The Angry Corrie 20: Oct-Dec 1994
Down for the day in Dunloe, with Jimmy Glum
It's been a long, long time - most TAC readers weren't even born when he last appeared within these pages - but Jimmy Glum is back, and he's Down for the day in Dunloe:
Hello there again. How are you?
What do you mean, "again"? You query back, we've never heard of you in the first instance. Phwat is yer nam? I ask on your behalf, Moi nam is Jams O'Glum, sors, I also reply.
I have returned from a short stay in the Republic of Ireland with my wife, Mona, who also returned.
I believe the general term is, "holiday" more accurately, "holidays". Of course, you already know the derivation of this word is from holy day, as Ireland is a holy place (and also crinkly and rumply and patchy) it seemed particularly apposite to go there.
I commenced these holy days, as a wholly weary (and coincidentally, crinkly and rumply and patchy) dried up neurone fart weighing unimaginable tons. Ironically, had it not been for this unimaginable element, the plane could never have left Glasgow.
Are you with me? Do you "understand"? Please, only if you understand massively should you continue to read, this is not a story. C'est ne pas une histoire. This is the literary truth.
Anyway, hills. Mona is at best ambivalent about them. If one can guarantee the following; sunshine, no insects, well appointed lavatories at regular (ie one per mile) intervals, food and drink, minimal gradients, stunning views and a casual pace, then she is your girl for the hard life, to be sure. If not, on the other bootsur, then no elemental terror can compare to the displeasure of this spleenette.
As I had insisted, at Mona's inception of the "holidays" notion, that hills were a prerequisite of my participation, in a pathetic (failed) effort to balk the project in toto, I was aware of the ghastly bind I had created for myself as we hurtled through heavy precipitation towards MacGillycuddy's Reeks in beautiful County Kerry. We hurtled at the very limit of our vehicle's performance envelope and our own tolerance of naked fear, every manoeuvre on the margin of wipeout and mangled metal.
At 55 miles per hour. Thank you Nissan, for the Micra 1.0. It felt as skittery and nervous as a thoroughbred racehorse, which just goes to show how paradoxical metaphor can be.
The further west we went, the wetter it got and the puddles on the road became pools, then ponds. At one point I anxiously commented on the possibility of aquaplaning to disaster. Mona, white knuckled at the wheel, tersely observed that it was not her primary road safety concern given that she was commanding the automotive equivalent of a roller skate running on 10p coins.
I had managed, with the help of Ireland, to get us lost a few times and thus had to be uncommonly personable to herself, which is a strain and an enervation to me. Eventually, we approached the Gap of Dunloe, certainty of destination rooted in the signs that were rooted in the ould turf itself, begob.
The rain went off.
There were blue bits.
Mona got chirpy. (Can you begin to imagine a chirpy vulture?) I started to believe in the BVM2.The hills emerged from their soft and chaste raiment of cloud and stood there, with nothing on. They looked good.
In a small lay-by a figure beside a pony and trap waved us down. If Lowry had ever painted Worzel Gummidge your man at the roadside was the brother of the portrait. (But not as a young man.) A skinbag of bones covered in tweedy rags, covered in horse shit, covered in big fat flies, your man at the roadside.
My window was only half down and this prevented him from executing an evident desire to thrust his head entirely into the car. This also prevented any of the dozen or so gigantic horse flies which orbited his battered and cack encrusted skull from entering the car which in turn prevented major hysterics emanating from the missus. (This represented free will and choice on the part of the horse flies as it was notable that the only horse present was fly-less. They preferred being with your man at the roadside. Certainly the flies were big enough to be equipped with substantial neural hardware and the arising difficulty of concept versus instinct3.) Such perfection of prophylaxis however, did not exclude the banter issuing forth from the ponyman's mouth into our ears. Like the rain that had gone before, his fluidity was delivered in small, staccato parcels that pelted at one, before dripping off to some great logic sewer in the ground of thinkingness (and other vanities of mind).
"Ar yi gauin tue di gap o'Dunloe?", he enquired with urgency and hunger. Yes. "Yill bi wantin a trap den." No. He scanned the car's interior and then his glance encompassed the whole vehicle. "Yi caunt git a mothir op di road.", he stated with conviction. "Di sosspenshun." We want a walk, I said.
He had us now but no pity, only triumph, shone from his incredibly close set eyes. "Bootsur." Pardon? "Di mood is dat tik, yill naed bootsur." Yes, we have boots. He stared at us, desperation replacing certainty in his expression, obviously wondering how we had managed to get two pairs of boots into the back of the Micra. (Mona has tiny feet.)
"Mibbi yid loik ti roid a harse den?" No. Thank you for your help, we said and drove away.
About a mile further on we reached Kate Kearney's Cottage which turned out to be a conglomoration of tearooms and carparks. We got our boots on and headed up the road, a beaming, country woman approached in a warm and welcoming way, maybe this was Kate, "Dats tirty paince". She nodded towards the carpark. We paid.
The place was mobbed, mobbed and mobbed.
Next, as we breasted a short, steep rise, an area the size of a small football pitch was revealed on the left of the road containing about fifty ponies and traps with attendant ponymen. The ponymen communicated to each other in a savage, barking tongue that defies translation or transcription. The most significant sensory input was olfactory, an unbelievable stench pervaded the environs, it bore only a remote hint of what might be safely classified as horseshit. The rest was a hellbrew, sinkpit, gasping, gagging, ancient dung history of rot and wet and corruption and decay.
I turned a greenish face to Mona expecting accusation of plot or insanity on my part to get her to this least Mona-ish of places. Mmm, I love the smell of the country, she said. We were paddling through an ochre, ordure soup and it was apparent that this was indeed the track. The yellow shit road, I thought to myself. This sure ain't Kansas. I also wondered if this stinking stuff was the "tik mood" that the original, pre-emptive, trap, ambush ponyman had warned us of. I continued in wondering mode considering the cavalier disregard motorists were displaying towards their vehicles' "sosspenshun" as car after car wended past us towards the gap. A quarter of a mile on we were still in the shit when three riders came galloping round a bend towards us, with a terrifying (to me) thrashing and thundering of hooves they passed.
Mona was laughing gaily and pointing at me, I looked down to discover that the entire front of my body was closely stippled in the hideous shit slurry that had been cast up by the horses' passage (geographical and anatomical). Not a spot on her. Not one faecal fleck. It was very warm and the stuff on me quickly dried out to a pale yellow that contrasted starkly with my drab attire. I killed midges as they sunk their wee mouthparts into my arms. Nothing bit Mona. She seemed happy. I was growing increasingly befuddled. My reality map and compass were redundant. What was I doing walking up a cack-track in Ireland that was busier with traffic and humanity than the majority of roads we had been on? Especially when the hills looked so enticing and deserted. Why was Mona so jolly? We were out in the open, there were person-eating insects and filth abundantly dispersed around us and the ponyman had been a liar, liar, pants on fire. Begob, it was a strange one.
One thing was clear. "MacGillycuddy's Reeks" is the Gaelic for "ancient horse shit soup stench".
To be fair, after about a mile, the continual cack became intermittent cack. The ambulant crowds thinned, although cars, bikes, horses and traps regularly passed. An occasional novice rider provided joggling and swearing entertainment.
The rain came on softly. Although I had carefully left my cagoule in the car I was unconcerned, it was friendly, warm rain. Well it was initially. Within half an hour the body heat / saturation equilibrium was gone and the rain had become professional hill rain and the wind had picked up velocity at the expense of balminess. Very soon I was soaked to the skin and for nipple comfort was frequently obliged to peel my clinging tee-shirt away from my freezing torso. Mona was happily ensconced within a cagoule that reached to her ankles and was so roomy that it had an echo. She was quite undaunted by the weather. I noticed that cold tea seemed to be dripping off the end of her chin, helpfully I drew her attention to it. Oh, she laughed, that will just be my sun shimmer washing off. I'd heard it all.
And now we reach the peak of this dissertation, the only peak we visit. It is a peak of mighty truth or may the Big Voluptuous Mama come down on me.
Life is uncertain.