Monday, April 09, 2007

Road to Nowhere

I've been thinking about the skills and attributes that are essential for someone who is living in the Middle of Nowhere. For example, you can't really be afraid of the dark. When it gets dark out here, it gets really, really dark. No streetlights, very few house lights. If the moon isn't out, the roads are pretty much pitch black.

Another example – you have to be okay with people knowing what you do. People you don't know at all know who you are. You have heard the expression that you can't sneeze without half the village knowing about it. That's all true. I've been introduced to people here and even though I don't recognise them, they've seen me and say "Ah sure, I know you – you're the wan who runs with the dog." (Which I suppose is better than being known as "yer crazy wan who won't open the front door after dark," which is also, unfortunately, true.)

But, if I had to nominate one skill as the most necessary for a fruitful and happy Middle of Nowhere existence, it would have to be driving. The distances here are really quite extensive. It's 5 miles to the next village and 18 miles to the next town. While I could walk 5 miles (and even walk the 10 mile round trip) without any difficulties, there wouldn't be much point. The next village has everything my village has – it's the towns that have the big grocery stores, the libraries, and the movie theatres.

Saturdays are my big adventure days. I get up early and drive into Macroom to visit the Civic Amenity Site and do my big shopping for the week. Civic Amenity Site sounds so grand, doesn't it? In actuality, it is a recycling centre and garbage dump. We don't have curbside pick-up in the Middle of Nowhere – I have to drag our trash 20 miles and pay 8 euro a bag to dispose of it. (On the plus side, I am now a fiend for recycling and composting.)

I realised a few weekends ago that on the Saturday, I'd driven half-way to Dublin, but I'd only gone into Macroom for shopping and into Bandon for camogie practise. That's right – I drove a little over 100 miles in order to run errands and play my sport.

I'm not complaining though. Really. Although I hate driving in Dublin, I actually love driving down the country. (Granted, I'm not real keen on going through Bandon town which has a couple of intersections that are accidents waiting to happen.) I love the narrow, twisty roads. I love the lack of traffic.

The radio in my car is broken, so I've had a lot of time to think recently. I've decided I'm going to get a little ambitious this week. Since driving is so important to my new life down here, I'm going to go with driving as the theme of this week. One week – 7 posts about cars, driving, roads, and anything else tangentially related to anything automotive. Day 1 down – 6 more days to go.


At 9 April 2007 at 12:28, Anonymous Primal Sneeze said...

Might be a stupid question, Ann, but why Bandon for camogie? Would a club in Crookstown, Kilmurray or wherever not be closer?

No answer needed if there's a personal reason. Like if, you once pulled a bit to hard and hospitalised 10 Kilmurray players (and their 5 illegals from Crookstown) and security reasons prevent you going back there.

At 9 April 2007 at 12:58, Blogger laurie said...

ah, driving. the bane of my existence (in a big city).

i HATE freeways and love rural roads. to me, driving is never about speed. it's about the journey.

i never had any trouble driving in ireland, except figuring out roundabouts on the fly--i'd never encountered one before, and coming to one cold, with no warning of what it was, why it was, or how it worked, was a bit dicey.

i did have one baffling experience in killarney town back in the '80s--i was stopped at a red light and the guy behind me kept honking impatiently at me and when i looked in my rear-view mirror he was gesturing in a very aggressive way.

i think in retrospect he wanted to make a left-turn and perhaps i was in a turn-lane, but at the time all i could think, in m panicky way, was that red lights in killarney town meant something different from red lights anywhere else in the world.

so after he continued to honk and gesture, i just bolted through the intersection.

no crashes, no arrests, and i got him off my ass.

but i still am not entirely sure what he wanted....

At 9 April 2007 at 13:55, Blogger -Ann said...

PM - Bandon was pretty much the nearest Junior-B club I could find who played in both the League and the Championship. I could have played with Aghabellougue (or something like that, near Coachford), but their Junior-B team seemed like an afterthought and only played in the championships, I think. I didn't really want to drive into Cork City and I didn't want to sit on the sidelines for a Senior team because I am so not at that level. (The difference just between Junior B Dublin-style and Cork-style has been a difficult enough adjustment - I don't think I'd have lasted a week with a Senior team.)

So, sadly, it's a pretty mundane reason. I wish it was something exciting like what you suggested.

Laurie - My understanding was the left-turns even on red are no-nos pretty much everywhere here, but then Kerry is like a different planet.

At 10 April 2007 at 07:19, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

It sounds pretty cool. I am not sure if I could live that way for too long, I am kind of a city guy, but still.

At 11 April 2007 at 16:20, Blogger Col said...

So I'm a little late in my comment, but I have to say something because your life now is a lot like mine growing up. (Well, mostly. This was before the Internet.)

The nearest town of any size was 9 miles away. (Our nearest neighbor was half a mile away.) My school, the supermarket, movies (more like 15 miles), restaurants-- all far away. As you can imagine, I was very happy to get my driver's license at 16!

Our house was in a different area code from most of my friends, so we literally could not afford the phone calls. (This was in the days before unlimited long distance.) So I did not have the typical teenage phone experience, either.

One thing you didn't mention is that everyone is related to everyone else, or at least everyone else's cousin. So that guy Mike down at the pub? His cousin is Mary Ann, who takes care of your neighbor Betty's three children. And Betty is married to Mike's brother Jimmy. Or something like that-- eventually you'll get all the stories straight.

Anyway, finally in April of my senior year, we moved closer to town. Then it was more like 5 miles away.


At 11 April 2007 at 20:06, Blogger -Ann said...

Jack - I love visiting cities but I've decided they're not for me in the living department. I've never been so happy as I am down here.

Col - Yes, the Internet changes everything. I can make free calls on the magic Internet phone, so calling my parents is actually cheaper than calling Peter's mobile because the MIP doesn't cover Irish mobiles. You are so right about everyone being related to everyone else. The postmaster's wife is our office's receptionist and it seems like everyone in this town is her in-law! I can definitely see the downside of being a teenager in the Middle of Nowhere - but it suits my marching-comfortably-to-middle-aged self.

At 6 May 2007 at 19:24, Anonymous James said...

Have you actually got broadband in your part of back of beyondland? I'm about 10mins from Coachford myself, and have managed to get some wireless broadband only a few months ago.

Regarding the red light in Killarney - it's possible that the light was broken and permanently red, otherwise the guy behind was just mad (or recommending that you pull in because your hubcap was about to fall off).


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