Michael Harding: Trump is not relevant to Leitrim but there’s no escape from his windy guff

Every time I wake to go to the toilet I can’t resist looking at my phone to see if he has tweeted anything new since midnight

 

Some nights I worry that Trump might come to Leitrim and open a golf club and the serenity of my life in the garden would be broken by the continual roar of helicopters coming with Champagne for the golfers.

And if he got his finger into local politics he might send all the Cavan people home and build a wall along the Cuilcagh mountain to keep them out and I might have to get a visa.

No wonder I’m not sleeping at night. Every time I wake to go to the toilet, I can’t resist looking at my phone to see if he has tweeted anything new since midnight. And then there’s the prospect that Leitrim may have shifted to a new position on the global map. Quiet and remote as we were, the rushy fields may yet end up as part of a buffer zone between Europe and the UK, infested with hordes of butter smugglers going one way and laptop dancers coming the other way.

In the old days it was flour that was transported in donkey creels up the slopes of Slieve Russell and came down the other side into Ballyconnell. The donkeys moved in a long, meandering caravan across the mountainous border without guides, and knew where to go, so police could never prosecute anyone but the donkeys. There were pigs too that came along the river in boats from Lisnaskea to Belturbet, their bellies full of stout to keep them quiet, although their snores occasionally betrayed their presence to policemen with good ears.

Me as a child outlaw

My own mother was an adept smuggler of butter on Saturday afternoons when we were returning from Enniskillen with the week’s groceries. As my father drove she would stuff pounds of butter up my jersey and down the legs of my trousers, in the hope that a customs man would not dare to suspect a child of contravening international law.

In fact, the butter raids on Enniskillen were moments of political insight. At an early age I understood the absurdity of that imaginary line slicing through the fields around the Erne river, where some people had long cottages straddling the border that map-makers had conjured into existence with pencils in 1922.

But now the possibility arises that some Cavan farmer may find himself living with his bedroom in Europe and his kitchen in the United Kingdom.

Change is not my norm

No wonder I want to retire permanently to a shed in the back garden. I can’t cope with all this change. For years I was accustomed to a world where small things happened. Various cats got born or died. A child grew up. A neighbour emigrated. I counted the melancholic days of winter, and no car passed along the lonely lane outside the house for weeks. Christmases came and went tethering me to old icons of mother and child, and the shallow January light through the winter trees was unchanged since medieval days as I gathered kindling after storms and searched for snowdrops in the woods.

Now and then the weatherwoman on the television predicted that a cold snap was coming and there might be snow on high ground, and I’d tap the cat on the whiskers and say, “That’s us Charlie. We’re on high ground. You better stay in tonight.”

I’d gather logs at the side of the stove and sit waiting, in hope that a blanket of white silence might fall. And sometimes it did. And sometimes it didn’t.

But it wasn’t what you might call an exciting life. As the years passed my libido declined. The General went grey. And the future seemed fairly predictable. But at least it was all real. The world outside the window was sensual in its fruits and berries, its leaves and snowdrops. I could touch God’s face in the sleet and rain and smell the burning turf and watch the crooked smoke tangle its way in eddies inside the glass door of the stove.

We had a joke long ago in Glangevlin. Coming into a house, someone would say, “You have great shelter in here.” It meant the house was cosy. But it also meant people still lived close to the wind, and to the sensation and touch of the weather.

Now everyone’s nose is glued to a screen, where flickering phantoms warn that all roads lead to an apocalypse. Of course, Trump is irrelevant to Leitrim. But a thousand laptops, like wonky doors, have allowed a bad breeze to filter in and there is no hiding place now from his windy guff. Unless I find shelter in the shed, unplugged completely in the hills above Lough Allen.

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