Barely had I returned from one Celtic fringe than I was off to another. This time to Ireland for “the man”. Actually, if I must go somewhere, Ireland isn’t a bad option: flights are pleasingly brief, they know how to keep time (and defer to Greenwich), my plugs fit their sockets, free wi-fi is surprisingly common and the locals are friendly (despite the somewhat chequered history between our two countries).
I started in Cork – the airport code for which is rather delightfully ORK – which allowed me to renew my acquaintance with a couple of the locals: Murphy’s and Beamish. Well, I say locals but given the depredations of multinational brewing giants they may be brewed almost anywhere for all I know. Despite their perhaps uncertain current provenance, they still slipped down very nicely – and helped to distract me from the seriously heavy rain falling outside (still, to visit the Emerald Isle and not see rain does leave one with strange feelings of an experience only half-lived).
The following morning I was off to Dublin on the train – well, mostly on the train, but a replacement bus service took us as far as Mallow to allow emergency engineering works. Shockingly, they allowed other people to board my luxury coach – you don’t get this with Greater Anglia, but I suppose Iarnród Éirann may be feeling the effects of the recession and thus unable to lay on a personalised luxury coach for everyone. On the plus side, the bus did pass within little more than a mile of the Blarney Stone – I blew it a kiss, but I’m not sure this delivers the full effect of a physical smooch (only time will tell whether my tongue has been sufficiently silvered).
In Dublin, I was forced (for business reasons) to visit an outpost of the Starbucks empire (I can only assume Herman Melville is spinning sufficiently rapidly in his grave to power a small city). The cup of Earl Grey I was given was large enough to float a heavy cruiser (though far from the largest vessel on offer) but tasted truly vile – a significant victory for quantity in its on-going war with quality. Still, this painful incident aside, I had a very pleasant time in Dublin and the leaving of the city is considerably easier than used to be the case. I can only attribute this to the completion of both the Port Tunnel and the airport since last I was there.
Upon my return to the UK, Greater Anglia were clearly anticipating winter once more closing its jaws upon us with some ferocity (which I presume to be an iron conurbation). As a result, my train was heated to the sort of temperature normally associated with Scandinavian relaxation and which oft precedes running out into the snow or mild birch twig based laceration. I was sorely tempted to go topless (or worse), but somehow resisted – though I like to imagine that my honed torso would have been greeted with quiet appreciation by my fellow, late-night passengers. Perhaps this heat was part of a new service they are testing – no longer just a choice between 1st and Standard Class but on selected trains the new sauna coach will help stressed business folk relax on their journey back to Essex and Cambridgeshire. I would applaud their creative approach to rail travel, but suggest they might need to spend a little more on the advertising budget before future trials so that next time I can come properly prepared.