Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ballycotton Five-O

Scene of the Crime

Running right on time, as usual... (not late but breathing hard)... Pamela and I came up the walk from the Rocket House (they used to store rocket flares for sea rescues in the house), rounded the corner and confronted the scene above.  "GARDA" is the national and local police agency all rolled up into one.  Seems the GARDA van was coming from the left making a steep left turn to go up the hill.  The little blue station wagon coming from above "like a bat out of hell" (according to some of the local know-it-alls, who really do know a lot), failed to stop, or see the GARDA van, had to swerve because of the parked car and side-swiped the GARDA.  Bad move, even in Ireland.

Mick, the local GARDA called in reinforcements who took measurements, administered breathalyzers, interviewed witnesses and when we showed up said ominously, "Is that your car????" Our poor little Opel beastie was the car just to the right of the GARDA van in the picture.  "Yes, we replied, and we need to get my wife to school."  

"Well, you can't move it now, it's part of our investigation.  You see, it's illegally parked." Didn't matter that other cars were illegally parked all over the place.  Ours was the prime candidate for the excuse being formed in the mind of the speeding fender-benderer.  It would be at least an hour before they could release it.  

Those of you who know Pamela, know she hates being late for anything, and that is especially true for a class where impressing the teacher/owner is a major part of the school.  No local taxi's were available, so 15 kilometers and 23 Euros later (about $30.00) she was on her way and I was being interviewed by several GARDA officers.  Have no fear, they now have my Ireland address, my Ashland address, my phone number and my mothers maiden name in case they need to track me down later.

But...But...But... EVERYONE parks illegally in Ireland.  This country would not function if half the roads were not choked with cars blocking the way ahead... and sometimes behind.   There is a delicate protocol for who goes first, who gives way, who acknowledges whom, when cars in opposing directions meet in an already narrow thoroughfare that is at least half blocked by illegally parked cars. 

Everyone smiles or grimaces, as is your mood at the time... and squeezes by with a minimal loss of paint and mirrors.  I would show pictures in motion.... but it would be tempting fate to take my hands off the wheel as we inch by one another.  
Same parking area 1 hour after the accident...

I had visions of being hauled down the local GARDA station, being given a massive ticket, and trying to explain to the car rental company why their car was included in an accident report.  In reality, I received a patient lesson in parking etiquette from a very nice officer in charge and was told they would contact me if they needed more information.  I think he hoped I was leaving the country soon... none too soon.

Problem is, there are simply too many cars, too narrow roads and no enforcement of parking rules anywhere in the country.  It's all handled "with a wink and a nod" and we all try to get along.

As you might guess... there is no parking allowed on the dock in Ballycotton...

Let's face it... it's a small country... absolutely beautiful, and charming, and vibrant, and rich in history, music, politics and tradition... but small.  Most roads originated as cattle paths... were expanded to accept horse drawn wagons and paved over so that modern cars, trucks, buses and the occasional bicyclist could play chicken at forty to seventy miles per hour.  It unnerves you when you think your doing a respectable 40 miles an hour down a country lane and some teenager passes you doing 80, waves and dodges around a corner just in time to not get smeared by a school bus coming in the other direction.

And it's not just the roads... so many of the old stone churches are in ruins, victims of one invasion or another over 1,000 years.  They may not hold services in them anymore, but they are still active as graveyards.  And when the old church yard fills up with graves, they simply move to the interior of the old church and start burying people in what used to be the sanctuary.  
Impressive use of space... rather touching when you begin to read the stones... but definitely a tribute to the compactness of the country and the "don't waste anything" mentality of this resourceful people.

The Church yard... outside

The Church Sanctuary... inside

 Haven't been hauled down to the GARDA station yet.  Might be a fascinating experience.  It's right across from the local pub, and I've already met Mick in there.  I remain a chastened OMOTIC.

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