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A Cycle on the Celtic Fringe … Part 49

At which point I have no choice but to join the red road for the best part of twenty miles. The pull of a town I’ve known about for over forty years but never been near is strong. The hope of a hotel with a deep, deep bath is stronger. Under twenty miles can be a dawdle. Today it turned into something of a dash.

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I have no idea if you increase or reduce the odds of something unfortunate happening to you on a big road by riding as fast as you can. To put the obvious case first. You are going to be on the road for less time and this must reduce the chance of accidents. On the other hand, you are going at a faster speed, so any accident is likely to be of a more severe nature. To counter this is the fact that you are unlikely to be hit head on. However, being hit from behind, or, more likely, clipped from the side will send you spinning if you are going around twenty miles per hour.

The biggest factor is chance. Which part of the road you happen to be on when the careless or dangerous driver comes along. If it is a stretch with a decent gap between verge and the painted white line then you are going to be ok. If there is no such space you are going to get white knuckles. If there is a car or, worse, lorry, coming the other way at the same time it is, to quote Sir Alex Ferguson, “Squeaky bum time”.

It is mere chance. Going faster or slower merely means you are going to be at a different point on the road when the life endangering idiot grazes your panniers, often with a raucous hoot of the horn just to show you how tough and brave he can be with someone else’s safety. of course he will say, “I never even touched you”. And this will serve his conscience. It ignores the three facts that the jet stream from the vehicle is likely to blow you into either the vehicle or the hedge or wall. That natural reactions are likely to make the cyclist twist either one way or the other and that it is a seriously frightening thing to experience. One that I am sure would give the driver pause if he had ever experienced it himself.

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The first lorry to push me into the verge was carrying logs. I don’t think he was aware that a log protruded nearly eighteen inches from the side of his truck. The second was a Guinness wagon. A long and low Guinness wagon. I’d been warned a time or two to wear a helmet. It wouldn’t have made a great deal of difference. The lorry was close enough for me to blow the head off a pint. Two inches further to the left and I would have been dead.

Being a fellow of frayed nerves and little imagination I put my head down and pedalled eyeballs out for most of the distance to Roscommon.

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It’s a great county for flags. the colours are good. Deep blue and a strong yellow with a cross, a crown a ram and a sprig of something green. It’s a good flag. There are also signs saying things like “Good Luck Lads 2012”. I presume they’ve got themselves into the later stages of an All Ireland thing. I feel my total ignorance of Irish sport. I used to watch Gaelic Football and Hurling on World of Sport but we were programmed to laugh at the way they got the rules wrong. They couldn’t even seem to decide if they were using football or rugby posts. We were always impressed with the physicality. Here are two sports with a fair dose of biff involved.

The flags are interspersed with the orange and the green. Of all the English counties, only Yorkshire with its rose and Warwickshire with its bear baiting can compare. There is a fellow who lives near the village of Shirebrook who displays the Derbyshire flag atop a full sized flagpole in his garden, but I always presumed this is the home of a very sick man.

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Just when it seems the danger of the road is diminishing it begins to rain. I re-double my efforts and arrive in the rather pleasant town of Roscommon at about half past five. My chest infection is worsening. The exertion and the rain have me seeking privacy for a coughing fit that threatens to turn me inside out. I need some medicines even if they are only to have a placebo effect. I need bubble bath. I need a hotel room  with a bath. I need to get off this bicycle.

Shops first. There’s a Boots. It seems a terrible thing to cycle fro near Nottingham to the other side of Ireland to visit Jesse’s emporium, but the fact remains that his Soap and glory bubble bath is the best on the market. I’ve tried beer as a way of unwinding and I’ve tried cigarettes. Both held me in their grasp for many a long day. I was late coming to bubble bath as an alternative. I’ve never fancied a pint or a cigarette since. I also but cough mixture and Full Strength things that are supposed to ward off things that make you wheeze and groan.

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I do my usual ride up and down the main street. There doesn’t seem to be a chain hotel. I wouldn’t choose one as my first resort. But there is a busy looking place right in the centre. The accent of the young man serving me is as thick as treacle. I understand his affability and this cuts through the brogue.

“Oi’ve a single at 50 and a double at 60.”

“Do either of them have a bath?”

“No. Dare showers only. Now, wait a minute. I think Oi got a room on de second floor. Up in de roof. Dat’s got a bath.” He’s been drawn out of a busy bar to see to me but still finds time to add, “Come on. Oi’ll show ye den all. Ye can choose the one ye loike the best.”

He adds a little currency exchange information to help me make up my mind. “60 is about £50. 50 is about £43”.

The first two rooms are pleasant enough. The double is decidedly comfortable. The room up in the attic though is in a whole league above. The biggest bed I’ve seen in a hotel and a separate bathroom with a bath that would empty a reservoir. There is no contest. This is the baby for Simon. He helps me get my bags in, helps me lock my bicycle away in the outbuilding he used to use to keep his bike in as a boy.

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“And does the price include breakfast?”

“Oh yes. There’s a range of things you can choose from and you can have the full Irish as well.”

“As well?”

“Oh yes. You don’t have to stint here.”

He pauses as he carries one of my panniers up the last flight of stairs. “Oh, and you’re entitled to tea and scones in the coffee room once you’re settled in. We’ll make sure you’re full of food before you leave here.”

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What can you buy for £50 in the world these days? I’d just bought happiness.

 

 

* I cannot do justice to the accent. I gave up attempts at phonetic spelling mid-way. I may come back to it.