Damian and Peggy McCarney at the flooded lane.
Damian and Peggy McCarney at the flooded lane.
A silver sickle moon slumbered on the brow of the drumlin ahead. I caught my breath and marvelled at its beauty.
“See the moon?” said the Celt, words forming clouds that vanished into the black freeze.
“Whatever,” Mrs Celt grumbled in a response otherwise unprintable. It punctured the brave face I was trying to put on a shitty situation.
In Mrs Celt’s defence the circumstance really wasn’t conducive to chit-chat, regardless of how resplendent the lunar display. It’s 5.45am on a November morning and I’m giving herself a piggyback over a 20-metre stretch of flooded lane that connects us to civilisation.
We’d recently moved into our new house on the dank fringes of Crossdoney only to be caught out by the rising Trinity Lake. In the course of just one night the gluttonous lough gulped up the low lying lane and our home on a peninsula had become an outpost on an island.
Scrub hedgerows roughly traced where the tarmac might be. Armed with only one pair of wellies, it was up to me to be the pig in this relationship - I grunted in approval for the chance to reaffirm my masculinity. Judging by my wife’s mood, the saying 'on the pig’s back’ as denoting a happy state of affairs, needs a rethink. With each wade forward of my trotter, the icy water teased the brim of my wellies, so I sought out the lane’s grass Mohican as the highest point, and our best chance of getting through undrenched.
Safely over, we still had a brisk march ahead of us to reach the car parked further up the road. In total to get from her car on one side of the flood to my car on the other side measured about half a mile in the freezing morning. When you’ve had to get up at 4.45am, it’s hassle you just don’t need. Our normal alarm call of 5am is a rude awakening at the best of times; when you creep into the realms of 4am, well, frankly, that’s just night-time.
We clambered into the car to be greeted by a damp odour, caused by adventures the night before. As the heavens opened - joined, too, by the hells, limbos and purgatories - I figured we needed a car on the far side of the flood to get into town. My clever plan was to pretend the flood wasn’t there and horse on through.
As a wave crashed up over the bonnet and onto the windscreen, a wave of regret washed over me. Water began to rise in the well of the passenger seat but I kept her lit and my ramshackle newly-NCT’d Astra somehow made it. However, the floor mats were sodden and in the days that followed, that smell of dampness degenerated into a stench with which dead animal collectors would be familiar.
Of course, everyone knows the old wives’ cure for bad odours - a generous sprinklings of baking soda. After repeated sprinklings, the end result was an aborted cake mix matted into the carpet. While your shoes stick to the gloopy mat, the smell’s not so heinous. Result!
Anyway, Day Two of 'Operation Stranded Clowns’, and at least we had acquired a second set of wellies. The only incident of note was when a frog swam past my wife’s feet - she didn’t even raise a whisper of acknowledgement. How many can say they were passed out by an amphibian on their way to work?
Day Three saw us concede defeat. Yep, we were refugees - exactly the same as the Syrian refugees - I’m sure you’ll agree. As bona fide refugees we sought help from Cavan’s answer to Angela Merkel - my mother-in-law. She gave us shelter and rations for 10 days or so till the water retreated.
I know what you’re thinking: that was back in November with Storm Desmond, so why dredge it all up again now? Well, Storm Frank pished all over our happiness and the flood’s back. With a vengeance. And this time we didn’t get the chance to bring a car across.
So, currently, we phone a council lorry driver and beseech him to come and ferry us to mainland Cavan. On Wednesday night last - Day Two of the latest debacle - I was hoping to get home from the Celt office but the Council lorry was needed to grit the roads. Regrettably, reducing the chances of road fatalities is somehow regarded as a greater priority!
Stranded without wellies, I rolled up my jeans, kicked off my new brogues and tramped barefooted, well, sock-footed through the flood, all the time seeking out my old friend, the grass mohican with an inquisitive toe. With no moon to distract me I was feeling very sorry for myself and took to the bed as soon as I got home, complaining of a terminal case of melancholy.
After ringing (or maybe wringing) in the new year, at the Radisson, our tipsy guests and us waded only a few steps along the lane before our wellies were gulping in the icy water so high had it risen - high enough for Joan Burton to stay upright in a canoe, should she come on a mercy visit. We’ve been told that if it gets any higher the Council lorry won’t make it through and it’ll be down to the Civil Defence to get us through.
It’s Day 4 as I write, Gertrude has not yet hit but I suspect by the time you read this, we’ll have called it quit and be back seeking refuge with the in-laws.