On The Edge
SATURDAY morning and the paw prints of the geriatric dog that takes a shortcut past my house on his daily walk are the only indication there is life in this winter-wonderland in which I am imprisoned. Well, other than the flocks of birds whose tiny beaks are frozen from pecking down through the blanket of snow – thickened overnight – in search of sustenance. They flee up into the highest branches as I scatter a half bag of muesli for their mid-morning repast. Perhaps it was the sight of me – psychedelic in my bright-blue hat, fluffy pajamas and striped wellingtons. Only joking, kind of.
It seems like a lifetime ago since last Thursday when the entire Irish population was suspended in a state of national anxiety about the arrival of the Beast from the East. Storm Emma shimmying up from the Bay of Biscay would be a piece of cake – as opposed to a loaf of bread – if it wasn’t for the Beast.
But didn’t the warnings about that Siberian snowstorm put us all into a spin? We converged on our local supermarkets as if there was no tomorrow. We couldn’t have been more frightened if it was a Lenten Mass back in the 1950s and there was a missioner priest in the pulpit warning us of hellfire and brimstone for indulging in bad thoughts about ‘you know what’. It could have been the Emergency of the 1940s as we queued for rations before rushing back to our air-raid shelters, which were about to transform into igloos.
Well, to be fair to the seers and soothsayers from Met Éireann they were right this time. Ophelia may have duped them about her intentions here in the wild west, but the marriage of the Beast to Emma turned out to be a cold affair. All the hot air spewed out from news reels in the build-up turned out to be true. But while it was a blizzard from hell in most of the country, we really only got the tail-end of it here. It was enough though to put a halt to our gallop for at least 48 hours.
Give us a relentless week of rain and wind and we are as comfortable as bugs in rugs. Let the fog creep up to the front door, close us in as if we were living in a misty mirage and we take out our clay pipes, sit around the open fire and reminisce about the days of landlordism and the potato famine. We wear weather well here in Co Mayo.
IT is still Saturday. It is lunchtime and the birds have eaten all the muesli. The geriatric dog has passed by for the third time, oblivious of the icy carpet, it seems and I am on the verge of stir-craziness. My cabin fever is at melting point when a friend phones to say she is on a mission of mercy to save me from myself. Anna turns up in her ambulance 15 minutes later and proceeds to get stuck at the bottom of my driveway. (Where is that weapon called a shovel I bought but never used?) Intrepid warriors that we women are, we dig our way out, compacted flake by flake. A few revs later, the smell of rubber sits still under the engine and we slip and slide out the boreen to the N59 where the road is clear.
Yay! I feel I’ve just been released from a padded cell.
Westport is in melt-down. Its traumatised citizens edge along pathways as if they are learning how to walk for the first time. Supermarket shelves are in a state of post-apocalyptic devastation. No wonder. The queues into Supervalu carpark last Thursday morning were as long as on Christmas Eve. We go for soup and just very briefly consider booking into a town-centre hotel and drinking hot ports and whiskies for the day. Sense prevails though and it is back home to batten down the hatches for the Sabbath and slow return to reality.
Monday morning and it is good to be alive. The daffodils may be still stooped and in a state of post-traumatic shock but they tentatively open their bright yellow heads in search of even a sliver of sunshine. Supermarket shelves are bulging with bread again. The Beast from the East has expired somewhere over the horizon.