Tuesday, 8 May 2018


Roadworks on Abbeyfeale Hill.  Are we near an election?

O blithe new-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice.
O cuckoo, shall I call thee bird,
Or but a wandering voice?

We took a gentle stroll on Abbeyfeale Hill recently and were delighted to hear the cuckoo calling out from a small wood beside the Grogeen Road.

This feathered harbinger of summer has been visiting Ireland for thousands of years. It arrives from its home in deepest Africa spreading news of nature’s awakening and renewal. However, its numbers are said to be slowly dwindling and it soon may become as scarce as the humble corncrake.

It never builds a nest of its own but claims squatters rights and lays an egg in the carefully constructed habitat of some other unsuspecting bird who must then hatch out the egg and feed the young intruder until it can fly. One cuckoo can distribute as many as twenty eggs during its visit to our shores and all these orphans must then return to Africa once their tenancy agreements run out.

The cuckoo is regarded as selfish and bone-idle but, in fairness, it may just be tired after its long journey from the Sahara. However, it seemed in good form during our visit and was warbling away to its heart’s content.

We walked along the road and saw that the council were in the process of carrying out major repairs – a sure sign that we are close to a general election.

Back in the day, canvassers would arrive seeking our vote and asking if they could do anything for us. We would point to the potholes and ask if there was any possibility that a grain of gravel or a drop of tar might be applied. They would make a copious notes and promise that action would be taken as soon as the election was over.

The election came and went but nothing was ever done and the potholes got bigger and deeper.

Jimmy Joe was on his way home from a raffle in Dromtrasna late one night when he fell in to a huge pothole on the Grogeen Road and disappeared from view. He was missing for three weeks until he wrote from Australia to say that he had arrived safely and was fine. He was deported back home the following day for not having an entry visa.

You might take this story with a pitch of salt but remember we are talking about Grogeen here – a magic and mysterious place where anything might happen (and usually did.)

Anyway, we retraced our footsteps but paused as a young hare ran out a gap and began jumping about in a ray of sunshine before suddenly spotting us and racing off down the road with ears flattened.

The cuckoo was still calling. Birds were singing. The furze bushes were in yellow bloom. Bees were buzzing. A few cattle were grazing peacefully beside a ditch. It seemed like pleasant and balmy summer evening.

And then a dark cloud began slowly covering the sun and, before we knew what was happening there was a clap of thunder, a flash of lightning, and a massive shower of sleet and hailstone suddenly rained down with a clatter and covered everything in a white sheet.

We took shelter under a tree (not recommended during a thunder storm) and waited for the deluge to abate. It only lasted a few minutes but we emerged to a winter wonderland bathed once more in sunshine. We could nearly have built a snowman - or a cock of hay..

The cuckoo had stopped his warbling by this stage and had no doubt flown off to warmer climes after experiencing the shortest Irish summer in history. Doubtful if he will return again next year. It hardly seems worth the journey.

We came back down Abbeyfeale Hill like Alpine explorers descending from the face of the Eiger.

The country could badly do with an early election – so it could. It just might clear the weather.

P.S. (The weather cleared for last weekend’s Bank Holiday. Are we perhaps heading for the hustings?)

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