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One Day in Ireland – a step back in time

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I’d only been to Ireland once, and most of that was a haze. My 25th birthday had been marked by a celebratory visit to Dublin, but I was conscious that i wasn’t seeing the real Ireland, but rather a commercialised, but highly enjoyable, version of it.
The real Ireland finally greeted me with open fields early last week on a hastily arranged business trip. I landed at Shannon Airport late on Monday night, on instruction to go and fix some issues at a client of ours in a ominously sounding place called Aughinish Island. A surprise booking in the Club Class section of the aircraft soothed my brow as turbulence hit with unnerving frequency. Being in club Class, I noted, didn’t improve the food – I finally managed to digest the in-flight meal as we were coming in to land. The airport was modern, and the Hertz Car Rental helpdesk assistant was surprisingly cheery as the clock suggested I was probably keeping him from a warm cup of cocoa and an early night. “Oooh, nice,” he said, “A Hyundai Getz…”. I realised as I approached the car that his comment may have been sarcasm. Before me was one of the smallest cars I’d ever seen. I managed to spoon myself into the drivers’ seat, pushed the chair back as far as it could go, and set off into the night with my head planted on the ceiling.
Whenever I set off in a new car, I find the clutch almost impossible to control. I’ve no idea whether this is an affliction that affects all car drivers or whether its just my own personal driving dyslexia, but everyone on the exit road from Limerick Airport at 9pm last Monday will remember a large man in a tiny car bunnyhopping down the road for many weeks, i suspect.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the police stopped me. In fact, I was only 400 metres away from my parking space when I was flagged down by a stern officer, who insinuated I was driving “erratically”. Nonsense, I declared, but the officer proceeded with his questioning. It turned out the airport was on high alert for a car thief that had just stolen a number of cars and, relieved, I sped away once the officer was satisfied I was mostly innocent, save for my “suspicious English accent”.
Well, “sped”. Southern Ireland have recently introduced speeding fines, and as a result the usual high speed traffic had reduced to a snails pace, leaving yours truly with the tricky task of overtaking in a car that barely touched 70mph. My confidence grew with every overtaking move and I was making blistering progress as both the light and my patience dimmed.
The progress was certainly blistering, but sadly it was in the wrong direction. I was looking for the Ennis Road Roundabout, which I assumed would be in Ennis. Sadly, the Ennis Road is a long one, and I’d been going the wrong way. A short, fifteen minute journey to the hotel had become an hours long trek, and the fading light hurried me on, ever faster.
I got to the hotel at 10.30pm, completely bushed. I fell asleep within seconds.
The following day started early, and I attempted to eat breakfast in the worst Little Chef I have ever found… to date. And then, Aughinish Island. It was a short trek from the hotel, and I took in the sights and sounds of the countryside. There was a distinct lack of development anywhere but the most established towns – the roads, the hotel and its restaurant, even the cars themselves, had clearly never been refurbished since it was built. In fact that was true of most of the places I found during my one day stay – the lack of development, the lack of technology, the lack of pace – it’s all a world away from back home. Even the inhabitants were unaware of any place over 20 miles from their home, which made for interesting directions the night before.
And finally, Aughinish loomed on the horizon. The entire island was taken up by one huge structure, held together with a network of tubes and a maze of roads. I was instructed to wear goggles at the security gate for fear of comtamination – of what I don’t know – but my embarrassment was softened when I saw that the entire 600-strong workforce at the plant were all similarly goggled.
I won’t bore you with my work there – save to say that I managed to fix the bugger 5 minutes before I was due to leave for the airport, and the thrashing the little Getz got in my hurried trip back has probably rendered the gearbox completely limp. I made it onto the plane with moments to spare – and after an uneventful trip back home managed to hit the sack at around 10pm.
The overall impression of Southern Ireland? Well, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice – take a book.

Off to Dublin

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It’s all quiet on the wibbler.com weblog front at the moment, mainly because of my impending birthday trip to Dublin. My boss has suddenly realised I’m going away, and has therefore decreed that everything that could quite easily be done after I come back, has to be done before I go. Cue me running around like a blue-arsed fly, bless me.
Still, I’m packed, I’ve had a haircut, I’ve brought enough pants and socks, and I’m ready for a fun weekend. Nick, Jac, Michelle and I fly off at 6am tomorrow morning to Dublin (we’re staying in a nice hotel right in the centre of Temple Bar) and will arrive back, wrecked, on Tuesday night. Jac and Nick are trying their best to wind me up about impending birthday pranks, so I’m taking my large army knife as defence just in case*.
So, all being well, you’ll hear from me on Wednesday night, full of the joys of the Irish. Anyone know a good bar?
* Plainly not true.

An Open Letter to Dublin Trippers

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An open letter to those joining me on the birthday trip to Dublin
“Dear All,
It has come to my attention that plans may be afoot to compromise my wellbeing on our celebratory trip to Dublin.

I would like to make it clear that my parents are aware of the potential of their little son being harmed, and my mother is especially concerned. You will, in her own words, “have [her] to answer to”. She means business. My dad has also been a bit of a boxer in his time, and his fists will no doubt like to have a few words with your facial features should any lasting damage occur.

I trust you will bear this in mind as you tie me upside down to the front of a moving train.”

Lads Night Out

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Saturday night was the long-awaited Lads Night Out. Nick, Jac and I gathered at Michelle’s house, and packed the respective girlfriends off to a bar. After Jac had displayed his finest photos from his recent holiday, and sufficiently shown off his tan, we ventured down the The Stoke, a newly revamped bar on the way to the town centre. I immediately decided to start with a bang, and asked the tiny barmaid for a pint and a chaser each. “A what?” asked Jac, clearly out of touch with drinking terms. “A chaser,” I repeated, as a pint of Fosters and a shot of sambuca appeared in front of him.
We sat down for an hour or so, chin-wagging about past events, and highlighting the amusing recent revelation that Nick calls his trouser truncheon “Mr Whippy”. Nick, tired of out ice-cream based genital gags, tried to ignore the subject and offered ideas for our forthcoming trip to Dublin. Now, as the trip is essentially an excuse to get drunk for my birthday, I’ve been a little worried about conspiracies and pranks. These were only confirmed during my next trip to the bar, when upon my return the coded discussion was based around “Plan B”. The crafty rascals.
After a few more pints, and a discussion about “Old Molenose”, we took in the sights of RSVP bar, and wandered down to the bars of Lower Guildford. We smashed pint glasses in Edwards, stole a jacket in Bar Med, and entered The Drink nightclub to find our girlfriends, sozzled in a corner. A few cocktails later, and the night closed in, swirling away in an alcoholic mist…
The hangover was admirable. Jac’s pictures of the night equally so – here they all are.

Strolling Along…

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I’ve been a little sparse (good word) on here of late, having been as busy as a blue-bummed fly. Between booking holidays to Dublin, tickets to Matchbox 20 and Bon Jovi concerts, rugby tickets to see England vs Italy in March, and running my work department on half the usual number of people, it’s been a little hectic. Still, a few things have happened to it would be rude not to mention. First was a free trip to Woking cinema with Michelle, her brother and his fiance (Michelle had won 6 tickets, the lucky tyke) to see City By The Sea. It was more of a private showing really – the first 20 minutes we were the only people in the cinema. Then there was the first visit of the New Year to The Drink nightclub, where we met Alex and Milly for the first time in ages. Alex seems to be still the man to know around town – Champagne flowed freely while he implied that he could get cheap deals for anything I wanted. I took full advantage, and decided to meet him again on Wednesday for a meal. Cracking.

Dublin and Simcity

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Tum te tum. It’s been a fairly standard week so far, with the only real excitment being when Michelle, bless her, not only bought me some longed for socks (I’m easy to please, me), but also the simply superb Simcity 4 game, something that enabled me to stay up until 1am this morning. She’s also finally got Jac, Nick and I to commit to a 3-day trip to Dublin on my birthday, an idea which almost wrecked Shunta’s relationship. And all this while managing to get 2 weeks off work. Bit of a result for her this week…
I would rant about the bloody useless car garage, but I’ll save that for tomorrow…