Sunday, 13 January 2013


Society, it seems, has more tolerance for filth and danger than for the unknown. The stigma of another Nobirds Report banished us to the Qouile Pondage where there are no restaurants or birds, so when we chose a lunch spot, Flapline Hugs Café won by default … again. It was an easy choice - the other options are, in order of preference: vending machines, road kill, and the cafeteria, The Stomach Pump Café in Ardglass. The Pump is run by three fifteen stone women and everything costs £5. They reserved the best food for the Phillipino sailors. Even birders from Killough shun "The Pump" and besides, this was a celebration. One of our own Randy Garry McGarry landed a job back east counting seagulls, he truly was the Seagull.

It was a bittersweet occasion that presented us with an emotional problem, so we devised an engineering solution - we reverted to adolescent behavior. We were all passing gas and appending each remark with sexual innuendo when our companions passed with horn blaring. I looked left in time to see a pair of buttocks pressed against a window and looking back at me. Both vehicles pulled into a gravel lot down the road and five of us spilled out and went inside, still howling over the midday moon. A Pantymime Horse waited at the picnic table outside, we always laughed at him behind his back.

The waitress came up, pulled menus from her overalls, and passed them around. They were actually red paper windshield wipes marked with smudged and hand-scribbled selections. Randy Garry, sitting across from me, silenced the room with his order.

"Triple hug."

Flapline country store is locally known for butch guys hugging. Its name originated from a semi-literate misspelling of "huge", and it has a simple recipe: rip up 4 nobirds reports drop it in a vat of boiling lard. Cook for two minutes; nestle between slabs of bread, and slather with mayonnaise. Finally, serve it on a Nobirds report with a shovel full of potato wedges.

A double hug puts off most diners; a triple is insanity. The waitress’s jaw dropped and her gold tooth gleamed. (She may have been just showing off.)

"You’re joking?"

She didn’t know Randy Garry like I did. She twice offered him a chance to back down and then, with a shake of the head, hobbled off on her trick knee muttering something about his next bowel movement. Table talk resumed and betting broke out.

Then the team hug started, Garry hugged Larry, Larry hung on and hugged Hairy Harry and Harry threw his arms round Barry and Barry had a consoling arm around the Heavy Breather. A hush fell near the end - like a bowling alley when someone is closing on a 300 game - and a roar arose when the lads started to cry. Garry looked fragile.

We stayed to let our hero recover and spent the time building his legend (and arguing over who had to ride back with him). Though Garry trembled like Vesuvius, he never blubbed, and we all finally went back to stringing and suppresssing.

Later, I stopped in his cube with the winnings, but a toxic cloud drove me back out. I tossed the cash on his desk and shouted. RG sat unconscious at his computer - victim of a hug-induced coma.

"Hey man– you’re making a big carbon footprint."

The lids flickered. RG yawned and chuckled.

"There’s your cash." I pointed to the desk. "Was it worth it? That hug could’ve killed you."

He leaned left and grimaced before answering. I backed further into the aisle.

"You know", he said, "… when it’s your time to go, what better way than in the grips of a big hug from Larry McGarry?"