First I’d like to clarify that in Australia, the phrase ‘going to the bog’ has a whole different connotation. You see ‘the bog’ is another name for the toilet, so you’ll understand why when people started telling me what a great day they had ‘on the bog’, I started to worry.
“Surely these people had plenty of fibre in their diets?”, I thought, closely followed by “a whole day on the bog, isn’t that a bit unhealthy?”.
It took only a few well placed questions to realise that ‘the bog’ wasn’t the bathroom, no, it was a flat bit of ground deceptively filled with bottomless bog holes, frogs and midges. A place where families spent days, if not weeks doing back breaking labour and apparently, according to just about everyone, it’s ‘only the most fantastic way to spend a Summer’s day’.
I really couldn’t see the appeal myself. Now a veteran of two years ‘on the bog’, I still cannot, honestly, see what the hype is all about. Sure, it’s a nice enough place to stand around when it’s lovely and sunny. But this is Ireland, sunny weather? Chance would be a fine thing.
More to the point the bog isn’t about having a lark, it’s about snapping yourself in half moving deceptively heavy pieces of turf into stacks - otherwise known as ‘footing’ - for relentless hours on end. This is all fine if you’re about nine and flexible as a rubber band. But, as you get older you have to face the reality that one day you’ll bend down to foot that turf, you’ll hear a click and it’ll take an army of chiropractors to straighten you out again.
Each day on the bog means, for me at least, three days where the backs of my legs ache so much I almost cry at the sight of the stairs. I wouldn’t mind if this work led to a bit of aerobic toning but so far I’ve got nothing happening. Maybe that sort of result requires years, not days on the bog.
Of course what bog experience would be complete without the bugs? I used to scoff that Irish people didn’t know what creepy crawlies were. You know, “that’s not spider, I’ve seen spiders the size of dinner plates”, that sort of thing. Well what the Irish midge lacks in size and general noise, it more than makes up for in its ability to annoy and, worse, bite. The midge is Ireland’s answer to the stealth bomber. You won’t know it’s bitten you until you’re so covered in lumps and bumps your own mother would have difficulty recognising you.
Frogs, I can just about stand, even when a seven year old is throwing them at you for a laugh, but the slugs, Sweet Mary Mother Divine, putting your hand on a slug is like putting your hand on a seat covered in a stranger’s wet snot. And this year the little buggers are everywhere.
Worst of all when you’ve spent days footing and re-footing turf - because no bog experience is complete unless half your stacks collapse and have to be rebuilt - you’ll face the prospect of filling hundreds of ‘meal’ bags and dragging them to the collection point. If you’ve got your own bog you’re fairly limited as to how much you can complain about the distance you’ll have to lug these bags. If you’re buying a run of turf my only advice is make it as close to the road as possible or prepare yourself for a logistics nightmare even DHL couldn’t solve.
I’ll admit that when you’re sitting there on a bitterly cold Winter night in front of a turf fire you’ll be so smug about all the work you did to rear them yourself. But even then I still fail to see the attraction the bog seems to have for so many.