Colm O'Regan: I love a straight bit of road

Before ‘All of This’, we went to Centerparcs. It was either a few months or a decade ago. Time has no meaning since the clocks were closed.
Colm O'Regan: I love a straight bit of road

Before ‘All of This’, we went to Centerparcs. It was either a few months or a decade ago. Time has no meaning since the clocks were closed. I’ll write about Centerparcs some other day.

It feels obscene to be talking about a holiday resort now while everyone is out there “making our own fun, and do you know what? We were glad of it.” So all I’ll say about it for now: the road out of it, nearly as far as Mullingar, apart from a few kinks, is straight for 20 miles. And I love a straight bit of road.

As a veteran of the days before bypasses and motorways, I remember the universal respect for a straight bit of road. The moment of redemption that it provides when you are stuck behind someone pulling a caravan. If the humdrum of life is watching the backside of a horse in a trailer, the straight bit of road is the spa break.

A road of which it is said, “If you don’t pass them there, you’ll be shtuck behind that beet lorry until the end of time”. The Devil himself is said to make bargains with people offering them straight bits of road in exchange for their soul.

Speaking of the supernatural, the reasons for straight bits of road in Ireland are mysterious. We tended not to have too many of them. Bends were left in so as not to upset the fairies, or to provide a vantage point from which to spy Captain Farrell counting his money, and then get ready to produce your pistol and then your rapier.

In general roads follow the landscape, just like the cows who made the original path did. No sense in going through a rock, said a cow centuries ago, and we agreed with the cow. Some straight bits were built by the British military, or Lord Starvington Thepeasantsham as a pleasing route to his stately home. Some are raised above bogs or next to canals.

The bog ones are the ones that catch you out. They look fine but then they ripple to follow every hummock underneath, so driving it is like being on top of a giant apple tart crust.

I asked Twitter about the Centerparcs Mullingar straight bit and its straightness is allegedly due to the intervention of a government minister. Orla says that the N2 to Slane was straightened so King George IV could get to his mistress, Lady Conyngham of Slane, faster. And the replies revealed many others have a favourite bit of straight road.

Obviously there was much acclaim for The Straight Road, (or the Carrigrohane Straight as it is called by outsiders) but I was delighted people mentioned the road out of Tower near Blarney – 8km of straightness as far as the eye could see up the hill to the Rylane Plateau. Part of the Butter Road.

The route along which the tanks will trundle when we eventually annex Kerry. All over the country the responses were direct and straight.

Oisin recommended the R403 from Clane to Prosperous. Bernard and Aideen agreed upon Glenbeigh to Killorglin. “That’s known locally as “passing The Red Fox”. If you don’t overtake the bus/truck/tourist there you won’t get a chance again till the county bounds”, confirmed Bernard.

The Seven Mile Straight in Antrim, which got its name from … you get the picture. The 12km towards Inch Strand.

The ‘Straight Mile’ outside Ballinaclash in Wicklow, Ballybunion to Listowel, Bearna to Inveran, N80 south of Tullamore, Knocknaboul to Rathmore. Stories of stress release and escape wrapped up in each of those.

Now motorways and bypasses are like on-demand passing opportunities but still, deep in the hinterland, straight bits come to those who wait.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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