CONVERSATION DESIGN

We looked ahead and saw two people.

She said “We met them before”

“What did I say to them last time?”

She reminded me that I had said nothing.

As they drew closer, I felt ready and rushed through my thoughts for an opening gambit. We had been walking and talking all afternoon since before we got to Clancy’s and now we were almost back.

My eyesight been poor in reading glasses, they gradually became discernible 30 yards of as the people whose son we had met turning up the steps on the Corracloona link, as an exerciser, who has apologetically run behind, and then darted past between us as we had blocked his path, like two bullocks on their way to the mart at Arney who had bizarrely slipped up a side lane back into some field or other between Swanlinbar and Arney in the Fermanagh North Leitrim glens fog.

You have to be quick, like a Leitrim hurler, whom you read about in the paper.

They were 20 yards out and I boomed in the friendliest tone I could muster:

“Good Afternoon”, ralentandoing it to be in synchrony with the gaps between their footsteps.

“It is a wonderful day.”

They had a dog they were struggling to bring under control. I focussed on the dog breed…

“Do you know that the dog that John Steinbeck from California in Travels with Charlie was a poodle? Your dog, what is his name?…

I chanced the genderized pronoun. With poodleish dogs, they are so curly, it is hard to tell.

Two chances and the conversation design fails. They slowed like us to a standstill.

She struggled to recall the name of her dog that he had on its lead.

We learned it was in fact her daughters dog Chloe, a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle.

She was a dote. She became a handful biting at the lead. I picked up on his epithet, not shedding, a euphemism suggesting that the dog does not moult and leave dog hair everywhere. He must have a perfectly clean house. You have to be quick like in Hurling, as in conversational design. I started again.

“Mickey Rooney in an Arabian film in 1978 had a carpet he went flying on, like the carpet on the tiled floor at home in Corracloona with a weft of dog hair on it, which floated off into the air, as if it was from an Afghan hound.

“You like your films… there being a film club in Kilty.

We gradually learned that the daughters were at college and one was doing exams from home. They had internet.

I write and have a webpage lichenfoxie on the word press.

I am fluffing the story telling, not living by Hemingway’s maxim, write what you know, and write it as true as you can possibly make it. Listening, writing, telling a story, remembering is such a busy thing to do all at once while trying to do a themed essay on conversation design, which brings us swiftly back to the people on the walk.

Two film references, and he said… You like your films… He has also said something else but I forget it now, not that I did forget it, but I did not recall it, if you can indulge me.

Writers are a tolerated bunch, reaching out for friendship. He has said lichen pronounced in the formal way, whereas I has said lichen in the uncouth way. Being a lichen themed conversationalist, if all else fails I flailed around looking for the nearest tree for a specimen to demonstrate if the opportunity developed. Here is a Graphis scripta if necessary, visually saved. Lichen, like as living with mosses on a tree.

“You must be an engineer…

She would have opened up with a reply but I fluffed it again… not leaving enough room for silence… You must be an engineer …

I wish I had said in my best diplomatic French, I was so rude. I did not answer, I talked over your entrance to your riposte to my reply. It all got very confusing…

Good writing is like good listening, picking up with an opening question on the word that was left dangling … lichen… dog hair… engineer… Blacklion… Holey Soles, the walking group… the glens… an encyclopaedia of the area… so full of knowledge, but slow to release it, one grain of sand at a time. Slow is an understatement, like the Black River delta, dropping one grain of sand at a time on the delta… while there is swift water flowing over the Ballyshannon dam weir at Belleek.

The inquisitive nature of mine has been satisfied by meeting Kevin’s plant friend earlier before getting to Clancy’s to get internet. The Leitrim glens writers write about themselves and their neighbours… There are so many glens, and so many Glen writers, that an essay on conversation design is precisely what is needed, and like any good guru… start with a few tips.

Conjecture on the side of absurdity… Really listen… Speak slowly… Really leave gaps… lots of them… so many in fact that other people help you fill them in, unlike the potholes. There is not even one at the end of the path up to his house, this putative engineers house. Filled in. I am loosing my touch as a reporter. There were so many conversations today, the bullocks, the rams, the sheep that were loose, the internet, the dog peed ending, and other potential conversation gambits… he must have read lichenfoxie… all the while you could have picked up on anyone of the hurling moves to play long rally tennis conversations with.

You have really arrived in Corracloona a year and a half… She is, a reader is, a long conversationalist… practised on the telephone while walking, you can tell by the breathing pattern in time with the steps sonogram, of a flute player, writers cannot keep up… unlike hurlers… that walk the lanes of Corracloona perchance whom you might meet… labelled on a post box, and strike up a conversation… if the y are in the humour… vary your pace… weather… the trees… a question… arrest them with a question… may I see your licence please… the dogs… no I am not the guard… all over the place… writing, reading, talking, reporting, over-talking not over-taking, drawing people out, winkling like a newsagent from Athy, Winkles, fishing… Fishing skills for beginners.

People are vying to talk. We have a writer, not great, not bad, but a story about a midge, eating you… So now we need a guide to the conversations we are having… confessions make us busy. I could imagine a priest saying that. They do not have anything to do but reach out for a sage metaphor, and they train for seven years, not to utter a put down… about conversation design.

Not that there has been a train to the ballroom since 1950 something. Which brings me to the next conversation… Blacklion… Nevins’s Cistin.  And Ben’s Madrid waiting… and onward to find himself… Handy with livestock he is… That’s the thing Priests train for seven years… and there is the Turin Shroud in the letterbox…

Community is built with people… and conversations… free conversations… not inhibited, controlling ones… conversation design can get in the way, and that only gets you so far… out with it… tonally apposite, before you go running, tonally appropriate conversation gambits.

Conversation is a skill for the quiet ones, that all at once we do at once, and do not practice enough, in our isolation in the glens of North Leitrim. Conversational design, a subsection of a subsection of an article on offences against the person act… My… Trump is good… as a guru… His downfall perhaps… the Hippocratic oath… never do harm… with your utterance… Then you are on the correct path… shining… These ellipses, the three dots are great… my favourite punctuation, after commas, and full stops.

Ellipses an opening to allow you to sing along with an Ed Sheeran song, where if you listen and try to sing along, he leaves no room for conversation… Which is precisely the reason he is so popular, perhaps… And everyone walking with headphones must be listening to, whom are difficult to approach with a booming 20 yard opening, conversationally designed, gambit. Not that I have a tape, download, podcast, or cd of Ed Sheeran songs, apart having heard on the radio a story about a something or other lineman, mid east coast America a bit over out west. Not far from Nashville, Tennessee.

No internet is a luxury, for a writer. We go to Clancy’s or the other way into Kilty to send our e-mails. We share a computer. In the house, I have just a pencil, a quiver of them, ready to write. Corracloona style, Gan Gam. Nom nom, nom. Our organic vegetables survived the frost, as I watched over them, as the vegetables read the small print on the Irish Times, repurposed to protect them from Frost, until the morning came. Reading the Irish Times in their minds eye, plants, each plumule and radicle, frost sensitively reading the headlines, Covid 19 reports, and our reporter here in Corracloona, some cadences from lichenfoxie, like a water flea detective…

Yours sincerely

Is mise.

Lichenfoxie, the uncouth pronunciation.

P.S.

I forgot to type in page 7 from my double-sided 14 page pencil script. Now here we are.

Two mistakes, co-segmentation is a disaster… One slip in my amnesiacal memory is one thing, but over talking and inhibiting conversation is another. The dog who was a handful had stopped being one. Dogs are a great judge of character, like in wanderly wagon.

All this is too frenetic, four people, one dog being playful. You have to be stable and focus on the point of view. Jumping point of view is a disaster. The conversational design was maturing and the itchiness to get home was returning, I could see it.

P.P.S.

In reaction to other conversations, and other local readers, I need to write more, to catch up with our public written lichenfoxie persona. Had I told him about the story about the midges of Corracloona? The story with the overblown militarist reference points, not that I would not be militaristic if I was thinking like a midge and be sorrowful and resentful about all the offences against the midge by bats and their below attic house habitants, with their carbon dioxide machines, sweet as the dioxide of a deer’s breath, that lure them to bog myrtle paths on the slopes of Thur Mountain, where swallows drink the summer raindrops and where along streams we go on the hunt for sweathouses. Which is so bats, it is the normal state for a North Leitrim glen Buddhist writer, Hippocratic oath, catharsis for the reader2, and all that.

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