‘Tell me this’, says he, ‘When’s the last time you heard the cuckoo?’ I’m chatting with my
friendly taxi man who’s driving me home from the pub where the chat hovered around sport
and politics but not the cuckoo. My taxi man and myself usually swap notes about mutual
minor health issues but this was a first. I scratch my head. ‘The last time I heard the cuckoo?’
I repeat. ‘Haven’t a pup’s notion. Years ago,’ I tell him. ‘Why do you ask?’ ‘Because’, says
he, ‘I hadn’t heard the cuckoo in at least twenty years but, believe it or not they’re back, or
least one of them is back because he, or she, is ‘serenading’ me every morning.’ ‘Around
what time?’ ‘Five a.m. or thereabouts’. ‘Jesus, no wonder I wouldn’t hear him, or her. I’m on
my second, third or fourth sleep by then and as many dreams and maybe the odd nightmare.
Are you going to or coming off work at that time?’ ‘Ah, I’m well off duty, so what’s bringing
them back, Gerry?’ ‘Do I look like an ornithologist?’ I say. He looks at me. ‘Lads can look
very strange, Gerry, at this hour of the morning after a few pints.’ I laugh. And then a
question of my own. ‘When’s the last time you heard the corncrake?’ ‘A life time ago, Gerry,
a life time ago. And for sure I wouldn’t want one of them lads ‘serenading’ me in the
morning.’ And then, just before he pulled up outside my door – a Eureka moment. ‘I’ll tell
you what’s bringing the cuckoo back.’ Go on, tell me.’ ‘The Greens.’ ‘The Greens!’ he
exclaims. ‘Yep, the Greens; the cuckoo knows the Greens are back and the environment is
slightly safer – for a while at least.’ ‘Gerry?’ ‘Yes?’ ‘Gerry, that, if you don’t mind me saying
so – is cuckoo.’ And off he zoomed into the night. All of which brought to mind the
following wee poem that I composed about as many years ago since I last heard the cuckoo –
Cuculus Canorus to give it its proper ornithological appellation.
Cuculus Canorus Complex!
Well it’s cuckoo-time in Ireland
When folks with nothing on their minds
Go grabbing pen and paper
And start writing to the Times
Stating when and where, precisely,
And all with much ado
They’d this: Ornithological Experience
Of hearing their first cuckoo
e.g. Sir, It was April twenty seventh
Between the hours of one and two
When, with my darling wife and wolfhound,
I heard my first cuckoo
Or, Sir, I would like to mention
That Easter Sunday afternoon
I heard the cuckoo, cuckoo twice,
In a wheat-field near Macroom
Well I have to admit I’m baffled
By all this ballyhoo
I think these folks, if they’ll pardon me,
Are themselves a bit – cuckoo!
Indeed I like a bit of nature myself-
A picnic, country walk
But I must confess, I couldn’t care less
If I heard the cuckoo TALK!
Our DALY Bread!
I met him, as I often do, in the supermarket. At the bread counter. ‘Gerry Moran’, he
announces (as if he hadn’t seen me in years and we only talking hurling a fortnight ago)
‘Gerry Moran’, he repeats, ‘tell me this and tell me no more, who the hell was Daly?’ I’m
perplexed. ‘Daly who?’ I ask. ‘Daly as in Daly’s Hill where we grew up, where we played
cowboys & indians and guards & prisoners.’ ‘DeLoughreys owned it.’ I tell him. ‘Ah I know
that, I know that but who was Daly? I thought you’d surely know and all the writing you did
about it.’ ‘Well I don’t know.’ ‘Will you try and find out?’ ‘I will.’ ‘I’ll be keeping an eye
out.’ ‘I know you will. By the way’, I say as he tossed a large sliced into his basket, ‘when’s
the last time you heard the cuckoo?’ ‘Not in donkeys years’, he shoots back, ‘but I always
heard the corncrake on Daly’s Hill.’
P.S. So, who the hell was Daly? Anyone know? Reply a.s.a.p. or I’m in trouble.