Odd Banana

“Tra, la, la, la-la, la, la
Tra, la, la, la-la, la, la

Tra, la, la, la-la, la, la
Tra, la, la, la-la, la, la

One banana, two banana, three banana, four
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more
Over hill and highway the banana buggies go
Coming on to bring you the Banana Splits show”

N. B. Winkless Jr. – The Tra La La Song

As you read this it is St.Patrick’s Day , but as I write this that will be tomorrow, and this will be your yesterday. I think.

Depending on what time on St.Patrick’s Day you read this I will be either about to run in Monaghan’s annual Crocus 5K race, or actually be running in it, or, fingers crossed, will just have run it. This will be my first official 5k race in well over 12 months. I’m nervous and a little excited. At the end of the race, like all races , you are handed a bottle of water and a banana. I have bever looked forward to a banana so much in my whole life…and I’ve had a lot of bananas !

Speaking of bananas , I always remember a friend at school, David de Hoedt, explaining to us when we were 9 or 10 that we were opening the bananas the wrong way round. He said that you shouldn’t pull it apart from the stalk bit, but should simply bite the wee knobbly end to open it all up. Maybe it made perfect sense to me at the time, or more likely because David was very cool indeed, but that’s the way I have opened a banana ever since, receiving odd looks almost universally.

This was brought back to mind this week as my Soulmate and I spent a delightful couple of days away from the kids and the cats in Dundrum, no not that one, the nice one up beside Newcastle and Slieve Donard. We watched a couple of episodes of Superstore, a US comedy , on Netflix. In one of the early episodes Jonah explains the proper way, the de Hoedt way, of opening a banana, and all the other characters spend the rest of the episode mocking him about it. I felt his pain. Oh, and before I forget, Superstore is brilliant !

I grew up watching The Banana Splits every Saturday morning on the BBC. They were an animal band made up of Snorky, Drooper, Bingo, and Fleegle and they were unlike anything I’d ever seen. I think by the time we were watching them on the BBC, they’d already been off the air in their native US for 8 years. Even though we knew that they were simply men or ladies dressed in large goofy costumes, our reality was suspended for an hour every Saturday morning.

They were used as wrap arounds to introduce us to cartoons such as the Arabian Knights, The Three Musketeers, Secret Squirrel , and live action adventures such as Gulliver’s Travels and The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Their opening and closing credits featured clips of them driving their little buggies, bumping into each over, playing musical instruments, bumping into each other, meeting thousands of kids, and finally bumping into each other and falling over. 
Drooper was my favourite. He sort of looked like a lion and spoke like my friend Stan Bush. I could take or leave Fleegle, Bingo terrified me a little, and no one, but no one liked Snorky. Even if you never saw their show, you’d know their theme song :
Tra La La ( One Banana, Two Banana ).

Interestingly, well , interesting to me, is the similarity between the ‘Tra-la-la’ bits in the Banana Splits theme and the ‘woe yoy yoy yoy’ bit in Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’.

I was looking through some old stuff for something and came across a story I’d written for my first ever Ten x 9 talk, but couldn’t use as it was a dream, and they insist on all stories being true. I did argue that it was truly a dream and had even made my friend Richard cry, but they said that there was a difference. A banana appeared in it, so I’ve included it in the P.S.sss, but remember Richard’s tears……

Anyway I used to love the fact that the pratfalls that were used in all the first black and white movies where someone slips on a banana skin were originally written as people slipping on the horse manure that lined all of the city streets at the same time. The film censors wouldn’t let them show, or reference slipping in horse manure, so they substituted a banana peel.

Also ,interesting , to me, is that in the late 1880’s in New York there were serious concerns that commerce and all city life would grind to a halt due to the amount of horse manure produced and lying in the city’s streets every year. There were almost 150,000 horses producing 100,000 tonnes of manure, which required more horses to remove. There was also the problem of feeding all of the horses. Each horse needed 3 tonnes of oats a year, so millions of acres were needed to feed them. New York was drowning in horse manure.

And then electricity arrived introducing trams, quickly followed by automobiles, and the last horsecar was withdrawn in 1917.

Not entirely sure how we got here from starting off with Bananas, but here we are.

Things that look insurmountable today will probably seem laughable soon.

I’ll drink to that….frozen banana daiquiris all round !



P.S This is the Banana Splits ‘Tra-la-la’ song

P.P.S This is the story that made Richard cry :

Leah was in her Granny’s kitchen, which she called the scullery, in Fr.Murray Park.

Her Granny had told her that if you ever ate the meat of a dragon you could understand the language of birds. Her Granny had then served her ‘Dragon Pie’ for tea. This ‘Dragon Pie’ looked suspiciously like the dreaded watery cottage pie that Granny served her every Tuesday evening but as soon as she tasted it she knew it was different. It was delicious! She devoured it and even asked for more.

“Don’t you want to go out into the garden and see if it has worked? There’s some Robins in the bushes down in the bottom hedge.” Granny smiled as Leah flew out the back door and charged down the garden. The garden wasn’t large, it was long and narrow , kept neatly with flowers on the left and vegetables on the right, apart from the bottom hedge, which was wild and unruly. The house was in the town, an old development of council houses from the days when town planners cared enough to make them homes with gardens and greens. They’d moved from Monaghan when they’d had to leave the farm. Her husband, Leah’s Granda, had taken great pride in his garden and she’d let him have his way, he’d needed it. All she’d asked was that the bottom hedge would be left to look like the hedgerows from home.

                She closed the back door and picked up Leah’s empty plate, smiling to herself. There had been a letter in last week’s Ireland’s Own in which a nice lady from Dun Laoghaire had suggested that adding  a splash of Worcestershire sauce into the mince while making your cottage pie would change the taste dramatically. It had. Leah had only ever played with hers before and here she was now looking for seconds. She’d only refused her because there wouldn’t have been enough left for her son, Leah’s Dad, when he called on his way home from work to collect Leah. They’d head to the hospital then on their way home to visit Rose, Leah’s Mum. God love them, she thought, calling day after day to spend time with Rose. It had been five months now of silence, not the slightest flicker, and although they still had hope, she could see in the eyes of the medical staff that they didn’t share it.

                                                                                     She looked out the kitchen window to see Leah standing at the bottom of the garden, her head cocked to one side, stock still. She put on her glasses and then saw that in the hedge in front of Leah was a little robin chirping away to its heart’s content. She giggled to herself. She knew she’d be lucky now to hold onto the last of the cottage pie when Leah came back in demanding more because she still couldn’t understand the birds. She’d cross that bridge.

Down at the hedge the robin hopped into the little girl’s outstretched hand. Granny put her hand over her mouth, afraid that her joy would escape and she’d frighten the bird away. She was transfixed as she saw Leah lift her hand up to her ear and the robin seemed to be whispering to her. The little girl lowered her hand a little and the bird tucked its head under it’s wing and when it came out again it had a tiny little fluffy feather in its beak. Leah took it with her other hand and clenched her fist around it. She then nodded her head and the bird seemed to do the same in reply before flying back into the hedge.

Leah turned on her heel and ran back up the garden. Granny busied herself with the dishes in the sink as Leah nearly took the back door off its hinges in her haste …

“Granny ! Granny ! Guess what she said ! Guess what she said !”

Granny turned from the sink , wiping her hands on her housecoat, smiling. “What did who say ?”

“The robin , Granny ! The robin spoke to me. Oh Granny, guess what she said !”

“Did she say you were beautiful ?”

“No , Granny ! We didn’t have time for small talk. She knew my name, your name, Granda’s farm, Dad……and Mam. She knew all about Mam. She said she’s going to wake up.”

“Ach , Leah, I’m sorry.” Her eyes were welling up. “I didn’t mean to tease you, I’m so sorry. There was no dragon meat in the pie, it was only Worcester Sauce. “

“I know that Granny ! Sure I’m nine now. Anyway, the robin did speak to me. No, don’t look at me like that , she did. And she told me that Mam is just sleeping in a very deep sleep but that she is having nice dreams. She gave me one of her feathers and when we visit tonight I’m to tell Mam that I love her, that I need her to wake up and then to put the feather in her ear.”

“And then she’ll wake up ?”

“No Granny “ Leah said softly, looking at Granny sympathetically “then when we leave and all the doctors and nurses go to sleep, then the robin will be able to find her and whisper to her and tell her how to find her way back to us.”

Granny bent down and picked Leah up, hugging her and kissing her forehead. “You are a wee pet.” She couldn’t bring herself to tell her granddaughter that ….well you know what.

When Leah’s Dad pulled up outside his mother’s house, he didn’t even get a chance to get out of the car. As soon as the car rolled to a halt Granny and Leah closed the front door behind them and hopped into the car.

“What’s going on ?” he asked.

“Straight to the hospital please, you can have your tea when you drop me back afterwards.” Granny  

“Can’t I have my tea first? It’ll only take a minute, and sure, we’ve all evening to visit Rose. I’m starving “ he pleaded.

“Don’t argue with your Mother !”

Leah reached in between the seats from the back “Here Dad, I brought you a banana to keep you going “

He winked at her in the rear view mirror “Thanks Leah, I hope Granny hasn’t been mean to you all day too. What’s the rush tonight ? “ He looked across to his mother ”Is there a big jackpot down in the Friary bingo tonight ?”

She whacked his arm theatrically “Don’t be cheeky you. Drive.”

He greedily munched his banana and they were at the hospital in a few minutes. He parked in the staff car park. They were regular visitors there now and the nurses had arranged for them to have free use of their car park and they were allowed to use the staff canteen. Visiting hours didn’t apply to them either, they were welcome day or night. Almost all of the nurses were now honorary Aunties for Leah and spoilt her rotten.

                               The porter held the door open for them as they approached and greeted Leah by tipping his cap to her and she said gave him her usual big smile. Every nurse and doctor that they passed on their way to Rose’s room smiled and said hello as they passed. When they reached the open door of Rose’s room Leah rushed in and Granny grabbed her son by the arm and asked him to give Leah a moment on her own with her Mum. He harrumphed a little and then said he’d go in search of the matron to see if there had been any change today.

  Granny watched on her own as Leah held her Mother’s hand and gave her a kiss. She then whispered “I love you Mam. I need you to wake up.” Then she unclenched her fist and took the tiny little fluffy feather and placed it in her ear and covered it with her hair. She kissed her again and then let go of her hand and turned to the window. She pulled over the visitor’s chair and stood up on  it so that she could reach up and open the small window at the top. She got down and pulled the curtain over a little so that it covered the open window pane and put the visitors chair back. She ran back to Granny and hugged her around the waist.

“We have to go now so that everyone can go home and sleep and the robin can visit.”

“OK Leah. We’ll just wait for your Dad to come back.”

They saw him a second later making his way up the corridor clutching a crumpled up white paper in his hand. They went to intercept him for the second time that evening.

“Let’s go and get you your tea. You must be famished.” Granny said taking him by the arm , back down the corridor.

He wrestled his arm away from her abruptly. “ I don’t know what’s got into you this evening, but I am seeing my wife…NOW!”

They were both taken aback by his tone. Leah started to cry. He bent down to comfort her. “Ach Leah, don’t cry, I’m just tired and hungry and I want to say goodnight to your Mum.” Behind her back he stretched up his arm , handing the crumpled piece of paper to his mother. He buried his face in Leah’s shoulder. He couldn’t hold back the tears now.

Granny smoothed out the paper. It only took her a moment to realise that it was a consent form. They wanted to switch off Rose’s life support machine in 72 hours. “Oh Sweet Divine Jesus, no, no, no !” She couldn’t help herself. Leah looked up in alarm. Granny did her best to mop her tears “Don’t be worried Leah, it’s just a bill from the canteen and it looks like your Da has been eating all of their donuts.”

Her son laughed. He stood up, wiping his tears with his sleeve. “ You two go on out to the car, I’ll be out in a minute. I just want to say goodnight to Rose.”

Granny took Leah by the hand out to the car. None of the nurses they met on their way out could look them in the eye, they all knew that the family had got the news. Leah still smiled and greeted them all. She doesn’t know yet, they all thought.

As soon as they sat back into the car Leah said “Should I tell Dad about the robin’s visit tonight ?  “

“No, not tonight. Let’s just get him home to my house so that he can have his tea. You can both stay the night.”

“Oh Granny that would be great because I can go out in the garden first thing in the morning and the robin can tell me how she got on with Mum.”

Granny was glad that it was dark so Leah couldn’t see the tears streaming down her face and she had to put her hand over her mouth to stop the sobs. Her son came out from the hospital a few minutes later. Even in the half light of the car she could see that his eyes were red raw. She didn’t say anything she just reached across and squeezed his hand.

“Well”, he said,” Let’s get you home”.

“Granny says we can stay the night.”

He was about to start the car when there was a hammering on the window. It was the porter, he flung the door open. “Come back quick ! She’s awake ! She’s awake ! The nurses called me to the room to chase a robin out and she woke and simply said ‘Leave her be, she’s a friend of my daughter’s.’ I’ve been here thirty years , never seen anything like it.”

They rushed back to Rose’s room.

She was sitting up. She smiled. They all descended on her in joy and hugged.


I woke and wrote it all down.

I emailed it to Richard the following evening and waited. He replied a few minutes later :

“It’s a good job iPads have waterproof screens; the tears are running down this one. Is this a true story?”

And I replied “ Yes it is , my Granny made a truly awful cottage pie.”

What I didn’t tell him was that the garden was exactly like that, the hedge at the bottom wild, everything else neat, flowers on one side vegetables at the other. I went there a few days a week after school where she fed me, body and mind. My mother was in a coma, but before I was born, Canon Maguire had found her on the side of the road where she’d been knocked off a Honda 50 she’d borrowed. And ever since I was a child I always seem to see a robin whenever I feel troubled and it has comforted me. So all of the elements are indeed true, just not in that order.

Isn’t the subconscious a wonderful thing ?

Author: paul

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