It’s not going to be a good day when you wake up in the morning and realize you have fallen asleep on top of your alarm, have smothered its long ago faded frantic squeals. You know this innately when on realizing the time and flying out of bed, you inexplicibly manage to pull a small but significant neck muscle that will leave you only able to look sideways by turning your whole body 90 degrees for the next week. Squid have eyes that can look forward, backward, sideways, upways and downways. Lucky squids.
Archive for the 'Travel' Category
I arrived at the airport in plenty of time to pick up the world class athlete – like all celebrities, she was fashionably late. Having just arrived from a week on Ibiza, she was most impractically clothed for the Irish climate and I feared she may be stricken down with a debilitating case of the shivers on exit from the airport. But she makes it to the car without needing a wheelchair, and I put the heater on to stop pneumonia setting in. We drove through the Irish country-side from Shannon to Doolin in Henry, my trusty new Toyota Starlet, and Gen was given the royal tour of the hostel, and my magnificent and mobile lodgings, where she would be lucky enough to reside for the coming night. So exclusive is the accommodation , that none have ever been deemed special enough to stay there before. But here was a world class athlete…
I left Shannon airport on a Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Madrid on Tuesday evening. Is it not bizarre that a person can be in a completely different country in just a couple of hours? Perhaps if I’d been forced to spend a week on a boat, or a month sitting on a donkey, I might have found some time to learn a little Spanish. As it was, I arrived in Madrid with little more than the few words I’d learnt from watching Dora the Explorer – and even those I couldn’t quite be sure of, as Irish Dora speaks Gaelic and Spanish, and I, speaking neither languages could really only guess at the difference. So my ability to communicate with the natives was limited to ‘Hola’ ‘Adios’ and ‘Una beera por favor’ (the last phrase courtesy of a friend of legal drinking age, and not my little friend Dora). Add this limited vocabulary to my decision not to bring a guidebook (for its brick-like weight and space was already allocated to far more important things such as soon to be purchased clothes), and some might say I was somewhat unprepared. But I figured I’d get by this time round with making good use of my pointing finger combined with a few select grunts and snorts, and resigned myself to the idea that I might have to play the dumb tourist for a few days – and I was obviously doing a darn good job of it too as the first lucky Spanish person I pointed and grunted at, the guy at the airport metro information desk, warned me I should hold on to my bags on the subway (which as we all know is code for ‘you could only look more like a prime target if you had a hundred euro note stuck to your bum’)…..
Four months on a pacific island aint all it’s cracked up to be. As the day of my return to the Emerald Isle drew near, I found myself becoming increasingly anxious that my Irish compatriots (theirs eyes weak and pale from the dark winter) might mistake me for a nomadic African tribesperson – albeit a very lost nomadic African tribesperson. For such is the colour of my face after four months under the ozone hole. And neither 100SPF sunscreen nor burkini could quell the melanin (you know, that brown stuff) – it seems I’m just destined to be a bronzed Greek goddess. Oh well.
Home was just like home. Or Cheers. Where everybody knows my name. And Dad’s jokes are still as lame. And they’re always glad you came….. until the novelty wears off…
The best thing about going home (apart from Dad jokes) was being able to swim at the beach. Doesn’t sound like much probably, to you accustomed beach swimmers, but in Ireland you’ve either got to be crazy or numb or Irish to go swimming at the beach. Or at least fully acclimatise yourself by sticking ice down your undies for a few months beforehand. Well I ain’t crazy (although they do say you can only be crazy if you don’t know it….I wonder if ‘they’ think ‘they’ are crazy) , I ain’t numb, I definitely ain’t sticking ice anywhere (you may also have noticed I ‘aint’ using the English language very good for reasons that elude me, possibly in one of my past lives I spoke with a Deep South hillbilly type accent) and although I do like to consider myself slightly Irish I seem to be missing the ‘immunity to feckin cold’ gene.
So after two years on dry land I took full advantage of the warmer currents, shocking my shrivelled biceps into picking up a surfboard again, frolicking in the waves and kayaking with the sharks…
‘So do we get a final blog as you return home to your roots and your
nest and be prodigally welcomed with the fattened cabbage or
aubergine…to wreck havoc upon your parents’ peaceful lives and
annoy your baby sister….
NZ awaits ………’
Upon receipt of the threatening email above, I feel obliged to respond:
Yes NZ awaits. As I have been awaiting. The last week was painfully slow as I sat in my little room, dreading the impending winter, listening to useless advice from Doctor Phil (he says I should be thinking of marriage as I would a car..), my freedom so close, yet so far away as the rain beat out the seconds, and milli-seconds against my window. But then the sun came back, and the tourists came back, and so I had work to busy my hands and my mind and now its less than …one week! one week!
Yesterday I fell down the stairs. I dont think I’ve ever fallen down the stairs before. Ive fallen up the stairs in the past, but in my experience that doesn’t involve so much pain. Probably because when youre falling up the stairs you can look down in that eternal second before you land, see whats coming towards you and avoid the pointy things. Not to mention use those two useful things called arms to grab onto things like banisters (thats what theyre there for)and re-route your journey before its ends in full-face plant. This time, falling down the stairs, I was blind. I knew I was in the air, I knew Id have to land eventually. But not having eyes in the back of my head or go-go-gadget arms I couldn’t avoid the pointy things.
Falling down the stairs isnt something that happens to people like me and you, is it? Fit young, hand-eye co-ordinated individuals like us. Maybe it was that extra year I gained a few weeks ago. Falling down the stairs is what happens in the movies. In old movies people fall down black and white stairs and land in a crumpled heap and everyone assumes they are dead because of their excellent acting. In newer movies people fall down the stairs and are then rushed to hospital in an erractic, hectic ambulance film sequence, or if it’s very serious, like say everyone is depending on that person to make dinner that night, in a slow mo montage to sad, sad music. In thrillers, people dont fall down the stairs, they ‘fall’ down the stairs….
I left Doolin in a whirl. Guests clinging to the coat tails of my imaginary coat, asking: Where can I buy food? Why isnt the internet working? How many fingers am I holding behind my back? Obviously I should have worn my invisible coat instead – (thats the one that makes me invisible – aka Frodos elf coat, NOT the one I’d picked up in a hurry, that just makes it look like Im not actually wearing a coat)
The bus driver told me off for trying to flag down the bus. Trying and succeeding to flag down the bus that is. Why didnt he just not stop if he didnt want to pick me up? I think maybe he just didnt like my coat – he was definitely a coat-ist. And the kind who pretend they’re not really a coatist, yes, they like all sorts of clothing they say, when really they think their coats are much better than yours. The worst kind.
That night I stayed in Galway at the usually decent Barnacles hostel, yet this night was to be an exception as one fellow room mate insisted on opening the window to let the noise from the raging party street below drill its way into my usually quiet enough head.
I closed the window when I went in the room.
She opened it when she left the room.
I closed it when she wasnt looking.
Alas to be awoken in the middle of the night when she snuck up and opened it again.
Yes it was hot inside but heat isnt loud, so heat is my friend. I considered a window tug of war but didnt know my opponent well enough to be sure that she wouldnt consider pushing me out the window during our duel – she could have been a window pusher for all I knew.
Next morning I dragged myself out of bed at the unseemly hour of 8am in order to catch the 9am bus to Dublin to begin my dash through Belgium and Amsterdam. Blurry eyed and bung-legged, I walked through town to the City Link bus stop outside the tourist office. Or what I thought was the city link bus stop. At five past nine when the bus hadnt arrived and the tourist office had just opened, I enquired inside as to the bus which, as stated on the timetable outside, leaves from ‘outside the tourist office’….
Did you know a baby cow can lick its own bottom, but a fully grown adult cow cant reach its rear? Fascinating. And indeed useful information. This is but one of many life lessons I have learnt since my return to the Emerald Isle. And here I was thinking I knew everything there was to know about Ireland, having spent a year immersed in its culture, surrounded by its cows.
I can also pass on to you the following recently learnt knowledge:
Lesson: Knitting is not like riding a bicycle.
Lesson: If one bus takes a corner at a certain speed – or velocity if you will – and a van travelling in the opposite direction at another certain vel-oc -ity attempt to pass said corner at equal times, the laws of vel-oc-ity – and also that guy who got hit on the head with an apple – dictate that said vehicles will collide. Therefore we can determine the following: Van plus Bus plus velocity squared equals Crash. I haven’t just learnt this, Ive experienced it so Im sure my scientific equations are sound.
Lesson: Greece is where my soul belongs.
This last lesson learnt in the days shortly after my arrival back in Doolin. Days of rain and (runny) noses. After three weeks in 20degree sunshine and a constant supply of moussaka, I arrived back in my surrogate home in peak condition (despite the moussaka), tanned and gleaming like a Greek goddess. Only to spend the next two weeks sheltering from the constant rain, hovering under the kitchen lights and next to the gas stove, vainly trying to maintain my colour. I emerged from my re-initiation into Irish-dom a dull, pale, regular goddess with a hacking cough and multiple stove burns…
Hellooo? Is there anybody out there?
So I find myself the other day lazing on a Greek beach in twentysomething degree heat, days away – worlds away even, from the European winterlands and I suddenly realize I have seriously neglected my duties as dedicated blogger – not to mention my duty as responsible daughter, granddaughter, friend, sister to all of you who I would expect are on your deathbeds with worry not knowing if I live or if I die between countries (pizza enduced heartattack perhaps?, fatal fall from ‘titanic’ pose at the head of the ferry maybe? But Im sure youve thought of them all).
And so here I find myself now, sorting memories from gelato-fuelled hallucinations to put your worried minds at ease.
I think last you saw me I was wandering the Cinque Terre…. After several days of beautiful weather walking between picturesque towns, I caught a ferry from Genova to Sardinia with visions of sundrenched beaches in my head. Dreams, mere dreams they were, as I was find after a torturous 10 hours on a heaving ferry. Yes, Sardinia has towns and traffic and stray animals and dodgy areas just like any other place. Well the town of Alghero does anyway – I cant speak for the rest of Sardinia as I really didnt see much of it at all. Because it was only AFTER stranding myself on the island that I decided to phone around discovering to my dismay that there was only one hostel open on the whole island. That hostel being the one I was at, a 15 minute bus trip out of Alghero which is really nothing too special anyway. Add to this the windy wet weather, and my uncanny ability to forget all about siesta time only to find myself in an empty town with no open food suppliers of any kind day after day, and you may gather that my time on this island wasnt exactly the idyllic experience I was after. (I seem to have this strange relationship with remote islands in that I am almost compulsively drawn to them, often to my detriment)….