Monday 3 June 2013

Go slow go mall

For the monoglots among us the title is a very clever attempt to meld The Irish with Béarla - go mall = slowly.  Today, everyone is being urged to ease off o the go go go pedal on the collective return home after the bank holiday weekend.  Some 20 years ago, when we lived Nort'side beyond Dublin, we decided to drop down to visit the family on the Waterford coast. Waterford City is just about 100 miles (160km) from Dublin and the journey could typically take 3 hours to complete.  So we got up really early on the Saturday morning and set off before the traffic - the Irish are not collectively 'spring out of the bed of a weekend morning' people. But somewhere out on the Naas Road, our old Vauxhall Astra started to peck and stutter.
By the time with got to Carlow at 0730hrs we felt that we could/should go no further without an intervention.  So we waited for the Opel garage to open, but were told that they weren't expecting any mechanics and perhaps we should try John McCartney down by the fire-station.  John had been open since 0830hrs as he was six days a week and he had the bonnet open in a jiffy.  He reckoned that we were getting air in the fuel line (there was a strange beige froth over the carburettor), that we'd be fine until we got home on Monday, so long as "we took it handy".  By that he meant not more than 50mph (80km/h in modern-speak), especially if the road was bumpy.

That all made eminent sense to me because 10 years before I'd been at a scientific meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica and with a couple of the other delegates decided to catch a minibus to Kingston to see something of real Jamaica.  We stood outside the hotel complex and stuck out a hand until a minibus with 8 seats pulled up.  There were already 10 people inside excluding the driver and we picked up a mother and her teenage son further down the road.  The driver was taking passengers but no prisoners and he fairly hammered along the road regardless of the ropey surface.  Well he had frothed up his fuel lines and we had an unscheduled stop opposite a roadside bar, where we had time for a Red Stripe while the bus problem resolved itself.  The next leg of the journey was up-and-up over the jungley hump in the island's centre where, with the spring-flattening payload and the hills, gravity forced us to slow down.

Fast-forward to 1993  . . . we closed our bonnet, offered Mr McCartney our heartfelt thanks and folding money, which he refused, and resumed our Southward way "taking it handy".  We arrived in time for elevensies.  On the way home the following evening, we religiously stayed below the 50mph threshold.  The traffic got thicker as it got later and nearer to Dublin but we motored along steadily even when there was open road ahead of us.  The whole journey took but 10 minutes longer than it normally did. We didn't worry about such things so much back then, but we surely saved money on fuel as well.  It was a surprising revelation: going hell-for-leather on those pre-motorway Irish roads only got you quicker up behind some old dear in an Austin A30 and unable to overtake her for 15 miles because the Waterford Road (which was in the slow process of becoming known as the N9) was so winkly.

So, just like in those bygone days: Take It Handy this evening.

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