BBC HomeExplore the BBC

11 July 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Get Writing NI

BBC Homepage

BBC NI Learning


Get Writing NI

Writers Showcase

Established Local Writers

Local Writing Legends


The Book of Irish Writers

Rhythm & Rhyme

Study Ireland

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

Writers Showcase
Mark Cooper
Mark Cooper

Born in Manchester, raised on the Isle of Man. Have lived in Belfast for last 11 years and love the place, the people, the craic. Writing poetry is release, of experiences, ideas and feelings: It is also escapism. Initial writing was precipitated by the birth of my first niece, and as a result a significant proportion of my poetry could be classified as childrens. Most recently, three poems appear in Speech Therapy (Issue 2), including 'Ladybirds Jewels' which earned me a place in the final of the Belfast Poetry Cup 2006 . A poem recounting the fortunes of a vagrant called ‘Fivedogs’ appears in Citizen32, and is my first magazine publication.

Road Rugby by Mark R. Cooper

Derry drizzle had dampened Andreas and Ditta’s will to shop. “We didn’t move from Berlin for the climate.” Ditta uttered through clenched teeth.
Cold balls of water had started to pinball down goose-pimpled skin. Hands freed from plastic bags worked like flippers in the smalls of their backs, desperately trying to deflect the icy water before it dripped into their underwear. The Celtic style signage of a local pub nearly enticed them indoors. Thoughts of hot whiskey entered both their minds simultaneously, but there was no money left, so it was back to the car and home.

In the car, Andreas’s face lit up “Never worry Ditta, I have just the thing for us when we get back – hotpot!”
“I’m not taking any of that stuff and nor should you, it makes your brain slow…”
“Thanks! I’m not talking that kind of pot, I’m talking potcheen.”
Ditta gave a hysterical laugh “Even worse! That stuff gets you blind drunk for three days, and when you do sober up you’re still blind!”
“No, listen, this is a finest quality batch from my secret supplier in the Sperrins. He has told me that in low concentrations, say a half mixture with hot water and dried elderberry flowers, it cures all known ills and tastes lovely. It can even cure arthritis if rubbed neat onto joints; knees, elbows, those kind of joints, not the other kind of joints in case you were thinking again. It would be very dangerous to rub potcheen on the other kind of joints - given the naked flame stroke explosive liquid thing and that.”
Staring forward with arms wrapped around her body, Ditta shivered and replied, “Stop your gibbering Andreas. I’ll try anything to warm up, but you can take the first drink. Now crank this plastic toy up and let’s get going.”

Driving along the Derry road, the drizzle evolved into steady rain and then heavy rain as they climbed into the Sperrin Mountains. Andreas’s treasured East German Trabant was just about coping with the downpour, which on previous trips had forced them to stop and wait.
Andreas tried to raise Ditta’s spirits “The scenery here is beautiful.”
“Sure, the mountains look lovely, if you’re green, slimy and into eating flies.” Ditta was still too cold to feel good about mountains she couldn’t see. “Lets take the direct route home.”
Turning off the main road, they started along the now familiar country roads. Their first encounter with these had turned into a single-track nightmare. Over an hour of driving had seen them back to the familiar Derry Road, but also pretty much back to Derry. To make matters worse, the locals, from boy racer to priest, seemed to enjoy driving outsiders off the road. Ditta had thought this was some kind of game and decided to call it road rugby.

In most cases it wasn’t that the locals wanted to scare the ‘be Jesus’ out of the unfamiliar, it was just known to them that most of the roads were in fact wide enough for two cars to pass (give or take the odd wing mirror, light, side panel……...). Before Andreas and Ditta had discovered road rugby, and the expertise to compete with established players, last minute swerves had landed them in roadside ditches at least twice. They hadn’t made their first score yet, but were now confident enough to keep an eye out for possible contenders.

“Incoming” Ditta, in a robotic voice, alerted Andreas’s to possible opposition. The car approaching was big, shiny, possibly a Mercedes, and almost certainly not a local vehicle.
“Stay on Target.” Ditta, with her hand cupped to her face, was looking very seriously ahead.
“This is road rugby Ditta, not Star Wars.”
Ditta glanced at Andreas “Stay on Target!”
Andreas positioned their car at the edge of the road and maintained a tame competition speed of about twenty kilometres an hour. Drawing closer they could see that the other car was indeed a Mercedes full of tourists. The driver, a man in his early fifties, looked stressed. The front seat passenger, a younger looking lady, held up a map that filled most of the windscreen. There also appeared to be a couple in the back of the car, who were merrily pointing out towards farm houses and to what could be seen of the surrounding mountains. As the cars neared, the Mercedes lady lowered the map, her face showing increasing concern, paper crumpling to her chest. The backseat passengers were now solely stabbing fingers forwards. Unfortunately, determination and pleasure were written all over the driver’s face. He made no sign of moving aside and he didn’t look like he was for stopping.
“Stay on Target!”
“Ditta I’m not sure I like the loo…” Metres before impact Andreas gave in. He swerved the Trabant into the ditch. They came to a sudden jerk of a stop; peaty mud splattered across the windscreen.
“Ditta, are you OK?”
“Your not a Jedi then?”
Andreas shook his head. Ditta looked disappointed.
The Mercedes drove on, maintaining its speed, the passengers returning to their previous roles. Andreas had turned around to watch the car disappear and had caught glimpses of the driver’s gleeful face in his rear view mirror. “Aye, big, stupid boys don’t need to know the rules to be good at road rugby, they just run with the ball!”

Only one of the front wheels was in the ditch, but it needed Andreas to stand on the back bumper to get the Trabant back on the road. The fibreglass body of the car had saved it from injury (which secretly pleased Andreas). They carried on towards home, but with confidence dented they pulled over and stopped for all other road rugby opponents, which seemed to please the locals at least.

What do you think of this piece? Email
Please enclose the title of the work and the name of the author.

The BBC will display as many of the comments as possible on the page of commented work but we cannot guarantee to display all comments.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy