Tuam Raider

Tuam. Not the worst for traffic

Well here I am in sunny Tuam, for the first time really since I passed my driving test. Yes I’m sorry Tuam, I admit it, I used you. People say it’s easier here than in Galway city. After the fact, I’m not so sure. Galway traffic is insane at rush hour it’s true, but Tuam was then going through an interminable process of roadworks, diversions, temporary traffic lights and tailbacks. And though Galway has imposing roundabouts, Tuam has far too many of those ridiculous mini-roundabouts that transform a simple honest junction into a revolving door. Also, some trick signage; my instructor introduced me to a way you could fail your test without even trying. At one junction there’s a yield sign, so naturally you stop if there’s oncoming traffic. If there is no oncoming traffic, you fail your test.

How come? Because there’s a STOP line marked on the road – presumably left there from a time before the junction was demoted to a mere yield. But the indicator of the greater hazard overrides the lesser, so if you went through without stopping you’re breaking a stop sign, an instant fail, even though there’s no stop sign there. OK, it’s not part of any known test route, they’re not actually out to trick you with legal ambiguities. But with all those diversions in place, you never know your luck.

I’ve just passed a restaurant called Cré na Cille. It’s named after quite a famous novel by Máirtín Ó Cadhain, sometimes called “The Irish language Ulysses“. One  problem though. Literally, the title means “Graveyard Soil”.

I wonder what their specials are.

Speaking of tests, we have our first one coming up on the MSc course already. Well it’s a project, for the Data Analysis and Project Management module, but we will be marked on it. We’ve two weeks to get a proposal together, which includes assembling a team, creating a proposal, even devising a contract to sign for ourselves. It’s not something I mind doing, it’s just that before I do I could probably use a few lessons in, you know, project management. And data analysis.

We’ve had just two so far. I only have the sketchiest idea of what the course is even about. Project management and data analysis – you might as well say “All that businessy-computery stuff.” So I literally don’t know where to begin. I have no idea at all of what would make a good project. Or even a feasible project.

And as a part-time student, I’ve very little idea about a team either. The full-timers meet much more, and many of them will have been undergraduates together. Us part-timers meet literally one day a week. Some of us might be able to get together socially, but most not. So I’ve volunteered to create a forum or bulletin board for us, so we at least have some level of virtual presence.

I’ve done forum admin before, but I’ve never actually set one up from scratch. It’s not hard though – not at least if you rent some web space that supports the necessary technologies. I set one up last night in fact. And in the light of what I learned by doing that, I’ll be setting it up all over again today. I’m also going to suggest we create a spreadsheet of our strengths, weaknesses, and other factors, centralising the information we need to assemble project teams. A database, if you will.

Huh. Maybe I have a project idea after all.

Or would that be a metaproject?

Diary Of A Frightened Man 3

I passed! I passed my driving test! Well OK, it was just another practice run, but I practise-passed! After two abysmal practice-fails, that’s the best news I’ve had all week. I can’t describe how I feel.

Well actually I can. Tired. I feel very… tired.

I guess it’s relief. Fear of failure has been driving me for the last few days. Now it’s been alleviated a little, I’m as limp as a grounded weather balloon. Some coffee needed here I think. Also breakfast.

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I took a long walk around the town of Tuam, shaking the nuts and bolts out of my skeletomuscular system. Had a coffee and a water and a croissant with bacon and cream cheese, and finally felt… still wrecked. But taut, springy. Like after a good workout. Then more driving practice for another two or three hours. Good, but not quite attaining the relentlessness of the day before.

The danger now is that, even on this exceedingly flimsy evidence, I’ll become overconfident again. My skills are still… marginal, to put it nicely. Passing the test is going to be hard. The more I do this, the more it becomes clear that driving well is a juggling act, an exhausting task that requires absolute full-on concentration for a protracted period. And though in time juggling can become second nature, that time is not generally “By next Monday”.

And I’ve got to produce that concentration while trying to make it look like it’s already easy. The proverbial swan – serene on the surface, kicking like a bastard below. So the next few days are going to be… like this I suppose. Exhausting. I want to be able to drive right, I am determined, I believe I can do it. But I wonder if determination and belief can really galvanise me in the same way that staring failure in the face did.

There is something to be said for fear.

Diary Of A Frightened Man 1

view of a typical microsimulation 2D animation...
Oh God Help Me It's A Human-Crushing Machine

So my next driving test is heaving close and – what a surprise – I haven’t done half the work I need to. One week to get into shape. I suppose that’s about as feasible as getting into shape for anything else over one week.

OK I have been driving since the last try; virtually every day, and sometimes quite long distances. I just haven’t been test driving. So I’ve spent the last half an hour doing classic three-point turns, with the handbrake at each stop and the regulation distance from the kerb and all of that, just like they like. I’ve come to think of it as a kind of dressage – you know, that thing where they make horses behave like hovercraft. I’m a lot more comfortable with it now than I used to be. What I’m feeling weak on is road-reading, and having three or four fewer eyes than I really need.

I’ve been working on my manners too, letting people merge, smiling and waving, buying drinks. OK not the last one. This isn’t on the test, but my girlfriend is a much more experienced driver and she insists I start as I mean to go on – i.e., not like a bastard.

Don’t be worried or distressed then if I don’t write much of weight in the next week, as I spend more time behind wheels than keyboards. The Presidential election and the collapse of the world economy will have to continue without me. If you want to read the diary of a frightened man making hilarious mistakes however, stay tuned.

Today’s most egregious error: Attempting to leave a roundabout by a road that isn’t an exit.

Excuse: Whoever heard of a one-way street meeting a roundabout!? The town planners are insane.

Emergency At 2 a.m. – Aftermath

That was a new battery

So late last night, I left the house because I heard strange sounds and found what I recognised as a neighbour’s car burning in the road outside.

Disorientating. This is a quiet village, crimes don’t happen here; I don’t know when there was last even a chimney fire. But now I’m looking at a car engulfed in flames, surrounded by sleeping people.

And of course, I had no way of being sure whether the guy who owned it was still in there or not. The heat – indeed the light – made it impossible to see if there was a body inside.

I won’t keep you in suspense, he wasn’t. But it was a long time before I knew that for sure.

He hadn’t left it here of course. It had been broken into and pushed a little way from the house, we guess so they could start it out of earshot. When they found it wouldn’t start they must have torched it to hide any evidence. It wasn’t the sort of car you’d steal for resale, and it’s not probable that someone would come way out here to find one for a joyride; most likely they’d wanted a random vehicle to carry out a robbery.

Definitely no one dead there
The skeleton of a seat only

Intriguingly, another car was torched shortly after only a mile or so away. It must have been the same people, this isn’t the kind of place things like that happen ever, never mind twice a night. Maybe that was a second attempt to take a vehicle that refused to start.

I hope so. We’ve a way to go before we get to the bottom of this, but I like to think the cars of my neighbours helped foil a crime last night.