Sunday 13 July 2014

I don’t believe in Luck

I’ve been looking for four leafed clover for decades. It’s a thing, I don’t go on expeditions to hunt them down, I just want to find one.

Anyway I was given one as a kid, which I lost with a wallet 25 years ago. My kids found a handful in our garden in 1999 and I gave my one to Audrey somewhere along the line. In any case I never really thought either of those was really “mine” because I hadn’t actually found them. So I’ve been keeping an eye out and looking at clover on and off for a very, very long time without ever finding a four leafed one.

Until today.

The happy little four armed mutant, now deceased.

As I was reaching the furthest part of my trip some little homunculus in my head woke up and said “Stop right now and go back, you just saw a four leafed clover”. I’d been strolling along, camera in hand in “keep an eye out for a good photo’ mode not “look at the clover mode’ and I’d already moved on about 10 meters before my conscious brain had caught up with whatever subconscious monitor it was that was keeping a lookout. I actually thought “Nah, there’s no way I noticed a four leafed clover” and almost didn’t turn back but happily I decided what the heck and there it was right where my memory said it would be.

Achievement unlocked.

I’m thoroughly amazed at how that sort of observation works. Four leaf mutants are rare but not impossibly rare. About 1 clover in 10,000 has the mutation so if you go into a field and look at every single clover statistics will be your friend. That seems like cheating to me, I wanted to find one along the way, as I said. But picking out a 1:10,000 oddball from a sea of identical green leaves is pretty slick image recognition. Especially when you’re doing it with stereo vision and while moving at 5km/h across a sea of millions of the little buggers. The ability of the human eye/brain to keep that sort of image search program running in the background for decades, and then have it actually pay out, really does amaze me. Quite cool.

Beyond the Pale

The Pale, that famously useless 14th defensive ditch that stretched in a loop through the counties neighbouring Dublin, runs south somewhere through Kilcock heading towards Clane as far as I can tell. Some of the remaining parts run in a line between Clane and Kilcock at any rate. My target for today was to go beyond it, and brave the lawlessness on the other side. We’ve come along way apparently because all I met were friendly walkers, cyclists and fisherfolk.

I decided to do an out-and-back route because I was unsure about how long it would take and didn’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere with blistered feet and an expensive taxi call as the only escape route. Kilcock is about 18km from home, taking the most direct route to the Royal Canal at Louisa Bridge in Leixlip. Yesterday I comfortably handled a 25km walk in the other direction, into Phibsboro along the canal and then down into town to get a bus home. I also really wanted to equal my best previous walking distance so I decided to go to the 17th Lock, Ferns Lock, at McLoughlin Bridge which is about 3km west of Kilcock. Total trip ended up at just over 43km door to door. If I’d kept heading out west I’d have comfortably made it to Kinnegad which is quite cool. Might try that next time.

The Royal Canal way is beautifully maintained along the section I covered. It’s a bit rutted from lots of bikes between Louisa Bridge and Maynooth but that’s hardly noticeable as a walker. The rest is well maintained, hard packed gravel surface or closely cut grass. Perfect for walking.

The route took me from Louisa Bridge on the eastern edge of Leixlip, past the new Matt Gough Bridge (impressive but very modern and plain), Dee Bridge and the 13th Lock, Pikes Bridge (the dock at Carton Estate), Mullen Bridge (Tasteful modern bridge beside the original, very nice engineering), Maynooth Dock and the pedestrian walkway over to the train station, Bond Bridge ( again a very nice modern bridge), past the grounds of NUI Maynooth, Jackson’s Bridge (a wonderful construction with four arches, one of which is for pedestrians, Bailey’s Bridge (a very ugly 20th century bridge), North Kildare RFC where I stopped to watch the cricket for a few minutes, Chamber’s Bridge and the 15th Lock (very nice 18th century stonework), Kilcock and it’s fantastic harbour, Shaw’s Bridge in Kilcock ( another excellent modern bridge), the double 16th Lock, Allen Bridge (a dull 20th century functional concrete slab affair), and then finally a km or two right along the Meath/Kildare Border between the canal and the Rye Water until I just barely crossed into Meath at Ferns Lock, the 17th, and McLoughlin’s Bridge.

I think I got there around 12:30PM, almost exactly four hours after I set off. Total distance at that point was 21km. My pace was relatively slow because I was taking pictures along the way out and was always aware that I was going to have to cover every step again.

Heading back I slowed down a bit more and the return trip took me over 5 hours but I stopped three times to rest and give tired muscles a bit of a break. And have a pint or two. This was a Sunday stroll after all.

The weather was perfect for walking, not so good for taking pictures but I got a few more shots of bridges, locks and scenery that should match up with the list above.

The only downside is that yet again I was stupid enough to get sun burned. Never forget to put on sunblock, even if there’s dense cloud cover.


Tuesday 24 June 2014


Had an excellent, but all too brief trip over to London last weekend to meet up with Daithi and Nicola, check out their new house (lovely!), go to the TwitterUK office opening party, do some walking and try to build some Raspberry-Pi stuff.

Got some pictures along the way.