We are having a wonderful holiday in Ireland, visiting my mum. We come every year, and have taken in lots of the local sights, such as the magical Giant’s Causeway; those incredible interlocking hexagonal basalt stones reaching out into the sea. So this time we thought we might venture a bit further afield and take the kids for a day trip to Dublin.
The morning started in panic and chaos as my mum’s washing machine had broken down and we couldn’t for the life of us find the number for the man who could fix it. Many phone calls later (including to one plumber’s mother, who we think might be suffering from early on-set of Alzheimer’s – a very difficult call for everyone; her, my mum, us listening) we still didn’t have a plumber, and if that last plumber ever calls us back it will be a miracle.
Next on the list, the picnic lunch. Nigella and Jamie are extremely good at selling us a lifestyle we can’t afford or have the skill or materials to replicate, they make original pack ups look so effortless. However I was not attempting chicken drumsticks with coleslaw all served in a wooden box a la Nigella. I can’t bear to think of the mess and rejection of that delight from my kids. No it was just plain old chicken salad sandwiches, using up the rest of the Sunday roast. Really it shouldn’t be too difficult to make these and get them wrapped up and into the bag. But for me it is, and it was. Mum has a treat table for the kids, so that was very easy. I grabbed some crisps and biscuits, found an old pop bottle, filled with cordial and finally the dreaded task was over. (I still forgot cups, wet wipes and kitchen roll, which were hiding in another bag from the previous day’s lunch. See I am no good at picnics).
But still we were in the car, and to our delight and surprise it was before mid-day. We had every type of clothing with us to cover all weather from 10 force wind and rain to a summer’s breeze (another frenzied run around the house. Why it is only a woman thinks of these essentials? I am sure men would go out in a tee-shirt without a thought or a care about the weather conditions or next meal, despite its inevitability three hours hence.) But nevermind, we were on the road to Dublin.
All was going great, we had a guide-book and map (Time Out, I love them and use on every trip. Not sure how I first started buying them probably because I used to want to work for them when I lived in London, but now I can’t buy anything else) we even had scraped together the euros for the toll. The sun was out, we sailed into the fair city, straight into the speed gun of the Garda.
He flagged us over, “Do you know Sir you were doing 81km in a 50 km zone?” Paul had thought he was just keeping up with the car in front. Literally we were seconds from the motorway. There were no End of Motorway signs anywhere. There were still THREE lanes. “We are just here to show the kids Dublin for the day, officer” I said simperingly. Luckily he must have taken pity on us and our very sad faces.. “Well, go on wit yer.. but watch yer speed”.. “Oh yes, thank you, thank you” and off we crawled through Dublin over the Liffey and to a deserted car park.
When we saw the cost of parking, we could see why we were the only car there. Still after our brush with the Law we didn’t want to be worrying about where the car was. Indeed later, outside Oscar Wilde’s childhood home, we did see a family contemplating their clamped car. (In Newcastle a very pretty seaside town in the North we saw a disabled driver get a ticket for having their disabled badge upside down – there is zero tolerance for parking offences over here).
But, we were here, we had lunch, in the beautiful grounds of a Norman Church St Audoen’s. It was us and the winos. But they were happy and chatty and loving the sun too.
Next task, get some Euros. Easy enough you would think. I don’t want to be unkind to the Republic of Ireland, but after visiting the cash point (not working) and then joined the massive queue in the bank, a bank I might add that seemed so old-fashioned, slow-moving and intensely bureaucratic, it wouldn’t have been out of place in a Harry Potter film. We thought we were in those scenes with all the Gringotts goblins. There were filing cabinets filled with box files, everywhere! This was not a bank embracing the ethos of the paperless workplace, or for that matter a speedy customer service.
But finally we had money, we were set to explore the City. Mum suggested getting an open top bus around Dublin. If there is ever a place to do this, it is here in Dublin. Oh my word, those bus drivers have the gift of story-telling. Funny, charming, some beautiful singing too, as we hopped on and off the buses each driver added their own personal stories to the rich history of the area. I must say I did wince a few time being English, hearing the way they dealt with the rebellions of men fighting for their freedom. After hearing that Oliver Cromwell stabled his horses in St Patrick’s Cathedral during his stay I thought I was Harry Enfield’s German Tourist who feels he must apologise for all the atrocities of the war.
But the most common phrase on the bus trip was, “Not Open On Mondays”. Nearly every place we had thought about visiting was not open on Monday, and there we were in Dublin on a, yes, Monday. We could have come on any day out of ten days, only one of which was a Monday, but we still managed to choose it. What makes this even worse is this isn’t the first time we have tried to visit somewhere on a Monday only to find it closed.
Yorkshire is littered with failed attempts, I will never forget the look on the locals’ face when we tried to go to Newby Hall on a Monday, which of course, all together now, was closed. We thought never mind we’ll have lunch. No. The whole village was closed and they looked at us with total amazement and disbelief that we didn’t know this Cardinal Rule of visiting attractions. Well I was looking at myself with utter disbelief and amazement that we had done it AGAIN.
So if you ever hear of me planning a trip ever again please can you make check IT ISN’T A MONDAY.
All of Dublin wasn’t closed thank goodness. We had a wonderful time. I felt I got to know this beautiful, compact but infinitely varied city much better. I long for another visit, I don’t know maybe a Wednesday, yes Wednesday sounds good, but I think I will take the train, first stop the Guinness Gravity Bar for a pint of the black stuff.