THERE was more than a hint of Spring in the air when I woke up to the welcome sound of birdsong on Sunday morning, but it wasn’t quite enough to banish the winter blues. February, I recalled from an old saying, will ‘fill the dyke, black or white: if it doesn’t, March will’. So I’m still in suspense, ‘waiting for the word’. But then maybe climate change has finally put paid to such certainties anyway.
It isn’t the weather, however, that’s taxing my mind this week, so much as two rather vexing issues that I need to get off my chest. The first is the increasing number of motorists who are being penalised for parking on public footpaths. A woman from Doon was fined for parking on the footpath outside her home in the village recently, and I know of a couple of others in different parts of the region who are facing a similar fate. Not a word, though, about cyclists who mount the footpaths every time they encounter a traffic jam, or pedestrians who like to cross the road anywhere rather than avail of a pedestrian crossing!
Footpaths are for the use and safety of pedestrians, but why they have to take up half the road is beyond me. Some of Limerick city’s footpaths are now so wide that there’s hardly enough room for two vehicles to pass on the reduced carriageway, not to talk of being able to park a car on the road. It’s the same in any town and village which has undergone pedestrian-friendly renewal in recent years. Where the cars are supposed to go, I don’t know. The footpaths in my own town of Killaloe got a big make-over a couple of years ago with lots of fancy paving stones. The width of the footpaths was extended to look like the Champs Elysees, and you could nearly land a Boeing 747 or hold a platform dance on one section of pavement. Unfortunately the enlarged footpaths ate into the few parking places left in that part of the town, and motorists who needed to drop into the bank or the shops had no alternative but to park on the fancy footpaths. Now neither the pedestrians nor the vehicle owners are happy.
Across the river in Ballina, they took the precaution of erecting black metal pillars on the wider footpaths to keep cars from mounting them. But cars are always hitting off them, and some of them are now rivalling the Pisa tower for obliqueness. From an aesthetic point of view they look extremely ugly, even when upright. Surely some kind of a compromise could be reached on the proportion of carriageway to footpath, especially in small towns and villages where the prospect of an army of pedestrians marching up and down the sidewalks, ten abreast, is highly unlikely.
MY second bug-bear of the departing winter, is the fact that, for the life of me, I can’t put a finger on my resilience button. This is proving to be a bit of a personal disaster at a time when resilience has become the new buzz-word of the Irish identity. It’s genetic, apparently - all the way back to our cave dwelling ancestors and Cuchullain himself – and I think I’ve missed out. I couldn’t even bounce back from a trampoline and Christine Lagarde wouldn’t be a bit impressed with me.
The most frustrating thing about this new resilience factor is that believers insist on regarding failure as a blessing. In my day, you were regarded as a loser if you failed, and that was that. Now, it seems, you haven’t lived at all if you haven’t experienced failure.
‘Don’t be afraid of failing. Bring it on and embrace it,’ we’re told. Yeah, right! If that’s the case, why are teachers being told to dump their red biros and adopt a friendlier green ink, when marking their students’ incorrect work, for fear the kids will feel like failures?
Even more annoying is the fact that they’re quoting Samuel Beckett, left, right and centre –“Ever tried. Ever failed. Fail again. Fail better.” But they’re forgetting that Sam was a bit of an anarchist and probably didn’t have a resilient bone in his body. He’d hate to be regarded as the poster boy for Irish resilience.
I was dogged myself by a fear of failure all my life and the last thing I’d ever want to do is embrace it.
It looked like the devil in disguise, especially when I was doing my first driving test, and now they tell me I should have hugged the ‘fail’ report. Instead I hid it from everybody and consoled myself with the thought that the driving tester wouldn’t have failed a young blonde just for hitting the kerb a couple of times while reversing around a corner.
Hopefully, it’s only a passing phase – like last season’s mindfulness. Come the spring, and we’ll either be wallowing in success and better fortune - and refusing to even countenance the concept of failure - or we’ll be lamenting our lot, as usual.