By the time we get to Newbridge, the moon will be rising...
19 Sep 2007
|"Strewth mate, it's bloody great to see a bloke in tight undies again..."
The young (and built like an all blacks rugby forward) Irish physiotherapist in Mullingar was actually from Sydney and I didn't quite know what to say to her reaction upon seeing me half dressed.
When she lifted her eyes back up to the upper part of my body, she must've noticed the perplexed expression on my face.
"Ah mate, you should see the baggy boxers that the Irish blokes all wear." She explained. "And they even wear them under their footy shorts."
Having not seen any Irish men in their underwear, I couldn't really empathise with her but after my treatment, I related the story to Marie and she agreed.
"Yes, and they wonder why they get groin strain all the time."
Ouch...that image made me cringe and cross my legs.
We were on our way to Marie's friends Cara and William who had recently moved from Dublin city to the town of Newbridge in County Kildare. Marie was looking forward to seeing their gorgeous baby boy and lovely new house. I was just looking forward to getting out of Longford.
Another mutual friend of theirs was also coming to dinner although she asked to remain anonymous on our website.
Now, as the crow flies, the distance to Newbridge from Longford is only around 60km. So I was a little surprised when Marie starting packing our suitcase. I soon found out why. What would be considered a short 30 minute drive in Australia ended up taking us just under 2 hours.
Thankfully, the road system in Ireland is getting better as several new motorways have been built in the last decade. At one time though, the only roads in Ireland were donkey and cart tracks that went through every town and village. When the Celtic tiger started roaring in the 1990s, everyone traded their donkeys in for brand new Land Rovers and BMWs. The main roads through the towns became bottlenecks as people started venturing further then their own village for a day out.
The saving grace of travelling anywhere in Ireland is that the scenery changes so quickly. From green pastures to the freshly cut yellow fields of barley with grey stone ruins of medieval monasteries and 18th century castles in between. And we don't even have to stop the car, so close to the road they are. I just put my digital camera on the shake free program and shoot images through the windscreen. Another lovely aspect of driving in the country is that drivers always acknowledge each other with a full hand wave or a raised finger from the steering wheel.
County Kildare is home to Ireland's largest Bog, 'The Bog Of Allen' and the Curragh; the largest area of fertile land that hasn't been fenced off by farms. Flocks of sheep graze peacefully on the road edges and convoys of travellers (Irish gypsies) in their caravan camps can be seen enjoying the vast open spaces.
The most famous thing about the Curragh though is its massive racecourse. Close to Newbridge, Ireland and the worlds richest horse breeders have built their homes and studs around it. The main road runs parallel to the track and we could see the horses being given a work out by their jockeys. Noticing the particular colours and patterns on one horse's saddle blanket, Marie remarked that it would probably be worth three times more then our apartment back in Coolum Beach.
The Curragh is also home to a military camp. My grandfather Jack O'Halloran ran away to this camp, with two of his mates ,to join the army when he was just fifteen years old . The camp is like a town and a public road goes right through it. Unfortunately, it was forbidden to take any photographs although I can't imagine why not...like who would want to attack the Irish army anyway?
Getting back to the state of the Irish minor roads. On the way back to Longford, we were almost run off the road by a speeding car coming around a blind corner. A regular occurrence unfortunately which is why I needed physio on my neck such is the stress of driving a car on Irish country roads. But the amusing thing about this near accident was the fact that the male driver, while trying to control his car still managed to lift his finger from the steering wheel to acknowledge us.
Instead of cursing his idiotic driving, Marie and I laughed all the way to the next blind corner. It's comical experiences like these that makes up for all the frustrating hours that we spend driving around country Ireland.