Mary Lou wanders
Mary Lou wanders
‘I’m working on my memoirs, dear Mary Lou,
recalling memorable days spent with yourself,’
I said to her as she hoovered the lounge, but as usual, didn’t receive an answer.
It all started that day in Dublin waiting for the St Kevin’s Bus,
when we tra la la lallied to a busker who sang,
‘I Met My Love On St Stephens Green’, which turned out to be prophetic,
because that’s where I espied her looking at the statue of that odd writer, James Joyce.
‘I’m trying to work out who he is,’ she said, pointing at the bust with a puzzled frown.
In between hearing about everything from climate change
to the art of movie star Steve McQueen,
her long-winded diatribes reminding me of James’s narrative style –
known to every English literature student
as a ‘stream of consciousness’ – I learned she was on her way
to county Wicklow’s lovely vale of Glendalough,
completing a long-awaited pilgrimage.
When we stopped in Bray she awoke as from a disturbed dream,
and, as a posse of Americans filled our omnibus, hid behind my slender frame.
I wondered what your secret was, Mary Lou – as we peered into St Kevin’s Bed,
the indentation in the cliff inhabited by that ancient hermit,
which towered above the lough’s peat-filled depths in that
lovely valley of the glen with two lakes,
the literal meaning of the place we’d both escaped to.
But as dawn broke the next day I listened enraptured
as you sang, ‘Hello, lovely birds of prey’,
your silky voice seeming to shake a mist-shrouded round tower,
upon which perched a kestrel and an eagle.
‘Are you talking to yourself?’ I asked.
‘Look!’ she replied, ‘It’s Beaky Pete and his girlfriend Kate The Kestrel,’
pointing at the wide-winged birds, the male of which,
she claimed, was taking a break from the US flag at the Dublin embassy.
‘Anyway, we better continue with the purpose of our early morning walk,
which is to make a confession to the home of a monk,
to whom my dreams have compelled me to visit,
located in the ruins of this ancient monastery...’
and she again gave voice, ‘Dear venerable spirit,
please forgive me for following the ways of that notorious pagan,
Laurie Littlehampton-Knox, although I was brought up a Catholic...’
Just then a strong wind blew and I lost the rest, only to hear,
‘This valley’s like a wind funnel.’
I looked round to see a funny little chap,
who introduced himself as Syracuse The Shepherd.
'I’m half-Greek you know, I came here after the war seeking solitude – in fact,
the locals say the wind blew me in!
‘By the way, you know that Knox fellah she mentioned?
He was arrested after rumours about a cult in the mountains of Idaho.’
‘What a funny man,’ I said, expecting a response, but Mary Lou had vanished.
But there were two men with bulging jackets, one muttering in a New York accent,
‘The doc thinks she’s off on another wander’.
‘You see,’ the woman herself whispered to me in the Glenvale Hotel,
where I’d tracked her down, peering from behind a menu
at a man who was saying he’d seen a face familiar from a TV news item.
I listened with notebook in hand, as she declared,
‘It was cool to be different in those heady days of drug-filled abandon,
surfing along to those all-American Beach Boys,
singing ‘Help, help me Rhonda,’
while openly admiring that great rebel Jimmy Hendrix.
‘Did you know he jammed with those doyens of English folk-rock,
Fairport Convention, not once but twice?
‘Of course,’ was my reply, ‘I told you, I’m a journalist.’
‘Really? Anyway, where was I – yes, I saw them at Knebworth;
me and Bill Clinton hitched there when we were up (or is it down?) at Oxford.
‘But I digress – it’s a bad habit, the doctors reckon I took too much cannabis…
Only for her to be interrupted by a shout of, ‘There you are!’
from a chap who turned out to be US Presidential Secretary, Larry Letterfull.
‘I got in so much trouble,’ he moaned, ‘when I lost you at the airport.’
As they walked off I heard him whisper to a serious-looking
individual who turned out to be from the CIA,
‘I’m afraid the vice-president’s wife is in the early stages of dementia.’
‘What’s more, Bill – yes, I do mean Clinton – is anxious she
doesn’t blurt out what they got up to at some place called Knebworth,
listening to those old rockers Led Zeppelin.’
‘But what about that Knox fellow, arrested by the FBI?’
‘Oh, he’s old hat, half the senate were cult followers!’
Well, as I write this from a secluded hideout,
I am soothed by the voice of Mary Lou, singing ‘Help, help me Rhonda’,
musing, ‘It’s a good job I like The Beach Boys.’
I’m content in the knowledge that MI6, who, according to
a source at The Times are being asked
by the US to serve me an arrest warrant for kidnap –
would not connect the author Lou Marie with that woman in my cottage,
who’s known to the locals for talking nonsense while playing with her toys,
and even claims she possesses ‘the gift’.
But she can write brilliantly about Katie the Kestrel and an eagle called Beaky Pete,
who often flies to the lovely vale of Glendalough,
leaving his post on Uncle Sam’s flag at the US Embassy in Dublin.
There he’s fed by a little Greek who, according to ancient cave drawings,
closely resembles that other mysterious hermit, St Kevin.