Two hours plodding through rural Kilkenny this morning was thought provoking. I have a fascination with local history, the micro picture of how things change over the years and centuries at an individual and community level. And Ireland presents the runner with unending echoes of the past as well as strange happenings in the present.
Until recently – the early 80s, Ireland remained an insular, agrarian society. Contact with the outside world was limited and resources were few. There was little by way of industry and it was commonplace for its young people to leave the country to seek employment elsewhere. Agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. Outside the main population centres life was quiet, livings were made from the land, pubs were the social centres.
All that changed when Ireland entered the European Community, and also started attracting inward investment by offering generous grants and tax breaks to foreign companies. The Celtic Tiger was born and the economy boomed, but all that came to a shuddering halt a year or so back.
Today I passed by once more the mothballed Ross Abbey shopping centre, mocked across the road by a convenience store supplying all that the local population needs and can afford on a Sunday morning. Further on I came to a road junction. To the right was ostentatiously signposted a technology park. It was a lovely looking road, beautifully maintained with seemingly managed marshland off to the side. Off I set to explore. Eventually I came to barred gates which announced a construction site. Other than a few huts there seemed little construction going on. A lonely flag read Servier. I now read that this French pharmaceuticals concern announced in November 2006 an investment at this Belview site. To be fair they said that production will commence in 2010 but I’m not holding my breath.
Further on again and, in the corner of a field, an old tower and a tumbledown stone cottage, redolent of ancient Ireland. There are times and places in this country that one can almost see, feel and hear the ghosts of Ireland’s past. A misty day on the Dingle Peninsula, Slievemore on Achill Island, Connemara (not on race weekend), the Beara Peninsula are examples.
But onto Belview Port, downriver from Waterford. I am almost surprised to see signs of life – this is an actual working port with boats and stuff. So many new or incomplete developments but the river trade is an ancient one, harking back down the mists of time. Nearby however a modern glassy office development, Marine Point, looks unoccupied. Another couple of exploratory detours before I headed back. As I neared home I wondered how many of these modern developments will become the ghosts of the future? At present Ireland is on its knees financially with a savage Budget coming up, without which the IMF would probably march in and make today seem like partytime.
Back to Waterford and 11.67 miles on the clock at a reasonable lick. But I was aiming for 13+ today and thought I was on course for that. Where did those two miles go? And thinking about it, I don’t recall passing the road to the Servier site on the way back. Now that’s spooky.