Every once in awhile I find myself realising how absolutely bloody wonderful it is to be alive. It’s not a feeling that slowly builds; rather it hits me with the full force of a freight train and usually reduces me to laughing manically or wildly whooping. Usually, too, I’m on a bike- which means taking my hands off the handlebars and dancing, while cycling at speed and shouting my head off.
Early this morning I was puffing along on my bike- tired and hungover- on the road from Dunboyne to Maynooth. Climbing the hill I had my head to the ground. I wished I could cut out the effort and just be in Maynooth, where a stack of reading was waiting to make me feel guilty but I could at least fall back into bed for an hour or two.
As I came to the crest of the hill, I raised my head. Surrounded by old oaks that still clutched their autumn leaves, I was bathed in crisp light from the sun in the east. I looked out across the green fields as far as the Dublin mountains and gulped in the view as David Gilmore implored me to ‘Breathe/Breathe in the air’. The only distraction from this perfect panorama was two blackbirds swooping back and forth across the tarmac of the empty road. This was a scene worthy of a shouting!
I danced along the road, pedalling to Pink Floyd and getting lost in my own thoughts. As it happens, dear friends, I haven’t been at all well these past few weeks. An old illness has resurfaced and I’ve begun to self-medicate for it. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Final Year Syndrome (FYS) and consistent doses of adventure can only abate the symptoms, which include: itchy feet, irresponsible behaviour and crippling procrastination. FYS is degenerative, and although the symptoms usually clear up after sufferers escape higher education, the effects of the disease can make themselves felt long into the future, and are particularly exasperated at job interviews.
During my previous attack, in my final year of the BA, my self proscribed course of treatment wasn’t too harsh: a crazy cycle here and there, the odd 3am cup of tea in a friend’s house and the treatment reaching its height when I, er, accidently, slept in the rosebushes of a friend’s garden. This would never be enough to tackle this particularly harsh strain of MA-FYS. The disease has turned my life upside down, quite literally. My day begins when the sun goes down, so as I cycled Glimore’s words really caught me:
‘And then one day you findTen years have got behind you.No one told you when to run;You missed the starting gun.’
Am I wasting my life? Well what am I going to remember in 100 years time? I thought back over the last few weeks of moonlit escapades. Exploring graveyards, sneaking into Jacuzzis, the seminary and to the top of the a crane on a university library construction site.
Most recently there was my late night stroll from Maynooth to Blanchardstown…
Having struggled to write my thesis proposal for hours I gave up at 11pm, going for a stroll around campus to get some air after a day of being cooped up with my computer. Getting back to the apartment I found myself locked out. ‘It’s a sign!’ I though. ‘I need to have an adventure’. I wanted to go home to Blanchardstown the next day, and with nothing else to do that night I set my radio-phone to Lyric and headed on my merry way.
My coat went missing last year- swallowed by the devil that is Mantra nightclub- and so I wore a blazer over my hoodie to keep out the cold. This brought a real touch of class to the occasion. I left Maynooth along the road to Leixlip, turning onto Kellystown Lane and leaving the streetlights behind. Soon, I came to where the Rye-water courses across the Carton estate and crosses the road on a long, narrow old bridge. The river is wide and shallow at the bridge, it’s the perfect fording point for the deer which can often be seen dashing through the water here. But on this night nothing disturbed the shimmering reflection of the moonlight on the water.
I continued on up a hill surrounded by the noise of the wind in the trees, complimented by the softly playing classical music. The road wound its way through fields towards the outskirts of Leixlip. When I saw Louisa Bridge train station I knew that this could be my one chance to walk down the tracks a la Stand By Me. Of course, I hoped I wouldn’t find a dead body at the end of my walk… I climbed down the bridge into the empty station and started to walk the track.
The moon was directly in front of me, but I wasn’t able to appreciate it; I had to keep focused on my footing so that I wouldn’t twist an ankle on the stones and sleepers. About half way to Clonsilla I came to a blazing red signal and breathed a sigh of relief. No train was heading this way any time soon. But almost as soon as I thought that, the signal changed to yellow, meaning a train could pass. I started to jog awkwardly, keeping an eye behind me and frantically looking for a bush to squeeze behind. But with the canal on my left and a tall fence on my right I was trapped on the tracks. In the distance ahead I could see a grey signal box big enough to crouch behind while the train passed and so I sped up to make it there before I was caught in the headlights of the engine.
Out of breath, I leapt behind the signal box and tried to catch the sound of the steady chugging of the train on the night air. It couldn’t be far away now! But after 10 minutes, nothing came. Tentitively I crept out and put my ear to the tracks. Nothing. I wondered if that trick really works? Cautiously I started moving along the tracks again until I passed a signal going the other direction. It was green. Holy fuck! Trains coming in both directions and no way off the tracks- This sort of gobshitery is probably how the dead body ended up on the tracks in Stand by Me.
Up ahead was a bridge which I hoped I could climb up to safety. I really started to leg it and the stones on the track were digging painfully into my Converse clad feet. The bridge was surrounded by nettles and thorns when I got to it, and was too high to climb anyway.
Then I noticed that I’d made it as far as the disused train station with the dilapidated waiting room. Well, I couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste so I headed into the tiny waiting room to check it out. It smelt of must and piss, which isn’t my favourite combination. So I looked across the track to the old stationhouse, now a family home. Ah-ha! The bushes were short enough that I might be able to pull myself over them. So I traversed the tracks once again and hauled myself onto the hedge.
As I perched precariously with one foot caught in the bush the outside light went on. I threw myself into the garden, tumbled across the grass and hopped the wall. Only a fat ginger cat watched as I disappeared down the road to Clonsilla, vowing never to be so stupid again but knowing it was an empty promise…
Back in the morning sunlight on the road behind Carton House I realised the importance of these adventures. Not only in keeping me sane, but also in reminding me that there’s so much of the world out there to be explored. So many experiences to be seized! Besides, the only crime- apparently- is Money.
And with 0.68c in my bank account there’s no fear of me committing this offence.