M50 – Last Exit to Tallaght

Things used to be quiet for a while on the M50. There was a time you could make Dublin from Athlone in an hour and you didn’t feel electrocuted. But these days that’s all gone. The change was gradual at first. Busier at Enfield, slower at Lucan, and now it’s all wonderful chaos. That lad with his car on fire last week, and the two women arguing about the Fiesta stuck in the back of the BMW. And then there was your man that overturned the truck full of round bales. It was on the other side, outbound as they say, but it still somehow held up the traffic on the way in for two hours. Think it was from everyone slowing down to look at it and the long line of lads in trapped cars, like monkeys in road zoo cages. Some drivers get creative. Up the Hard Shoulder, skipping in and out of the traffic. I got a bad look and a BEEP! from a woman last week because I pretended I was going to Tallaght and skipped a ball of cars and then pulled back in over the white Zebra bit before you take the exit. Pure thick head on her, she’s probably still up there somewhere, BEEPING! at someone else. Other headers chance the bus lane but I’m still waiting on the NCT, and the new windscreen, and I don’t want to be drawing the guards on me in case. So now it’s WFH in Mayo. Fully remote. Computer, WiFi, kettle going full blast, how’re ya fixed for a bit of peace and quiet compared to the M50?  

But sure it was all go here too. Your man came last week and put down the seeds in the lawn Now there’s crows all over the garden trying to eat them. They’re like a crowd of out of work extras from a Hitchcock film. The oul fella is flat out trying to scare them away. He shouts out the window in a sort of garbled bird dialect, like an angry German dictator trying to order steak in a Shanghai restaurant. The birds don’t give a fuck. They were a bit afraid of the dog at the start but now they just wander around, casually eating what they see, like it’s an all you can eat buffet for birds. Eventually we located a clapper that does what it says on the tin and goes clappety clap clap, like a game of table tennis between two lads on some kinda super cocaine. It had the feeling of a light bell, reminded me of that time John Barnes rang the school bell too early for the craic and we all went back inside and missed half our small break. 33 years later and most of the class are still thick about it.

All up, it might be time to locate that windscreen. The insurance weren’t amenable to a mid policy change, and someone else said to “…try upgrading to Comprehensive…” whatever that is, but no other options besides, except the hard shoulder and a good story if the blue lights come on and they take a good look at the growing concern, like the first signs of ice breaking on a shallow lake, only a matter of time if ya don’t sort it out. Clappety clap clap. BEEEEP!

Tolls and Chicken Rolls.

When you’re in Athlone and you go to Monksland and you cross the Westmeath border, then you’re into Roscommon, which is part of Connaught, which is the first taste of madness as you go into the West. The breeze is like a tiger’s roar as you get petrol at the station just off the roundabout and prepare for the plunge into the edge of the European abyss. The roads along the way get steadily more yahoo. Time and death warp and battle over the green fields and volatile clouds. Now it’s rainy, now it’s sunny, now there’s hailstones and here’s Ballinasloe. A bulging town of something half cooked and overdone. A burst of rich elite and roaring poverty, all trying to buy chicken rolls in Corrib Oil. That hospital with all the people in pyjamas outside and the statues of the Virgin Mary and the sweetshop newsagent and the thumping stone floors like stubborn, immutable faith in Rosary beads and unsure doctors and vague tragedy and the smell of gloopy porridge.

Howya, toll. Two euro please. Fuck the toll. Often if you check the yoke down below there’s some change from the last fella that fired all his coins at it until the barrier opened. And then he fucks off in case some imaginary hidden army jumps up and Sonny Corleone’s him for taking more than two seconds to drive on. Many’s the day I checked and got a fistful of five cents, an odd golden batch of sub euro sweaty stuff and even a shiny Willy Wonka euro coin. The English and the lads from the north are cat entirely. Always throwing in pound coins some kind of 20ps that are no good to anyone but I do bring them home anyway in case they come pure rare and worth millions and sure who knows, lads. But nothing today, they’re on to me now, I think. The ones working there do have it cleaned I think and call it a tip for themselves. For watching people pay to make a thick stick go up and down all day. They must be under serious pressure. Even gave themselves a raise lately. So now when you use your card the (computerised) female voice in the speaker says: Thank You, and what you found depends on how you answer. The days I find money I say thanks yourself. The days I don’t I tell her to fuck off. She doesn’t care either way as far as I can tell so I just keep going.

On to Loughrea, passed Athenry, down the M18 and into Tuam. It’s usually dark by now and the roads get narrow and the cows are chatting among themselves in the fields while these headlights with engines breeze by going to God knows where or why. Eventually the car kind of drives itself and the windscreen turns into a cinema of stuff like lost all Irelands and great drinking sessions and lads you haven’t seen in a long time and you wonder should you ring them or do ya even feel like talking anymore, or does anyone, and after a while the petrol light comes on and the wheels talk to the tar outside in a loud friendly grumble and you’re cresting over hills and getting ready to touch down, and how’re ya fixed for a bagga chips.

Misty taste of Moonshine….

Here was the dealer stood at the gate, after him paying me €200 to take the haype of shite of a Peugeot away, now he’s going selling me a new yoke. By all accounts it was a reliable wagon, NCT and taxed with good tyres, electric windows that worked and it even had the added bonus of a dashboard. Like, you could see things like: how fast you’re going, if the indicator is on; or if it’s overheating and the engine is about to explode or is contaminated with weedkiller. All benefits, features and perks, that were noticeably absent in the Peugeot. We took it for a spin. The oul fella said: ‘Even the lights work on this one…’ and he was right. Fulls and everything. Another tick on the gem spectrum. Plus, the car had come directly to the door. There was no country road spins to bumpy car parks to horse deal in the rain about well washed scrap with Flintstones fanatics. Hard to bate it. 1.4 petrol. “…easy on juice…” and high spec for the year (15 years ago.)  

            We brought it back. Let cars go by in traffic, watch us looking at it. Clouds floated above us, people walking dogs, trees swaying lightly in the breeze. There was two keys that weren’t keys. They were some kind of sensor, activator, important pieces of black plastic with a watch battery. The real key was in the ignition and never left, but the car wouldn’t start unless you had one of the two independent keys with you. Like I said, high spec. With a dashboard. It was time to talk about money. Permutations sang in the whistling wind, monetary fairies haggled in the heavens while the real business was delayed through silence and looking at the footpath while we waited for the moment to begin. Eventually he gave a figure that was too high, and I gave a figure that was too low, and we met in the middle with the figure we all knew was probably right. Then it was logbook o’clock and he wasn’t great at writing so he asked me to fill it out while we all sat in the house. He counted the money while I did the admin. No PCP mountain of paperwork here. Just a calm old school logbook and a tenner back for luck and off ya go. A new journey in a new wagon. No distant dreary towns that smelled like oil and rubber and emigration and listening for rattles and bangs the whole way home and the ghosts of the famine laughing at you over the country walls. There was she was, already in the drive. A Ford Focus with two sorta keys and a right one inside and even a drop of petrol and a bottle of Holy Water in the glovebox. At first, I thought it was the passenger door trying to fall off but no, eventually found it, a plastic bottle of blessed lovely usice banging off the hollow plastic like a suitcase on a plane in an empty luggage compartment. Surely I must be in good hands now, might even use it some day when stuck for petrol. She’ll probably go forever on that stuff. Lot better than the fuckin Roundup anyway.