Sense of inventure

This time last week I was asleep. Or I might have just woken up in time to sit for 10 minutes on a bus on the corner of Amien Street, the final ribbons of hangover finally departing. See, I’d been in Connemara for a few blissful days, walking, sunning, eating chowder, and I’d ended the teetotal trip with a little excursion to the pub with my hostess’s brother, whom I last saw at his wedding about a million years ago. That’s reason enough for a few pints, no? In the bracing Atlantic air of Roundstone, Co. Galway? The air wasn’t quite bracing enough, as it happened, and the next morning saw me shakily embarking on the whole-day-by-bus journey to Dublin. I’d imagined any likelihood of sitting queasily in Galway’s Eyre Square – sipping Lucozade Sport and waiting for the courage to get on another bus – lay many years in the past, but apparently not. Still, it was one of those trips where you run into people you haven’t seen for years, and apart from Andrew, all by accident. At least four of them. God, I love Ireland.
Besides affording opportunities to run into old mates, colleagues and crushes, Ireland salves my need to chat. I’m one of those people who give material to bad stand-up comedians. The type who cocks an eyebrow at fellow travellers, signalling a readiness for a auld chinwag. You’d be amazed how often people respond, and how fascinating and bizarre many of them are. Of course, there’s something about the framing device of a journey that makes these vignettes more vivid, concentrated and undeniably peculiar. It’s also true that people are remarkably open when talking to a stranger, particularly one who chirps appreciatively from time to time.
Still, this one was a corker. Ten minutes after I’d embarked on the 30-minute bus ride to the airport, an elderly man asked me to move my bag so he could sit down. I happily apologised, made some trivial remark, and he was off. Soon I knew he’d been a white farmer in Zimbabwe until expelled penniless by Mugabe 10 years ago. He had taken Irish citizenship, despite being born in South Africa, and was in a great mood because he had just – believe me, you won’t have seen this coming – invented a new type of ironing board. Not only that, but the Czech Republic (eh?) had seen the potential of this whizz-bang appliance and had just given him seed money to start manufacture. He grumbled that the Irish government had been absurdly laggardly in handing him any development cash – pfft, the tightwads – but the Czechs had come through (ba-dum-TISH!) I’m sorry to report that couldn’t quite see why his design was so revolutionary, despite having it illustrated with several biros, bus tickets and fingers waved in the air, but he sounded very chipper about the whole thing and it seemed churlish to look mystified for any longer.
Oh, and I even swam in the sea, twice. There is pictorial evidence of my wetsuit debut, though it remains safely locked in the digital camera – and until I can remember how to download the foties, the Harriss tan will remain known only to a select few.

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