Like most of the UK, we’ve had more snow, just in time for the boys’ going back to school yesterday. The smaller children in the road were all outside playing for most of the day – I don’t know whether the primary schools were still closed or whether their parents assumed that if they couldn’t drive the half mile or so (even the fancy 4x4s aren’t that good on ice) there wasn’t any other way of getting there. They could have been right, for the roads were quickly cleared, though still not the pavements. According to official statistics, 30% of households in our ward don’t have access to a car, and yet the only path down from the main housing estate (on the highest hill in town) to the shop and post office has been a sheet-glass slide since Christmas.
Just a couple of lines to finish off the car hire bit. Russell Howard was surprisingly brilliant, far more substantial in every way (biceps, satire and extraordinary creative energy) than the winsome West Country boy on the box. Highly recommended, if you get the chance to see him live. I took back the car the next day, driving through real snow, which I don’t like, on the country roads and handing over the keys with elated relief. I celebrated with a bowl of sludgy soup and the beginning of Rose Macaulay’s Letters to A Friend (why do I always type ‘fiend’ the first time?) and felt gloriously free. Going home on the bus, after bank & book things in Belfast, was sheer delight; so wonderful to have someone else doing the driving so the only tricky choice is between the book and the iPod.
Talking of books, I’ve just read a wonderful one: The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall. It was published last year, and is set around twenty years in the future, in a post-oil, post-economic collapse Britain. A thrilling story, a bit like a feminist John Wyndham, but very very terrifyingly plausible. Looking it up now, I see that it won several prizes, as did her earlier books. I don’t read very much contemporary writing; am a bit stuck in the middle of last century, but sometimes something gets up and kicks me into the present.
A bit like music, really; it wasn’t until I got the idea of going to Glastonbury next year that I thought I ought to listen to someone who isn’t dead yet. And so to many contented hours wandering around with the Kings of Convenience and Turin Brakes (though I do wish the silent bit in the middle of Rain City could be a bit shorter, it not doing much to while away the drizzling wait at the traffic lights).
Talking of which (quite a little babble of consciousness this morning) I wrote a long email to the entity called Roads Western last month to have a little moan about the woeful pedestrian crossings in Enniskillen. I got a reply the other day, in which they said that pedestrians never have to wait more than two minutes to cross. This may or may not be the case (I need to go out with a stopwatch) but two minutes of standing at the roadside in the pouring rain, watching the cars sweep through the puddles before you, can feel like quite some time. More on this to follow…
Finally, a joyful note. I went to the film club last night (Gerard Depardieu, Quand j’etais un chanteur – beautiful) and walked home by myself under a couple of stars and a space in the clouds with the moon shining through. No one was out, except for a trio of teenage boys, and even the barbed wire outside the Territorial Army was shining. You don’t get that in a car.
Because he lived in Enniskillen.
If Siemens announce staggering profits for this financial year, a lot of it will be thanks to their seemingly perpetual contract to tinker about with Enniskillen’s “traffic management systems”. Underlying all the hustle and bustle is a fundamental assumption that if they pretend pedestrians and cyclists don’t exist then we soon won’t. They’re just in the process of removing the only pedestrian crossing on the immensely long main street (so long that it has six different names). Sometimes I feel like a genetic throwback, one of the few runt-like human creatures in Northern Ireland who has unaccountably failed to grow the usual metal and plastic carapace.