The Private Pennings of Fiona Ferret – Reinstated Political Correspondent


I’m not going to dwell too much on these last few months except to say they have probably been the WORST in my ENTIRE life. All twenty-nine years of it. I’m mortified to think that I will be thirty next year with very little to show for it. I will just be remembered for being this eejit who got herself involved in a humiliating international incident which involved terrorists, activists, the D of FA, the Late Late Show, two solid days of ranting and pious comments on Joe Duffy, the new Archbishop of the airwaves, and some horrible letters to editors of every newspaper. Badger, my Dad, was sympathetic and said I had provided some light relief from bankers and bishops. My mother texted to say she was proud of me. Couldn’t talk as she was chained to a railing outside the Shell complex in Ballanaboy and was about to get her mobile confiscated. Aunty Kitty has excommunicated me from the family, thank God, and has headed off to Rome to show solidarity with the beleaguered Pope. My Gran, Eileen, who is ninety-two says my talents are wasted and I should have been around in nineteen sixteen when I could have been useful.

I have spent hours closeted with Vera, my counselor, who says I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress and that I need to watch my emotions, which are supposedly ticking like a time bomb. I suspect this was triggered by my description of how I felt like a failed suicide bomber and that I found it hard to face my friends and family. Vera is a rock solid lady but she did shift somewhat uncomfortably in her chair and I noticed the Birkenstocks pressing into the floor (she’s abandoned the red stilettos so am wondering why the return to woolen socks and hideous shoes. Could it just be the weather?) My friends remain wary, as if I’ve just been released from an institution or recovering from some contagious disease. Maybe this PTSD is catching. Or maybe it’s just that my Marilyn Manson hair colour is fading and I look like a manky skunk.

I arrived back to a derelict city (every other building in town has a To Let sign on it and stands empty) and an ice age (in more ways than one) and to an understandably frosty Bridie struggling with the Boomtown Bridies (our now defunct celebs business) and because the rents are exorbitant and to avoid the further humiliation of becoming the Busttown Bridies we had to close down. I don’t want to dwell on that one either. Bridie did some groveling and swallowing of humble pie and managed to get back a job of sorts in the D of Finance but she’s been sent to ‘pensions’ which is like being sent to Outer Mongolia. I still have to pinch myself as have been incredibly lucky. I’ve been taken back into the media fold as Political Correspondent at Concerned Citizen by my once upon a time editor Willy Watchdog. He is still at the editorial helm and once again hounding me for headlines and gossip. You may remember we had parted on really BAD terms but it seems if you become a media freak for whatever daft or scurrilous reason you are hot property and worth employing. Willy is treating me like a star! I even have a desk and a bicycle pass! And I didn’t have to grovel.

MONDAY

Every day there are MORE scandals unfolding. Will we ever get to the bottom of the black hole where all our money has gone missing? Competition is no longer in the business sector but in who can scoop the best headline. Willy’s mantra is still ‘follow the money trail’ but now there are so many of trails I can’t keep pace. I can no longer rely on Bridie to act as my mole in the D of F because in ‘pensions’ she is locked in a dungeon to make sure the ‘multiple pensions are secure’ for our politicians. She is also out of the feedback loop because she dared to leave and this was seen as a betrayal. I think she is better off out of the loop as there is going to be a complete overhaul of the D of F and heads will roll.

Meet Bridie, Ronan (current boyfriend though relationship under strain due to my foray in Afghanistan and his flirtation with an older woman from the allotment), Phil (Bridie’s husband who does the Agony Uncle column at Concerned Citizen entitled The Sympathetic Ear) for an early lunch. All our old haunts have closed down but Pandora’s Box has opened up close to the Dail and does a decent sambo and Fair Trade coffee.

The usual topics of conversation emerge, mostly related to the three Bs: Banks, bishops and builders and how all three total: Broke. Phil is sick of endless media debates about whether or not bishops should resign. What is there to discuss? Weren’t we told a hundred times growing up that if you did something wrong you ‘fessed up. Seems there is a cardinal rule for bishops. (Note – great headline, must use it). Same goes for bankers. If you have a bit of a whirl gambling with someone else’s money you don’t go to jail you get a bonus and if you bankrupt a country you get invited on to a board as a director to do some more of the same. As for builders/developers well they have ensured that the only affordable housing is on a flood plain.

We then descend into gloomy family matters. Phil’s Dad is now going to have to work till he’s seventy to pay off the mortgage. Bridie’s mum missed her week in Lanzarotti with the girls because she couldn’t get a passport. Ronan met my mum, Betty, on a protest weekend up in Ballanaboy and said she is quite the local heroine. It took the gardai six hours to cut through her chains, which is a record. (I find it annoying that Ronan says Betty is cool and yet thinks I’m an eejit for going to Afghanistan. I think he likes older women. Phil thinks I’m paranoid. Bridie thinks I’m jealous and Vera thinks I’m on to something.) My dad is off on one of his obsessive schemes. He read an article somewhere, which proved that our DNA, rather than coming from the Celts as our mythology would have it, shows that we are descended from Turkish farmers. Badger is volunteering for DNA tests as he is now convinced his haggling powers come from Turkey. He also is dying to tell Aunty Kitty that she may well be descended at best from Orthodox stock and at worst Muslim. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that one!

TUESDAY

My first week on the job became known as the Scrap Saturday in the Dail when politicians caught a resignation virus and went down like ninepins. George Lee started the ball rolling and went off in a huff deeply disillusioned with the body politic. Deirdre de Burka was miffed at missing out on a top job in the EU and threw in the towel, followed by Trevor Sargeant who immediately fell on his sword when a wrongdoing was discovered and became a martyr overnight, while Willie O’Dea tripped and fell on a tape recorder and took hours, no days to leave the stage, wittering on about ‘bottles’ and ‘ladies of the night.’ It took several rewinds of the tape to realize that the TD from Limerick was not talking about the nurses union requiring hot water bottles for night duty.

Meet up with B, P and R for a baked potato lunch at The Can of Worms. We bemoan the passing of the good old days when you could get your hands on a backbencher and some real gossip. You could have an off the record chat over a three course dinner (plus wine) with a cabinet minister no less who would try to impress you with his list of cronies and networking abilities. Now they skulk off into the back of tinted mercs surrounded by heavies and you are left questioning the spin doctor/advisor/public relation’s guru which is a waste of time. Bridie says the only way to find out what is going on and stay ahead of the game is to Blog and Tweet.  She’s right, as usual. Ronan thinks it’s a great way to start a revolution. Phil reckons this is how the next election will be won.

MONDAY/TUESDAY

This was the night of the BIG SHUFFLE where we had to stay up till the wee hours. There was a massive adrenalin build up which promised new blood in Cabinet, dynamic leadership and the big turn around in our economic fortunes but instead we got the Deckchair Tango, a re-arrangement of such disappointing proportions that the whole country yawned and sank into gloom. Little did we know this was only the tip of the iceberg for Monday night was followed by Titanic Tuesday (NAMA day – shortly to be declared a yearly Bank holiday) where it was discovered that someone had not done their sums correctly and the taxpayer would now be coughing up something like ten billion more than previously anticipated. TEN BILLION! It could be you. I tried doing some noughts and crosses but then got a headache.

Feeling totally overwhelmed and confused I text the others and we meet for lunch. I desperately ask for help with copy. How can I compete with headlines calling for the execution of bankers? Are there acts worse than treason? Only blasphemy, says Phil, who is au fait with the constitution. Could bankers be barbecued? General feeling was no as the weather was too cold. We ran through the vernacular of vile forms of torture and revenge and decided it was all too unappetizing. Phil wondered what on earth had happened to normal procedures and justice like confiscating someone’s passport and houses and demanding a repayment of monies. Ronan thinks they should all have been rounded up eighteen months ago and jailed and doing something useful like community service. Bridie says we need to face facts. The money has gone, never to be seen again and WE (that is you Fiona, Phil and Ronan) are going to pay for it forever. The actual amount squandered could have rebuilt Haiti. Closer to home we could have financed our entire infrastructure – public transport, school buildings, health care, roads, special needs teachers, etc… This lead to a rage fest where some unprintable expletives were expounded followed by a whinge fest where Bridie and Phil announced they were not having children because they felt they couldn’t afford them. None of us would ever own a house and maybe not even a car. Phil said he preferred his Blackberry to a car. Ronan said both were capitalist gadgets and doomed for extinction.  It was the end of the era of hen nights in Prague, weekends in spas, fake tans, boob jobs and sunbeds. Ronan said marriage was like life on this planet – unsustainable and that love was like climate change – uncertain, and that the wheelbarrow was the transport of the future. What do I see in this man?

WEDNESDAY

Am struggling with a riposte to the Pope’s pastoral letter and feeling out of my depth when Bridie texts me to check out Paris Hilton on the web. Well I’ve finally hit the big time. Move over Sharon Osbourne. Paris it seems has traded in her pet pooch for a ferret and as a result a furry ferret is all the rage as a fashion accessory. Perhaps Ronan will finally appreciate me. I fantasize about fame but am brought down to earth with a bump with Willy storming in to my office saying that we are now to focus on a new mantra ‘regulation’. Following the money trail is not enough. So now I have to find an interesting angle on regulation or at least a euphemism. Banks after all no longer go bust or broke, they have hair cuts! ‘Hey guys, it a bad hair day.’ Am just deciding on this being my headline for today when Phil emails. He wants to interview me incognito on life inside a burka and then wants me to help him write an article on some basic sex education for the clergy. Apparently the latest spin and scapegoating from the Vatican is that pedophilia is a consequence of homosexuality not celibacy! Nice try. What will they come up with next? Then as if I didn’t have enough on my plate with stress levels up to ninety Ronan phones to tell me he has been offered the job of manager at the new head shop round the corner from The Can of Worms! I can’t believe Ronan is considering this. What a closet capitalist creep he is. I calmed down after Bridie pointed out that head shops were the only businesses booming at the moment and that I should shut up, be grateful and bask in the possibility of having a boyfriend with money who could keep me in the lifestyle of fake tans and spas to which I aspire. She also reminded me that in a desperate email before Xmas I had promised never to moan again. Not wishing to be reminded of my past, I swallowed some humble pie and phoned Ronan back to encourage him to go for the job. He then suggested we go and live on a barge, as it’s cheaper… I’ll have to discuss this with Vera. There might be space issues. Still all in all my glass (unlike those in the Dail bar) is looking half full and when the stress and hormones go through the roof I just think of Greece and Afghanistan and remember that at least I have the freedom to write a diary.