Monday 24 June 2019

Prisoners at home

Kids (perhaps particularly boys?) who live in the country are particularly precocious when it comes to machinery. From an early age, at least at midterm break, they have been in the cab of Dad's JCB or tractor paying attention. When we were rebuilding our current gaff in 1996, the 10 y.o. son of the contractor would amuse himself, and polish his arm-eye coordination, by reversing his father's 4x4 and trailer round the corner and into our gateway . . . again and again, from both directions, up and down hill. Two years later, a construction flaw blocked our septic system and needed a JCB to dig out the pipework. The same chap, now 12, drove the JCB for 30km on the public road a) because he could b) because his dad was driving the 4x4.  All fine and good fun until something goes wrong and then damage is done and the father is reprimanded, fined, imprisoned - proportional to the damage.

At about the same time, our neighbour above left his 9 y.o. son in his jeep outside our gate while he was counting sheep. The chap decided "to help" by doing a 3 point turn so that the car was facing home.  He disappeared the near-side back wheel into the drain and couldn't get it out - small red face. Naturally his father, with 40 years more experience driving vehicles in adverse circumstances, was able to extricate his wheels without seeking outside help.

For 22 years we have been sharing the lane with that same super competent, fiercely independent, quite curmudgeonly farmer. Fiercely independent involves a certain amount of not listening to advice and not caring much about collateral damage as you go about fomenting cunning plans to turn a legal penny. I've written about how 5 tonnes of sewage sludge was delivered to the lane just downhill from our front gate rather in our neighbour's field just north of our garden.  You might think he'd learn from the trouble that caused. But no, the idea of free fertiliser sent a rush of blood to his head and last week he ordered ten! 20 tonne loads of  sludge to be delivered up our narrow, steep and poorly surfaced lane from the sewage farm that services Kilkenny City 40km away to the West.

Fiercely independent doesn't ask permission or warn neighbours not to hang laundry for several days until the smell dissipates. Rather it causes a 20 y.o. fellow to be employed by a haulage company, which is under contract to Enva [was Veolia], which is under contract to Irish Water, which is under contract to Kilkenny CoCo, to pick up the first load of sludge and marry it to a set of GPS coordinates in the next county. 

First we heard about this plan was a slllooowwwly approaching rig, grinding up the lane . . . and finally bogging where the pitch changes from 8% to 12% just above our house. The driver retreated, tried again in a different gear and bogs again; gouging an inconsistency in the lane's surface into a deeper and less negotiable pot-hole. I went out to talk (calmly - getting all shouty won't help) to him and suggest that he backs his rig into our gateway and take his shit back to Kilkenny. He demurs and elects to back all the way - 300m - down the lane [don't forget the slope] and turn at the bottom onto the county road. There is about 1m clearance but the lane is not arrow-straight and definitely not flat or solid as to surface. About halfway down he contrives to push one of the 3 back wheels of his tractor trailer into the drain and cannot deliver enough traction to get out again.

The immediate consequence (nobody hurt!) is that the lane is totally blocked and are trapped in our little piece of paradise for 6 hours. Meanwhile the chap; the chap's line manager; our farming neighbour above = the sewage contractee; our farming neighbour below who has been driving machinery for 50 years; and sundry others work out how to clear the obstruction without a) killing anybody b) doing further damage to property c) damaging machinery or spilling any sludge [been there, shovelled that]. The Final Solution brought in a loader from Kilkenny and a 3.2m wide tracked digger from Wexford to push-me-pull-you the sludge trailer out of the drain and off the lane. The tracked digger had to go across three fields and two small rivers to approach the sludge truck from above. It took nearly an hour for Sludge-boy just to reverse his rig round the corner and onto the county road . . . mainly because he wouldn't listen to the advice of at least 4 much older men who had a collective 100 years of experience in such matters.

When you're young you are ignorant, because you haven't been on the planet long enough to gain knowledge and experience. But when you won't heed advice and you lack to capacity to try a new way of doing things (albeit under pressure) then people around you will start  to think you are stupid . . . and a liability. Word is that the young fellow will be let go and have to seek another line of work.

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