“I’m worried how we are going to get the vehicles out of the port without them losing their wheels or being raided for spare parts”.
The person’s comment brought memories of Dick. He lived at the end of a long dirt track where a speed of more than fifteen miles an hour threatened the suspension and the sump of a little blue Peugeot. The location and inaccessibility suited Dick; he had served in the security forces and was always mindful of the terrorist menace. He kept a loaded shotgun inside the back door and was never found in his workshop without the company of his big sable Alsatian. Those who knew the procedure knew to blow the horn and wait for Dick to come from the workshop to call the dog, which would be standing threateningly at the driver’s door of any car that arrived.
“I never support those overseas charities”, he said. “I worked in West Africa for a few years. There was one of those charities got a Land Rover sent out. I was down in the docks when they were to collect it. They wouldn’t pay money to the officials, so do you know what happened? The Land Rover got pushed off the wall into the harbour”.
At the time, the inclination was not to believe Dick; to think he had spent so long at the end of a long track that he had imagined things. Stories from various places in years since suggest that Dick’s imagination may not have been so vivid.
I tried to be helpful to the person, “I know someone who could probably get the vehicles through for you, if they were being landed further north”.
Travelling on an African road in June, two cars with what used to be called ‘trade plates’ passed in the other direction. I turned to the friend with whom I was travelling, “What are those number plates?”
“They are plates owned by a dealer. The cars are being driven up from Dar. The drivers are paid for safe delivery”.
“It is a long drive”.
“It is. It is how I saved money to get married. You got paid three hundred United States’ dollars for collecting the car from the port and bringing it safely to the owner. Travel and petrol and food cost a hundred dollars; I would make two hundred dollars on each run”.
The person went on to say that the vehicles causing her concern were not the only ones going to the African coast. There were other vehicles for delivery to my friend’s region. The following morning, I called a Dubliner with the agency getting the vehicles.
“Do you know how you are going to get them through?”
“We haven’t worked it out yet”.
“Do you know what you need? You need a cute hoor who knows about dealing with customs officials and knows about delivering vehicles”.
“That sounds the very sort of person we need – and would you be knowing such a cute hoor?”
Scruple overtook me a while later. Would it be appropriate for Christians to be in the sphere of cute hoor activity?
Professor Terry Dolan’s Hiberno-English Dictionary has the following entry:
“cute, cute hoor: adj. as in the common coll. term ‘cute hoor (=whore)’, sly person < E. ‘He’s a cute whore that fella — you’d better watch him'”.
Given the almost complete absence of reptile life in Ireland, perhaps being a ‘cute hoor’ is the nearest approximation to one being described as a ‘snake’ elsewhere.
And maybe Jesus knew what it would be like dealing with corrupt officials, he says to his followers, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”.