An Spailpín Fánach is having trouble with a bird.
Like his friend An Tomaltach, An Spailpín Fánach is no greater lover of housework. However, as with choosing the next captain of the Irish soccer team, it has to be done and so, with a heavy heart, Easter Saturday saw your correspondent mopping furiously, while all the time becoming aware of a certain odour.
Gentlemen are not fastidious as ladies are. It is entirely possible that, somewhere in a dark corner of a gentleman’s chambers there may exist many foul items and apparatus. But An Spailpín isn’t that bad in this respect, and had he opened an abattoir or slaughterhouse somewhere on the premises he would have damned well remembered it. And still the stench pervaded.
Perhaps our friend rattus rattus, the creature that follows man in every step he takes, was visiting in the attic, and while there, expired, gasping his last? The corpse could now be doing what corpses do, and returning to dust as ordained by the Big Man. Opening the Stira trapdoor, braced for the matted and rotting remains of a big hairy rat falling on my head, took a certain stiffening of the sinews; when none emerged, and an exploration of the attic found nothing, it was time to think again.
It was then that I noticed the fireplace.
I approached. The stench got stronger. I retreated, and the smell lessened. I drew four conclusions.
- There is something in my chimney.
- It is dead and decaying.
- I haven’t a bog how to get it out of there.
- My dear Jesus but it stinks.
This made for an unhappy bank holiday weekend. Reader, if you desire to spread laughter in the world, ring the chimney sweeping community and see if they’ll come out in an emergency. Their merry laughter filled my ears, just as the rotting smell of former birdie filled my nostrils. Your Spailpín was as fánach as he’s ever been on Saturday, travelling from Spar to Spar, stocking up on air freshener and scented candles.
Tonight, a stand-off exists in this charnel house. Upstairs, the fetid ball of feathers rules supreme. A scented candle burns before his chimney like some pagan lamp somewhere in the Grecian archipelago two thousand years ago, in honour of Pluto, Lord of the Underworld. And downstairs, bottle of sense-neutralising whiskey at the ready, upper lip coated with Vaseline a la Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, sitting at the laptop, your correspondent, An Spailpín Fánach.
The sweep comes tomorrow to remove the remains, and to seal the tomb so that if any other bird feels the need to expire he can do it in the only place fitting for his kind – the starring role in a snackbox springs more or less immediately to mind. In the meantime, we sit out the night together, my rotting house guest and I. At least John Cleese, in one of his many moments of immortality, was able to bang his dead parrot off the table. If I tried that with himself upstairs, he’d probably splatter all over the damned counter, and Michael Palin is too nice a man to deserve that rough treatment.
The Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus wrote a very famous elegy on the death of his girlfriend’s sparrow some two thousand years ago. “Meae puellae flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli,” wrote the poet, “my girl’s little eyes are red with weeping.”
Yeah. If she thought that was bad, Lesbia should have gone a few days with the sparrow rotting next to her, and see what she made of them onions. She would have gone out and got a bloody dog instead.
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