”

“What?” twinkle of laughter still in her eyes.

“Rapido. He barks when people or animals come around at night, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, Papa. Always.”

“And if I were asleep, he’d wake me, wouldn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“And I have a big machete, don’t I?”

“Yes, Papa. It’s very sharp and I’m not allowed to touch it until I’m big.”

“Yes. You’ve seen how it cuts the cane, haven’t you?”

“Yes. Chop!”

“Well then, how is a caimán to get here, even if it wanted to, past Rapido, past me and my machete? It’s not going to happen, is it?”

“No, Papa.”

“So now you will sleep, won’t you?”

“Yes, Papa. Hug!” Her arms reached up.

He hugged her, breathing in her little child smell, his chest filled with a sweet kind of pain. He had to be careful not too hug too hard.

She turned over and he walked softly out. He had reached the door when her sleepy voice reached him.

“There aren’t any other kinds of monsters, are there?”

“No, hija, of course not. Now, to sleep. Duerme con los angeles.”

She murmured something he couldn’t catch, already slipping into a delayed slumber.

Walking softly to the kitchen, he took a battered coffee jug off the stove and poured himself a cup. It felt bad, lying to his daughter. But how to tell her about the real monsters that ruled the world, when she was already frightened? Replace imaginary monsters with real ones?

And the real monsters could climb houses. Could find you in the dark with heat-imaging cameras and scopes. Could trace you from satellites. Still, they were not all-powerful. They act as though they were, especially the soldiers and police they send, strutting around, searching houses, slapping men, grabbing women and fondling them …. and sometimes worse, though not here. Not yet. But Paco Perez had been arrested, taken to the barracks a week ago and had not come back. Each day his wife and some vecinos went down to enquire and to hand in food, returning without having seen him. Would he ever come back? There was always hope.

But at night …. ah, at night, it was a different story. At night the soldiers stayed in their barracks or near it. The night belongs to the guerrilleros.

Rapido, lying by the screen door, got up, stiffened and growled.

Quieto, Rapido! Quieto!

The dog turned to look at him. Someone comes, he seemed to say. You tell me to be quiet and so I must. But I warn you, someone comes. And I am ready to fight!”

“Good dog”, he said, putting the cup down and getting up. His heart beating fast, he lowered the wick in the lamp and took down the machete from the wall.

Rapido was tense, facing out the doorway.

He went to the dog, touched him on the nose in the signal for “quiet” when hunting. Then tapping his own side, another signal, he opened the screen door and stepped out on to the small veranda, Rapido by his side.

The night was filled with the usual sounds – insects and frogs, aware of them now, what had been an unconscious background earlier. A faint splash from the river two hundred metres away.  A caiman’s tail, a fish jumping, a canoe paddle?  No, not a paddle — someone coming quietly on the river wouldn’t splash.

Then a screech — an owl that was not an owl.

He moved away from the doorway, to the side, heart thumping. Rapido was quivering with intensity.

Tranquilo, vecino!” came the whisper from the darkness. A woman’s voice.

Rapido growled.

Quieto, Rapido!”

She came soundlessly into view along the track below, the dim moonlight shining on her gun, carried in the left hand. Wearing what looked like a loose camouflage-pattern shirt. Beyond her, a man by size and shape, hardly seen. There would be others, he knew.

“Who goes by?” he whispered back.

Justicia, compa. Justice,” replied the woman, walking past, wearing a bandana across her face.

Did he know her?  Maybe.  He didn’t want to, though.

Probably heading for the barracks,he thought.

Vayan con Dios,” he called softly after them as they vanished again.  Let them come back safely.

There would be retribution in the morning, he knew. Or the day after. More searching, lots of questions, maybe more arrests. But what was the alternative? To lie down and let them walk over us? Even those who obey are not safe.

And the sugar boss pays barely enough to live on for eleven sweating hours and bleeding hands. Upriver they had struck work in protest, until the soldiers went in and arrested the union leaders.

Buen perro, amigo.” He stroked Rapido on the head, the dog now relaxing, both turning to go back inside.  Work in the morning and six days every week while the season lasted.

But how to keep his niňa safe? From the real monsters of this world?

End.

(All images from Internet)

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

I wasn’t allowed out at night so, after my parents thought I’d gone to finish my homework and to bed, I went out the window. A younger brother asked to come too and I had to bring him along.

Ah! The pleasure, the joy, the freedom to be out on the streets at night – especially when it had been forbidden. I was wearing my new blue trainer shoes. They felt good. They looked good. I felt good.

We wandered on towards a street of brightly-lit shops, most of them still open. Around the corner we went – and walked into the tail-end of a robbery! It was a sports shoe shop and the robbers, young lads, were spilling out of the shop, bumped into me … and people were shouting. And then one of the bystanders or shop assistants pointed at me and shouted that I was one of the robbers!

Well, even if I could convince people I was not, when the cops questioned me, they’d at least take me home to confirm my address and check my parents. And I was not supposed to be out.

Getting out of there quick seemed like the only rational option.

As I ran, I cursed my new trainers as I heard my accuser shout: “Look, he’s even wearing a pair of the stolen trainers! The blue ones.”

I had to get out of the area and, if possible, change my shoes. How to do that? Nearby was a late-night school gym and that’s where I headed. Asking the brother to wait for me outside in the shrubbery, I ducked in.

I passed by some youth around my age in a corridor and got by them casually with not too many words. It surprised me that they were all black. I soon found a changing room with shoes and clothes scattered about – and no-one in there — great! There was even a pair of white trainers my size — my luck was in! But as I was changing into them, the door opened and a black kid walked in.

“Who’re you?” was his immediate question, eyeing me suspiciously.

“Marlon,” I replied, giving the first reply that came to my head. I was just thinking that was an unlikely name for a white boy and he might even think I was taking the piss out of current Afro-Caribbean youth names when he asked “Marlon who?”

And like some conditioned response, I replied “Brando”. My heart sank but I kept my face unconcerned. With any luck he only watched kung-fu and chain-saw massacre films.

His eyes narrowed. “That’s an actor’s name”. Damn! For a second I considered blagging it but knew it wouldn’t work.

“Yeah, sorry,” I replied, shrugging. “Just a joke.” And I gave him another name.

Just then, the door opened and a younger black kid looked in. I’d met him earlier, on the way in.

“Hi, Ian,” he said when he saw me. I’d probably told him my name was Ian Fleming. That wasn’t the problem, though; the real problem was that was not the name I’d just given tough guy., whose eves widened.

Young black kid had hardly closed the door and gone before tough black kid grabbed my arm, opened a door to another room and shoved me in there.

It was a toilet and looked like there was shit everywhere. And it was not in turds but in semi-liquid form, like an explosion – or more likely, several explosions – of severe diarrhoea. To say it was disgusting would so far below reality as to be a lie.

“It’s covered in shit,” I complained.

“So clean it up,” he replied, shut and locked the door.

The memory of what followed is all too clear to me but I’ll spare any of you the description. Suffice it to say that I cleaned it up, or most of it, dumping it in the pan and pumping the toilet flusher a number of times.

I had nearly finished when the door was unlocked and another black kid, this one in plastic apron, rubber boots and gloves, looked in on me.

“Done?” he enquired.

“Yeah,” I replied, washing my hands in the sink. “And it was truly disgusting.”

“You had it easy,” he replied. “You’d want to see the mountain of dog shit I’ve had to clear.”

He was wrong about that – I definitely did not want to see it. Right then I wished never to see shit again as long as I lived but it was just another of many wishes already in my short life that I knew would not be granted.

“Come along,” he said and beckoned.

He seemed friendly and anyway, what choice did I have? There was no other way out of that room.

He opened another door and I followed him into a compound of dog pens.

“Mamelukes” he said, showing me around.

“You mean Malemutes,” I began to say but trailed off when I saw them. There’s a lot of things I don’t know but I do know these were not malemutes – not even close. And Mamelukes were an Egyptian slave soldier caste. I don’t know what kind of breed these dogs were but they reminded me of that latest of accessory dog breeds, the shar pei. They had very short hair and wrinkled skin. But the pups were kind of grey-coloured and huge.

Despite my guide’s reassurance as he brought me into one pen, the pup was growling fiercely at me. Its mother (I presume) in the next pen, barked at the pup as if to say “Shut up, silly! Can’t you see this guy is a friend? He’s with our feeder and pen cleaner!”

Her head came up to the height of my chest. Even though she looked like she was friendly towards me, I was glad she was in the next pen, with a wire fence between us. Otherwise I would never have dared do what I did next.

Grabbing the pup around the muzzle so it couldn’t bite me, I flipped it on to its back and started scratching its stomach. The pup wriggled madly, at first in anger or fear, but then out of pleasure. When I let it up, dominance and pleasure-giving role established, it was all over me. Wagging its tail like mad, squirming, its wrinkles running up and down its loose skin. It was ugly, really but kind of appealing too.

My guide took me out of the pen and locked it but then, looking off to the side, exclaimed: “Oh no! One’s got out. It likes being chased and it’ll take me ages to catch it. Help me, please.”

I set off after him and we passed beyond the pens into a piece of undulating open ground where cabbages and other vegetables had been grown – some were still there, unharvested. In the distance, something was moving fast. Strangely, it looked like a head of cabbage.

I ran after the guy and caught up with him just in time to see the pup’s hind legs disappearing into a burrow.

“Quick, head it off at the other side,” he said.

The other side of the burrow was only a few steps away and emerging on to a ridge, where I took up station to block the pup. I heard and felt more than saw it coming and what flew out of the burrow at me was no pup or cabbage head but some kind of large flying insect. By reflex I reached out and grabbed it and some of its feet scratched my fingers. And then it was a bird.

It had been some time since I had taken any drugs and never the psychotropic kind but that was definitely a bird in my hand now. A pretty one too.

Next I remember I found the brother and we made our way home, me still with the bird quite placidly in my hand. And we walked into the house through the back garden and it was daylight and no-one was telling us off for being out all night.

We had some visitors I could see through the open door to the kitchen and it looked like my Ma and my younger sister had been having an argument. The visitors seemed quite shocked when the Sis said loudly: “I don’t give a shit!”.

My older brother walked past them munching something and gave me a sardonic lift of the eyebrow in passing. That was really weird – not so much the eyebrow but the fact that I don’t have an older brother – but it didn’t seem to bother me much at the time.

“Look at the bird I have!” I called to my sister.

A smile of malicious delight spread over her face. “Shove it up!” she shouted.

The visitors gasped.

The bird flew away.

And I woke up in my own bed.

End.