COLM O'REGAN: Going from station to station on a long car journey

I’VE been doing a good bit of driving this past while, chiefly the Cork-Dublin-Cork-Dublin road. The bit of my elbow between the ‘elbone’ and the funny bone has taken on the shape of the sill of the driver’s door. The floor is covered in Double Decker wrappers.

I love the moment of escape from the tentacles of city traffic. AA Roadwatch ceases to become relevant. As long as at rush-hour as I’m nowhere near the blackspots: Ferrybank Dual Carriageway, loose horses on the M50, swans on the N25, ANYTHING to do with Lough Atalia or Exit 7 to Exit 9 on the M7 — where a mysterious malaise befalls the drivers so that they are becalmed like ships in the doldrums that causes tailbacks for no-reason (maybe they bulldozed a fairy fort, shur they could have no luck after that) — I know I’m free.

After the toll bridge, where theroad is a hundred yards wide, with no markings for 20 seconds I pretend I’m Knight Rider, “a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist”.

But there’s another pleasure — the car radio. My obliging passenger that I can roar at the top of my voice at: “IT’S SPECIFIC, NOT PACIFIC!” without offence being taken. It doesn’t mind being interrupted, when, for example, as I get older and spend more and more time changing station to flee ‘oul noise’. Until eventually I am welcomed into the bosom of the dad-rock radio stations playing “The 3,000 top lefthanded guitar anthems — more music no talk” (except for all the time they spend telling me there is no talk)

A ‘dacent tune’ comes on. “That’s real music now,” I say to myself and I wind down the window and crank up the volume as if in the hope that I will educate a passing youth and divert them away from Chris Brown.

Occasionally the choice is limited. There are patches of road along the motorways, where some confluence of landscape features means all the other radio stations disappear. The reception on the station I’m listening to goes fuzzy and I press the >>> button to get better reception.

That was a mistake. The radio had been hanging on grimly to that frequency. I disturbed it and it’s lost for a few miles. It flicks through the FM bandwidth from 87.5 to 108 and all it can find is local radio and Lyric FM.

Flick between the two and with any luck you’ll get the death notices on one followed by Chopin’s Funeral March on the other.

Don’t play Lyric loud in a petrol station with the windows down though in case everyone will think you are a psychopath about to go in and shoot the place up because they were out of Double Deckers.

Local radio can also soothe. Other stations are frenetic — idiots ringing in with ‘opinions’ and some flibbertigibbet saying “basically” every second word and gushing about what Ennui Tulip said to Zane Fork at the Tinder Awards.

That too has its place. But when I need calming, if I find myself driving on a Sunday morning, I put on local radio. Because Sunday mornings is where you find the Local Radio Ould Lad. Playing his CDs, maybe even his cassettes or 78s at an unhurried pace. The tune won’t be lined up on a computer. You’ll hear him him get the album out of its box. He might cough or clear his throat half-way through an introduction. He might have forgotten to bring the record in. He won’t be giving shoutouts to Dean and Steph who are still out of their bin after a house party. He’ll play Brendan Shine for a Holy Rosary nun who’s been out in Lagos since 1960.

AA Roadwatch might be warning others that the Jack Lynch tunnel is blocked due to a truck shedding its load of swans. I’m on an entirely different wavelength.


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