Today I must put pen to paper in a last ditch effort to save romance in rural Ireland.
Rural romance is in grave danger, from a most unlikely source.
While resting on my armchair over the Christmas, after my busy farming year, I happened to see a news item on the television that chilled me to the bone.
It was all about this ‘text alert’ business being the way forward to protect rural citizens from all kinds of harm.
In an effort to quell the great menace that is rural crime, a group of gallant rural dwellers have set up a texting service.
Any vehicle lurking around rural roads, or parked in unusual or secluded spots, will be reported to a whole bunch of neighbours and people in authority. Everyone from the local Sergeant to the parish priest, I presume, will receive a text. Up to 400 people, I heard, could be informed of the movements of the car, within seconds.
On the surface, of course, this sounds like a mighty idea. Anything that can be done to prevent rural crime must be welcomed.
Those gangs of cowards who perpetrate crimes on defenceless and sometimes elderly people living in isolated areas deserve to be caught, and deserve all the jail time and punishment that can be flung at them.
So let me state that I have no problem with that end of the thing. Indeed, I’m all for it.
However, before we all engage in a texting frenzy and go reporting all the stationery vehicles that appear along our country boreens, I feel I must point out a major flaw with the plan. You see, for many years, another user of the roadside lay-by has been the country gent partaking in courting.
Indeed, for decades, this much maligned and marginalised creature has chosen the roadside lay-by to deal with such matters.
Suffice to say, with the demise of the rural pub, and the nightclub too far to aim for, the off-road verge can serve as a handy port-of-call when in the mood for a kiss and a cuddle.
As he sits there in his car, holding the hand of his loved one, listening to the flow of a nearby stream, or the baying of a faraway donkey, these roadside perches can be very stirring and highly moving locations. So today, I ask, what right do we have to be texting all and sundry, divulging the details and registration numbers of such innocent parties? Times are tough enough for the rural man to find a partner, without us frightening her away with the height of snooping and texting.
Not only am I talking here about single parties engaging in nothing more sinister than a cuddle. I’m also referring to those of the married persuasion who might be engaging in a spot of clandestine fun with parties outside the marital union.
What right do we have to spoil all their fun, with our texting and general meddling? These roadside dalliances have taken place for generations, they are part and parcel of rural life, and need to be preserved.
Forty years ago, modern farming technology made the corncrake an endangered species. Forty years on, are we looking at an age when fervent texting will endanger all those involved in the harmless pursuit of the rural roadside canoodle?
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