The Curragh looked well as I drove westwards this morning. The gorse bushes were a brilliant yellow in bright April sunlight. There was no thunder of hooves or sight of horses at full gallop; though close to Kildare a string of horses ridden by lads walked sedately along. The horses look so fragile, one wrong step could spell disaster.
Leaving behind the huge urban sprawl of Dublin, there was a moment of Ireland as it was; though, of course, the motorway is not Ireland as it was. In the old Ireland, I would have been muttering about the traffic in Kildare town instead of sweeping past in a couple of minutes. I miss seeing the cathedral, but I am sure the town is a much pleasanter place without the endless line of vehicles.
Slipping off the motorway, I cut through a corner of Co Laois before crossing a bridge into Co Offaly. The country is flat and open, big farms and big skies and, this morning, a wind that buffeted every car. The road was straight and almost empty and the journey was completed so quickly that I had to buy a newspaper to fill in the forty-five minutes in hand.
The civil servants at the government offices in Tullamore said they would not like Dublin life; the high prices, the long commuting times, the need to leave too much time for journeys for fear of arriving late. Their relaxed lifestyle came through in the meeting; they were warm and welcoming and laughed and smiled. We drank tea as we talked and at the end one of them walked with me to the main door of the building.
Heading south back into Co Laois, there was a moment of tranquility. It was a fine spring day in the middle of Ireland and the road was wide and open and all was right with the world.
Driving east the pressures returned. Accelerate and move into the right hand lane, or you will be going north instead of south at the Red Cow. Force your way into the crawling traffic on the M50, or the cars behind you will become impatient. Keep moving at 80 kph, although the limit is 60 kph, because the truck behind you is tailgating. Brake to allow traffic to swerve into your lane, because a crane has come out of the roadworks into the outside lane where it proceeds to move along at 30 kph. In five minutes, all thoughts of tranquility are gone.
This is a county of four million people blessed with abundant space – there has to be a way of doing things that brings the peace of the country into the life of the city.