FIONA LOONEY

KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE - Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

The odd­est bit, look­ing back on it from the long time of a week, was the fire brigade. The sirens were strange as well: hear­ing the famil iar sound of sirens ap­proach­ing down the road and sud­denly re­al­is­ing — for the first time in my life — they’re com­ing for me. But the fire brigade? I re­ally didn’t ex­pect them.

By the time they screeched around the corner, I was at least up­right, sit­ting on a junc­tion box, be­wil­dered and be­gin­ning to feel a lit­tle sorry for my­self. As the ten­der drew up, it did briefly oc­cur to me that this was more or less a sex­ual fan­tasy of mine — right up un­til the point where I saw the at­trac­tive fire­woman jump down from the en­gine and ap­proach me.

I even con­sid­ered ask­ing if Char­lie Red­mond was on board — an ad­mit­tedly fee­ble ref­er­ence to a leg­endary story that did the rounds af­ter Dublin won the All Ire­land in 1995 — but in the end, I said very lit­tle. I wasn’t wear­ing my funny hat, see.

In­stead, I was wear­ing my bi­cy­cle hel­met, and a small bruise was al­ready be­gin­ning to form on my tem­ple from where it had pushed against my head as it had made con­tact with my han­dle­bars.

The thing about cy­cling is that some­times it is a per­fect ex­am­ple of irony. Most of us who cy­cle do so be­cause we like to be fit and healthy. Some­times, this can mean that we tend to travel on the higher moral ground.

When I whiz past some­body sit­ting in a car that is stuck in a traf­fic jam, and I see them smok­ing, I usu­ally give my­self a metaphor­i­cal round of ap­plause. There is, I will con­cede, a lot of smug­ness in­volved in cy­cling. But there’s also a hell of a lot of dan­ger. That’s why I very, very rarely cy­cle in town. When we were re­hears­ing my play Oc­to­ber, Vic­to­ria Smur­fit got her bi­cy­cle wheel caught in a Luas rail and came a-proper-crop­per.

On Thurs­day night, last week, on the way home from re­hearsals for Greener, I saw an­other of our ac­tors weave across sta­tion­ary traf­fic lanes on D’olier Street and I made a men­tal note to warn him how dan­ger­ous that might have been.

But that turned out to be some­thing of a clos­ing- the- sta­ble- door warn­ing. On the

‘All I can re­mem­ber is a smash, fol­lowed by some drag­ging, a bit of wing­less flight and then a fall to the ground’

Fri­day morn­ing, as I sped down the road to­wards the gym — more irony! — a car sud­denly turned left di­rectly in front of me. I’m not re­ally sure of the lo­gis­tics of what fol­lowed — a smash, ob­vi­ously, fol­lowed by some drag­ging, a bit of wing­less flight and then a fall to the ground.

The one thing I do re­mem­ber clearly is that all the time, I just kept think­ing, ‘Pro­tect your head, pro­tect your head.’ I did — pos­si­bly at the ex­pense of the rest of me — and then it was over, and I was ly­ing a good 20 feet from where the col­li­sion had oc­curred, and a woman — who’d been driv­ing be­hind me and had seen the whole thing — was telling me not to move, that she was a nurse and that she’d phoned an am­bu­lance. Any­way, I’m fine. Read­ing back over what I’ve just writ­ten, I re­alise it kind of sug­gests that I broke at least a few bones and pos­si­bly the world record for unas­sisted flight, but the truth, thank­fully, is rather more mun­dane than that.

The am­bu­lance came and the guards, as well as — briefly, in­ex­pli­ca­bly — the fire brigade. By the time they all left again, it was de­bat­able as to who was in worse shape, me or the driver who’d hit me, a ter­ri­bly up­set young mother whose only mis­take that day had been not to check her wing mir­ror be­fore turn­ing left.

At the Swift­care clinic they told me I’d got off in­cred­i­bly lightly, with lit­tle more than a few cuts, some im­pres­sive bruis­ing and a story to tell that might make peo­ple feel sorry for me. The fol­low­ing day I was stiff and sore — enough for sym­pa­thy but not enough to can­cel the day — and that evening, in Cork, a woman on a bike was killed.

So here’s the thing: I know we cy­clists an­noy you driv­ers. I un­der­stand that you think us smug and above the law and the truth is that, some­times, you are quite right.

But it is re­ally, re­ally easy to hurt us and it is even quite easy to kill us. So al­ways check your left wing mir­ror. And, fel­low bik­ers: I know the hel­met is not a good look, but it might just save your life. Now, be care­ful out there.

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