‘It was cold, but Gerry said my city eyes were probably bleeding from all the fresh air’

Dominique McMullan gets to grips with the masculine world of . . . diggers and levers

There’s something about moving a mound of earth from one spot to another that’s deeply satisfying.

There’s something about moving a mound of earth from one spot to another that’s deeply satisfying.

 

This week I did something I’ve wanted to do for years, drive a digger.

A few words to a friend last week and I found myself in a car park in Wicklow, meeting a lovely man called Gerry. My charming digger-dealer picked me up in a dumper and was very gentlemanly in placing his spare coat on the seat so I didn’t get too muddy. I wore my trusty festival boots, festivals being the only other occasion in which I had to rely on thick warm soles and mud protection.

As we headed off down a lane my eyes started to water. It was cold, but Gerry said my city eyes were probably bleeding from all the fresh air. It was a beautiful crisp day and Gerry pointed out the views towards the Sugarloaf. We talked about how lucky he was to be able to work outside. He could never sit in an office. I agreed.

Gerry was digging a path for a child’s Santa train and I was going to help him. When we arrived at the digger, it was bigger than I thought. Gerry did a demonstration, working the various joysticks and levers, while I hung off the side and observed.

When my turn came, you’ll be shocked to hear I wasn’t exactly a pro. Controlling the two levers backwards, left, up, forwards, down, in, right and out – all at the same time – was like rubbing your head and patting your tummy. Gerry belly laughed as I accidentally dropped a huge bucket of earth on some pristine grass.

Once I got the hang of it though, I had a ball. There’s something about moving a mound of earth from one spot to another that’s deeply satisfying.

When the bucket scoops deep into the ground and slices through it like soft cheese, it’s unreasonably pleasurable. I got into the hang of spinning the cab around and stopping just before the dumper, to the minor horror of (at this stage) long-suffering Gerry.

Ending on a high, we decided we’d done enough for the morning and tea and toasties were in order. We sat on oil containers beside Gerry’s van and ate white bread cheese sandwiches and biscuits with hot milky tea. We talked about the internet and the death of the newspaper. You could see our breath in the cold air. My cheeks were pink and my jeans were muddy for the rest of the day. I slept very well that night.

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