Challenging Times

Heavy medal!

Is it just me, or are medals getting heavier and heavier? In the good old days of the Community Games, you would get a little metal object that you could close your small, sweaty fist around. If you did particularly well, you might get a plaque. As a young lad, this was the highlight of the year for me. It was held in the Summer over a weekend. Heats on a Saturday, finals on a Sunday. And a parade too! What luxury. I’ve written about this before, and here’s the link.

(As an aside, I see there is now a website for the Games. Although it resembles a cyber version of the Marie Celeste; like so many other sites, frozen in time. The last action seems to be 2019. It’s also sponsored by Aldi – one of the two large German supermarket chains. The first line of the official site reads: Aldi Community Games was founded in 1967. That’s 51 years ago! Well, let’s just resolve that little bit of cheekiness, shall we. They may be sponsoring the games now, but for many years, it trundled on largely due to the great volunteers in each community. If you took the Wiki page seriously, you would assume Aldi have been an integral part of Irish life for over 50 years. Their first Irish store opened in 1999, and even then, it took a while to build their brand. This current Aldi sponsorship is, I am sure, welcomed by the sporting community, but rather over-eggs the pudding. In fact, it positively takes the piss. There is the obligatory message on the home page too: The organisation is child-centred and the focus is on participation rather than winning. Children take part in friendly rivalry, in a fun and healthy way. Ah yeah. I’m sure we couldn’t have cared less back then. Not at the finals on Sunday? Oh dear. For a ten year old, that was a disaster).

This all came back to me this weekend as I finally hung the Charlie Curran Memorial Run medal on the wall. It was a race I had signed up for at the end of last year, and as is the way these days, it was a virtual run. Not that you can do a virtual run from the comfort of your office; you still have to get out there and do it. It is normally held on the 31st of January, and the organisers just left us to our own devices. Run anytime in January. Log your miles. Thanks.

The medal arrived before Christmas. I had thought I would do a half-marathon. In the end, I did about 18k around the town. But certainly the first time I was given a medal before I had done the race. Strange times indeed.

But yes, the medal is heavy. Indeed, all the medals are quite heavy. It’s largely down to the ability of the industry to produce these quite elaborate designs with lots of colour, and matching ribbons. I’m starting to miss the old days…

Anyway, ever the optimist, I signed up for yet another virtual run thing. This one is closer to home, and will raise funds for our local GAA club. It’s a two-week challenge. Run as much as you can for two weeks, starting today. Yes, quite cruel to start on Valentine’s Day, but then I suppose we should not forget that the saint was dragged through the streets, beaten with clubs and beheaded. I suspect he may have forgotten to get the flowers…

So this morning, I arose early about 6.30am and headed off into the park. The snow promised for the country had not arrived in these parts, adding yet another layer of gloom on an already gloomy populace. Instead, we had freezing rain, hail, graupel (yes, it’s a thing) and plenty of wind. But this morning as I set off, it was not as cold as it had been this week, and I had perhaps over-dressed. Still, better to be shedding it than regretting leaving it at home.

As I was on my tod, I was listening to the radio. Early Sunday morning listening can be something of a lottery. At that tender hour, the DJ was playing some swing jazz numbers. In fairness, it was easy listening. I trotted on out through the park and onto the canal towpath. Despite the weather of late, it was holding up quite well, and wasn’t the mudpath I was expecting. Along the way, in addition to the ubiquitous Mallards with their heads tucked into their bodies (classic avian indifference), a Grey Heron and a few juvenile Mute Swans, there was a Buzzard in the fields to my right, circling low over the scrub, looking for breakfast, no doubt, and a Cormorant on the banks who plopped into the water as I passed. A journeyman from the seashore, and not your usual canal visitor.

Despite the strong wind at my back, I was warming up, and needed to lose a few items for a little thermoregulation. I doubled back to the fire station where I had left my keys to use the loo, and retraced my steps in the park. Crossing the Liffey for the first time gave me about 10k. I plodded on towards Lucan and joined Tubber Lane. The name comes from the Irish word for a well – tobair. And to this day, there is a strong little stream flowing off the wide, open hinterland to the west of the town, all of which joins the Liffey. No doubt there was a useful water source here for the locals. Not that anyone would dream of fetching their water from a stream these days. Not around these parts anyway.

If you look very carefully, you can see the State Labs in the distance, in the centre of the picture.

As the lane rises up out of the town environs, the countryside opens up. Off in the distance I can see the gleaming spires of the State Labs. And when I say spires, I mean stainless steel risers for the boilers and other bits of civil engineering. To my left is a run-down old farmhouse. Gloriously picturesque but doomed to crumble. In my lifetime, the townland of Lucan has been creeping inexorably towards Leixlip and Celbridge. Indeed, it’s expanding in all directions. Few fields remain between many of the towns and villages in these parts. Two fields back from this spot is a large new development of houses and apartments, and I cross the early stages of a link road which will bring yet more traffic onto the already busy Celbridge Road that leads to the motorway and Dublin. It’s quite the visual juxtaposition; the old stone crumbling-into-the-ground farmhouse and outbuildings, and the state-of-the-art labs down the road.

The primroses I spotted a couple of weeks ago are still in bloom. Shot their bolt, perhaps. In the end, flowers bloom to continue their species. Even if we as a species ourselves will cut off their heads by the millions this weekend for some vague notion about some vague saint who in turn had their own head cut off. But I digress. The point is, if flowers are out of sync, and bloom too soon, the insects they need for pollination are not around.

This is not the actual letterbox…

On we trundle, crossing the normally busy R403 at Young’s Cross. To the left, set into the wall, is a postbox. Nothing unusual about that, per se, other than it’s one of the old ER types. ER stands for Edwardus Rex, who was king of England after Victoria, being her eldest son. Despite all the turmoil in Ireland since the Brits arrived and took over the place (I am being deliberately mischievous here), the stout and rather practical design of the cast iron letterboxes has stood the test of time. And in another display of practicality, the new Irish government, post-independence, just painted them green. No doubt there is many a dissertation on the topic, and you could get great mileage out of the allegorical, cultural and symbolic meaning of it all. For me, I was still trundling, and my mind was bent on rambling, as the song goes. So I didn’t stop to take a photo. Instead, I have robbed one from the internet. After all, what’s the internet for, if not wanton theft and careless breaches of copyright.

I cross the Liffey once more, and turn left in Castletown. It’s more to make up the mileage. I’m not really in sight-seeing mood today, nor is the weather conducive to stopping and admiring the scenery and taking some photos. Once out the other side of the demesne, I am across the motorway and heading down the link road which leads to Matt Goff Bridge. On my right is Leixlip Gate. As I pass a grassy access road to the fields below, I get the distinctive tangy aroma of silage. A small herd of cattle are huddled around a feeder, getting some much-needed nourishment. I know this whole green space will be lost to housing in the next few years. COVID in fact would have been its stay of execution. And as with all developers and planning, they sought permission for x amount of units, and once granted, went back for a second bite and shoe-horned in a few more. The fact that they keep doing this and getting away with it speaks volumes about the shoddy planning system we have here in Ireland.

I think about how the town has changed. A mile or so back is one of the finest Palladian-style Georgian houses in the country, and ahead, Intel. Each a monument in its own way to a certain kind of wealth and power.

The radio programme at this stage has switched to an RTE Sunday morning classic called Sunday Miscellany. It’s a smörgåsbord of items. Mini-documentaries, short stories, music, poetry; it’s always interesting. Sure; it does smack of affluent Dublin. You won’t hear the GAA scores on Sunday Miscellany. Even the intro music is posh: Galliard Ballagia’s piece for brass is about 400 years old. But it kept me company as the time passed, and before long I was wending my home. 23 kilometres all told. My first shot across the bows.

A hot bath was required, but not before S and I exchanged cards and gifts. Yes indeed, it’s Valentine’s Day, as you know 😉

One unplanned for result of hanging the bird feeders at the back door is that we have accidentally encouraged mice to roam freely and feed happily on all the spillages of seed and fat. And indeed, they look quite healthy!
And if you want a dog to do a bit mouse-hunting, then I don’t recommend a greyhound…

12 thoughts on “Challenging Times

  1. Great post, very descriptive. You didn’t miss much with the snow this time. We had it yesterday and it was wet and horrible combined with the very strong winds. Glad to see the back of it again. Graupel is now one of my favourite words, having heard it for the first time just last week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. ahhh, yes, training… well MdS been postponed again, ankle still playing up, early tris all cancelled… and Ive been a lazy bugger. Trying to find some motivation to get back out there. Your descriptive posts help the juices boil a bit :))

        Liked by 1 person

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