No need for the radio since both of us could talk for Ireland and so about a half hour into the drive we were both a bit startled when the car dashboard beeped to let us know we were low on petrol. I hadn't had the wit to check the level before we'd set off.
I completely believe the maths when it tells me that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and so I'm not one for following motorways when it looks like I can go more directly from A to B on country roads. I like to think I have a great sense of direction and so I'd taken a cross country route home.
I know there's about 30 miles left in the tank before I really run out of juice and so I'm not really panicking as such but I get my friend to flip on 'Nuala' the sat nav to see if she can pinpoint a service station - it's not like Ireland is that big and there's probably one round the next hedge. It's been pitch dark since about 7 or so anyhow and I'm on country roads that I'm not familar with and so it's handy to have the sat nav to fall back on.
A while back we passed a signpost for Trim, and so I know that I'm somewhere between Trim and Navan and neither is further than 10km so really, there's not a problem.
Blasted sat nav can't find a satellite and so I do what any girl scout would do and keep going 'til I reach a small village, we knock the door of a 70's style bungalow and the nice lady who lives there tells us that we're only about 4 miles from a service station - she even telephones ahead to make sure he is still open - it's about ten to nine and he's getting ready to close up, but he says he'll wait for us - where would you get better?
It's a grand clear night and even though there's no lighting along the country roads, the sky is clear as glass and, for a change it's not raining. I turn into a stretch of road about a mile long and poker straight. I'm doing about 35mph, which I don't think is excessive when my foots takes a convulsion and slams itself on the brake. Thankfully the brakes are great and we don't skid further than about 4-5 feet. About a nanosecond later my eyes register the shape of a big-ish white dog standing in the road, about a foot in front of the headlights - and I mean just standing there. He's not looking at us, he is standing in the middle of the road, side-on to the car, just standing there staring into the hedge. He gets bigger every time I tell this story, but in truth he was about the size and shape of a Wolfhound. I have no clue how I didn't see him, his back is taller than the bonnet of the car, he is all white and the headlights are practically bouncing off him. He must have leapt out of the hedge on the right, mentally I give him the full 10 points for a perfect landing, he's not even swaying.
I turn to tell my friend that he must be hunting something in the ditch under the hedge, his concentration is powerful and she's laughing at me "What are you, the dog whisperer?" we both turn back to him and he's gone. Must have went in after whatever it was he was hunting, 35 mph now feels a little fast and my heart is still racing, so I put the car into first and prepare to crawl forward a bit, I'm paranoid now that the dog will bounce back out onto the road, and I'd rather not run him over, so I ask my friend to keep a look out on the left and I take the right - for about a split second I wonder if he is lost and should I try to nab him and take him somewhere, but he just didn't have that 'lost dog' air about him and I decide that he's a local and he'll be grand. It's a bit dark out and I really don't fancy running round fields trying to catch a dog while keeping the petrol man waiting. Also he's a bit on the large side. I wonder if he is deaf, or blind even, he didn't take us under his notice and it was odd the way he didn't even look at us. Poor oul thing. This all takes place in the space of about 5 seconds, and as I let down the hand brake and press my foot on the pedal an ear splitting crack rents the air like a gunshot. The shock of the sound makes me jerk my foot off the pedal and I freeze. My friend freezes. It sounds like a ton of gravel is raining down on the car, I hear a huge rusty hinge creaking and the gravel is still raining. The car is bouncing slightly as it stalls and something vast hits the tip of the bonnet, the back end of the car raises ever so slightly then bounces down again and we roll back a couple of inches. The gravel stops raining but I can see nothing. "What the H*** is happening?" I shout. Silence.
It takes about a full 5 minutes for us to realise that we are in the canopy of a massive tree. Neither of us can get a door open, but we climb into the back seats and I pop the boot. We climb out into the road and back into the clear moonlight.
A massive tree has come down in the road right at the front end of the car. We are shaking. Speechless. We walk back to the 70's bungalow. Phone home. Hot sweet tea. The nice lady phones the Garda and they get the road closed off and organise getting the car out of the tree. Few scratches, front bumper is off, but Garda Timoney thinks I have a sixth sense - he notices there's no collision marks on the tree trunk - and he's seen the skid marks on the road - "How did you get stopped in time? you couldn't have known that tree was going to fall?"
I just tell him that I slammed on the brake when I saw the big white dog. Garda Timoney's eyes dart to his fellow officer, who stops writing and looks back at him, nice lady spills her tea.
*Garda - Irish Police
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