The 'Not a Heave in the Classic Sense' tour rolled into town last week, and what a blast it was for Heave Heads. There were bootlegs, T-shirts and dancing bears, and you were never more than five minutes away from a radio interview with group leader Micheál Garcia Martin.
The tour was tugging a parade of metaphors behind it (to which I've just added another. Curses). Best of all was the one from finance minister Brian Lenihan, who described himself on the News at One as being too busy in the "engine room" to have time to think about a coup.
So you've got the finance minister as black-faced urchin, shovelling coal below decks ("More steam please, Mister Lenihan!"). You've got Brian Cowen in the wheelhouse, loaded to the gunwales, singing, "If you'll give me some grog, I'll sing you a song. Way, Hey, Blow the Man Down." The Greens are on the poop deck as usual, talking about where best to position their solitary deckchair (aka the climate change bill). That leaves only one actor to play Roger the Cabin Boy, so it has to be Micheál Martin.
Martin did so many radio interviews on Monday that listeners will have begun to suspect cloning. After all, it wouldn't have been that hard to get a clone to do some of these interviews. You just programme it to say "not a heave in the classic sense" and "fire in the belly" over and over.
On Newstalk's Breakfast, Martin introduced a few inapt metaphors, but none of them stuck, certainly not once they had been outdone by the vastly superior Captain Pugwash series. He could have "walked off the pitch", he said. There was talk of "sacrificial lambs" and the usual economic "tsunami" stuff. At one point Ivan Yates even went so far as to liken the taoiseach to "a pinball". But in the end all parties pulled themselves together and settled on a nautical course.
Lamenting the fact that Brian Cowen had been more reactive than proactive, Martin said "there comes a time when you have to push the boat out and be commanding the air space". Shiver me timbers, tis not a ship at all, tis a seaplane. No wonder they can't agree.
Later in the morning, Martin appeared on The Tubridy Show (2FM). Some of his colleagues may have been wondering why he bothered, with one TD quoted in the Irish Times as saying that not many Fianna Fáil deputies listen to The Tubridy Show, but Martin would probably find that hard to believe, considering how many Fianna Fáil TDs are on Ryan Tubridy's Christmas card list.
Tubridy advised Micheál Martin to resign if Brian Cowen won the confidence motion. "I think it's untenable for you to remain in cabinet with no confidence in the taoiseach," he counselled. Give it a rest, Tubridy, will you? Avast!
Then, weirdly, he began asking Martin about the death of his daughter, a line of questioning that seemed ill-timed, unreasonable, even cruel. Soon we saw the reason for it.
"I was wondering, as a father myself, how you would pick yourself up after that. Because I know that I wouldn't... I would have to disappear, probably for a long time," said Tubridy, relishing the chance to talk about Tubridy.
Micheál Martin said he didn't think the questions were appropriate but offered to talk about it another time. He was very gracious about it. I'd have keel-hauled Tubridy, the scurvy son of a biscuit-eater.
Then, on Tuesday's News at One, Brian Lenihan was accused of having spotted the iceberg long ago. Various backbenchers had seen the finance minister snooping around amidships with a spyglass, despite his protestations about being in the engine room the whole time.
"I'm certainly getting plenty of muck on my hands but it's very important that I work in that engine room," said Lenihan. His first duty is to the country, etc etc. Under no circumstances should personal ambition prevail over the interests of the country and so on. I tell you, sanctimonious wasn't in it with him: Master Bates promotes his mission of self-love.