Note: I posted this on my travel blog in October 2019 – and thought my Random Thoughts followers might enjoy it. Don’t laugh too hard at the poetry 🙂
In Australia, roads are big! They’re long and wide. In some places, they’re extra wide where they used to be mining towns and needed the room for vehicles (horse and cart) to pass each other and for turning.
Even if you get off the highway and on to a secondary road, you really have nothing to complain about – size wise anyway. Condition and maintenance of is a different story.
In the 1970s when a child, we lived in Port Hedland, Western Australia for a few years. Often at Christmas, we’d all jump in the car (6 of us) and travel down to Perth. The road was gravel (not yet bituminised) and basically one long, straight, 1632km (1014mi) stretch. With wide open vistas. No fences or walls. Occasionally trees.
An unusual memory I have is of driving along this endless highway, in the summer sun, and coming across tiny patches of rain. Just above you for a very short spell. And then back into the sunshine.
Some years, for a change I guess, we’d go more inland via Tom Price or Marble Bar. I guess it broke up that straight line. Marble Bar has the reputation of being one of the hottest towns in Australia (I just read something that said ‘during summer, it’s quite normal for it to be the hottest town on earth). That’s extreme! 😀 We’d visit a pool there, among gorges, with Jasper banks. (Note: I’ve also read that it was first thought to be marble, and so the town was called Marble Bar, but it has since been proved to be jasper; a highly coloured cryptocrystalline variety of quartz).
Roads in Ireland, however, are narrow and winding and often slippery, with blind bends. Hindered by hedges, stone walls and ditches; by livestock and walkers and bicyclists and farm machinery, buses or trucks.
Sure, there are highways now in Ireland, just like in Australia. But for the sake of the drama, I’m not talking about them! 🙂
‘Have Leapcard, can travel!’ has been my mantra while in Ireland. In London, you have the Oyster card, Melbourne the Myki or in Perth the SmartRider (or in The Fifth Element New York, you have the Mooltipass!). This pass has me riding the buses like a local, everywhere I go. And then there are the tour companies, like Galway Touring Co, which I used this week to visit the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin.
I have to salute the Irish Bus Driver. Before they have to even deal with the weather, or roadworks, they have to deal with the roads – and that can be a nightmare. This comes from a confident Australian driver who still closes my eyes if a road train is coming toward me! (Note: A road train is truck rig (prime mover) with two or more trailers attached). (Double note: It’s more a narrowing of eyes. Please don’t tell the police that I close my eyes!).
Now, I’m no poet, but below is my heartfelt tribute to the Irish Bus Driver.
Whether driving Bus Eireann through cramped city streets
or out in the country, with tractors and sheep
or high in the cockpit of a deluxe touring coach
the Irish Bus Driver is better than most
Behind the wheel of behometh beast
a wily character upon his seat
his wits about him every day
exuding humour, come what may
The roads are narrow, winding, steep
obstacles lurk and idiots beep
the Irish Bus Driver breathes slowly, deeply
and protects his passengers, anger not creeping
He has the patience of a saint
keeps temper even, when things ain’t
conditions worsen, eyes are burning
good music plays, DJ grooving
With nerves of steel, he makes no fuss
he charms the women on the bus
reaches a hand to help the weary
has knowledge to share and is rarely dreary
His driving day is very long
from Dublin to Galway, detour by Cong
he says to his clients “meet back here by 3”
the next stop serves the sweetest tea
Of course, there’s always one who’s late
the driver must smile, and never berate
he gets points for highest of driving skills
and also, for zero ‘recorded’ kills
At the end of the day, on roads not for bussing
he gets us home safely, tired but smiling
“Thank you!” we call to our Irish Bus Driver
who continues alone. Back same time tomorrow.
As I said, not a poet! But hope you enjoyed that tribute
I’ve had only a couple of complaints about the buses in Ireland in six weeks. Both times, the bus was late or didn’t turn up. And of course it was raining.
But on the whole, the service is excellent, they are mainly on time. And the Irish Bus Driver has only always been friendly and engaging.
I dislike visiting the library in St Augustine Street. Rundown and grubby, the pungent air announces mouldy age; furniture is beige and unloved; the nameless staff appear tired and broken.
As a repository of excellence and knowledge, it is not what I expect in a modern world.
Need alone forced me, twice weekly, through the door. Armed with coffee and dreams, game face on, I’d sit in a smelly booth, staring at my untouched notebook.
This mausoleum of misery was still a refuge from the cowboy boyfriend, and his nasty put downs.
When I met Toby at our theatre group, he was a brilliant light in a fog of disillusionment. The group, once a haven of joy in a bleak world, lost first our enthusiastic director, then several inspiring actors; leading to a gloomy and disheartened ensemble. Toby was my reason for staying.
I was slow to realise that Toby was bad news. Praise turned to taunts, encouragement to disparagement. Toby was toxic and I was in trouble.
I’d joined the group not as an actor, but aspiring writer. The creative process between the writer and director was exhilarating; the pleasure of hearing your words spoken by such talented people, shared with an appreciative audience, was uplifting.
Toby was a star from the start. My male characters began to emulate Toby and fit him like a glove. Which came first; Toby the person or Toby the protagonist? Was art imitating life? I was no longer sure. Then life began to blight the page and I turned away from the star.
My friends knew first, as usually seems the case. I fought what was obvious. Clichéd, and so blind. It took the closing down of our group, now left alone with Toby, to illuminate the danger I was in.
Writing had been both solace and enchantment; it now became a weapon. Cutting words and phrases; bloody intention and madness. Words to defend, to deflect; to destroy.
Each evening I return home to see what new damage has been inflicted on the once glorious love. Fresh wounds; old scars; a man subdued and diminishing.
In the dingy cubicle, I clench my pen, bend to the page and scratch out my revenge.