To the Emerald Isle

Trip Start May 25, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Ireland  ,
Monday, August 22, 2005

It was so green. Even from the air it looked like the 'Garden of Eden' I had been told about.

Hooray, my first trip to Ireland. Perhaps this was my real family home!

My flight had been a blast. I had unwittingly joined a tour group from New Zealand as the only person under 65. All ladies, they were up for a good time. So when they realised that Ryan Air didn't supply food and wine, out came the picnics and the duty free. As the only person able to bend, stretch and heave their 'really too big' hand luggage into view from the hiding places they had been squished into, I had been a big hit.

"Can I carry that for you?" I asked one lady as we walked across the airfield towards the hut that from this point shall be referred to as Shannon airport.

'Oh thanks deary! How kind!'

How HEAVY? Goodness knows what mischief this tour had caused, but I could only imagine the messiness about to ensue as they hit the west coast bars.

Onwards. I had to get moving. I had been told I would be sharing a carriage to Galway with other delegates and didn't want to be late. My compatriots would include a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a VERY senior member of the UN and one other representative of note.

As I picked up my bruised and battered bag, I tried to make myself presentable after nearly two days on the move. First impressions last.

As I had no duty free I picked the green route out to the arrivals lounge. Just keep looking forward, and you'll be through!

'Excuse me Madam!'

Damn it, I knew she was talking to me. I slowed and turned to see the customs officer striding over. Smile!

"Yes officer. How can I help?"

'Can I ask where your original flight origin was?'

"Certainly, I flew through Heathrow England, and before that Johannesburg in South Africa."

I tried to emphasize the Heathrow part, but I could see this was going to take some time. My bag had done the talking for me. Who in their right mind travelled with a tattered backpack, held together with as much luck as tape?

'If you could just come with me please.'

And so I dutifully followed and placed my bag on the table for inspection as requested.

'Did you pack this badgyourself?' she asked, as she opened the material and saw the contents coasted in grease.

"Well, I did originally, and then by the time it arrived in Heathrow, it had been slashed open, some of my stuff was missing, and I had acquired a t-shirt and socks I had never seen before! I haven't had the chance to look through it properly as I had to catch my connecting flight here."

Her hands stopped, and she turned and looked at me.

'You're kidding?' she said, 'Oh you poor thing! Are you OK?'

"Yes thank you, I'm fine. It's just a bit of a nuisance."

And the search concluded. She didn't want to touch my rotting clothes any more than I did.

As I approached the man holding up the sign with my name (spelt correctly for the first time I can remember!) I knew I looked a state. The three other passengers had doubtless walked past me as my bag was being torn open again. They craned their necks to look at me further as I scrambled into the back of the van.

'Well what did you do then?' the UN delegate asked. He seemed genuinely in shock at my fate.

"I asked the man for some tape, sorted out the things I thought I could salvage, and headed on towards this flight!"

'But don't you feel violated?' asked the man on my left. I had forgotten that he was not only a prize winner, but a qualified and practicing psychologist.

"Not really." I said in truth. "I'm living in a place where these things happen, where people take what they need and haven't got. My bag was just a bad choice. Their efforts were not exactly rewarded with jewels and gold!"

'Goodness!' he said. The mood was set.

And so the journey continued. The driver put on the local news and later some traditional music. We chatted and asked questions as we wound our way along the pretty green country lanes. The vegetation looked spectacular, hanging over the roads from both sides, patting the car as we drove by. For the three passengers originating from America, it was at times a tense experience. They were not so used to the level of disregard for blind corners that this local driver exhibited, so it was probably a with some relief that we reached Galway a couple of hours later.

As I unloaded my bag from the back of the car, the last to dismount at my somewhat more 'basic level' abode than my friends (!), the driver couldn't help but ask,

'Geoghegan. Now does dat mean you knor Jim Geoghegan from up the coast t'ere? T'ere's a lot of t'em folks around.'

"Well perhaps we may be related in some distant way, but no, sorry, it's my first time here in Ireland if I'm honest!"

And as my landlady came out to greet me, he gave me a big hug.

'Well you a very welcome so you are. Very welcome!'

And so began my time in Ireland. Never have I been made to feel so welcome so fast. I was given the use of a washing machine, and a warm fresh towel for my shower. My bedroom had a cosy bed and a view of the ocean, and some extra special biscuits found their way next to my coffee.

It had been a long but exciting day. I couldn't wait to explore Galway!
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