Big Mackerel Sky

“Mackerel sky, mackerel sky. Never long wet and never long dry”

Poppies in St. Catherine’s Park

You will never waste time staring at clouds. I know folks like to wax lyrical about snowflakes and how they are all unique. Your mileage may vary. But hands up here who has ever actually seen a snowflake under a microscope? And then another, and another, just to prove the point? Anybody? No, didn’t think so. I can’t even begin to imagine how that’s done.

But clouds? Always there. Literally right over your head. And of course, there are tiny ice particles in there too, so in effect, you are sometimes looking at snowflakes, of a sort.

They are the stuff of life.

When you are looking at a mackerel sky, you are seeing either altocumulus or cirrocumulus clouds. Keen weather-eye folk will tell you the difference, and perhaps more critically, what they portend, because both mean a change is imminent, but you need a few more signs to work out what is going on up above. If you want to break it down into simple Irish weather speculation, you could say that if it isn’t raining, then just wait a while, and it will be along shortly.

On Sunday morning, I had planned a long run into Dublin’s city centre. I was going to follow the canal into the heart of Dublin’s docklands, recreating much of the run from the Royal Triathlon. It would have clocked in around 44k, there and back. But there was a last-minute change of plan, and when I arose at 5.30am and glanced at my phone, I could see I from a late text message that I didn’t have the time I needed to complete the journey and be sure to be back on call as required. No matter. One thing working in the emergency services has taught me is that a change of plan can be found somewhere on the scale between ‘probable’ and ‘inevitable’.

Sign at a field on the Clonee Road. Observe the shadow of the photographer!

So when I trekked through the park with all my gear on (all long runs now will be with as much ‘Declan’s Way’ equipment as possible) and turned left up the Clonee Road towards the canal, I was going to be turning left again towards Confey, instead of right towards the city. Into the west, if you like. I passed the scene of the previous weekend’s swim, albeit in the opposite direction. (We have reached and passed our โ‚ฌ1,000 target. I’ve added a few images from the day, most of which made the local paper).

Up ahead is the unfamiliar new landmark which I can now see from many different approaches to our town: the new stacks at Intel which are used to separate nitrogen from oxygen using air from the atmosphere. As we round the bend towards Louisa Bridge and swing south, we pass Intel on our right, and soon the burgeoning behemoth of a plant slips away as we move slowly towards Maynooth. The pace is a slow and steady one; somewhere between 6.00 and 6.15 minutes per kilometre.

I note we hit Pike Bridge at the 10k mark, which raises a wry smile. One can smile wryly to one’s self if one wishes. You are, after all, running on your own at about 7.30 on a Sunday morning when most folks are still slumbering in bed. The smile is really one of bemusement. 10k takes me from my front door to the middle of the M50 canal aqueduct; a spaghetti junction of concrete and steel that feels like a different world from the relative calm of Leixlip’s leafy towpaths. And yet here I am on the same canal, just on the edge of my hometown, and I have run the same distance. It’s just straightening out a piece of string, really. That’s all.

Here I depart the canal and take a side road towards Celbridge. A short stretch of busy road leads me back onto a quieter road which will take me past Connolly’s Folly towards Kilmacredock. The link I posted here is not a bad summation of what is classic mid-1700s folly construction in Ireland, though I note a few errors. It is not, for a start, on the grounds of Castletown Estate any more. It has also been enclosed in a fugly steel barricade, more in keeping with a Baghdad Green Zone. This means no more ‘rites of passage’ for local teens who would have climbed this monument in the past.

Connolly’s Folly

After a brief stop here for a gel, we push on, and hook up with the busy link road designed to take traffic to and from Intel to the M4 motorway. It is along this stretch, as the view opens up, that I begin to really notice the mackerel sky. It’s not that unusual a cloud formation, but this one seemed to stretch to every horizon. It was magnificent. I took some pictures, which would never do it justice.

Next port of call is Castletown House and I amble around the grounds, firstly taking in the grand entrance avenue and its many lime trees, and then left onto the river bank. Here I think it might be nice to lose my shoes for a minute or two and cool my feet in the water, but the bank where I stop is shady and cool, and not as enticing as I had thought. I take another short break at the ruins of the swimming lodge further down the bank, and record some footage for the upcoming ultra.

Out, then, from the illustrious grounds, past Batty Langley gate lodge and across the river towards Young’s Cross and on beyond the ever-expanding state labs campus. At the junction, I find the road I want to take is closed, and because I am 50% Irish and 100% stubborn, I ignore the signs and cones and push on towards Tubber Lane. I know why the road is closed: there is a new link road being built to allow traffic movements from the nearby conurbation of Adamstown, and this road bisects the lane I am on. I reach it, hoping there is not an obstacle course of chain link fencing to tackle, but as I round the corner, I see there are just a few more cones, and I can make my way across the freshly-laid tar and before long, I reach the end of the lane, and I am only minutes away from the park entrance. Here I plan to turn for home, but I have an itch to beat last week’s run total of 28k, so I push on past this gate and make my way through the old village of Lucan, and cross the Liffey once before heading up Laraghcon and into the park at Clonee Road (the entrance I passed through hours previously). I make it home just over the three hour mark with exactly 30k on the watch. A good morning’s work.

I know May’s totals are down. 160k plus for May, edging out March by a small margin, but well down on April. Not to worry. We had a wobble this month for many reasons. Back in the saddle for June, hopefully, and a good solid month should see us right.

An old fallen oak in the park
Elderflowers
Herb Robert

Whilst our lives are busy enough, we always find room for dogs. And we are currently looking at fostering another, with a view to hopefully failing miserably at that into full-on adoption. Nora Jones was a bit of an emergency foster. She’s about a year old, and we’re not sure what she is, other than she is a small lurcher. This covers a multitude. A classic mix, favoured by Traveller folk, is a terrier and a whippet or greyhound, which gives you a slim and lovely hound that can run like the wind, but also is happy getting down and dirty in hedges and ditches; in essence, a hunting dog. Greyhounds have great speed, but they can be very precious, and don’t like rolling up their dainty sleeves and getting stuck in. Terriers, on the other hand, are born to that sort of mucking about. This mix tends to be ‘hairy’ as well, as opposed to the smooth coats of a greyhound.

So we had a meet and greet in a local park, and then the next day, she came to us for much of the day, and we plan a sleepover on Thursday. (Yes, we are still talking about dogs here…). More as we go along. We obviously had a failed foster in Ernie the wonder hound (all 40kg of him) but the good news is that he has found a new permanent home, so that has cheered us up. With this in mind, we are going to play this one softly-softly, and see how it goes. She’s a live-wire, so our two oldies are going to find plenty to get grumpy about.

(P.S. The pond is now sealed. Next step is to build the margins with a variety of stone, pebble and wood. Then it’s planting time! More as it happens).

Saoirse with Nora Jones
Stereo hounds
Bonnie, hoping someone will drop their dinner…

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