Presumably tired of hurling weather at us from within the atmosphere, on Wednesday the Gods decided to hurl something from space. A giant fireball was seen in the night sky as a meteor streaked through Ireland’s airspace and landed somewhere in the countryside.
The media, perhaps glad of a break from discussing that other shower were very excited by it and devoted a lot of time to the sightings. Which led several members of the Irish SmartArse Union to comment that it was the best coverage a Meteor had ever got. (Ok, possibly unfair, but think of it as payback for that ad at Christmas with the buskers…)
At the time of writing, the meteor has not been found. Just like a heavenly body on an Australian banker’s computer, it disappeared shortly after it was caught on camera. It can’t say hidden for long. According to Astronomy Ireland it was the size of a desk. If a space-desk crashed into the ground at high speed, surely it would be noticed. For one thing, there would be a large hole surrounded by all sorts of debris. The only place that wouldn’t seem unusual is on an Irish country road.
‘Dja Know What? ‘Tis like the Eighties’ has become a hackneyed phrase these days. But more and more the events and trends of today resonate with that benighted decade: unemployment, strikes, potholes. It’s like Reeling in the Years with better haircuts.
Some roads were always bad. They’ve just got worse. Even at the height of the boom when we were drinking Champagne in helicopters and snorting cocaine through a rolled up Ireland’s Own – and that was just on the way to the Holy Communion – the N73 from Mitchelstown to Mallow was a road to perdition.
But now… On the one hand there’s less road than there used to be. Unfortunately the reduction has been entirely on the surface. In Kildorrery, it looks like a team of particularly enthusiastic archeologists have been hard at work. While the secondary roads start to resemble open-cast mines, there’s no stopping the motorways. This year will see the completion of the final piece of the M7 from Cork to Dublin. While that is of course a good thing, it does have one slightly negative side effect. Men will now have nothing to talk about.
Fifteen years ago, a description of the journey from Cork to Dublin resembled an epic of Lord of the Rings proportions. Each town along the route was a terrifying obstacle to be overcome.
Frodo clasped the ring to him. It’s dark power threatened to overwhelm him. Up ahead the road grew narrow and the traffic heavy. Frodo changed into second gear. “What’s happening Master Frodo?” Sam cried in terror, clutching at his traveling companion in a slightly homoerotic way. Shadowy figures crossed in front of them from the Supermacs to the pub talking loudly in a harsh yet strangely flat dialect.
“Monasterevin” said Frodo, “My dear friend, this may be our hardest challenge yet”
If you were at a wedding and knew nobody, you would soon find yourself being welcomed into the warm bosom of a group if they heard you had just travelled on the Cork Dublin road. Men gathered around, anxious to hear about the different challenges presented by each town. Was it market day in Mitchelstown? Were the traffic lights in Fermoy being hormonal? Isn’t it mighty now since they opened the bypass around Cahir? (Actually, Mitchelstown and Cahir have the dubious distinction of being bypassed twice. They could be forgiven for being a little paranoid.) Each anecdote was lapped up. Once you get out of Cashel ’tisn’t too bad for a while. I suppose ye stopped in Urlingford. I did. We had a sangwidge in Josephines, went to the tile-it. And then the midlands. Abbeyleix, Monasterevin, Kildare.
People had a special hatred for Kildare. Especially when word got out that the bypass was delayed because there was a protection order on a group of snails whose habitat lay on the route. Commuter rage was such that even the snails were saying “look we’re grand, just give us a few bob, a spare shell and a couple of leaves. We’re not fussy at all. We’re snails.”
Each town represented a time to slow down, reflect. In fact the old journey was like an extended Stations of the Cross. You stopped. You moved a little bit and stopped again and contemplated the suffering. It’s all changed. The countryside zips by in a blur. Only Abbeyleix remains to force us to slow down and ponder the meaning of life, like Christmas Mass.
And when Abbeyleix is bypassed, what then? What will two men standing outside Croke Park waiting for Donie with the tickets talk about? Grand day. ‘Tis. Had you any trouble getting up? No. Motorway all the way. Sure ’tis grand. ‘Tis. ‘Tis. Motorway’s a grand job altogether. ‘Tis. Mighty. ‘Tis. ……Right (sigh of relief)here’s Donie with the tickets .
The epic is no more. There is no wondering. No uncertainty. The time to travel between Cork and Dublin will be equal to the distance divided by the speed. It doesn’t make for great literature.
Frodo threw the ring into the Cracks of Doom. The dark lord Sauron was defeated. He could go home.They struggled down the mountain, their hands and feet cut from the sharp rocks. But soon they were on the motorway, which now went all the way to The Shire. “The motorway is mighty isn’t it Master?” said Sam. “Tis” said Frodo,