Saturday, October 22, 2011

The World's Worst Gift Buyer?

I willingly admit that I was never really the world's most successful gift buyer, or necessarily the most thoughtful. When I was about 17 years old I was known one Christmas to spend all my babysitting money buying great LP records for all my siblings.
The fact that the albums were not necessarily the bands or music the recipients actually liked seemed to miss my observation in the midst of my excitement that every album released that year that I really loved was coming into the house that Christmas!

It didn't miss my siblings' observation though and I am still to this day being reminded of my less than altruistic motives that year.

When I started working I had a little more funds available but my buying strategies didn't improve much. In fact not at all. I'll give an example:

My sister who is a year older than me, knowing my lack of shopping prowess, informed me when I was heading out on my shopping trip that she would really like a book by the American novelist and Catholic writer, Flannery O Connor.

I was delighted so armed with this tip-off I headed to the largest book-shop in the city. Without any ado I went to the shelf where I might find Flannery O Connor books.

There were none there.

Not to be put off, I peered and peered at the shelf where the book should be and in the end decided to buy the book that was occupying the spot where the desired book would have been had it been in stock.

This is what I gave my sister for Christmas that year:

Poems from the Australian outback.

I will never forget the blank look on her face when she opened the present!

Actually in retrospect, it was probably the best present I ever bought anybody as never has a present provided such merriment so many years later. The entire family still laugh at my thought process, or lack thereof, back then. To be honest, I'm not too sure whether I've changed that much :-)

Recently my sister who got this great present came across it on her bookshelf and started reading it. She told me later that she really enjoyed the poetry and though it was still a mystery to her how I thought that she wouldn't notice that the book wasn't by Flannery O'Connor but rather John O Brien, she's glad to have it all the same.

All's well that ends well.

For your pleasure, here's a little sample of the poetry of John O Brien
(Patrick Joseph Hartigan 1878-1952):

“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan
In accents most forlorn
Outside the church ere Mass began
One frosty Sunday morn.
The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock and crops and drought
As it had done for years.
“It’s lookin’ crook,” said Daniel Croke;
“Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad.
“It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.
And so around the chorus ran
“It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.
“The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-O’-Bourke
They’re singin’ out for rain.
“They’re singin’ out for rain,” he said,
“And all the tanks are dry.”
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.
“There won’t be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
As I came down to Mass.”
“If rain don’t come this month,” said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak –
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan, “
If rain don’t come this week.”
A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.
“We want an inch of rain, we do,”
O’Neil observed at last;
But Croke “maintained” we wanted two
To put the danger past.
“If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”
In God’s good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.
And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.
It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-O’-Bourke.
And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”
And stop it did, in God’s good time:
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o’er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.
And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.
And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
Went riding down to Mass.
While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.
“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”
John O’Brien

I think I'll buy her a Flannery O'Connor book this year.


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  1. Can't deny it, I fast-forwarded after the 4th verse! However, I wish there was a "like" button for the line ......I will never forget the blank look on her face when she opened the present!.......

    Wish I'd been a fly on the wall!

    Class! ;-)

  2. Hahaha, I have to admit to not reading the entire poem myself..I love the gist though..'We'll all be rooned' said Hanrahan!!


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