March 8th – Tall tales from the bar …

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

You’ve probably seen this email circular before. Looks as if it could be Gaelic or otherwise someone’s been on the sherbet. Bet you could read it though, couldn’t you?

It has to be said, there are precious few advantages to being slightly deaf. Under normal circumstances it is pretty annoying, for everyone concerned, to have to keep asking people to repeat themselves. On the other hand, there are times when one catches a few random words from a sentence and, rather than put the speaker to the trouble of repeating, it is easiler, albeit risky, to feign comprehension. And there are times when the random words add up to too much information! In these cases, the “phenomenal power of the human mind” can be guaranteed to fill the gaps with improbable and often hilarious substitutions.

Picture the scene. I’m sitting at the end of the bar, hemmed in by a wall on one side and one of the town’s many harmless drunks on the other. Michael has already told me – and several other women before me – that I have the face of an angel, before turning all teary-eyed and launching into an emotional tale about his prize bull. He’s difficult to understand at the best of times but now his voice trails away to a whisper. I’m none the wiser about the fate of the bull, but I do my best to empathise.

He looks at John. “Have we met before? Are ye married?” We have, in fact, met many times and had more or less the same conversation on each occasion. However, for Michael, every meeting is like the first. He shakes his head. “Ah, if ye were my wife, I’d ………” Ah, here we go. I can’t hear what he said, but my mind has already filled in the blanks. I’m thinking that Michael has probably never had any sort of sexual relationship with a woman so “… Eat properly? Take his medication? Stay sober?” Like I said, all equally improbable. And then he surprises us with a tale of unrequited love for “Bridget”. The only words I pick up are “buttermilk”, “bed”, “marry” and “flying out the window”. The tears reappear and he takes a wad of foreign notes from his pocket and looks as though he might be about to order another pint. The hope is, of course, that we will take pity and buy him a round. Only, John and the Landlord are giggling too much to take any notice, and I have temporarily retreated into a world of my own while my brain processes these fragments into a cohesive story.

The Landlord pours the pint and leaves it to settle. He’s still laughing when he asks me, “Did Michael show you his ………?”

I was startled. His what?! Michael is only a couple of years older than John, but looks 70. He did once unbutton his shirt in an effort to prove his relative youthfulness, and I have no desire to see anything else that might be hidden under his clothes!

It must have been evident from the expression on my face, that I hadn’t heard what the Landlord had said.  “His penny whistle”, he repeated. I was speechless. “No, really”, he persisted, “he keeps a penny whistle in his pocket for American tourists”!

Leave a Reply