Saturday, 24 December 2011

'Bertie Potter and the Lost Memories of Erin' - a fairytale of Christmas Eve.

(This 6th of the 7 colyooms I’m posting this week was first published in December 2002.)

It was the night before Christmas, and snow lay all over the fields of Erin. Out in the garden shed, Bertie Potter was shivering in the cold, wondering why oh why he couldn’t sleep inside the na Fianna family house.
There was a terrible curse upon the na Fianna family. Old cousin Charlie had strangled himself on the sleeve of his silk shirt, and Bertie’s father Albert had choked to death on a beef bone. Bertie Potter was sent to live with his nasty Auntie Mary Harniggan, and his horrible Uncle Charlie McCrevil.
Auntie Mary was a huge woman with a short temper, who loved her own children much more than she loved Bertie Potter. She gave Bertie old clothes to wear, and just enough food scraps to keep him alive.
Uncle Charlie was a dirty smelly old man, with bad teeth and too much drink inside him. He went on and on about never having enough money, but Bertie Potter didn’t understand why he couldn’t have any Christmas presents, because he remembered the time when Auntie Mary wanted to buy a bottle of wine in a faraway county. Uncle Charlie suddenly found the money to pay for a private plane for her, which must have cost a pretty penny.
Bertie Potter knew that as soon as he was able, he was going to leave home and live on his own. Somewhere deep inside, he knew he was not the same as them. He felt special, somehow different, but he didn’t yet know why.
Wrapping himself up in his tatty old blanket, Bertie Potter finally drifted off to sleep, but an hour later he woke up with a shock. The door of the shed suddenly crashed open, and two men burst in, falling over each other.
Bertie couldn’t believe his eyes! It was the ghosts of Grandad Eamonn and his Great Uncle Michael, who’d both been dead many a long year. Bertie Potter could smell the drink on them, so he understood how they were able to fight and laugh and hug each other, all at the same time.
“On yer boike, ye pat’et’ic two-faced weasel!” shouted Great Uncle Michael at Grandad Eamonn.
“Never moind my bike, ye great hulkin’ Cork fool, you watch yer back - oh sorry, too late, har har har!” cried Grandad Eamonn, at which the two men fell over, giggling like a couple of teenagers on Buckfast.
Eventually they calmed down, and turned to Bertie Potter, who was sitting with his blanket wrapped around his knees, his eyes bulging with surprise.
“Howya, Bertie Potter!” said Grandad Eamonn. “Sorry to wake ye up, but the time has come for ye to know the truth! Bertie, you are a wizard, and you have a very important job to do!”
Nothing could prepare Bertie Potter for what happened next. Before you could say ‘Ryanair extra charges’, Great Uncle Michael scooped Bertie into his arms, and the two men flew out of the shed, and up high, into the Christmas Eve sky. It felt good, being held by that strong giant of a man, and as they flew over Erin, Great Uncle Michael explained everything to Bertie Potter.
“Look below and see the Erin that your Grandad and I built, after we kicked the English out of the place - ”
“Well, most of the place!” interrupted Grandad Eamonn.
“Oh for god’s sake, wouldja ever get over that!” shouted Great Uncle Michael. “Anyway, Free Erin was the envy of the world. Sure, we weren’t rich, but your Uncle Buck and Auntie Dollares came to visit from far away, and loved us so much, they opened lots of shops and factories here.
"Then Uncle Mark from Germany and Auntie Franc from France sent Erin lots of money, so that we could build new roads and houses, and everything was looking good. Everyone could buy new cars, take holidays, and last Summer, your Uncle Charlie gave everyone free money for their piggy banks.
“But then something terrible happened. Your Auntie and Uncle sent out hundreds of magic brown envelopes, and anyone who opened them fell immediately under a spell. All over Erin, people lost their memories ... and their money.
“Everyone in the Tribunals forgot everything ever!
“The Gardai even forgot what each other looked like!
“Aer Rianta forgot to forget about £5,000 of cigars and brandy that Seamus Brennan never had.
“Mad Cows forgot they had BSE.
“Mothers forgot they had Hepatitis C.
“British soldiers in Derry forgot they shot people on Bloody Sunday.
“Both sides in the North forgot they had promised to make peace.
“The FAI invited everyone in Europe to come and play football here, but forgot that they had no pitches to play on!
“Some people in Erin even forgot that millions of us were once refugees, fleeing persecution and famine, and suddenly started being racist against asylum seekers here.
“Politicians forgot how important medical cards and hospitals and FAS Courses are to the poor. And tonight, there are many very poor children all over Erin who will not wake up to a pile of Christmas presents at the end of their beds.”
After their long flight, Great Uncle Michael and Grandad Eamonn landed on the top of Athlone Cathedral.
“So who am I?” asked Bertie Potter, “And what can I do to help?”
“You are 'The Boy Who Remembered’. It is your destiny to save Erin, Bertie Potter!” exclaimed Great Uncle Michael.
“When you get home, you must cast a powerful magic spell on your Auntie and Uncle, making them prisoners inside the na Fianna house. You must make sure that your evil Auntie Mary and your wicked Uncle Charlie never ever leave that house again. They must never be seen, never have one of their words heard, and never ever send a brown envelope in the post. If you do that, Bertie Potter, you will save your Erin!”
‘I can do it!’ thought brave Bertie Potter to himself, ‘And without those nasty na Fiannas, everyone will have their memories back, and remember the numbers of their Cayman
Island accounts. We’ll all have enough money for a very Merry Christmas!’

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