‘Look on your journey as a dance,’ said Joe. ‘When y’re doin’ the waltz or the foxtrot surely y’re not doin’ it to get from here to there in the quickest time. It’s the same with travelin’. Be doin’ the travelin’ in the same spirit. Wherever you are, you are there. It is all Ireland, and y’re here to see Ireland.’

Kitty smiled her approval. ‘Now you are talking sense, Joe.’ Her eyes crinkled in amusement. ‘Tell me, Charlie, have you heard Ireland’s most famous joke?’

I shook my head.

‘Well, it is this way, you see. A traveller, much like yourself perhaps, was asking directions from an old villager, The old man scratched his head, and after a few false starts he said “But if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here!”,

‘Let Joe take you and your stuff to the car hire, and then just drive a while. You can start your journey wherever you find yourself tonight. As Joe says, it is all Ireland!’ And the two of them beamed at me, grinning from ear to ear.

And so began the most fabulous journey of my life. As you know, I am not a great one for travelling. Bonnie had dragged me kicking and screaming halfway ’round the world in a flurry of schedules and timetables. Whenever I paused to draw breath it seemed that it was time to move on. Now, I thought smugly, it is my turn. I’ll rely completely on momentum and inertia; I shall keep going till something stops me, and stay put till something starts me. To paraphrase an old saying “Ireland! I’m standing in it!”

Joe saw me off from the car-hire depot. I was driving a neat little four cylinder automatic. It looked familiar but don’t ask me what it was; they have changed all the names. It must have been nearly new, it had that nice new car smell about it.

It was the first time I had driven outside Australia, and I was glad that Bonnie had insisted on my getting an international licence. Luckily the Irish drive on the left like Australians and the road rules are basically the same. I’d rather be an Aussie in Ireland than an Irishman learning to do a hook turn in Melbourne!

Despite all our discussions about the West, I headed South, possibly because it was nice to follow the seacoast through the southern suburbs of Dublin to Dalkey and Bray and on to Wicklow. in County Wicklow. I was to discover that the chief county town usually took its name from the county (or the County from the Town perhaps).

Tired and happy, I found a comfortable little hotel for the night. Dutifully I checked for e-mail on the net. Nothing. I put my battery on charge and went to bed.

There are two things you need to drive in Ireland: good windscreen wipers and a raincoat to put on if you have to get out to ask directions. It rains a lot in Ireland but it didn’t seem cold-not after Europe. It is not a harsh rain, more often a drifting, misty manifestation of water to keep the unbelievable countryside so green. As an Australian I was accustomed to the greyish green of eucalypts or the brownish green of sun-scorched paddocks; the Emerald Isle was not an empty phrase.

‘A fine soft day, today’ was a remark I came to appreciate as I pursued my erratic way through Wexford and Waterford, the Counties and the Towns. I drove when I felt like it, taking the lesser roads on a whim that depended, as often as not, on an intriguing name on a signpost. “Coolgreany” is one I remember as I looped off the major road to find out if the little town was truly cool and green. It was! Fortunately, the town of Gorey, where I regained the highway, wasn’t gory. And how could I resist names like Ballycullane and Mooncoin (was it pronounced moon-coin? and what sort of currency would that be?) And did someone really kill the cow at Kilmacow?

In a contented and unhurried manner I drifted from place to place, and the courtesy and warmth shown to a wandering Australian, especially one with an Irish name, mellowed me and made me think of how good it would be to share my experience. On reaching Cork I resolved to phone Bonnie.

Kitty’s home town, the second city of the Republic in size, was a pleasant place. The inhabitants called themselves Corkonians and had a very high opinion of their importance, and who is to say they are wrong. After all County Cork is the home of the Blarney stone. I thought perhaps I should kiss it before I phoned Bonnie.

I had dialled the number before I realised that I had not rehearsed what I was going to say to her. I nearly hung up, but cursed myself for my cowardice as I waited for the hotel staff to contact Bonnie. As I waited it seemed like hours.

‘I am sorry Herr Quinn, Fraulein Doone has not yet answered. She is believed to be in the hotel, her key is not at the desk. Shall we continue paging her?’

‘Please.’ And I wondered again at the internationality of music tapes.

My musings were interrupted. Bonnie’s voice was hesitant, dubious:

‘Charlie? Is that you?’

‘Yes,’ I said shortly. ‘Where were you? I’ve been hanging on for ages.’

‘I was having a bath. I’m wrapped in towels and dripping water all over the carpet.’

The involuntary mental image she conjured up threw me into confusion (perhaps she knew it would!), and I suddenly missed Bonnie in an urgent physical sense that completely banished rational thought.

‘Bonnie. Please come to Ireland. I miss you.’

Bonnie started crying, in that illogical way women have when they are happy, but, as practical as ever, turned to the more prosaic matters of flight schedules and timing.

‘Where are you? Dublin?’

‘Cork. But tell you what, Fly to Shannon. I’ll meet you at the airport on Sahurda.’

‘When?’

‘Saturday, Sorry, the Irish accent is catching.’ I was suddenly happy. ‘Oh Bonnie, you’ll love Ireland. It has made the whole trip worthwhile.’ I had a sudden afterthought. ‘And getting to know you, of course.’

‘Oh Charlie’ she laughed, ‘You haven’t changed a bit.’

“Any problems, call me on the mobile.’

‘I love you, Charlie!’

‘Me too,’ I said recklessly. A sudden thought: Did I mean, Me or Her?

‘Have a good journey.’

 

© Copyright H.St V.Beechey August 1996

 

Next Episode: Good Memory

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