Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Every year without fail, we head off for a week in the sun / sleet / driving rain to the west of Ireland to stay with some very good friends.

It is always a fantastic holiday – unpredictable phone reception, no telly, and lots and lots of food, wine and chocolate.  Over the last couple of years it has become something of a tradition that significant birthdays are marked poetically, and this year the unfortunate recipient was Mike.

Mike, for those of you who don’t know him, is extraordinary.  He runs a tiny rural Irish post office, and is possibly the most informed and interesting man we know.  He can talk about anything – politics, economics, the importance of cobnuts to the future of civilisation (oh yes) – and almost always he is proved to be right. 

He is also the man (I kid you not) who once delivered six child-sized white lab coats to the lodge when he observed the children’s alarming enthusiasm for making ‘potions’ in the back kitchen.  And he has a unique (and possibly patented) method of transporting apple pies, although we have yet to crack the exact process.  Rumour has it he uses them as cushions in the car…

So, here is Mike’s birthday poem.  I am, of course, far too polite to tell you how old he is.  And anyway, I wouldn’t want to risk breaching National Security.


(Omitting any Mention Whatsoever of Cob Nuts)

The world as viewed by CNN,
And RTE, and News at Ten,
Is mired in avarice and debt
Fuelled by political roulette.
Yet while the powerful conspire
To form a plan bound to backfire
A secret squad of thought-elite
(With velcroed sandals on their feet)
Are plotting an almighty coup
Between sales of Pantene shampoo.

Their leader – let’s just call him “Mike” –
A cover name, hard to dislike,
Has – for more years than I can count –
Considered that it’s paramount
To undermine corrupt regimes
Through covert use of custard creams.
His plan – both cunning and unique –
Employs a little known technique
Perfected over many years
And quite successful, it appears.

To casual viewers, every day,
In conscientious disarray
“Mike” turns up at a tiny “shop”
(You’ll soon see why he works non-stop).
His “job”, at least to outside eyes
Fooled by elaborate disguise,
Is postmaster, and with a smile
(This role has made him versatile)
He hands out pensions, giros, stamps,
Advice, baked beans, and bulbs for lamps.

Yet when the door swings gently closed
His sly fa├žade – artfully posed –
Drops quickly and on dainty feet
He tiptoes to the luncheon meat
And reaches up between the tins
And yanks a lever down, and grins.
As, with a quiet grinding sound,
The till shoots open, and around
The legs of his postmaster’s chair
Appears a crack that wasn’t there.

A crack! Whatever can it be?
Well, pay attention and you’ll see
Behind the inoffensive desk
A sight that you may find grotesque.
For in the dust a small trapdoor
Has fallen open on the floor
And all at once in a display
Honed by years with the Royal Ballet
“Mike” nimbly leaps like a gazelle
Into a subterranean cell.

Down, down, he prances till the sound
Of village life’s completely drowned.
Along a corridor that twists
And turns until his brain consists
Of slightly sat-on apple pie
Emerging (it’s like GoldenEye)
Into a vast and sprawling lab
Where, round a giant marble slab,
White coated midgets scratch their heads
(Not genius - nits – that’s how it spreads).

These tiny profs, most under ten,
(Two girls and four small-statured men)
Spin round.  Behind them, test-tubes smoke
So thickly “Mike” can’t tell who spoke
For in a voice high-pitched and shrill
One scientist (let’s call her “Lil”)
Has called out, ‘Silence! Let “Mike” see,
What we’ve accomplished since our tea’.
The air clears, and upon the bench,
A sight to make world leaders clench
Their buttocks in a fit of dread
A simple loaf of sliced white bread.

“We’ve found that carving custard creams
With coded messages now seems
Too time consuming. We believe
If we are ever to achieve
True revolution word must spread.
What better medium than bread?”
She signals, and a small glass jar
Appears, and with a loud “Voila!”
She unveils Ireland’s fastest seller.
“It’s activated by Nutella”.

So next time, in the corner shop
When buying postage stamps eavesdrop
On conversations at the till
About lumbago or the chill
That’s fallen earlier this year,
Because the violet-rinsed old dear
In front of you may not be there
For denture cleaner or a pair
Of thick tan tights to warm her legs,
Or even half a dozen eggs.

Instead, once she has filled her bags
With decoy Battenburg and fags
That she will never, ever smoke
She might lean over to the bloke
Behind the counter and enquire
If circumstances might require
A pan-sliced white?  If he agrees,
Then rummages beside his knees,
Watch closely. Real-life elderly
Have margarine on bread for tea.

(c.) Susan Bain 2012

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