Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wexford Sights (I)

While I was on my way into Wexford this morning on my own nefarious business (which, I hasten to add, is none of yours), I became stuck in the usual convoy of vehicles caused by a large van chuntering along at a leisurely pace. It didn't bother me in the slightest, as I wasn't in any hurry, but evidently the gentleman just ahead of me was not sharing my mellow mood. To my amazement, he proceeded to overtake, on a bend of seriously limited visibility, four cars and the aforementioned van. I was transfixed with horror as he hurtled forward on the other side of the road, pulling back to his own side in front of the van just as a small white car was approaching. If said small white car had been travelling at the same speed as our impetuous friend, you'd be reading about this in the newspapers as both cars (and occupants) would have been smashed to pieces. This reckless idiot (clearly being a member of the Jeremy Clarkson Fan Club who believes that Alpha Males like himself should never be bound by anything as petty as speed limits or girlish notions of "safety" and "consideration for others", because he's too much of a man to ever be in an accident (a certainty which only takes a dent as they peel some hapless pedestrian's remains off the road with a giant spatula when he's mashed them to puree after losing control of his car)) seemed to feel that his business was so pressing that he was willing to endanger other people's lives in its pursuance (a common enough sight on Wexford roads, and no doubt countrywide), so I was delighted to see, from two cars behind me, a police car suddenly pull out and, sirens blazing, set off in pursuit of this dangerous imbecile. It's a sight not often enough seen on these roads, where I drive with the constant fear in the back of my mind of such aggressive boneheads and their lethal disregard of things like sharp bends and approaching traffic when overtaking. (And by the by: anyone who states that slow drivers bear some responsibility for accidents should be forced by law to travel everywhere for a year on a sit-on lawnmower (a la The Straight Story) while being pelted with rotten vegetables; reckless overtaking is not acceptable under any circumstances, no matter how slow the person in front of you is driving, and if you have so little self-control that you cannot wait until the way ahead is clear, then you shouldn't be allowed to drive a car. Would you use that defense with the family of someone you killed or maimed? "There was this guy, like, drivin' really slowly, and it was doin' my head in, so I went around him on a blind bend coz I was, like, in a real hurry. I didn't mean to put your son in a wheelchair, y'know?")
Enough ranting! I stopped off in Castlebridge, a small town about three miles north of Wexford, and went to look at the famed conservatory there. Here are some pictures.
I know little about this remarkable structure other than what an information board in the village green told me. The house was built in 1814 and was owned at one point by WB Nunn, who supplied malt to the Guinness Brewery in St James's Gate (ah, the intoxicating smell of the brewery on the walk along the quays up to Heuston Station; it always reminds me of my college years!). The concept of the Guinness Book of Records was first mooted here, at a dinner party in 1951, following an argument over which was Europe's fastest bird (or fattest; the board says "fatest", an ambiguous misspelling which suggests that the gentlemen were out with calipers measuring wheezing, balloon-like birds barely able to support their own weight, let alone fly), which suggests that the house was still occupied at that point. The conservatory, made from cast iron by the well-known Pierce Brothers of Wexford Town and "regarded as being ones of the best examples of this form of metal work still existing in the country" is essentially "in ruins". Apparently, it is a listed building and (I think) is publicly owned, and there have been a number of attempts to have the conservatory restored but none have come to pass; whether it's due to inordinate expense or lack of interest from the powers-that-be, I can't say (I did look for information on the Interweb, but found very little). It is a terrible shame to have an edifice of such elegance and character slowly falling to pieces due to neglect and apathy, and one can't imagine that, in a recession, it'll have any chance at all of being restored to its former splendour. The fear would be that some ruthless pig of a private developer owns the site, and is simply waiting for the conservatory to collapse under the weight of years so he can tear it down and throw up (in both senses of the phrase) a village of bland, jerry-built shoeboxes that he can sell for a fortune (well, at least the collapse of the property market should have removed that worry for about a decade). We can but hope that in some enlightened day, when we as a nation can see our heritage as more than just something to sell to tourists, as more than just an irrelevance to be demolished when it stands in the way of some gombeen man making a quick buck, that it will shine forth again in glory.

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