Monday, May 12, 2008

The Roquefort terrorist

A while ago in this column, I urged the down-trodden citizens of Dublin 15 to take up cudgels and throw off the yoke of 800 years of oppression by seceding from Ireland and declaring an autonomous republic, tentatively titled The Principality of Castlehuddart.
The response was very encouraging with a 100% increase in membership in the past two years, though I suspect my wife is only humouring me. I daresay the take up would have been greater but for the exorbitant price of cudgels in Dunnes, which is yet another example of financial repression.
What we needed, I told my wife, was a coup.
“Cooooo!!!” she said sleepily. And thus I knew I would have to work on this by myself.
After months of feverish planning, the first blow for freedom and liberation was ready to be struck. We would announce the arrival of the Dublin 15 Liberation Army in style, grab world headlines and call on socialists around the world to rally to our cause.
So, armed with only a credit card, I entered the Ryanair website one night and purchased two return tickets to Rodez in France. This is a new addition to the Ryanair schedule and we chose it as we felt that airport security there might not be up to speed yet. It lies in the Aveyron département of southern France and is well known for being quite near other well-known regions of France.
We travelled there in mid-April, posing as tourists, ostensibly on a three day weekend break. Security, we noted on arrival, was perfunctory, with a sleepy-eyed custom official barely glancing at my proffered passport.
We checked in to our hotel in an otherwise deserted village in the Cévennes countryside and, in order to maintain our pretence, we acted like tourists. We visited the spectacular Tarn Gorge and the mediaeval hilltop village of Conques, gasped in awe at the highest viaduct in the world at Millau and then unselfconsciously made our way to the little hillside village of Roquefort sur Soulzon.
Following an EU directive – I am as yet undecided if our autonomous principality will secede from the EU or not, it probably depends on the size of the subsidies – only cheeses matured in the caves of Roquefort sur Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort. Known in France as the King of Cheeses and in Ireland as That Smelly Mouldy Stuff, Roquefort is produced by injecting penicillin found in a particular species of mushroom into the ewe’s milk cheese and allowing it to spread. I am still wondering who first thought that it might be a good idea to try that out.
Whistling with an air of complete unconcern, we made our way to the visitors’ entrance of Societé, by far the largest Roquefort producer. We paid our €3 and took the guided tour, which did not particularly add to our knowledge of the cheese making process, as neither of us had got much further than “le chat marche au bibliothéque” in our rudimentary French.
We did discover that there were three main types of Societé produced, depending upon the cellar in which they were stored. There was Original (That Smelly Mouldy Stuff) Templier (That Very Smelly Mouldy Stuff) and Baragnaudes (That Smooth Smelly Mouldy Stuff.) At the end of the tour, still whistling unselfconsciously and thus attracting a lot of curious stares, we purchased a gift box containing a 200g wedge of each of the three Roqueforts.
On the final morning, I stuffed the cheese in amongst my used socks and jocks in my hand baggage, figuring that any nosey customs official would choose discretion over valour. We donned sunglasses to make ourselves look inconspicuous – even though it had rained solidly for the three days – and drove to the airport at Rodez.
We only had cabin luggage so proceeded directly to security. My wife went first and I could see from the beads of sweat on her forehead that she was either very nervous or very warm. She got through okay and then I stepped through the metal detector. It didn’t beep and I breathed a sigh of relief which in my experience is the best thing to do with sighs of relief.
“Arriverderci!” I beamed affably at the security girl, who regarded me warily. “Is this your bag, monsieur?” she replied, indicating my holdall. “Si, si,” I answered and felt a lump in my throat, the remains of the croissant I had hurriedly devoured that morning.
“Will you open it, monsieur?” she said. I felt the cold tendrils of fear clawing at my stomach as I slowly unzipped the bag.
“And remove ze contents please.”
The game was up. Although I dallied, hoping she might get bored, she watched my every movement and the moment the three pieces of Roquefort came to light, she pounced on them with glee.
“Zees are forbidden,” she said and handed them to the guy at the x-ray machine. I couldn’t help marvelling at the technology that had allowed a machine to pinpoint cheese through myriad layers of underwear.
To my surprise, she didn’t lead me to a little room where I would be confronted by anti-terrorist police, forced to strip naked and then driven in an armoured convey to the offices of the Sûreté in Paris. Instead she just waved me through.
I clenched my right fist and yelled “Freedom for Dublin 15” at the top of my voice. Well, actually, I muttered it under my breath and stretched my arms as though yawning. Not only was my fiendish plot scuppered but I had cunningly been denied access to worldwide publicity by their failure to arrest me.
“Serves you right,” my wife said.
The plan had been simple. Under the pretence of going to the toilet, I would burst in through the cockpit doors and put the pilot out of action with the Baragnaudes. I would then hold the Original Roquefort to the co-pilot’s throat and demand to be flown to Dublin, even though that what was where the plane was bound anyway. In the meantime, my wife would hold any have-a-go heroes at bay at the cockpit door with the Templier.
We would demand the release of all Dublin 15 Liberation Army prisoners around the world and an Urbus to bring us back into the rebel heartland. The resulting publicity would advance our cause and bring the day of our glorious independence a step closer.
Later that night, at home on the Web, my wife discovered that all liquid-based foodstuffs are prohibited in hand baggage. No wonder my Roquefort had been summarily confiscated.
I am not by nature a bad-minded man but I earnestly hope that the penicillin in the Roquefort was from a faulty batch and that whichever security official got to take it home suffered violent stomach pains as a result.
Vive le fromage!

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