Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We are not ideal travelling companions

County Kerry Ireland

We are not the ideal travelling companions for Liz and Darryl because they are the types of people who like to maximise the use of daylight and examine the landscape closely – from top to bottom – using food and drink only as a means to sustain life. Unfortunately they have the constitutions of camels so need watering only very infrequently.

They are committed explorers and will examine a ruined shepherd’s hut with the same zeal as they would the Louvre - reading thoroughly every morsel of literature available on the subject.

They will only reluctantly return to their sleeping quarters as dusk falls and – given a torch powerful enough – would be happy to continue their explorations by night.

When on holidays Cate and I regard bed as a place which should only be left if there is something much better on offer – such as a very tempting breakfast – which should then be savoured to the last crumb   and we tend to move slowly and warily into the day. Our first stop is inevitably a coffee shop and we are frequent visitors to these throughout our days – which tend to end early – and finish in bars well before the sun sets.

Naturally travelling with Liz and Darryl is a tremendous shock  to our systems and we both need sedatives to cope with the frenetic activity and dramatic assault upon our biorhythms. The lack of caffeine nearly sends us into apoplectic shock so we have to suck tablets to overcome this.  

While Liz and Darryl went on their way to other Irish counties and then to Wales we caught a train to Dublin from Killarney. We learned that having a reserved seat is the same as not having a reserved seat.

Apparently it is customary to sit wherever you like. There was a woman sitting in one of our seats and we informed her of this fact. She was most miffed and said ‘are you sure?’ It was incumbent upon us to produce our tickets and she was most reluctant to move.

She moved huffily and wandered around to find another empty seat. The true story became apparent a few stops later when about 30 people got on and apparently not one of them could sit in their assigned seats because they were all occupied.

When people produced their tickets and said ‘you are sitting in my seat’ the occupants  simply said ‘well someone is sitting in mine’ and that was the free pass to stay where you were. It seems to be just a very Irish way of doing things. You see a seat – you sit in it. Well – it was empty.

There were frequent announcements asking people not to sit in reserved seats – but as far as I can tell there is no way of knowing if an empty seat is reserved or not. You could ask it but even in Ireland seats do not have the power of speech.

I was unfortunately sitting opposite a woman who looked more like a turtle than the average turtle. In fact – had the average turtle seen this woman it would have taken action against her for falsely impersonating a turtle.

She was obsessively engaged in grooming and spent a long time on her flippers and this included scraping and painting and varnishing. Thankfully she finally moved on from this task and spent a long, long time scrabbling around in her handbag. I think she was missing a hatchling.

This is what four hour trains trips do to you  – even when you have beautiful Irish scenery to admire. Not for me the stunningly beautiful Irish creature sitting on the opposite side of the carriage. I get to sit opposite a turtle.

In Dublin we checked in to the Radisson Blu Dublin Airport Shithole. We get the room with the sign on the bed that says ‘Thank you for not smoking’ but in which people have been smoking all day and all night – and in which they have also possibly been smoking haddock – or burning the carpet - but there is no air conditioning.

Of course – it is still Europe – you keep forgetting about economy rooms and air conditioning – you dickhead. So soon you are back in the lobby and the man says yes I can give you an economy room with air conditioning but I should warn you that it is next to the elevators and it is not a room that we let out very often – and it may be a bit noisy. Perhaps you would like to upgrade?

Aaaweeoooha!!!!! It may be a bit noisy!

When the hotel actually warns you about the room it tells you something.  Yes please – we will upgrade. It comes with a breakfast but as this arrives at 4:45 AM all I am likely to do at that time of the morning is to pummel the deliverer senseless for the effrontery in waking me at an hour that begins with an ‘f’ and sob aloud for a few minutes.

Whenever I have to get up really, really early in the morning – I can never get to sleep – so I am still awake at 3:00 AM. Just when I think I am never, ever going to get to sleep I nod off and then there is a knock at the door and it is 4:45 AM and the breakfast man is there. Before I know what is happening he is putting the tray on the table.  I reach for his throat but he is gone.

The child behind me on Aer Lingus kicks me in the back for three hours. There is no particular beat and it is quite erratic. He is unlikely to be a musician – and by the look on his parent’s faces he is unlikely to reach puberty.

I could ask them to make him stop and they would say they are sorry and move him to Cate’s side and he would kick her for a while but what would be the point? Or they would yell at him and he would shriek for hours. Or the father would punch me senseless. None of these options appeals to me so for a while I count the kicks. The maximum he can achieve is 76 per minute. Not bad but I have felt better.

It becomes quite hypnotic but he senses this so every now and then he puts in a Beckham bender and tries to sever my spinal cord. Somehow the turtle was better.


  1. You are MY kind of traveling companion!

  2. Some years ago Jim's 'non-relation' visited us. She was amazed that wherever we went we reminisced about when we'd had a few beers in one pub or another, as well as about meals of varying quality in different eating houses about the countryside. We were surprised by her response of "Don't you two do anything other than eat and drink?"

    Food and drink are far more than simply sustenance in this household!

  3. well... I recall buying a first class ticket in australia for british rail so I could get up to Askam...anyway, I had my reserved seat and had exactly what happened to you happend to me. in the end I gave up and sat where I wanted...on my travel bag for 4 hours.....straight after the 23 hour flight, the rail into london, and the 2 hour wait at Euston....nopt to mention I could not work out what people kept bumping into me on stairs...then i realised its keep to the right not left..... sigh..... THEN, utterly rooted Jim picked me up and we met Pam at a nature reserve to do bird spotting, and I was still in a tee shirt only and freezing and needed to sleep but could not until the sun had set and so I was ROOTED, and then when the sun set we were at the black dog and I think I lost 3 days of my life somewhere in all of!!!

  4. You should check your ticket receipt. Maybe you accidentally got the seatt massagge uupgrrade.

  5. I can assure you that in Austria a reserved seat is a reserved seat! You'd be pulverized if you'd dare not to get up when its rightful owner shows up. On the train to Venice you are not even allowed to get on the train without a reservation.

  6. I'm probably in the middle of Liz/Darryl & Cate/You; depends on where I am and at I'm doing. And if I can do it in my pajamas, even better.

    By the way, "torch" has to be one of my favorite language differences. I always gives me the mental image of a village being pillaged.

  7. Ah the Irish, what a breed, how wonderful to be so... so unreserved.
    I can sympathise with the angst over the kid behind you. But my pet hate on planes (aside from the difficulty of manoeuvring in your highly over-priced minuscule space) is that bastard behind you who thinks your seat is there to pull on when they want to get up. Just as you manage to drift off into a fitful nap you're rudely yanked into life again. And then they probably get annoyed because I thereafter drop my seat back at high speed while they're eating. I wish I could afford business class.

  8. Everyone: Sorry for the lack of response: I have been ill and have not been able to do anything at all. Normal service will resume soon.