Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The legend of the Irish Posties. Tash was telling me how she sent Gavin a package in Ireland. It was addressed to his parents' house, so Tash was graffiti-ing all over it in order to cause Gavin the maximum embarrassment. She had wanted to address it to Ireland, "the land of rain", but hesitated. She did not want to rouse the ire of ... The Irish Posties!

Now, you may know that Tash and I are fond of culturally insensitive jokes about the Irish. So we had a bit of a laugh about militant Irish postal workers wielding spud guns. But the Irish Posties had really caught my imagination, and I went on an extended flight of fancy...

The Irish posties' confederation is known as An Post. Don't be deceived by their innocuous website - the Irish Posties are a fierce, proud and secretive band with headquarters in every county of Ireland, to be sure.

Nobody knows how their fearsome ranks are swelled. Some say the Posties select their brides and spirit them away via Swiftpost National. Others say they snatch up a copper-haired youngest daughter's first-born son to be raised in their tricksy ways, leaving a changeling in his place. 'Twas also believed they had a graduate programme, but they claim 'tis postponed until further notice.

Now the Irish Postie himself is a terrifying creature. Seven feet tall he is, with eyes like flaming 1970s London pubs. You will know when he is near, for dogs will quake in fear, making pitiful whimperings. There's nary a hound will dare bite the leg of an Irish Postie; and any that tries will discover that the Postie bites back. With my own eyes I've seen one dog that made the gory error. It had only two legs, and got around on a wee skateboard. A terrible business it was, and no mistake. The local paper said 'twas a car accident, but everyone knew that the wee dog served as a warning. A warning not to quibble with the Irish Posties.

The good folk of Ireland quail in their beds when they hear the banshee wail of the Irish Postie. (My impression of banshees has been shaped definitively by the terrifying banshee scene in the 1959 movie Darby O'Gill & the Little People, featuring singing Celt Sean Connery.) "Maiiiiiiiil!", he'll shriek. "Maiiiiiiiiil!" The Irish know their time is nigh .... to go to the letterbox. But go there they dare not until the Postie's wails have receded.

But the Posties' power respects no threshold. Strapping young lads have been transformed overnight into gibbering white-haired fools after finding an envelope on their pillow containing a single potato: a sign that they have offended a Postie. Many's the maiden who's sobbed herself raw and wasted away to nothing after waking to find a postage stamp affixed to her bosom. For the Posties have deemed her a Tidy Package, and a Bride of the Posties she's doomed to become.

Much of the world is in the Posties' merciless emerald grip. They have infiltrated most countries through a network of shonky theme bars - something to bear in mind the next time you order a pint of Guinness at Blarney O'Shamrock's.

No, there'll be no libelling their stronghold as the "land of rain", true as it may be. For the Irish Posties have no compunction in restoring their honour by the most brutal and pitiless of means. Had Tash foolishly defaced the package, awake she'd surely have lain, night after night, listening for that dread shriek: "Maiiiiiiiiil!"

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