Indo col 44:
In May 1846, a wagon train of pioneers set out for from Missouri for California, looking for a new life and the dream of fulfilling their manifest destiny. The group, led by George Donner and Armagh man James F Reed, became trapped by snow high in a pass known as Hastings Cutoff in the Sierra Nevada. They spent four months there, and with food running out, they ate their horses and oxen as they died, and then ate the bodies of their fellow travellers after they had succumbed to the brutal winter. The Donner Party, as they became known, became synonymous with the real-world cruelties of life in the American west, and a symbol of what humans can and will do to survive.
The Beast From The East is a pretty snappy name for a storm. It tells you which direction it is coming from and also that it isn’t exactly going to be a grand soft few days. In a country that loves to talk about the weather, we are starved of extreme events. Granted, there is the odd Ophelia that blows in and levels half the forests in the country, but most of the time it’s just the usual meteorological ennui of rain, grey skies and fairly mild temperatures.
The Beast From The East is different – this is some sort of hellstorm, one that means we need to cancel every journey except those from your bed to the jacks, as the whole country is going to shut down. No employer would expect you to risk the ten-minute walk from your flat to the office, because what if you slipped on the ice and someone saw? That would be embarrassing. All over the country shelves are being emptied of bread and milk, which seems a little hasty as they are among the most perishable items in the supermarket. It won’t be much of a storm if you can survive it on tea and sandwiches; this isn’t the Stations or a roadside picnic on the way to an All-Ireland – this is the end of the world, so maybe we should be buying tinned goods rather than a sliced pan that will be moldy before you get it home.
Of course, there is always the chance of everyone’s worst nightmare – that you get snowed into work. If this is a possibility then you need to start facing the grim reality that you are probably going to have to eat at least one co-worker to survive. The guy with the sandwich trolley probably won’t be in, as someone already ate him while he was waiting at the Luas stop, so you are going to need to start looking around and eyeing up your colleagues as the poorly dressed snack boxes that they are. Start thinking about flavours – this is really going to be like an episode of Ready Steady Cook, where you just have to make-do with a rubbish selection of bruised vegetables from the bargain bin. What about the guy who is always vaping – do you really need a weird menthol aftertaste after your finished eating him, sher that will be even more unpleasant than the guilt. How about Smokey Joe, he will be first to fall, as he will still have to go outside for his ten Major a day and will probably get crushed by a wooly mammoth, which will conveniently tenderise him into a mesquite burger.
Nobody is being forced to turn to cannibalism during Snowmageddon ‘018, but where is the fun in riding it out sitting on a radiator in the break area, eating vending machine snacks with a shelf life of a thousand years? That’s what you do every day for lunch. This is your one opportunity to taste human flesh, or The Chicken Of The M50, as it is known. Check up on neighbours – are any of them potential meal deals you could be tucking into? What about loved ones – who hasn’t read Jonathan Swift’s gluten-free cookbook, A Modest Proposal, and thought ‘Cronos really had the right idea’? Obviously, none of this is genuine. I’m not advocating you eat your young, although speaking for myself, my youngest child is one of those perennially chubby toddlers who is hard to look at without seeing him as a roast chicken.
The Beast From The East is a reminder of how much we love high drama. Deep down there is the hope that nature takes a massive snowy dump on us, and we don’t have to go anywhere for a day or two, as when you reach a certain age in life, cancelling plans is one of the best feelings in the world. If this storm doesn’t hammer us into oblivion, it will be really disappointing, especially for anyone who has already prepared themselves for a Donner Party dinner party. As for James F Reed, he eventually rescued his family from the mountains, and went on to become a real estate tycoon. They denied ever eating any human flesh to survive – and were also one of only two families in the Donner Party who survived intact.