9.15 pm and eight straight hours of work in the parish are complete. Time to drive the 30 miles south to Kilkenny.
The local radio stations are fine, if you are fifteen or enjoy discussions involving local councillors. 4 FM, the one station that is both grown up and plays music, is confined to the big cities; its signal fades and dies in Co Kildare when driving from Dublin.
CDs for the journey? An odd selection: The Who, the Chi-Lites and Blondie. There is a brilliant sunset away to the west over Co Tipperary; it feels like summer. Blondie.
‘Heart of Glass’ fills the car between Abbeyleix and Durrow. The road is in its final hours as part of the route from Dublin to Cork. On Friday, the 250 km motorway between the cities will be complete and officially opened and the N8 will become a quiet country by road.
Images of Debbie Harry and the band on Top of the Pops surface in the memory; the disco ball hanging from the ceiling throwing light in every direction as it span. Debbie with her long dress and pouting lips.
The taste of vodka and lime juice comes to mind. Why drink vodka and lime juice? It was expensive and gone in a gulp. Perhaps it was a fashionable thing to drink in 1979, a desperate attempt at gaining a credibility that was never to be achieved. The thought of it now is offputting, but the thought of plain chocolate digestive biscuits in 1979 would have been equally repugnant, yet they were in the shopping trolley this morning.
Blondie and vodka and lime juice belonged to a time of irrational optimism; anything is possible when you are 18. The optimism was never justified; it proved to be wholly irrational.
Hanging a painting of Strangford, Co Down on the kitchen wall this morning had brought similar thoughts. It had been a gift in the spring of 1989, just before moving to a country parish at the age of 28. It had been another time of irrational exuberance; there had been a spring holiday in Crete, reached only by flying to Manchester to join the charter. Anything had seemed possible in 1989. The world was to change in a single season as the Communist world collapsed like a house of cards.
The optimism of the young incumbent was to find no more realisation than that of his teenage student predecessor. Driving south through undulating farmland, with the road chasing through a sequence of twists and turns, Ms Harry progressed through her repertoire.
At the edge of Kilkenny, she reached ‘Atomic’. Two friends used to spoil the song if it was played in their hearing by singing ‘elastic’, every time young Debbie sang ‘atomic’. A driver coming out of a side road looked strangely at a clergyman laughing as he drove along.
The optimism is as irrational as ever, but, five months short of being fifty, there is still the irrational expectation that something unexpected might one day happen.