Tuesday, March 07, 2006
The Great Escape
Do you know the scene in the Great Escape where Steve McQueen (Hilts) is on the motorbike and he is trying to get into Switzerland but the nasty Germans have huge fences of barbed wire in poor old Steve's way..you know the one..he jumps one bloody fence only to be confronted by another! Well each week I and thousands more like me engage in our own personal version of the Great Escape as we attempt to leave the Pale and head towards the our native county's.
But the comparisons between myself and Hilts 'The Cooler King' doesn't end there. Each Friday morning I sit down with my fellow escapees and discuss tactics for the weekly escape. Plans are discussed, strategies debated and routes planned as sausage rolls and tea are hastily consumed. The ruthless Dubs look on nonplussed, confident that their intricate system of roundabouts, one-way streets and traffic lights will deter any attempted flight for freedom.
Generally, each gang has one 'Big X', the Roger Bartlett of the group who has been in a civil service job since the maidens were dancing at De Valera's crossroads. His word is gospel and generally he advices caution…'stay away from the main routes..avoid confrontation…try the backroads…less chance of getting caught!'. Any young escapee would be wise to listen to the Big X, he has been doing this successfully for years…but the folly of youth ensures that many of the Pale's young captives fall headfirst into the dreaded traps.
You know the scene…the young soldier sits nervously in the train carriage as the SS man makes his way slowly checking all the passengers documents..the young soldier suddenly panics and tries to make a run for it…and with a simple nod of his head…a German cuts down the young escapee with a volley from his machine gun. How often I have witnessed this travesty as the young men and women of rural Ireland foolishly attempt to navigate the treachous canals and quays…..sometimes the foolhardy make it past these initial hazards only to enter the minefield of the M50 roundabout..sadly many have never passed that cement circle of death.
That’s not to say escape is foolish..oh no…some do make it…head down…speeding away from the Dublin motorway…just like Hilts as he speeds through the German meadows next to the Swiss border. Some fall into the hands of the ruthless SS and their deadly but infrequent speed checks…and others…make it..brushing past, riding their luck as they happily see Mulingar on the horizon. As they approach they notice something or someone familiar..a 96 Rover speeding along…the Big X ensconced inside laughing as he has yet again outfoxed those dastardly foes and escaped to victory!