Painted Into A Corner

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I think I’m lost

You’re finally clearing out the shed or the cupboard under the stairs – what do you always find? One unfinished tin of every single colour paint you’ve ever used. These things build up – indeed it’s actually illegal just to throw them away. Paint is hazardous waste now. Hazardous to whom or what I am unclear, but I can sort of imagine why it shouldn’t just be poured down the drain. If nothing else, the sewers would look a mess. So what can you do with it?

If you live in Galway City, the simple answer is: Nothing. There is no way of legally disposing of a tin of paint. The city used to offer a facility, but that’s closed temporarily. Temporarily since last October. I quote from the City Council site:

In the interim people are encouraged to use up all paints, clean container thoroughly at which point the empty clean container can be placed in the household recycling bin.

So I did one gatepost in blue, the other two-thirds orange and one-third cream. Then I removed the dried paint residue from those tins with a gallon of white spirit, four hours scrubbing, and some fire. There were still quite a few tins left though and I was getting tired. Was there nowhere else?

I looked to the county, and found that all Galway has turned its recycling over to local commercial interest Barna Waste. Who of course charge for disposal – not a great advert for our new property taxes that, but at least there’s somewhere to go. According to the website, the nearest facility is in Tuam – a town about twenty miles away. But where exactly in Tuam?

I turn to Google maps, but no combination of terms like Tuam, Galway, County, Council, hazardous, waste, disposal and recycling found anything. Well, you don’t expect Google Maps to know where everything in the world is. OK you do. What drove me nuts though is that most searches returned just a single result – every one of them a commercial entity, and frequently nothing whatsoever to do with waste disposal. It was, in short, about as useful as a slap in the face. There have been a lot of changes with Google Maps recently, and I’m not sure they’re for the better.

Much of the blame though must go to Barna Waste. They have a lovely website, with nice pictures of all the kinds of rubbish you can bring to any of their luxurious dumps across the county. Nowhere though do they actually give addresses for any of these, other than their home base. The County Council meanwhile hides the address on a Word document you have to download – and even then the sum total of information is “Athenry Rd”, a seventeen-mile route. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Google has no freaking idea where this place is. Took me half an hour of driving around to find it myself.

By which time it was closed, of course.

Addresses, people. Put addresses on your websites if you want people to visit. I know we live in the Internet age, but some things still actually need to be physically moved. Crap especially.

Beaten Off The Track

Well damn you, College. Three weeks I’ve been going now, three colds I’ve caught. I’d swear the place is one vast Petri dish. I have a fever, a sore throat, a bad attitude. I’ve been taking Lemsip and acinacea by the cupped handful, but it just seems to get worse.

So here’s a picture I took in Tuam the other day. I was going to save it to illustrate some article on slow work progress, or lack of investment in infrastructure, or… I don’t know, something an overgrown railway track would illustrate. But actually, it doesn’t do a bad job of representing my mental processes right now.

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?

Public-Private Folly

If they were all like this I wouldn’t mind so much

And one of the biggest such partnership plans touches close to my home: The Gort-Tuam motorway. Yes, you read me right. Those are the words I actually wrote down there. A motorway, from Gort to Tuam. We have built a lot of decent roads in this country in the last decade or so, and I’m sure they all stimulated a great deal of economic activity. We needed them, they were a good investment. But you see what’s happened now, don’t you?

We’ve run out of places to build motorways to.

What puzzles me is how the private partners can hope to make a return on a new faster route between two such non-urgent points. I can only think of one way: They build the motorway over the existing road, giving people who actually have to get from Gort to Tuam (poor benighted souls) little choice except to pay. This is a worrying precedent. If it continues, free roads all over the country will be paved over with new pay-roads; in some cases, right up to our doors (perhaps). This will have the effect of transferring immense amounts of money from the general population to a few wealthy investors, but apparently that is what governments are for now.

When you think about it though, these roads don’t have to make a profit. They don’t have to be completed even. All they have to do is create economic activity. You realise what that is, don’t you. We’ve had it before, during the Famine. Landlords who believed that free food created what the rich like to call a “moral hazard” gave their starving tenants pointless tasks to perform. Sometimes they’d build a mad monument to nothing, a tower in a valley maybe, a brand new ruin. Sometimes, it would be a road.

This is a whole new class of folly: Faster, wider, vastly more pointless. A Famine Freeway, if you will.

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.

Danger Is My Middle Name!

French Horn
Galway Traffic? You'll Need One Of These

Unfortunately, my first and last names are “Runsawayfrom” and “Likealittlekitten”. But I can get that changed by deed poll now. I have proved my manhood.

So what fine, brave, reckless thing did I do? Perhaps you should sit down, or else these words might make you stumble. Gentle reader, I drove in Galway City.

I’d been putting that one off. Encircled by roundabouts, fiercely peppered with student bicycles, crammed up a one-way system rumoured to be based on the French horn, Galway is famously difficult for the inexperienced. And I am certainly that. Though I have in fact driven in Galway traffic before, it was twenty-five years ago when there were hardly any one-way streets and no roundabouts at all. The good old days, before the planners ruined it. By planning for all the cars people went and bought.

My only real experience with the traffic circle therefore was in our ecclesiastical capital Tuam, where they’re mostly of the mini variety. You know, those marked-on-the-ground ones that you can drive straight through if you’re not in the mood. Did I mention I failed my test? Anyway the ones in Galway City are big, with two or – for one particularly confusing segment – three lanes. To someone ignorant of the simple principles involved, they seem impossibly dangerous. Six months ago, I was that someone.

It was OK, he said nonchalantly. Not easy, but not the ballet of knives it appears to be either. Mirrors are your friends. No wait, they’re not your friends. They’re your enemies. Watch them. Basically the town driving is about the constant swivel-headed vigilance. All you need to do is look in as many directions as possible simultaneously.

I did get tooted, but just once – not bad for a first time. I deserved it too, I cut someone up. And yet somehow I don’t feel too bad about this. Possibly because it was a white van.