Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Thelma and Louise

The road-trip has a revered place in literature. Maybe not in your literature: you may have read the entire works of Simenon or all the volumes of Proust’s √† la recherch√© du temps perdu, which don’t seem to GO anywhere. Maybe it’s my peripatetic ‘navy-brat’ childhood or my long walks through Iberia, but I like travel books. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig [prev]; One’s Company by Peter Fleming; A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby and the Lost Continent by Bill Bryson are embedded in my head not least because the last three at least made me laugh out loud. ZAMM isn’t a laughing matter but is nevertheless profound.  Of course the quintessence of road-trip in book form is Jack Kerouac’s On The Road which more or less gave the name to the genre.  And the road movie crystalizes the concept in under two hours: think Easy Rider or Thelma and Louise. Forget Bored of the Rings, though: far too much filler not enough laughs.
It’s not every week that I get a chance to go road-trip with my offspring. In 2004, The Boy and I walked the 100km from Portugal to Santiago de Compostella and my feet took years to recover from the brutal pace of day 3: 24th July 2004. Two years ago, Dau.II and I went on a journey to The Edge while making puddles in the bottom of a small boat on Lough Derg. We’re still recovering from the shared terror. This winter [can’t say this year anymore because it’s a new one] both the girls came home for Christmas which was wonderful. But all things must pass; and Dau.II had to go back to work before the New Year rush.

One of the peculiarities of Christmas gift giving within families is that, because they all love each other very much, they can get too much on the same wave-length. On my 13th Christmas I got two (2!) chemistry sets because two different rellies had recognised a developing Bob the Scientist before the recipient had recognised it in himself. Another year at about the same time, the five members of my nuclear family received twenty (20!) mugs at Christmas, some from external sources but many gifted internally. For Xmas 2016, Dau.II got a new set of four (4!) pillows to replace the ratty, lumpy, mitey, wretched things she’s been sleeping with for the last 3 years. She also got a large pair of throw cushions for her living room and the usual clatter of books, cheese, and a hot-water bottle. It would have been possible to schlep all this stuff on to the bus and off at the other end but I offered to drive her back to Cork instead. She said thanks and offered to pay me in grocer’s crates, of which her restaurant has accumulated a large and inconvenient store. Sometimes the crate has travelled so far through so many handlers and suppliers that is isn’t clear who owns the damned things.

On the last Thursday of 2016 we set off in the fore noon planning to get to Cork City by tea time. The great think about a long drive in the car is that there are no distractions (except for a bit of navigation, a bit of shopping and a bit of admiring how a crisp, sunny winter’s day impacts one’s mood) so we were able to talk round the houses about work, and life and balance; and food safety; and science and standard operating procedures SOPs; and of course the Universe and Everything.

We looked at the map and decided that rather than scudding past on the bus or being a hurry to get there in the car, we’d stop off in Ardmore, maybe the oldest ecclesiastical settlement in Ireland, and have a look at an invitingly sandy strand round the corner called Whiting Bay. And it was so. We paused in Ardmore long enough to hop widdershins on one leg round the medieval round tower [R]. Actually Not! That is a sure fire way to fall pregnant and neither of us wanted to have that happen at this time. The faded, eroded, medieval bas-relief sculptures that decorate the ruined ?cathedral? beside the tower are mournfully evocative of long, long ago. Although Ardmore is only a small village [pop about 300] we got hopelessly lost in a maze of narrow roads zig-zagging up the cliff-face but eventually escaped to Whiting Bay; which was worth seeing but not worth going to see.

As so we swept into Cork empty-handed: no buoys, no rope, no fish-boxes. But who needs fish-boxes when they are going to collect 25 fit-for-food-use grocery crates? An added bonus was that Young Bolivar, not seen since September, was working a shift in Dau.II’s restaurant and offered to help carry the crates out to the car. Just a perfick day, I’m glad I spent it with you. Damned glad we didn’t drive the car spectacularly off a cliff at the end, as well.

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