Skip to main content


I had heard of Irish roads way back in the 1960s in Australia when someone with Irish background told me once in earnest that: "Irish roads were designed and made only by people coming out of a pub". This phrase used to make other people laugh but as a newcomer to Australia I did not see the joke.

In Ireland since January 2013 and driving around for four months now I start seeing the joke!

The latest motorways are fine, wide and with a flat tarmac, fairly straight, with spacious shoulders on the sides, and financed by the EU kitty for roads across Europe. The Irish country roads, however, have definitely been designed and made by people coming out of a pub, mainly... if not all. They are as sinuous as can be whether on hills or on the flat. They are as narrow as can be stuck between hedges of prickly bushes such as gorse, without any space for shoulders so that you just can't pull up on the side in emergency. I found I could not stop to take a photo. Very often as I was driving slower than the busy other drivers I wanted to pull up and let the faster traffic overtake. It took miles before I could vaguely pull up in front of a gate with a dangerous swerve.

Anyway at the public library recently I found the answer to this state of affairs. Apparently it has a very very old origin. A million years ago the island called Ireland now was totally covered with ice, much like Antarctica is now. Ice Age lasted for donkeys years until one day when it started melting away. It took a few thousand years to uncover this bit of territory and then, what did you find under the ice... sinuous roads. My word!

Quoted from: A History of Ireland in 250 Episodes, by Jonathan Bardon, Gill and Macmillan, 2008

p.1 "The ice sheets began to dissolve about 15,000 BC, and two thousand years later they had all but disappeared. (...) Meltwater flowing under the ice left behind sinuous ridges of gravels, known as eskers; often several miles long and up to twenty metres in height, these provided invaluable routeways later on across the boggy midlands."

Invaluable routeways across the boggy midlands. The inhabitants of Ireland have always traveled on sinuous, gravelous routeways across their country. Straight roads with broad shoulders is a stupid idea of the Romans.

And yes, there is another explanation. I found, reading the History of Plantagenet England by Michael Prestwich, that inhabitants of islands in general use the sea to go from one place to another on the coast of their island.

This is a very strange idea to a continental reader. From Normandy to Aquitaine, for instance, an islander's first thought is to sail around. For the French or any other continental thinking person you build a road and a good road too. I guess Irish people, like English people, have relied on sailing around rather than driving through.

It could also be the reason why, to this day, the roads are so badly maintained and cared for. When driving in the countryside or even in town you get the impression that towns and county councils administrations have no budget for road maintenance. The suspensions and the tyres of cars in this country must not last for very long.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

251. Stalking Jules Verne

I recently came across photos of a google-plus user from the country of Georgia in the Caucasian mountains, somewhere between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, somewhere between the south of Russia and Turkey. A difficult position for a small country really, being tossed from one to the other in ruling and/or heavy cultural influences. From the dawn of History, however, the Georgians have managed to retain their own personality, cultural heritage, language and… yes, spelling and writing. Georgia in the Georgian language is spelt საქართველო.  This small country remained hidden away from main stream History by bigger bears until, well yes, the advent of internet. And since cables have now been laid in the bottom of the Black Sea by Americans to reach the port of Poti, any Georgian can now tune into internet at will and post photos on FaceBook or Google+ and be seen and contacted by the rest of the world. Nice story!
When I recently saw those photos of Georgia posted on my own google+ …


My mad idea of stalking Jules Verne in his story of travelling round the Black Sea clockwise to avoid crossing the Bosphorus is snowballing. From one idea to another I am now up to figuring a real plan.
1. A group of 3 or 4 people will travel by road from Istanbul following the coast like Keraban and his team did. It means going through the north shore of Turkey, then Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia. To finish off back in Turkey on the south shore of the Black Sea. As I would want to stay in Georgia, perhaps another team could take over from there. I expect my old friend Zara to travel with me. We will need a photographer to make a documentary of this adventure. It will happen at the same speed that Keraban travelled, i.e. in slow motion for us in this century. My main purpose is to encounter and meet as many people as possible. Interactions between people, our small group, and the daily problems of the moment is to be the subject of the documentary. Not visiting famous monuments …


I recently came across a virtual invitation for coffee and since then have met and keep meeting new friendly American bloggers. I find they easily write poetry, play games at writing a story prompted by a silly picture posted by someone else... AND they also write about their nitty gritty daily lives like being pulled up by the police or having their computer crash down and the price of buying a new one. So today is my turn. I can't write poetry but I can tell at great length about my nitty gritty ordinary life.

 On Wednesdays I usually have my grandkids over for lunch and activities in the afternoon, learning how to sew with a sewing machine with my granddaughter and following an online course to learn English with my grandson. Looking after the two of them is very tiring so I asked to have one at a time in turns. Yes but the lady who takes Bertrand to my door said she had not been told of the change so... never mind, don't worry, thank you. Then Binta turned up surprised: ar…