We had been taking it easy for a few days, parked up safely outside number 109 in Dublin to catch our breaths, a couple of administration details needed to be ironed out and no better place to hang around than the house I grew up in. Some bureaucracy in life is unavoidable; modern humans need access to printers and scanners and people in offices need things to do, I should know, I was one of them not so long ago. I must admit this new found freedom takes time to adjust to, I won’t speak for William but personally, its such a strange feeling when day dreaming actually becomes the norm. Sometimes hours idle away while we sit in silence in front of some breath taking scenery, sometimes we look up and it’s 5am, the dawn chorus has begun and we’re still drinking tea, making plans and studying maps. Having time to ourselves is still so new, getting completely lost in my thoughts still so novel. Motivating myself to deal with paperwork is getting more difficult though, it was Februry 4th before I first handwrote 2018, a slow start to the new year.
We decided to take a few days to visit the East coast counties, a.k.a. Irelands Ancient East, mountainous Wicklow, sandy Wexford and the previously unexplored (by Dixie) ‘Copper Coast’ of Waterford. The region is full of ancient ruins, monastic sites and stones and also boasts miles of pristine coastline, a great mixture of things for us to see.
Our one night high in the mountains of snowy Wicklow (with an active extreme weather warning) was chilly and blustery. The next day, the first stone circle we had mapped to visit turned out to be wildly inaccessible, buried acres-deep in bog in a maze of conifer trees on the slopes of a mountain, and getting up there and back in the snow, though worth the walk, was no mean feat. The second circle in Castleruddery was on the roadside, but the rain began to get serious as we tried to look around and it eventually forced us back inside. Over lunch, with our hiking boots drying on the dashboard, we decided again to head for the relative warmth of the shore, Google Maps was promptly employed.
At least once a day, and usually when I least expect it, I get a flash of dread, or fear, or guilt, I’m not quite sure what to call ‘It’, but it washes over me, makes my cheeks flush and stops me in my tracks. My brain freezes over, tells me to stop relaxing immediately, that I must have forgotten some Very Important Thing, I must have neglected to do some everyday task like pay the rent (we pay none) or the bills (we have none) or pick the child up from somewhere (she’s 18 now, and living in another country). 38 years of always having plenty to focus my attention on, and frankly, always having something to worry about, has taken its toll on my mind, it has conditioned me to be constantly on edge. Remembering that I’ve NOT forgotten something, that I have NOTHING really to think about, that I am allowed to feel this carefree and light-hearted always makes me smile and sometimes makes me laugh out loud. I’ve not left Kevin Home Alone, I’m not late for work, I’m not in trouble. I’m just hanging around, enjoying myself.
As it happens, Google Maps came through for us and what appeared from above as a tiny brown smudge on the gridline near Arklow turned out to be an idyllic little cove (quite aptly signposted The Cove), serenely quiet save for the occasional quarry lorry signalling its reversing manoeuvres in the distance. We pitched up, walked the beach, lit our first campfire of the year and cooked sausages over the flames, the weather so willing that Dixies door stayed open until well after 9pm. Our home country of Ireland continues to surprise us, snow on our boots just this morning and only an hour away, sunset on the sand. Such beauty and such variety so close by.
We liked it so much there in Arklow that we stayed Thursday night too, going a whole day without even starting the engine, a quiet day, a free day. I couldn’t even tell you now what we did that day, it must have been as peaceful as usual.
Less than 45 minutes drive away, Curracloe beach, most famous for the dramatic opening scene in Saving Private Ryan, was glittering like gold in early February, we got there late Friday afternoon just as the sun was setting behind the dunes. Originally all set to spend the night in a nearby forest, the long beach walk tired us out, we made beetroot burgers, tea and new plans to hike the woodland trail first thing in the morning instead. Curracloe has a wide carpark, completely empty out of season and banked on one side with tall grassy sand dunes, perfect for Dixie to rest behind…..
And rest she did, for when the sun came up on Saturday morning and we were woken by the sandbirds chirping, when the bed was reassembled into its day time couch layout, the picnic lunch packed, the flask filled with hot black coffee and the Sat Nav informed of our destination, Dixie would not start.
With our driving so little lately, the engine had no time to tick over and recharge the batteries, and with various accessories like phones, torch and portable speaker constantly sucking at the source it seems we had reached Dixies power tipping point. Ambling along like we have been is fine for fuel consumption savings but two batteries is all we have for power, if they are not run enough they dont hold charge. Unfortunately, the leisure battery was reading at only 8.9, barely enough to power a bulb inside the cab for an hour – for the first time, two flat batteries.
We had options, we always do. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance after all. However, our jump start battery kit was dead itself, and even after a few hours on charge in a local business it stubbornly refused to shock Dixie back to life. The need for a couple of roof mounted solar panels has never been more evident, perhaps a small generator for times like these first.
At Last Resort O Clock, we called the emergency number for AA (for Automobiles not Alcoholics) as roadside assistance is included in our insurance package, the gentleman who answered advised it being a Saturday, it might be rather late when they could “rescue” us. Not too late, I wondered out loud… “Well” he asked, “is it an emergency or not?” Was it, really? An emergency?
At some point during the afternoon I had received an email reply, official affirmative confirmation of my previous request and the promise of no related tedious paperwork in the future. It was one little official thing crossed off a big list of official things, we should have been celebrating, we could do that in the dark. The sun had long sunk behind the dunes and we watched the carpark outside being swallowed up quickly and quietly by an inky dark shadow. The single lightbulb flickered in Dixie, the very, very last of the power from the leisure battery. The man was still on the line- “Well?”
We watched Curracloe play Omaha Beach in Hollywood’s gorey depiction of the Normandy landings in Saving Private Ryan but good as Spielberg gets, war movies are really not my thing and we turned it off. I’d rather watch the real beach anyday.
The Automobile Association representative arrived promptly at 9am the next morning and gave Dixie the required dosage of adrenalin to the heart to start her up, at least such is my blissfully uneducated understanding of mechanics. It doesn’t matter what happened now anyway because by 9:05am she was purring like a contented little kitten and by 10am we were off, trundling down country lanes to find another place to be for a while. It was never going to be the “Curracloe Incident”, it wasn’t an emergency. We could have been “rescued” the night before, jump started off the AA mans van and sent about our business…only, we don’t actually have any business. We’re just hanging around enjoying ourselves.