Monday, March 23, 2009

The Vermicelli Junction

I had occasion just prior to St. Patrick’s Day to travel down to Wexford which, as we all know, is somewhere over the other side of the Liffey. Unwilling to part with €3 of my hard-earned cash, I treated my family to the splendour of the country drive to Lucan before travelling onwards to the M50, thus avoiding the toll camera that, contrary to the cliché, appears to be quite adept at telling lies.
When I prepared to turn off the N4 onto the M50, though, I encountered a surprise of teddy bears’ picnic proportions. Where once there had been a large and busy roundabout, someone had now removed it (what they plan to do with it, I’ve no idea) and replaced it with dedicated roads that arc and swerve and gently ease you into your desired direction with continental finesse.
What vehicular ecstasy! No more waiting at lights or racing the car beside you to the first bend. Simply get in the right lane well before the junction and the road system cradles you up and deposits you down, kissing you softly on the cheek as it does so.
As I sped off southwards, I glanced back at this marvel of engineering, silhouetted against the sky like the Gwazi rollercoaster at Busch Gardens in Florida, and realised that it wouldn’t hold a candle to the Blanchardstown intersection when it is completed.
Scheduled to be completed next year, the M50 / M3 interchange will be virtually free flow with no roundabouts or lights to impede the progress of the dozen or so Navanites who will still have jobs in the city.
The first job will be to get rid of the two roundabouts belonging to Messrs. Scott and Auburn-Avenue. I expect they will simply dig them up, turn them up on their rims and wheel them down to Collins Barracks, where they will go on display. Personally I think they ought to try to sell them on eBay. There’s bound to be some avid roundabout collector out there who would be only too delighted to add this delightful matching pair to his collection.
After that, the interchange will follow the same pattern as the N4 / M50 road system outlined above with traffic whizzing by in all directions and hold-ups a mere distant memory, except when a truck breaks down or there’s a centimetre of snow, in which case the knock-on effect will be felt down in Tralee.
As it stands, we will have our own Spaghetti Junction. But don’t forget we also have the Maynooth railway line spanning the M50 valley at this point, carrying its cargo of sardines to Amiens Street and beyond. And the canal too, aquaplaning through the vehicular maelstrom like a cuddly cartoon character in a snuff movie. And bizarrely, the footbridge, a long, thin cage that actually used to be the N3 when the world ended in Blanchardstown but now gives the health-conscious walker lethal levels of lead poisoning when crossing from Castleknock to Blanchardstown. Spaghetti, pah! This will be a veritable Vermicelli Junction.
Oh what a wondrous sight this will be when it all comes to pass! It will resemble the internal combustion engine or the intestines of a cow with valves and arteries looping around carrying a mass of metal-encased humanity in all directions.
But why stop there? Why not phone the Guinness Book of Records man and really put Dublin 15 on the map?
A few bold strokes of the architect’s pen and we could have the eagerly anticipated Metro West joining the fun. As an added attraction and to boost ticket sales, I suggest that at the very vortex of the interchange, it performs a loop-the-loop to the delight of everybody aboard before continuing on its merry way towards Swords.
What about cyclists? Has the National Roads Authority even considered them? They can hardly be expected to compete with cars and trucks at such a busy junction and so for health and safety reasons alone, as well as for sheer divilment, there would need to be dedicated cycle lanes for those wishing to access the inner city in a more environmentally friendly manner.
And sure, while we’re at it, we could build a new Ryanair-only terminal for Dublin airport on the landfill site at Dunsink and construct a unique runway that starts somewhere in Abbotstown and straddles the M50. As an incentive to Mr. O’Leary to bring his considerable business to Dublin 15, we would of course offer him the use of this facility absolutely free of charge, with just the usual handling fees and charges.
Seeing that we are creating a hub of transport excellence here, we might as well build a helipad and possibly a rocket-launching site in preparation for when Dublin 15 joins the space race, though we would have to insist on close cooperation between air traffic controllers and ground control. This will be Vermicelli Junction with a side-plate of shredded octopus.
Of course, this massive feat of logistical planning will bring its own brand of tourism to the area, with millions of transport enthusiasts flocking from far and near just to watch the operation from specially constructed vantage points. A miniature railway, possibly operating on a cog system – funiculi funicula! - could be built to bring these hordes of people around the site with headphones and commentary in six different languages. A series of chairlifts could be constructed bringing tourists to the apex of this vast construction from the entrance of the underground station. Did I not mention the underground?
Of course, there will be a few problems when this modern wonder of the transport world is built. Despite the hi-tech technology that will be used, there is still nobody working in the transport system in Ireland that is able to devise the integrated system of ticketing that would doubtless be required for such a junction. Maybe we could send some of our councillors on a fact-finding mission to Cocoa Beach to find out how a combined ticket works.
There will also doubtless be protests from the Union of Comely Maidens at the erosion of their natural habitat – the crossroads – possibly accompanied by a mass sprightly jig and reel from O’Connell Street to the Daíl. However, an enterprising Minister for Culture could easily nip this in the bud by offering them free use of the Scott and Auburn Avenue Roundabouts in Collins Barracks instead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An open application

Dear Sir / Madam,
My name is Peter Goulding and I would like to apply for the position of Writer in Residence at Farmleigh.
I am roughly the same stature as the last incumbent, Dermot Bolger, though possibly I have a few pounds on him in the midriff department. Furthermore I have come across his footsteps in the field opposite the estate and believe that I could very easily follow in them.
My qualifications for the post are impeccable. I am a writer and my preferred location for writing is in a residence. I have been writing in my own residence for quite a while now and feel it is about time I branched out and wrote in someone else’s.
When I say “writer,” it is true that I may not well be able to bandy words about with the loquacity of Mr. Bolger – in fact, I agonise over “What I Did on my Holidays” - but it is generally accepted within the family that I am a good speller, even to the point of pooh-poohing the spell-checker on my computer on occasions.
I have won many awards for my writing. You may have seen in the papers that I received a gold star for my story of Twinkle Bee in senior infants, the first of many such accolades. My repetitive poem “I must not throw cubes of jelly up at the ceiling” written during detention when I was a mere thirteen year old, drew gasps of praise from all those who read it and I believe my small ad in the Evening Herald attempting to sell a slightly faulty umbrella is still being lauded for its use of stark imagery.
Currently, I am working on what I hope will be the definitive Irish novel of our generation. Without wishing to give too much of the plot away, it is a tale of love, war and famine, set against the backdrop of League of Ireland football. I have already had a tentative inquiry from a Mr. S. Spielberg about the film rights and Johnny Depp has reportedly put his holiday in Bundoran on hold, such is his interest in playing the role of Macker, the one-legged centre-half, who finds love in the strangest of places.
I am also a poet of some renown and my epic sonnet “Open your bleedin’ eyes, linesman” narrowly missed the cut for this year’s Leaving Cert syllabus, unjustly overlooked in favour of some scribblings by a guy called Philip Larkin. I have heard that Seamus Heaney has commented very favourably on my ability to rhyme “cockily” with “broccoli.”
Visiting Farmleigh with its backdrop of the Phoenix Park, I have been struck by the beauty of the surroundings (though I would suggest that someone cut down a few of the trees as they tend to block the view of the rest of the park.) I feel sure that the ambient surroundings of the writer’s cottage would definitely help me complete Chapter Two of my novel, in which Rocky “Rock” McBiscuit, the Scythechester manager, stumbles across an illicit and erotic game of headers and volleys in a field outside Rouen.
On a more general point, I believe the solitude and peaceful surroundings of Farmleigh would definitely aid my writing. You’ve no idea how hard it is trying to concentrate when you have a garrulous canary whistling down one ear and two adoring children looking for money in the other. How much better I could write in a peaceful little cottage in the Park, disturbed only the night owls screeching, the wood-pigeons cooing, the security guards barking instructions on their walkie-talkies and the American Ambassador playing his Lionel Ritchie CDs at full volume.
I understand that with the post of writer in residence comes the almost exclusive use of the Farmleigh Library, which is far-famed throughout the western world for its fascinating collection of first editions. Can you tell me if it has the new one by Elizabeth George? I have been trying to get it in Blanchardstown Library for a while now and am dying to know whether Havers and Inspector Lindley finally get it together.
On the application form it requests that I submit “names and contact details of two authorities in your field who know you and your work.” I am afraid that I do not own a field, nor am I ever likely to. It seems a rather strange requisite for the post, if you don’t mind my saying so. Maybe I could rent one for a short period of time and entice two authorities in to it?
I see that I am also required to list a description of the work I intend to undertake if I am successful in my application. To be honest, I hadn’t intended to do much work. Of course, I’ll sweep the kitchen floor occasionally and may even give the skirting boards a lick of paint if I have a free afternoon but other than that, I intend to spend most of my time writing.
There is also a requirement to provide samples of my writing, which is not a problem. I still have a recent letter of complaint to Bord Gáis on my computer and my collection of adjectives now extends to almost two pages. Would this be okay? Sadly my note to our life assurance agent, detailing that we had just popped out and would be returning forthwith, was blown away by a sudden gust of wind and so this literary masterpiece is now lost to posterity.
Can I ask if Mr. Cowen intends to take up residence at Farmleigh during the summer? I only ask because I’ve heard he’s a bit of a hip-hop freak and I’d be a bit perturbed about all that thump-thump music at three o’clock in the morning when I’m trying to watch The Shopping Channel. Maybe you could have a word in his shell-like? Of course he’s welcome to come around an odd evening when he needs a bit of advice on the economy but not when “Ireland’s Got Talent” is on.
Before I officially submit my application form, I would also like to enquire about the official view of sub-letting the property at Farmleigh should I be successful. As you know the cottage is located in a highly-desirable location with easy access to the city centre, yet set in the exclusive surroundings of The Phoenix Park. I feel I would have no problems at all finding a tenant to move in, even on a short term lease. With the rent money, I could then enjoy an extended holiday in Coco Bay, Antigua, doing invaluable research in the resort where Macker’s childhood sweetheart spends Chapter Four improving her prowess as an assistant referee.