Sunday 26 October 2014


I was out in the fresh air yesterday afternoon participating in a follow-up to a meeting which I attended in August.  That meeting was to ginger up support for protesting about an expensive scheme to change a beloved part of the local landscape.  It was held in the back room of one of the many pubs in Graignamanagh, presumably anticipating that a few handfuls of people would be interested. The seats were filled, the doorways were packed and people were spilling out into the street behind us. Yesterday we were invited to walk from Graig South along the Barrow Line past a couple of locks to Carraiglead and back to town for tea and medals. Talking of Blackdder, the other day, I was watching an episode of the new season of QI on youtube and heard Stephen Fry twitting the audience for claiming to have read George Orwell's 1984 when statistics show that a quarter of people who make such a claim have not actually read the book. I had some similar locus standi (locus ambulandi?) misgivings when 100 and some people turned up at the starting gates for the walk. You can't really have a position on whether the relevant authority should or should not change the surface of the tow-path, if you do not regularly walk that path yourself. Well of course you can, and people do, have a strongly held opinion on whether gay people should be able to marry when they haven't "been curious" themselves.  Ditto men who legislate about the status of women, installers of wheel-chair ramps, and right-to-lifers.  If but half of the 2400 people who have signed a petition protesting the desecration of the quiet grassy surface actually turned out to walk from Graig to St Mullins every weekend, then there would soon be no grassy surface.  I've walked sections of the Pennine Way in England where miles of piling and slatted walkways have been installed to combat the erosional damage of relentless footfall.
Here I am reluctantly holding one of the letters (someone had to hold up L for loafer) of a solidarity message which may cause sleep-loss and anxiety among the several elected representatives who were present on the walk or who will read about it later in the local paper. Those upside down Ls in BAΓΓOW are not Greek capital gammas but lower-case Rs: doubtless put there as a cunning plan to make people look twice at the picture. I had a lovely amble-time because a contingent from Cheekpoint turned up and we had a long and interesting chat walking along the riverside. I agreed to go back to Cheekpoint if their last two red squirrels Sciurus vulgaris needed CPR. No kingfishers Alcedo atthis yesterday but on the way back we saw a lone heron standing to attention on the top of the weir on the far side of the river. And, if not medals, there was indeed free tea and biks in the Abbey Hall afterwards - plus!!

We were obliged, out of politeness if no more, to stay there to listen to some speeches by/to the faithful. That's where I got my title: the resident people's poet urged us to refuse the label protester and wear instead a protector pin with pride. I was never a boy-scout - the tags in the socks were always the wrong colour - and I feel a little uneasy whenever the sense of solidarity and agreement gets too strong. One theme was encouraging lots of other people to walk the Barrow-line. Another was indignation that the local government wasn't doing enough, in promoting tourism for example, for Graignamanagh or Borris and the other villages abutting our humbly lovely river. When I am urged too strongly to follow a certain [grassy, silent] path, my stroppy-hackles can fluffed up, and I start to wish we could hear the other side's passionately held position. It was also disconcerting that all the speakers agreed to some extent with Waterways Ireland / Uiscebhealaí Éireann and the various county councils that "exploitation" of "the resource" was a good thing: the only thing that really separates the sides is what sort of surface to walk on. That does make a difference but could be seen as just different patterns in which to arrange the deck-chairs. What's the opposite of exploitation? Call me contrary, but that's what I want.

1 comment:

  1. Have to say that's all fair comment. For me the major issue may be the health and safety features that come with any state sponsored development. I can see, even with a sensitive and consensus led approach to the surface of the barrow way, an equally insensitive and garish fencing solution being installed to "protect" errant walkers from a prod of a sceach bush or toppling into a swollen river and being washed down to Cheekpoint! Great tea there yesterday, better company