My unheated, waterless, rundown little cottage was Central Command in the run-up to Christmas. Although Dublin airport were cancelling flights for hours at a time every day, my brother’s flight from America was only a little late. Having got a good push, my sister’s poor car managed to trundle through the snow all the way to airport and I picked him up almost on time.
At the last minute, I had requested he bring a carton of Marlboro Lights from Duty Free. There should be enough fags there to last me till New Year’s Eve, and you can probably all guess what my new year’s resolutions will be.
Snow fell heavily on the 22nd and 23rd in little white lumps of magic. Much as I love snow, Dublin isn’t made for it and by the time I’d put my brother on the bus to Cork on the morning of the 23rd, I was tired of trudging through it and terrified of driving on it.
My sister was due in from Spain on the night of the 23rd. The plan was that I would collect her and that we’d drive down immediately. I could then do my shopping in Cork on Christmas Eve. My sister’s flight was cancelled.
After considering alternatives, like having her fly to France and then to Shannon, or to Germany and then to Kerry, she eventually booked a flight from Spain to Belfast on Christmas Eve. My mission was to drive to Belfast in the morning and then to drive down to Cork: roughly eight hours of driving on a good day.
So I had to do my shopping that evening. I put back on my cold sopping shoes and trudged through the snow to town. I got as far as Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre and made a decision. If I couldn’t buy it in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, it wouldn’t be bought. My Christmas shopping was minimal, to say the least.
The next morning, I packed up the car. I started the engine and started clearing the car of snow. For clearing heavy snow from the car, I use my pink plastic dustpan. When the car was clear of snow, I revved up the engine. The car wouldn’t start. I tried in first gear, and I was going nowhere. I tried in second. I tried in third. The wheels spun and spun. Snow flew around the street. The smell of burning rubber filled the air.
Eventually, a neighbour came out to help. She was wearing her pyjamas, an overcoat and big winter boots. She tried pushing the car. No success. She produced a shovel. We attacked the ground. No success.
With the help of 3 neighbours, two shovels and my pink plastic dustpan, it seemed like the car would finally move. After a false start, where they pushed with all their might and I forgot to release the brake, I finally got started. It had taken 45 minutes.
I had over 3 hours to get to Belfast. It should have been easy. It wasn’t. Traffic was ridiculous and we were all driving on snow.
After an hour and twenty minutes, I had crossed the river and was on the Northside. At one stage, the traffic was at an absolute standstill. I could see the lights changing from green to red and back again and no movement. Eventually, a car behind me pulled out and drove through the snow on the wrong side of the road. I thought this a little unwise and I didn’t follow him. I then saw the people from the bus stop on the other side of the road run over and push the car at the traffic lights up the hill. The traffic still didn’t move. The bus-stop gang came back down the hill and pushed the second car. The traffic still didn’t move. Twice more, the men from the bus stop came back down the hill and pushed another car up it. Unbelievably, my little car moved off unassisted.
I only lost control of the car once, but it was while I drove on the flyover over the M50. I had visions of myself flying off the flyover and was tempted to close my eyes and shriek: Thelma and Louise style. Luckily, I wasn’t driving fast (never more than 20 kph) and was easily able to regain control of the car.
I was particularly fearful on the flyover because, on the M1 exit, I had seen a car explode. I heard a bang, and a few minutes later saw a huge plume of smoke. There was so much smoke that I presumed that a factory was on fire. But as I drew closer, I saw that it was a car. There were flames everywhere. The front seats were completely consumed and the fire was moving back through the car. As I drove past, I could feel the heat.
As I got onto the M1 and out of Dublin, neither my speed, nor my confidence, increased. The snow hadn’t been cleared from this motorway either. I saw crumpled cars on the side of the road and the traffic was rumbling along very slowly.
After 3 hours of driving, and 15 minutes before my sister was due to land, I was in Lusk, Co. Dublin. I pulled over and texted her a panicky “I’ll never make it”-type text.
Ironically, once I’d done this, traffic was fine. Meath County Council had done a much better job of clearing the snow than Dublin County Council and I was doing normal motorway speeds for the rest of the journey. Co. Down was like a magical fairy-land and I quite liked the snow again by the time I picked my sister up only a little more than an hour too late.
Christmas was on again!
My sister did most of the driving home and we arrived at home in Cork twelve and a half hours after I started my journey and 30 minutes before Christmas Day.
I’ll update again soon. I’m chockful of resolutions and I’ll burden you all with them before the New Year. Merry Christmas!