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This is an online diary of my latest trip to Ireland.
Dennis J. Ahern

Sunday, March 13th

Sunday morning it was time to pack up and move again, taking the 10:00 a.m. bus to Cork via Cahir for the second time in a week. Besides my red Kelty backpack on an aluminum frame, I have an airline bag with multiple pockets of a size for carrying folders for each of my research assignments as well as the various maps, brochures and other stuff that accumulates. There's also my canvas bookbag which does double duty carrying my rain parka, spare pennywhistle, and bottles of orange juice. The other essential piece of baggage is a black shoulder bag in which I carry my "Appie" machine. This is a device which helps me sleep at night without snoring. Before I had this I was always waking people up with my snoring. A few years ago I participated in a sleep study at a hospital back home and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. This is a condition where your breathing is constricted while you sleep and you can stop breathing temporarily only to come almost awake to take a deep breath. The associated racket sounds like a 747 trying to take off. One time in the hostel in Belfast there was an Australian guy in the next bunk who practically kicked the slats out of my bunk trying to get me to shut up. The side effect is you never get a good night's sleep and are always tired during the day. At work I became adept at taking little naps after lunch while appearing to be reading a piece of paper held in my hands. The game was up, however, when my snoring could be heard four cubicles away. I've used it now on three trips to Ireland and it has been worth lugging along. I have to have an adapter plug for the Irish outlets, and there is a switch I have to reposition for the 220 volt instead of 110, but it's definitely worth having. The tricky part is, in booking my hostels I have to specify that I get a lower bunk near a power point (electrical outlet).

All of this baggage was a burden, but I was determined to walk to the Bus Arras (house) rather than shell out for a cab. The sign on the cybercafe part of the Aihua Chinese restaurant on Cathedral Street had said it was open 24 hours, but as I passed it at 9:30 it was closed so I don't know if it's only open all night on weekdays or not, but it would be good to know as the one I use on Blessington Street that is only one euro an hour closes at 11:00 p.m.

I stopped in several convenience stores along the way, looking to replenish my supply of orange juice. [One drawback of the breathing device is it leaves you feeling very dry in the mouth when you wake up so I always try to have some juice at hand.] I was looking for a particular brand of juice that came in a 500ml container with a wide mouth. It was a better bargain than the smaller bottles that seemed to be the only ones available on the tourist-trod stretches of O'Connell Street. None of them suited and it turned out like the berries in Denmark. In 1967, when I brought my ten-speed bike over to go hostelling in Scotland, England and Ireland, I took a detour on a freighter that was going to Denmark. This was back when you could buy a book called "Do Europe on $5 a Day" but I was doing it on about $1 a day, staying in hostels and surviving on bread and butter, cheese and oatmeal. One day I bought a few slices of Danish ham and it wiped out my food budget for the week. In Copenhagen I used to love the little spicy sweet hot dogs you could buy from street vendors, and there were shops that sold nothing but dishes of berries with cream poured on them. Halfway across Denmark I found myself taking a ferry to the island of Langeland and setting off on my bike. It was a lovely day and as I rode along the rich and level countryside I passed tables at the side of the road with dishes of berries and pitchers of cream. It was on the honor system. You could have a bowl and leave your coins in the jar. I was tempted, but decided to wait a bit until I was really, really famished. By the time I decided to stop at the next stand, I was too late. For the rest of the length of the island, I saw no more stands of berries and cream. It's like the proverb says, "Eat dessert first, life is uncertain". So here I was, with no orange juice and a block from the arras there were no more shops. It appeared I would be forced to buy something from one of the machines, which limited my choices to fizzy things with artificial colors.

Waiting to cross the street I encountered two obviously lost Americans, towing their little suitcases on wheels. I was beginning to wish I had wheels for these bags I was carrying. Between the Missing Friends books for the Mallow Library and my three-ring binders of overhead slides for my talks, I was ready to sit on the curb and flag down the next hackney that hove into view. The retirement-aged Yanks were looking for Connolly station and after directing them we got into the usual exchange of "Where you from?", etc. They were from Oklahoma and when I told them Boston, they informed me that Boston just got another eight inches of snow. I wonder if my wife will be shoveled out by the end of the month. I may have to get a St. Bernard to find my way home from Logan [airport].

It was truly the curse of the berries. The machines at the bus arras were all off and I couldn't even settle for overpriced fizzy water. And I wasn't going to struggle downstairs with my burden to the pay-per-entry toilets as I had been advised they were in a sorry state with smashed fixtures and filth everywhere. The whole place is undergoing renovation and there's plywood and plastic sheets up every place. I resigned myself to getting my ticket (16 euro one-way) and getting in line for the bus.

The driver was the same one as we had on the 10:00 run on Tuesday. I asked him if our man that got off in Cashel ever got his shirts and he said he didn't know, but he had turned them in to the lost and found. As we drove along the south side of the Liffey, I noticed that the LUAS [the Tallaght line, not the Sandymount] passes directly in front of Collins Barracks where the new National Museum is. I had walked all the way there in the rain on a trip about three years ago when I was searching for an illustration of a Repeal Button for an article I had written on the incarceration of Daniel O'Connell in 1843. If I ever go out there again, I shall ride in style on the silver snake. I also took note that from Heuston station you could walk across the bridge and get on the LUAS. That is what I think I'll do when I return to Dublin from Galway on the train Monday.

Listening to the radio on the bus there was some sort of Sunday morning talk show where Journalists discussed to top stories of the week. One woman was talking about the bowl of shamrocks that is being flown over by government jet to be presented to the sitting American President and there was much speculation whether the Secret Service would be putting it through the X-ray or setting it down for the bomb sniffing dogs. The lady reporter had been at the St. Patrick's Day White House reception a few years ago and she described how when George W. Bush was presented with the traditional gift in a Waterford Crystal bowl, he looked like he didn't know whether he was expected to eat them or what. Having had only limited exposure to this man, she was no doubt unaware that his aura of apparent cluelessness is not limited to meeting foreigners bearing gifts.

Coming through Urlingford I noticed a mural on the gable end of a building for the Mason's Apron Pub. It was a nicely done artwork, sadly detracted from by the sign that had been fastened over the top left corner of it giving directions to the pub behind. It completely ruined the effect. It caused me to reflect upon the graffiti I noticed on building walls adjacent to the LUAS line the day before. I don't remember this type of graffiti being very common in Ireland before. It's the kind you see along the train tracks going in and out of North Station in Boston, the kind that some misguided cognoscenti persist in calling art. Art my arse. It's nothing but vandalism and bad cess to them that wield the spray cans.

I noticed when we had parked at the halting place, called Josephine's, for the customary 15-minute pit stop, the driver went down the aisle as we prepared to get off, counting heads. I hadn't noticed this before, but it's a good thing he does. I hadn't mentioned it, but on the way down Tuesday, I had come out of the store with my sandwich and crisps and got on the bus from Cork to Dublin that happens to pull in at the same time. I suppose one or the other driver would have noticed the discrepancy in the total number of passengers and rescued me from my mistake, but what if some north-bound passenger had made the same mistake and got on the bus going back to Cork. Would he and I have to exchange lives? Would I have some doppelganger showing up in Mallow and Galway, while I went who knows where? It sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

The biggest change in this combination restaurant/convenience store since I rode this bus a couple of years ago is the addition of a Wimpy's burger place between the sit-down restaurant and the shop. This part of the building was previously where the ladies toilets were and I could tell from the perplexed expression of an older woman, that she had not been there since the rearrangement. I politely informed her that the Lady's room was now upstairs as I had seen the sign when I came through earlier in the week. I wonder what they do for handicapped accessibility, as I didn't see any lift [elevator] anyplace nearby.

As I had had a late night in Temple Bar the night before, I decided not to get a tea as I might be able to sleep part of the two hours remaining 'til Cork. Instead I got a 500ml jug of milk, a couple of sugared ring donuts and two bottles of orange juice. I nicked a paper bag from the hot food take-away to collect my trash in afterwards, having had it slide off the seat on my last trip with the packaging from my egg mayonnaise sandwich. In fact, there's one point coming into the stop in Cashel where the bus is going downhill and when it brakes to a halt everyone's bottles roll off the seats and under the seats in front of them causing a mad scramble and then a reminder not to open it again until the fizz has settled.

Coming into Cashel from the North there is a lovely, picturesque view of the Rock of Cashel that is marred by having a billboard right in the way of where you would get the best photo from the road. How they ever allow such a blight is beyond me. Ireland seems mad for the new and is plowing up its heritage right and left whenever it can be done before protest can be made. There's a big fight now to prevent a dual carriageway from coming past the Hill of Tara. So many people have cars here now, they care more about the roads than what's between them.

Whenever the bus makes a stop, the luggage compartment doors are opened electrically by a control from the driver. Our bus makes a beeping sound like a truck backing up to warn people to watch out, but some of the busses on this route have a recorded announcement that says "Doors Opening. Stand Clear of the Doors" or "Doors Closing. ..." but only in English. Unlike the LUAS, Bus Eireann is not bilingual.

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This page copyright © 2005 by Dennis Ahern.