I know, its been a while but all is confusion in Westtown right now. I have given up painting and the writing has stopped too. On the other hand I am starting to ramp up my cycling. I had been trying to run 4 times a week but I suffer from injuries quite regularly. We don’t, as my brother says, have the legs for it. Our ankles, according to him, are too finely turned, or too elegant as I like to think, so it’s back on the bike to build the muscle. As with the running I always feel shattered before I even start out. I keep waiting to turn into one of those bouncy fit people who charge around with gusto but so far that’s not happening. Still, I never regret getting out.
This morning the skies over Westown were turbulent, the layers of warm and cool air causing castles of clouds to rise and spread out, making dramatic shapes on the blue of the May sky. Every 20 minutes or so the heavens would open and dump a torrent of water that caused the ground to steam when the sun came out. I figured that it was unlikely to get away without a soaking but as I have been postponing my workouts because of the wind (yes, I am a total wuss) I headed out.
My current route takes me to the hill above Garrarus which I tear down to reach the little stone bridge in the valley in the hope that my momentum will carry me all the way up the steep slope on the other side. It carries me about 10 feet before I have to begin labouring against the incline towards the bend in the road from which I can see the blue Comeraghs. Downhill again to climb again and then to speed down towards the turn off to Kilfarrasy.
There I turn right and cycle the mile or so of pretty country road. Tiny Cabbage White butterflies flutter erratically. A shadow startles me: a crow, flying low. At the next T junction I turn left and cycle through pretty Fenor Village with its wood sculptures and flowers and bog. Following the road I usually turn right to Dunhill after the Petting Farm but I decide to add another 10 minutes on to my route and cycle up to the ruined house in the direction of Annestown from which I can see the mountains and the shimmering sea all the way to Dungarvan.
I turn back and retrace my route, turning left towards Dunhill just before Fenor. So far all is sunshine but there is an Anvil Head forming on the horizon and it is getting closer. It is like a giant hovercraft and the wind is whipping up around me causing the gorse to shiver violently. To my right the fields towards Ballyscanlan are still in the sun but ahead all is dark grey and gloomy and I feel like I am cycling under a huge shelf, which I suppose I am. Then, I am under the cloud and everything is less dramatic, just grey. I take the road to the right at the next junction as the first soft spatter of rain hits but it seems I am cycling along the edge of the shower and by the time I reach my next T-Junction onto the back Tramore road to turn back towards Ballyscanlan I have out-manoeuvred it.
The road is mostly dry but puddles tell of passing showers. The ditches are rich and vibrant and sprinkled with furiously glowing buttercups that nod in self satisfaction. When we were little we held them under each others chins and if the yellow was reflected there it meant we liked butter. I always wanted to find someone whose chin retained its blue-white Irish pallor in the face of such glory. Such resistance, it seemed to me, would be the sign of a peculiar and interesting being. Who couldn’t like butter?
I am at the fork in the road that circles the hill overlooking Ballyscanlan lake. I always stop here for water and to take some photos. There is another beautiful lake behind me, out of sight, Carrigavantry, which a certain Foxy Blogger showed me once but there are also 3 alsatians living down that path and the last time I tried to go down on my own their gate was open so I haven’t tried again…
The rocky hills and fields along the route behind me are veiled in soft rain but its is sunny where I am. The broken stone ditch at my feet is spotted with flowers, the buttercups of course, who vie with the dandelions and the gorse. Herb Robert and Speedwell, pink and purple (my favourite colours as little girl), dot the mossy rocks around which the first small leaves of the Foxglove are appearing.
Stitchwort embroiders the green of the ditches down to the woods, their white petals speaking of innocence and purity alongside the more experienced and, lets face it, whoreish bluebells. Amongst them, Fiddle-Headed Ferns poke, unrolling and stretching in the unfamiliar sun.
I mount up again and freewheel down the hill with the lake on the right and the mountains in the distance, the steep, wooded hill on my left. Here the puddles are bigger, pieces of silken sky fallen to earth glimmering in the laddery shadows of the trees. I cycle up past the place where people dump their rubbish (what are we like?) and right towards Fenor again, passing one of my favourite fields. I am not sure why this field is different from other fields but with its tree and its rusting roller and the occasional sheep it always bring to mind some sort of 19th century painting of a rural paradise.
I cycle through Fenor again, past the shop in the caravan, and on towards Tramore. The cloud has swept by here and the roads shimmer a petrol blue but I can smell the sun in the ditches. At the house of the gnomes I turn right along the narrow road that comes out half way along the hill above Garrarus. I pass the Walking Girl. She walks a lot around these parts. I don’t know who she is but she is pretty and seems nice. She’s one of the few people who knows how to walk on a road too, something which escapes many Irish people who seem to think its necessary to wear hedge-coloured clothes and walk 5 abreast.
I am on the last hill. The hills are always a killer. My little belly, that one that I can’t seem to cycle off, is more noticeable on hills, squeezed between my torso and thighs and I imagine it clinging to me as if t’were the spawn of an alien monster. I, its unwilling host, am stuck half way between horror of it and pity for it.
My knees are twinging now and sometimes I feel my legs could snap like rubber bands and they will be no more good to me than two pieces of string and such is my mind that I imagine a future where I will be known as The Jellyfish Girl and will have to make a living travelling endlessly in with some carnival of freaks, being pushed in a wheelbarrow by a Bearded Lady or a Man With an Extraordinary Memory across the vast Mid West of America…
Thankfully my circus career is quickly forgotten at the next downward tilt with the wind and sun in my face and my feet loose on the pedals. I see Tramore Bay, striped turquoise, blue and grey, before a copse of trees throwing flickering shadows blocks my view. I sit up straight on the saddle and let my hands hang free at my sides, like I used to when I was a kid and the outdoors was my playground, and I roll on home.