Young wans give birth to 16-stone babies, young fellas go on mad-eyed missions to the Far East, there are sex-change sensations and timetravel spectaculars as life wonkily unfolds amid the topsy-turvy steps and steeples of Cork. It'll be news to unfortunate souls who live beyond the principality of Leeside, but Irish radio's most extraordinary drama series is about to go back on the air for its eighth run. Broadcast by RTE Radio Cork, Under The Goldie Fish, a daily dollop of lunatic lunchtime soap, has built up a fanatically loyal fanbase in the second city and now questions are being asked: isn't it about time it went national?
"It'd be great if it did but it's really no big deal," says the programme's unassuming author, the dead-spit-for-Brendan-Behan Conal Creedon. "We're just very pleased with the response it gets locally." Might it be a little too Corkonian for national tastes? "Well, you could use that argument and say Coronation Street is too Manchester. And where would it leave The Streets Of San Francisco?"
Performed by a circle of local actors and produced by Aidan Stanley, Under The Goldie Fish (the title refers to the curious weather-vane on Shandon's postcard steeple) is a lesson in lowbudget radio dramatics which, though its audience is limited, has the critics gurgling with joy.
What can we expect from the new series? "It looks like being fairly mad, actually," says Creedon. "It's sort of based around this one woman who gets pregnant but it so happens that she made herself pregnant during a sex change and then there are hundreds of other stories like there's these two lads trying to watch the football on the multichannel but the battery is gone in their zapper so they wire it up to the mains and they end up being beamed into the television and they press the zapper and suddenly they're out in this field and General Custer's last stand is going on so they zap it again and they wind up in Star Trek with all the boys and they zap again and they're out at the seaside in Youghal and then . . ." Creedon only turned to writing full-time a few months back. For years, he ran a famously off-thewall laundrette on the Cork street where his family has lived for generations. Though he scribbles daily and copiously, he doesn't see himself as a writerly sort. "It's just something I enjoy, something I do all the time. I'm not precious about it. I can't understand all this writer's block stuff. I mean, if you don't want to write, don't - the world isn't waiting for you. Creedon has just completed an epic novel set in Cork, his second book after the well-received and much-awarded collection of short stories Pancho And Lefty Ride Out.
"It's a fairly complicated auld structure. It's about this fella in a flat and he's about to kill himself and his whole life starts flashing before his eyes and during this same time-frame, there're all these other people doing things around the town: there are two cops in a car, there's a prostitute upstairs, there's a fella in a chipper, there's a German someplace, there's an artist someplace else and anyway, they all wind up in your man's place at four in the morning and it's kind of sad but it's kind of funny as well. "The most difficult thing was to keep the writing simple because this fella in the story isn't very intelligent and you can't have him saying something he wouldn't say, you can't give him a thought he wouldn't think. The way he is, everything's an amazement to him."
There are plays and short stories emerging too . . . "I've had this short story knocking about for a while about this guy who's a cabinet maker and he decides that he's going to build his own coffin and he does this and starts decorating it but then he puts on a load of weight and he won't fit in the coffin so he has to start doing a bit of jogging and . . ."
Though he professes to be unambitious, Creedon realises it's time to start pushing his work towards a wider audience. "I suppose I'll have to start sending the novel around the place alright. Otherwise, what am I going to be doing? Going around saying to people `oh I'm reading this great book at the moment, I wrote it myself, it's brilliant, you can't get it in the shops.' "
Under The Goldie Fish returns to the airwaves next week. Creedon's novel, "provisionally titled `Pig's Head' " awaits a farseeing publisher.