When The Road Hits Back

Wheels CartoonYou remember just after Christmas I was complaining about the potholes in Corrandulla village? Perhaps I should have given credit to the County Council for getting them all patched just a week or so later.

Bloody glad I didn’t though, because the fucking things are back already. What did they use to fill them, loose gravel and spit? Once again, a drive to the shops is more like an amphibious assault up a defended beach.

It’s damaged our car. One of the headlights has failed. At least, I thought it had. I was just going to remove the bulb today to find a replacement, but wisely I gave it one final test first. (OK, I’d forgotten which one had blown.) Weirdly, it worked this time.

A little investigating, and I notice the right bulb connector is hot. Much too hot – melted and blackened. It must have come loose and been shorting. I pushed it back on tightly and it seems to be working all right since, but it will need to be replaced. And soon, because the NCT¹ is coming up and they probably don’t take kindly to a burning smell coming from the engine compartment.

I can’t prove it was the potholes that shook it loose of course. It might have been, say, trained enemy marmosets.

What worries me more is the other roads they repaired, particularly the one between here and Headford. This is my favourite local drive. It’s excellent exercise for the learner, full of blind bends, blind hills, a hidden entrance or two, turns with lousy camber. Sometimes all these at once. Challenging. OK, dangerous. Certainly, plenty dangerous enough without the extra hazard of holes big enough to bite a wheel off.

They still haven’t finished repairing it. If it’s being done to the same quality as Corrandulla, then logically they are never going to finish.

  1. National Car Test. That was an easy one, wasn’t it?

It’s A White Christmas, Dammit

An end to global warming? No. Climate is what happens over centuries, this is bad weather. At least people call it that – I happen to like the snow. The chief reason I like the snow is that it is not rain. If something cold must fall from the sky during the winter months, I prefer if it’s the one that brushes off.

And there’s the fact that it’s beautiful too, that helps. I know, a lot of people hate it for solid, practical reasons. It’s dangerous – well yes, but I bet deaths and injuries will be down compared to our usual Christmas carnage. Transport is buggered it is true. A friend of mine is trapped in Paris as we speak, another in San Francisco – I’d really like it if they could make it home for Christmas. Shops are going to be insane of course. If forecasters are to be believed and the snow won’t clear until Christmas Eve, all of Connacht is going to be in town for a last-minute shopping frenzy. I urge you who actually live here to get your shopping done before then, while there are still things left to get. Loved ones are puzzled and rarely pleased by a gift-wrapped supermarket shelf.

It has been inconvenient for me. I’m trying to learn to drive right now, and obviously you can’t really practise anything much in this weather. Apart from skid control. A lot of skid control. And as I was saying the other week, if I’m out of town it’s a mile walk on a Teflon pan to get to the bus. There still seems to be little sign of gritting from the County Council. I don’t say no sign – there is a light scattering of rock bits on the road just outside, at a density of maybe two gravicular particles per square footfall. Looks like they’re trying to make their precious dirt supplies last through the winter, but I’m not entirely sure what good so little actually does. I had to get outdoors early this morning to take delivery of a Christmas present – the house is so well hidden that you have to walk down to the road if you don’t want couriers to get lost. (Note to online retailers: I will buy from the one of you who clearly says “Will deliver by genuine actual post”.) He called for directions at 7.55. I had been asleep less than four hours at that point, so I wasn’t too clear at first about where he was – or indeed, where I was – but it transpired that he was just two miles away. He said he’d call back when he was close. He did. Half an hour later.

But wouldn’t it be good if this became our regular winter weather for a while? Yes I’m serious. It could be lovely – if we actually planned for it. If we could arrange not to need to fly the week before Christmas, if we actually could get our shopping done and supplies in. If the weather enforced on us that break from our hectic and ill-considered lives that we never seem to find time to take. We could have some, you know, Peace. On Earth.


The First Column – Summer ’95

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Well that’s enough of summer for another decade. You know it’s the kids I feel sorry for. Not only will it seem like the summers were warmer when they were young, it’ll be true.

On the other hand it might be a trend, in which case it’ll boost tourism no end – and bankrupt the country. That’s right, didn’t you hear? Tourists cost the Western Health Board two million in excess of what it normally forks out. Apparently one of the many things tourists appreciate about Galway is our falling over. They come from all over the world to trip up here. And of course, collide with other vehicles when they forget which side to drive on because we, the British and – bizarrely – the Japanese all persist in going down the other side of the road from everybody else. One Councillor has proposed putting signs up all over the airports and ferry terminals to remind foreign drivers, presumably in all three hundred or so written languages there are in the world apart from English, Irish and Japanese. But I can’t see it making a lot of difference frankly. I mean, if a stream of oncoming traffic isn’t going to make you think, what is?

And it isn’t that the visitor just arrives from Germany say and blithely heads off down the wrong side of the road. At this stage, ‘Links, Links, Links’ is running through the head like a mantra, they’re trembling and sweating at the disorientating new experience, the subconscious is screaming this is all wrong this is a mirror I am actually driving backwards help! But soon they get used to it and begin to relax. After a few days in Ireland, it’s almost  like home.

And a few days after that, they pull out into a road merrily forgetting it isn’t home.

Speaking of causality, a concept from physics and a very common typing error for casualty, I was in there last week and the service was wonderful. Came in an ambulance with my foot all cut up, and they had me hobbling out again in less than an hour. You see I was walking around in the river, just by the Spanish Arch. Because I dropped my keys in. Don’t try it, it’s full of broken glass there. Of course I should have known that – only I hadn’t slept the night before and at the time nothing seemed more natural than to walk in the water. The way I felt, I almost walked on it. Anyway, I sliced a toe open right to the bone. Didn’t hurt much; in fact I was highly amused by the whole thing. “Hey, look at all this blood! Doesn’t it clash with the grass?” A couple of friends were down from Dublin, and I reckon I went to commendable lengths to entertain them. How often do you get a ride in an ambulance? Anyway, in casualty they X-rated my foot – not a typing error, that was on account of the gore – did it up with paper and glue, (yeah, paper and glue) and sent me off in high spirits.

Very high. Thanks to my lower brain’s mistaken idea that lack of sleep in combination with a deep wound meant I was in a war or something and needed all the chemical help I could get, I was feeling no pain. But they gave me painkillers anyway. (Actually, the injection of painkillers in the backside was the only part that did hurt.) So seeing as there was already a party going on in my body I went out, got drunk and stayed up until three in the morning. Did I ever mention that nobody will sell me health insurance?

You go and do something totally stupid, they give you an injection of really nice stuff. It’s no lesson in life, but it’s a great service and an entertaining way to spend the afternoon. No wonder it’s so popular with tourists.

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