FOR most Irish farmers, 2013 has so far been an uphill struggle.
It is thought that the Irish spring's usual long-distance flight from the southern hemisphere made a routine stop somewhere in Russia for refuelling sometime in late January.
The usual group of enthusiastic Irish farmers who make the annual journey to Dublin Airport on February 1 to welcome spring into the country were left puzzled when he failed to materialise in the arrivals hall that afternoon. They left the airport hoping and praying that they'd simply missed him. But alas, they hadn't. The fields remained soggy and damp, the Irish skies remained grey and cloudy and temperatures remained icy cold. Day after day farmers peered nervously at their shrinking stocks of silage and their bare pastures, their animals still indoors.
Inevitably, some farmers ran out of feed. Silage became so valuable that gangland thugs began to ambush silage lorries and sell the fodder on the black market. Relatives going abroad were told to fill suitcases with grass on their return leg. Countless cattle were let into graveyards and onto rival clubs' GAA grounds as a means of temporary sustenance. Security men were hired to guard pits during the night. Branches of the Irish Defence Forces were commissioned to silage-in-transit operations. Fodder became more valuable than gold.
* * * * *
It was a cold, miserable Tuesday evening in March and we were picking up our usual passengers on the way to training.
"Well lads, what's the story?"
Myself and my club-mate Pádraig shared lifts with three townies from a buzzing metropolis about 10 miles from our parish. It was Pádraig's turn to drive that evening and I gazed out the passenger window as the boys piled into the back. I was not looking forward to training.
"Well bros, any bants for us? Put on some tunes there!" the eldest townie, Tommo, demanded.
As we trundled towards the ground, Tommo filled us in on his latest attempt at securing employment. He'd had an interview that morning for a waiting job in a local restaurant and was anxiously waiting for a phone call.
"The dole is grand and all like, but you do be bored outta your tree at home!"
I pulled out my phone and began to scroll through my Twitter feed as Tommo harped on.
". . . like I've been staring at me phone all day waiting for the call. Told me Ma and me bird not to be ringin' me and all . . ."
Tommo had a name for being a mouthpiece and in fairness he was some man to rabbit on about things. As I scrolled through my Twitter, I suddenly came across something that made me sit up in my seat. To my right, Pádraig noticed my sudden enthusiasm.
"You looking at Georgia Salpa's photos again lad?"
I smirked and winked at Pádraig. I'll tell you later bud.
Ten minutes later we were pulling into the training grounds when Tommo had a hissy fit.
"Turn that down lads . . . shhhh shhhhh . . . me phone's buzzin!"
The four of us remained in our seats, peering at Tommo who was gazing down at his phone with a strange look on his face.
"That's not a local number."
"Could be the head office Tommo, answer it!"
"Hello . . . what, no . . . why the hell would I have? . . . wrong number mate!"
Tommo hung up his phone and looked up at the four of us.
"Well, any joy?" Pádraig asked.
"Tommo shook his head,
"No man, some gobshite looking for . . . ah never mind; must've been a prank call."
I bit my bottom lip.
As we walked into the dressing room, Pádraig turned to me and asked why I'd been smirking at my phone. His jaw hit the floor as I explained.
* * * * *
"Well that was grand," I exclaimed as we piled into the car after our session. With the National League due to resume soon, training had been lighter than previous nights and the five of us were in high spirits. As Pádraig pulled off, Tommo whipped out his phone to see if there had been any development with his employment situation and did a double-take. "What the . . . ? How many missed calls?"
Myself and Pádraig looked at each other and sniggered.
Tommo dialled his voicemail and hit the loudspeaker button.
"You have 127 new messages..."
"Holy . . . shit!"
I broke into a fit of uncontrollable laughter as a perplexed Tommo began to listen to his messages. We listened to the first message. It was a man's voice, in a Cork accent so raw that you could almost smell the cow shite through the phone.
"Hello, I understand you're selling a lock of silage on donedeal.ie. I've 200 cows here with nothin' t'ate at all like. I'll give you double what you're askin'. There'll be an artic lorry up tomorrow for them if you want. I'll make it worth your while sonny."
Tommo hung the phone up and looked at the four of us. The others had realised what was happening and were smiling profusely.
"Donedeal??? What in the name of . . ."
Tommo was interrupted as his phone began to ring again.
For three days after that Tommo's phone didn't stopped ringing. Farmers across the country, desperate to get their hands on some fodder, plagued him day and night. Pining to hear about his interview, he was forced to answer every call. It was the perfect crime. I eventually caved in and removed the ad. Tommo maintained that he'd received over 1,000 calls.
The following week I was sitting having a cup of tea and catching up on some Coronation Street when my phone rang.
"Hello . . ."
"Alright buddy, you the lad sellin' the Honda Civic?"
"How big are them alloys? Why're you sellin' it so cheap?"
I hung up and shook my head.
"What the hell was that?"
My phone buzzed as a new message came in from Tommo.
"Payback's a bitch lad. Enjoy the attention."
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