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Thirty five years ago, I spent far too many cold winter nights standing at the Clocktower in the village of Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, waiting for a lift home. The Powerscourt Arms Hotel is just inside the village proper, and it had a payphone in the foyer. If I had change for it, I could make a call home to ask for a lift, and although my parents usually dropped everything to come and get me, a lift was often unforthcoming. Perhaps no one was available, or not for a long while. I never arranged things in advance as I wanted the illusion of being my own boss (!) so I had a choice either to wait in the dark, deserted village in the cold (it never occurred to me to wait indoors somewhere), or walk those three dark miles home. We’re talking the Wicklow Mountains, and that means lots of huge trees lining the narrow, twisting roads, making for pitch-black walking. Unfortunately, I have always been afraid of the dark. My father would try to allay my fears with a joke. “Do you really think some man is going to spend hours crouching in the dark, freezing his backside off, bored to death, on the off-chance you might pass?” he’d say. It wasn’t the crouching men I was worried about, but silent eyes, running hooves, evil…I had imagination issues. Sometimes it was so dark on that road I would have to run my hand along the wall next to the ditch to keep going in the right direction. Sometimes I fell into the ditch. Once I decided to wear my new Sony Walkman headphones to make it less scary, but it was much creepier with them on. Sometimes I hitched a lift, which was usually fine, but occasionally resulted in being in a confined space with a weirdo. When I turned eighteen I left home and those long walks home, and I have not spent more than a minute in Enniskerry in thirty years.
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