Veering West

COLM TOBIN: Blame it all on my roots! Sorry Garth, but I’m off to Wicklow

September 19th, 2022 11:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

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SUMMER is starting to escape into the rearview mirror with normality and school runs all established again, but we’re not giving up on the good times just yet!

Last weekend, as has become an annual tradition, we packed up our camping gear and made a break for the beautiful, undulating hills of Wicklow to play a game of Russian roulette with the Irish weather.

Listen, I know it’s a daft time of year to go camping. But it’s something we tried last year for the first time, and found it to be just lovely, thank you very much, a nice way to squeeze the last little moments out of the bright weather before it all changes and Coddle Season kicks in proper on Dublin’s Northside.

Our decision was helped by the fact that there was a big funeral on the telly (you might have heard about it).

Also, Garth Brooks was starting to soundcheck in my back garden on Friday afternoon, to begin his sixty to seventy-night run in Croke Park.

And with all due respect to both royalists and country music fans, I’m afraid that neither of the two is exactly my bag. I’m more a fan of hard rock and republics, me.

At one stage on Friday afternoon, as the deep pulse of Friends In Low Places began to loosen my fillings, I was immediately transported to those traumatic discos of my childhood and was glad we had plotted our escape.

When Sky News began breathlessly reporting the news about the magical royal rainbow that appeared above Buckingham Palace shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth, I knew it was time to get away from that telly.

Within an hour we found ourselves pulling into the small town of Redcross in Co Wicklow and setting up the tent for the night at the River Valley campsite.

There followed two near-perfect days in glorious seclusion, no Paddington and marmalade, no inappropriate Twitter jokes about recently deceased old ladies and enough heat still left in the September sun to make outdoor cooking pleasant and relaxing. Bliss.

At night, as the temperature dropped, we threw on the thermals and sat in the quiet with the harvest full moon hanging brightly in the night sky. In the humdrum of the day-to-day, it’s so easy to forget that we’ve got access to this beauty all year round. It was a gentle reminder to be more adventurous in the year ahead.

There was still plenty for the kiddos to do during the day – karting, crazy golf and a magic show – as we caught the last act of summer and enjoyed pizza on a cookout with a sparse group of other happy campers.

We even took in a visit to Charles Stewart Parnell’s old gaff, Avondale House, where a new ‘Beyond the Trees’ treetop walk has been installed.

Rising up to the very tips of the Scots Pine and American Redwood trees planted over 300 years ago when Avondale was a forestry experimentation station, the wooden walkway rises over 23m above the forest floor at one point.

The huge viewing tower with panoramic vistas of the Wicklow hillside was topped only by the spiralling (optional) slide that funnels you back down to earth.

The place was a hoot for all involved, though, even if the posh café lunch, family ticket and truly exorbitant gift shop left a noticeable indentation on the old finances.

When the rain finally started to belt down on Sunday morning, it was time to head home again.

The kids bid a final farewell to the chickens in the campsite farmyard, as I wrestled our tent back into its bag like Steve Irwin trying to subdue a crocodile.

Back home on Sunday evening, Mr Brooks was still giving it socks, clearly putting on one hell of a show for the crowd of adoring fans. The man clearly brings great joy to a great many people in Ireland. I’ve never heard a bigger roar from Croker.

From the streaming masses of stetson-topped country folk pouring down through Fairview, I would wager that Brooks could annex much of Munster in the morning with a flick of his cattle whip.    

Across the water, the mourning for Queen Elizabeth continued, much if it alien to my own republican beliefs, but there in full glare nonetheless. And clearly bringing a lot of meaning to ordinary British people.

God knows who’s going to save them now. Best of luck Charles III.

After the strange confluence of events this week, contrasting waves of American stadium rock and anachronistic English weirdness, I was glad to get back to normal on Monday.

Garth’s not done yet of course – he’s back again Friday night. And you get the sense the Brits won’t be done with their monarchs for a long time either.

A chip off the old N71 block

I FELT a little emotional when I read the piece on the Southern Star Facebook page earlier this week about the rotting chip van removed from the layby between Bandon and Innishannon.

For years I’ve driven past this old wreck and wondered why it was still there, but I equally have vivid memories of childhood when we’d stop there for an occasional treat on the way home from a match. Or at least I think I have.

It could be a memory of a memory that never happened.

I often wondered if the rusty chipper had developed its own ecosystem, like those New York subway cars underwater that have turned into coral reefs.

Perhaps a pair of squirrels named Salt and Vinegar made a den in the deep fat fryer?

It would be great for the old layby to be regenerated, especially with all these pop-up restaurants that we keep seeing all over the country these days.

After all, isn’t one man’s ‘rotting chip van’ another man’s ‘artisanal food truck’?

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