independent

Saturday 16 February 2019

Cast adrift and defenceless on the pitiless plains of Dublin city centre

Medders at Large

David Medcalf

'The leopards lurk on the boughs of the baobab trees….'

Young Persephone and her father have taken to watching wildlife programmes together on an obscure TV channel. We find that these tales of nature red in tooth and claw on the Serengeti provide us with some pleasing, companionable common ground. For her, the African plains make a change of scene from the American humour (so called, says he) which otherwise tends to dominate her television landscape.

The animals picked up in slick high definition by the zoom lenses of the camera crew may not make as many wisecracks as the humans on 'Big Bang Theory'. But many of them are stunningly good looking creatures and the plot lines are grippingly simple, featuring predators roaming in search of a meal on the hoof. Meanwhile, for him, the antics of zebra and giraffe offer a break from the heaving of packs of forwards colliding on the rugby Pro14 highlights show which Persephone finds so utterly tedious.

'The watching hunters in the baobab regard the passing herd of wildebeest with apparent disinterest…' It was soon clear that this 'apparent disinterest' was a sham and the two leopards had spotted likely prey amidst the passing stream of antelope. Their target was a mature male struggling to keep up with the pace of migration across the vast grasslands, hobbled by a thigh strain. We watched Darwin's survival of the fittest played out on our screen, as the luckless chosen one was ruthlessly ushered away from the safety of the herd's vast numbers.

I found myself rooting for the old boy in his stubborn, doomed efforts to remain iwith his clan. Meanwhile, Persephone cheered on the big cats and declared that she intended to adopt leopard-print as the fashion for 2019. She was backing the winners in this contest and the show closed with a shot of a couple of very contented carnivores tucking into supper. Ah, there is such a contrast between life as lived by the fauna of the Serengeti and our existence in the comforts of the First World, we agreed…

The Medders gang - all four of us - set off on our annual family winter expedition next morning, heading for the bright lights of Dublin. We parked in the heart of the city, within easy walking distance of the main shopping and cultural attractions. Or it would have been easy walking distance but for the recurrence of an old sporting injury which afflicts my ankle every now and then, making walking uncomfortable. Hermione expressed sympathy and encouraged me to brave it out and tag along with the gang.

'We'll take it easy,' my caring, considerate wife assured me.

'Sure, we're in no rush, Da,' chipped in Eldrick.

'No rush at all,' echoed Persephone.

So we launched ourselves into streets thronged with January sale bargain hunters, me hecking bravely while the other three strolled purposefully. As the ankle began to throb, I persuaded our party to pause for a few moments and enjoy the performance of a busking jazz band on Grafton Street, with me perched on one leg.

I briefly took the weight off the troubled joint as Eldrick tried a series of pairs of runners on for size. But the pace was beginning to tell. I resolved as a last resort to try re-tying my shoelace in search of some slight relief. I stooped to pull the lace tight, knotted it with a double bow, and then stood up to find no sign of Hermione, no sign of Eldrick, and no sign of Persephone either.

The feckers had abandoned me. I limped off in disoriented pursuit. They were not in Hermione's favourite jewellers. They were not in Eldrick's beloved computer game emporium. And they were not at the cosmetic counter of the department store preferred by our youngest. It dawned on me that I had no idea how to catch up or to how to find my way back to the car park. It dawned on me that I had thoughtlessly left my phone in the car. It dawned on me that I was up the creek without a paddle.

I shambled forlornly along Henry Street, fearful of each passing stranger, cursing my luck as drizzle turned to rain.

Then, purely by chance, I picked them out amidst the crowds. They were admiring the shop window of a well-known clothes retailer. They had not even noticed I was missing. The clothes on display were all of a leopard-print design.

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