Can the Ploughing be getting too pleasing?
In a way, the NPA can’t win. The Ploughing has become so smooth, so professional, so consumer friendly, that it is in danger of losing its edge. Walking around on Tuesday, there was none of the traditional giving out about massive tailbacks. The road up from Birr was reportedly busy, but I couldn’t find anyone who’d been delayed, just people who had met someone, or got a text from their cousin who was held up.
As for conditions, there was a hint of autumn, but it was bone dry underfoot. Three-section-wide track roadways make the journey around the site akin to walking down Grafton Street, but on a September afternoon rather than Christmas Eve. No banging and clattering off people, no buffeting or bruising.
Even the big perk of being a journalist, access to the executive washroom in the NPA headquarters, with proper flushing toilets, is no longer a bragging right. The site is littered with such units, making this the poshest mass event in Europe.
It makes it a superb, fret-free, family event. Kids amble along with their parents in wide-eyed wonder at the massive machinery. Groups of pre-teens hunt out Mad for Models, the O’Neills shop, or Joe Canning’s hurls before heading to the Irish Farmers Journal stand for yet another FBD/RSA/IFJ high-viz vest. Both types of music – country and Irish – blare out of every second stand.
There was so much to see we lost track of time, and only headed out to the collection point for our park and ride at half seven. We could see the three tractor and trailer shuttles a couple of fields away, but they weren’t coming our way. Instead, at around 7.45, they were turned off and locked up, leaving about 30 of us, including children and one man in his 80s, a 15-minute walk in the dark down a narrow lane.
As we made it back to the car, giving out and wondering if the drivers would knock off from drawing silage at half-seven, a quiet satisfaction emerged among our party as we realised our day was complete. We finally had something to complain about from Ploughing 2016.