Sunday 23 November 2014

Kevin Myers: Fifty shades of grey was really the weather forecast

Published 14/09/2012 | 17:00

SO that was it: that was the summer, when the popular myth was that fifty shades of grey was an erotic best-seller. It wasn't. It was the weather forecast. We feared the worst when a few hot days arrived in March, and by God, we were right to, as this autumn's fruit has proved.

I have an apple tree in my garden. It is well named: for it has an apple on it. Just one single solitary apple, of the kind that unleashed such misery on the world. Only this summer Eve would either have died of exposure, or perhaps gone blind from reading 'Fifty Shades of Grey', and then got lost. Either way, she wouldn't have made it through the summer. I damn well nearly didn't.

It's not just us. The British had their wettest summer since 1912 (so much for the folklore of the golden summers before the Great War), and the temperature dropped to below freezing in the highlands of Scotland on the last day of August.

But at least London had its wonderfully successful Olympics, twice over, and I confess I was wrong about the Games. They were a brilliant success, even if most of the British medals were in sports I've never heard of.

And as for the Irish medals: hmm. Where should we be without women, travellers and Northerners? Yes, and I know I got as hysterical as anyone else at Katie Taylor's gold -- but then just how many light-heavyweight women boxers are there in the world? And how many people outside these islands noticed her victory?

The Paralympics were oddly satisfying in the amount of cheating that goes on: unwanted proof that, like many able-bodied, some disabled put victory first. Just how much we learnt when it was revealed that some victims of paralysis injure themselves where they feel no pain (eg by sticking needles into their testicles) in order to release performance-enhancing adrenalin into their bodies.

So now you've got tears to your eyes, to add to those roused by the perpetual autumn in which we have been living for the past year. Our countryside is now a vast paddy field that consumes any agricultural machinery which does not operate on the principles of the Zeppelin.

Wexford potatoes this year were balls of candlewax. There were almost no green vegetables because the only living creatures that flourished in the lukewarm paddy fields were armies of sabre-toothed slugs.

We would lie in bed and hear the echo of their fangs gnashing, as they devoured every green shoot that had, by some maritime miracle, survived the swamp that was the soil. A beech tree fell over the other night: slugs. Then they ate my car tyres and bored their way through the engine-block like weevils.

There's meant to be a balance in nature; but what precisely is the Malthusian mechanism that controls the slug population? Nothing eats them: nothing, not even -- contrary to myth -- hedgehogs. Yet they eat everything, including -- yes, I know it's a little early in the day for this kind of thing, but we're all adults here -- dog crap. Indeed, they seem to relish it; happy yodels of joy every time one of them discovers a new pooch turd and calls its mates over to join the feast. Then the countryside rings with the sound of excited slugs, performing wheelies at midnight, as they skid over to the latest banquet.

Maybe -- looking on the bright side for once -- the Government should unleash them on our ghost estates: better still, on that ludicrous little rugby ground on Lansdowne Road, which is so small that it doesn't qualify as a main stadium for a Rugby World Cup bid. But knowing our luck, the slugs would find the Aviva (with thousands of seats with 'limited view') unpalatable and would instead storm across the Liffey to storm and devour Croke Park.

BUT here's a question. When all else has failed, when crops drown in the mud of our fields and potatoes re-enact 1844-7 all over again, when the sun is seen as often as the face of a Saudi bride in a rugby shower room, and when slugs consume everything, including depleted uranium, how is it possible that Keelings continue to produce such luscious raspberries and strawberries from spring to summer? Is Fingal actually in West Brittany?

My raspberry cans -- normally good for 20 jars a season -- this year haven't produced enough jam to smear an Elastoplast with. Yet month in and month out, Keelings continue to come up with the goods. A miracle.

How do they produce strawberries and raspberries in such abundance when the entire countryside resembles the inside of a granite dungeon?

And how does the Keeling fruit not get eaten by the rampaging armies of slimy gastropods that have turned Kildare into the far side of the moon?

Irish Independent

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