The Private Pennings of Fiona Ferret – Disillusioned Political Correspondent

Well it’s finally here – the end of 2010, the year of blizzards, burst pipes, bust banks and the country broke… and am now facing into 2011 and my thirtieth birthday this month. Decided to spend New Year’s Eve on my own with pencil and paper and have a seriously mature reflective evening getting to grips with the past, present and the future. Started with the past and got weepy at saying goodbye to my twenties. It was a time of freedom and independence (well not completely but almost). (Also a time of acne, greasy hair and relationship problems.) But there were possibilities, jobs, a functioning economy and most of all hope. The future is frankly very scary. This was the New Year’s Eve list:

Job – how long can one go on writing about bad news? Indefinitely if you want to get paid or else make a change which = effort.

Relationship/s – only one (Ronan, on and off boyfriend, currently on though can’t think why) – could do better (now I sound like my mum), too old to be a hippie (Dad), boring friends all super eco friendly and worthy, never has any money (tired of eating in sambo bars) but he’s better than nothing – no boyfriend= loser.

Friends – all getting hitched and staying in at night, Bridie and Phil sound more like a married couple each day (which they are) and the word ‘baby’ was mentioned recently – now that is very scary. I thought we had all agreed the world was overpopulated.

Vera (my counselor) – is not really sorting me out. I know I’m supposed to be responsible but I do pay her.

This is not even the future, but the present, which Vera goes on about all the time. Why would I want to sit and contemplate my failures on New Year’s Eve? Because Fiona you are a loser. Scoured the cupboards and found a bottle of cheap plonk (can’t afford anything else these days) and as a first resort phoned my mum (phone engaged – surprise) and as a last resort phoned my Dad, Badger, who was watching the Godfather on tele and waxing lyrical about a guy called Marlon Brando. Dad, we are talking forty years ago. In the last century. This opened up the usual can of sentimental worms about time passing, how I was once his little girl and how he’d met Mum doing the twist in the local community youth centre. After some wallowing we then pulled ourselves together and moved in to our mutual ‘how to get out of a depression and into feeling positive mode’ with the annual ritual booster which starts with ‘but we are not Ferrets for nothing.’ This meant that New Year’s Eve ended on a manic high as my tribal instincts were roused by stories illustrating the infamous Ferret family DNA. We are determined and resourceful and in fact the bigger the population of rats and weasels out there the stronger us ferrets become. And as D and I agreed this has been a mega year for rats and weasels.

Can’t decide whether Ronan is a rat or just a chicken. Back in June, just as things in the Chinese proverbial garden were starting to bloom and look rosy along came the dragon raiding head shops and closing them down. In a week Ronan’s career prospects as manager of a head shop went up in smoke. He is now back to the wheelbarrow and doing quite well, thanks to Phil (my best friend Bridie Moale’s husband) who persuaded him to drop a middle class prejudice and add the word ‘landscape’ on to his ‘gardening’ flyer (re-cycled paper of course). He is now maintaining at least twenty ‘landscape gardens’ in the city centre which, for the most part are small patios filled with gravel, a wisp of grass and geranium pots. He was thinking of expanding into water features but this week is not a good time to be selling them. Bridie and Phil had no water for two weeks so were round to my apartment every day for showers. I can’t imagine not washing my hair everyday, gross. Badger despairs of my generation and waste and goes on about ‘when I was a child we only had a bath once a week and even that was shared.’ How gross is that. Ronan thinks I’m spoilt and wrecking the planet and he’s probably right but I just can’t do this camping stuff. He’s now moved in with friends on a barge on the canal and wants me to join him. This could put delicate relationship under severe strain. I suppose the fact that Ronan has a job can go into the very skimpy plus column under Relationship.

On the job front I fear I am now blacklisted and cast out of the fold. I missed all my deadlines in September as was summoned by Willie (my editor and now super weasel) in the middle of the night to replace a senior political journalist who had come down with food poisoning. I had to drive to Galway at five in the morning and go to the Ardilaun Hotel where FF was holding the annual conference. When I arrived in time for breakfast an all night party was winding to a sticky close. A few young rats were huskily singing and struggling with Tie a Yellow Ribbon round the old Oak tree which according to the exhausted barman had been played at least ten times that night in an effort to clear the room. Familiar faces were slumped in sofas, snoring, ties askew and suits the worse for wear. The receptionist gave me a long, hard, tired look when I asked for members of the press and pointed towards the dining room.  I made an attempt at some sympathy conversation by suggesting it had been a long night. ‘It’s like this every year,’ she said, ‘and you and I foot the bill’. She nodded towards the piece of paper marked Invoice on the front desk, which after many years of practise, I was able to read upside down. Wow, drinks for the night came to more than a banker’s bonus. Managed to sneak my way into the back of the dining room where a press conference was under way. The room was awash with backs of heads and bristling with microphones. I spotted the Gruffalo somewhat the worse for wear, downing what looked like an aspirin (some sort of white stuff) before he continued fielding questions about the state of the economy. There was coughing and embarrassing silences. I tried to find out what was going on and everyone kept going on about horses and frogs. Was I at an IFA or Friends of the Earth meeting by mistake? By now I was so tired and confused I went back to the front desk where persuaded the now sympathetic receptionist to give me a room where I could catch up on some sleep. She sneaked me into a large luxurious room with three double beds in it – there were some suitcases lying around and clothes so with the help of my new friend, made myself up a comfortable spot behind the sofa. She assured me the occupants of the room were still propping up the bar so I promptly fell asleep. This lovely comatose experience came to an abrupt end with a clatter of teacups and a shoe hitting my head followed by some expletives and I made the unusually wise decision to keep quiet and lie low. It seems I had hunkered down in the private quarters of the triumvirate of Marys. The general gist of what transpired was as follows:

‘Well girls, after that disaster we are definitely heading for an election.’

‘Steady now Mary. All is not lost. Perhaps we can persuade the Greens not to pull the plug.’

‘Not a hope.’ (More expletives that would make a fisherman from Killibegs weep.) ‘Mary why didn’t you step in and do the interview this morning?’

‘Because I’m tired Mary of being Miss Goody Two Shoes who is always dragged out for the media. If you hadn’t had so much of the red stuff you could have done it.’

‘Now Mary I have to agree with Mary. If you had done the interview we wouldn’t be in this mess but girls we have to stick together. In fact if we were running this country…’

‘Ah now Mary, you’re not suggesting another heave are you?’

‘Well not exactly a heave Mary, just a gentle shove, with a bit of green shoots to help us along.’ (Some laughter)

‘*** the bankers and the Greens. (More expletives) This tea is cold. I want another drink.’ (Thud against sofa)

‘Leave her Mary. She’s tired and emotional. You and I are going to have to sort this out. We need to get a committee started to look into organizing a think tank of brains to get us out of this before the electorate vote us out and the IMF comes in.’

‘Yes Mary but who. We’ve alienated most of the economists, those with money have moved to the States and the only one who stayed behind won’t speak to me or yer one on the sofa’.

‘Ah Michael, yes a pity about that now Mary. We’ll just have to find more ways to cut back.’

‘Mary, do you know where this is going? Fewer seats, review of all expenses, scrap the Senate, cuts in salaries and God forbid a possible dipping into the pensions’.

‘Don’t tell yer one on the sofa, Mary, but I’m thinking of resigning before the next election.’

‘Well Mary, I don’t blame you. There’s very little chance of us girls ever getting the leadership of this party let alone the country this side of 2020, so we need to mind ourselves?’

‘Jesus, Mary look at the time. The mercs will be ready to go and we don’t want to have to use the train. Come on. Wake up Mary, wake up.’

‘**** the bankers. Where am I? Where’s my ***ing shoe? Oh my head is killing me. Mary give me a hand with my case? (Door slams)

I kept the shoe. Am amazed that in our small country with a trinity of such prophetic insights we were unable to sort out our economy. Anyway the newspapers have been full of what happened since that fateful night and I’m not going to bore or depress myself any further on the subject.

The only bit of excitement just before Christmas was when Joan Burton announced there was a mole in the D of F, so texted Bridie immediately to see if she had been outed. She sarcastically reminded me that she was no longer at the centre of action and that there were NO moles in pensions – just very full in-trays of rats pulling out before the ship goes down.

In a final bid to get rid of me Willie asked me to go to London to cover either the Wikileaks trial or investigate cyber terrorism. I muttered something about having enough of blizzards and weasels and then said I thought I might have swine flu… as a result got Christmas and New Year off. The good news is that I have made a decision. Have requested a move to Features for some light relief so I can cover the royal wedding.