Travelling the 9 km to my son’s house can be a daunting experience. I can take the main roads and loop around the outskirts of Skibbereen or run the gauntlet of crossing the main 71 at Derrylee Bridge.
Last Saturday, because I had another viewing of my house, I set off mid-morning a half hour or so before the áuctioneer and his clients would arrive.
The first thing I spotted was a pair of swans swimming in the tiny stream that runs adjacent to the road and between the waterfall and the Derrylee Bridge. Usually there is a Heron patiently standing near the waterfall waiting for his prey to arrive as the water travels south towards the sea. But I have never seen swans in the stream in the thirty years I have lived here. We have had torrential rain and storms recently and perhaps this has encouraged them to set up home there. It’s bogland to the right and left of this road and years ago the road used to collapse in heavy rain. Nowadays there are a fair few craters and one so big I drove on the wrong side of the road to avoid it.
I crossed the N71 at Derrylee Bridge which is a bit of a misnomer. There was a bridge over the stream many years ago but it fell into disrepair and rather than repair it, an area immediately to the east of it is now the exit on to the N71, the main road to Cork city.
You can sit for ages wanting to get out and the sudden stream of cars, closely knit together indicated there were traffic lights further along the route. When they passed, a quick left and a sharp right got me on to the back road to my son’s house. I had only gone yards when a small rabbit dashed from the green grassy verge directly into my path. Thankfully I had not had time to accelerate after the right hand turn and I gently braked whilst the frightened animal, white tail bobbing, darted left and right, before making a speedy escape back to safety of the long grass.
The next half mile was without traffic until the road verged to the left, near the turning to the dog groomer. There in the middle of the road was a young lad and his mum both on bicycles being led on their morning run by a floppy bouncing golden retriever. The dog was probably a year old, still puppy-like and although named golden was a pale creamy colour. Again I slowed the car to a stop as the boy called the pathfinder dog to his side. I started the car again when the mother had bent to secure the dog’s collar tightly gripped in her hand and with a nod from her and a wave from the boy I went on my way.
The sun shining although it was cold in the shade with a bite to the wind. I continued on the back road again turning right just after the huge corrugated shed to my left which has slowly disintegrated into complete disrepair over the years I have passed it. Straight ahead of me was the abandoned creamery, grey and desolate now. The school bus stops in the little yard in front of the building and on occasions I pick up my grandchildren from it, parking on the sloping ground which like the creamery has never been maintained for years.
Next left and I was on the final straight leg to my family. And I wondered if I would have another encounter. And I did. I had gone within a kilometre or so of my destination when a four wheel drive vehicle came into view. It was parked with the only occupant a black and white sheep dog, sitting in the front passenger seat. So there was something going on.
There’s a diamond shaped grassy patch at the fork in the road and at times I have had to drive down that way to get home. This being farming country, tractors, slurry tankers and a medley of different farming equipment can often make the roads impassable. You have to understand I am talking loosely of the road as being a road. It’s only car width, with some stretches sliced in half where grass has burst through the tarmac. There are passing places cut into the verges of the road and farm gates set back, enabling you to tuck in whilst allowing another vehicle to pass. I sometimes have to reverse into the nearest passing point although these days I prefer only to drive forward.
I was cautious at the T-crossing and sure enough the owner of the car and the dog, came running up the hill and into view. I turned down the radio and opened my window. He very pleasantly said, “There’s a few cows coming along. We’ll be as quick as we can.” And off he trotted again in a half run. No wonder he didn’t have an ounce of spare flesh on him.
I’d thought the cows were coming up from the direction he had emerged, but switched off the engine and waited. A few minutes later a group of five heavily pregnant cows appeared from nowhere and the farmer cheerily waved me on. I followed him as the cows, despite their girth, bounded down the slope as he ran after them, stripping the rope or string he had attached to the gates of the house on the way and across a turning to the right. There was a line up of cars where he had stopped the traffic coming in the opposite direction, luckily stationary before I turned left into Pine Trees. Tim, the farmer, had acted as the sheepdog that day and I wondered afterwards why the sheepdog was in the car and not working the cows.
But waiting to welcome me were the grandchildren, their two dogs, a cup of tea and a cinnamon bun.