Let me just clarify at the outset here that the Irish police force is officially known as An Garda Siochana (The Guardian Of The Peace) and a policeman is a Garda (Irish) or, more commonly, Guard. It’s complicated and we like it that way.
This week the Mum-mobile run is taking me, four times a day, past the city’s main Garda station. I have never spent quite so much time driving alongside, behind or (worst of all) in front of Garda cars.
On my first run today, in rush hour traffic, I pulled up at Cork’s most notorious junction (the airport roundabout) in the middle of three busy lanes. On my left was a Garda car. I become hyper-aware when a uniformed Garda is seated six feet to my left. I mentally ran through a checklist of my insurance and tax discs (renewed only yesterday at the very last minute!). I realised my phone was lying on the passenger seat beside me and I’m still not sure whether that’s an actual offence. I wonder what the tread depth of my tyres is.
I was fidgety and glanced to my right where my neighbour was staring straight ahead and tapping his steering wheel with an air of insouciance. I noticed that he had a massive glob of shaving cream in his left ear. I pondered how I might signal this to him before he embarrassed himself at an important business meeting but reconsidered when it occurred to me that the Guards might think I was making fun of them.
Shaving-cream man was carried away by a different stream of traffic but the Gardai and I travelled alongside each other down the dual carriageway. I drove at precisely the speed limit and, thankfully, the Garda car overtook me (slightly illegally?) on the inside lane and steamed ahead.
I kid you not, at the very next set of traffic lights I pulled up behind a car with blacked-out windows and four bullet holes in the boot. Well, maybe they weren’t bullet holes, maybe the driver reversed four times into the business end of a power tool. Either way, very suspicious. I glanced around for the Garda car but they were long gone and, anyway, what signal would I have made? Cocking my thumb and forefinger and pointing towards the car in front of me could have led to any number of bizarre scenarios.
As we approached the next set of traffic lights the mystery criminals sailed through on the orange (naturally) while I came to a halt at the white line. I was at the edge of a big, wide, busy junction made crazier by being the corner of the biggest construction site that Cork has seen since the boom burst. I thought that I heard a fire brigade siren. I turned down my radio and looked around but I was hemmed in by cement mixers and couldn’t see anything. Suddenly, a hundred drivers behind me seemed to be sitting on their horns and I caught the blue flash in my rearview mirror. The traffic lights were still red. There was nowhere to go and nowhere anyone else could go until I went somewhere. For a millisecond, I held the eye of the driver at the other side of the junction. I thought I saw him blink, a tiny nod of agreement and I just went for it. I put my foot down and gunned it across the junction. Instinct dictated that, if I was going to run a red light, I should do it fast. I saw twenty cars spewing on to the junction like champagne from a bottle neck and the fire engine screaming around the corner. Mayhem ensued but I left it all behind as I sailed down an empty road towards the marina.
I slowed down to round a bend which was very lucky indeed since, had I not, I would almost inevitably have rear-ended the car stopped in the middle of the road which was, of course, you’ve guessed it, the Garda car.
The driver in front of the Guards had stalled their car (nerves, maybe?) and seemed to be in the process of flooding their engine.
I looked straight ahead and tapped my steering wheel with an air of insouciance. Then I calmly changed lanes and allowed a different stream of traffic to carry me away.
No photos for this post because, well, imagine trying to explain that to the Guards, ‘Well, you see Guard, I have this blog…..’