In December, Everything Came to a Head

We’ve had a lot going on here. My workload’s been heavy (that’s good, actually) but with deadlines that moved up and down my production schedule (publishers and authors sometimes shuffle things around), which caused bottlenecks and logjams that raised my stress level. (In fact, my young whippersnapper doctor put me on a low-dose blood pressure medicine late in the year. But that’s another story entirely.)

In September we learned our beloved cat, Bean (that’s her photo at the top of this blog), was sick—probably lymphoma, which is incurable, but we continued to try various meds and nutrition changes, as well as an ultrasound and needle biopsy on the sixth of December. She was weakening, and my heart was breaking.

In October our annual termite inspection yield the information that our master bathroom floor might fall through, so while we wrangled with the insurance company, we decamped to the upstairs bathroom for our daily ablutions. It took weeks to get the paperwork settled, and work finally began on December fifth. There was dust everywhere. Thank goodness we hadn’t had time to put out Christmas decorations, or they’d have been dusty too.

In November, finally, some good news: my son and his fiancée married. Actually, that was a really special day amidst a month of growing strain. I was working night and day to dismantle my logjam. Bean needed meds and you try giving a cat a pill. It was just … a crazy time. Not good, not bad, but a lot.

Happy couple a few days later: Thanksgiving at our place.

And then, on December eighth, we got a call from Dublin in the very early morning that we’d been worried would come. Gerry’s eighty-seven-year-old mother had been in and out of the hospital all year. Her body wasn’t well but her mind was still just as sharp as a tack. Since Gerry had married me and returned with me to the United States in late 2015, his younger brother, Richie, and Richie’s wife, Isolde, had taken on the responsibility of keeping an eye on Bridie. It hadn’t been an easy year for them either.

The call was from Richie: Bridie had gone to the hospital that morning. The question had already been asked (“She has a son in America—should we call him home?”) but the answer we received at 5am was “Not yet. Let’s wait and see.” So I went off to my doctor for my annual physical at 8am and, of course, my blood pressure was through the roof—I left with a prescription for the low-dose bp meds, madder than a wet hen about it too. Which did nothing to lower my bp.

• • •

(Here’s a tip about that. In those crazy early morning hours, I’d had a cup of tea and a piece of toast, forgetting that they’d take blood at my physical. By the time I got back to the clinic for the bloodwork, it was after Christmas and my blood sugar was up too. A nurse friend of mine rolled her eyes at me, reminded me that stress also causes blood sugar to rise, and said, “Jamie, don’t ever schedule a physical during the holidays!” And I won’t.)

• • •

            By the time I got home, though, “Wait and see” had become “Come home now.” Gerry had already made arrangements with our phone carrier for an international plan, and we came up to the office and sat down at our dueling computers and started looking for a flight for him. I would not be going with him. (Cats, meds, dog, deadlines, and so on.)

Back in the day—you know, when America was great and all that—the airlines offered a sympathy discount for hardship cases like final illnesses and funerals, but no more. We were shocked at the cost of a round trip flight from Nashville to Dublin: the cheapest was British Airways at $3135. It was enough to make us weak in the knees. So we called them. It never hurts to ask, right?

Welp … nope. No family emergency discount. However, the clerk took pity on us and gave us a tip, which I’m passing to you in case you don’t already know it.

• • •

When you are buying tix online, you’ll be asked to choose if you just want the flight, or if you want flight+car or flight+hotel or flight+car+hotel. Let’s say you choose flight+car. You print out a little voucher for a good rate at the car rental place. You don’t pay for it then, you just print the voucher. Magically (!) your flight cost is reduced by half. No joke: the cost went to $1572. The clerk said, “When you reach your destination, just drop by the Hertz window and tell them your plans have changed.”

• • •

            And so he did. Thanks, BA.

I didn’t work much that day. I just helped Gerry gather the things he needed to pack for a two-week stay. (I am proud of the fact that I had stashed 50 euro in bills leftover from the last trip—and several one- and two-euro coins—so Gerry didn’t have to fly off without cash other than dollars.) We were both rattled. And that afternoon I drove my husband to Nashville and put him on a plane to Dublin in the hopes he could see his mother before she parted from this world.

I came home and started sending emails to Gerry’s former work colleagues and other friends of ours, to let them know Gerry would be in Dublin and why. I let our family know. I let our Facebook friends know. I scribbled lists of things I needed to do. I went up and down the stairs letting the dog outside—she stands in the hall and does this low growl until she has your attention—gaining a new appreciation for just how much time Gerry spends letting Suzy out to pee. 🙂

Bridie died Friday just before midnight Dublin time (that would be 6pm our time). Gerry was waiting to board his flight in Chicago, having spoken with her on the phone a little earlier. One of the nieces sent me an electronic message.

Gerry arrived in Dublin in late afternoon on Saturday, precisely twenty-four hours after he’d departed Nashville, and Richie and Isolde took him home and fed him breakfast for supper and put him to bed. The funeral was scheduled for Wednesday. He spent the rest of his time in Dublin emptying the house, speaking with the solicitor, speaking with the realtor, speaking with the bank, and so on. Richie was right there by his side. It was exhausting.

Here at home, the rest of us tottered on. The diuetic I’d been prescribed for the blood pressure made me feel like I’d been run over by a truck. I could barely climb the stairs I felt so fatigued. Also low-grade nausea. But. Just. So. Exhausted. Aaaaagh. (Fortunately it only lasted for a few days.)

Suzy wasn’t getting walked, and she missed her guy. The two of us were walking wounded. On Facebook I posted Opportunity of a lifetime! Take a stroll around the block with the world’s sweetest dog! but got no takers. December is a really busy month for everyone.

The construction in the bathroom continued, which meant our backyard gate was often open. Gerry’s very cautious/aware about these things, but one morning I let her out to do her business, failing, while I was on the phone informing the dentist that Gerry would not make his appointment on Wednesday, to notice that the gate was open… and when I called for her, she was gone. I called and called: Suzy! Suzy!

Nothing.

So instead, I called for Spot the cat, using his mealtime call: SPIT-Spot! SPIT-Spot! He responds very well to it. So does Suzy. So what to my wondering eyes should appear but a seventy-pound yellow Lab who never misses a meal. She was on the driveway between the front yard and the back yard. Came on the run.

I always checked the gate situation after that. We’d had enough trouble.

Yes, Suzy finally took me for a walk today (dragged me around the block). That’s a plastic cup I scooped out of the gutter when I realized I’d forgotten a poop bag. Fortunately I didn’t need to use it.

Those two weeks seemed like two months. I had to let go of a lot of my personal expectations—put up a Christmas tree, decorate, send Christmas cards—and reached a peace with myself. I told myself I’d get to some of it when I could, but for the moment, I just tended to my work and my pets and sat in the hot tub, and knew that all of us would be happy to see Gerry on the other end. I wrapped one present a day and stacked them on the piano.

When you don’t have a tree, the Christmas Piano will do.

I started checking flight status early and learned that Gerry’s plane out of London Heathrow was delayed. His Chicago flight was due in Nashville at 10pm … but who knew? I’ve been on more than one flight that was held for someone making a tight connection, so I was hoping for that. I checked the flight roster—there was one more flight out of Chicago that night. So I went and brewed a pot of tea.

Ultimately, the fully boarded flight out of London was delayed by an hour and 45 minutes. Why? Because somehow someone had been allowed to board the plane to Chicago whose “paperwork was inadequate to enter the US.” That person was removed from the plane, of course, but the main delay was removing that person’s luggage from the plane. How does that even happen? I still don’t have an answer.

• • •

            But here’s a third tip: If you are flying from Ireland to the US and you have a choice, use a flight that goes directly to the US (Chicago, Boston, NY, DC, Newark, Charlotte, Atlanta … probably others). This allows you to pass customs in Dublin before you ever board a plane. It’s a hassle, you have to be there even earlier than normal, but it’s much less painful than landing in the international terminal, going to baggage claim to collect your luggage, passing through customs, then changing terminals, re-checking your luggage, passing through security, and boarding the next plane.

• • •

            Nonetheless, we took the tickets we could get two weeks ago, and this is what Gerry had to do. There was one last flight to BNA from ORD that night and British Airways took care of booking him on it while he was still in the air. So he collected two pieces of luggage, took them through customs, found his gate, checked the luggage again. As he was boarding for BNA, he got a text from the airlines: “Ooops, sorry, one of your bags didn’t get on the plane. It will follow on the first flight in the morning.” (We’re still puzzled by this. He was there in plenty of time for this flight. He checked them both simultaneously. But one didn’t make it? Why?)

The flight landed at its advertised arrival time of 11:20pm. I was sitting in the huge new park-and-wait and had been since 10pm. Waiting. Tired. Gerry called and said “Don’t come to the terminal until I have my luggage.” So I waited and waited and waited … until 12:30am. Why? Because Gerry had to prove who he was (him with the oops email from the airlines!) and document every leg of his trip, before anyone at the airlines would even agree to say they knew where his missing luggage was! And more paperwork! And me sitting in the park-and-wait having these fantasies about hugging my husband close when I finally laid eyes on him.

“I’M COMING TO GET YOU NOW,” I texted in all caps. “THIS IS RIDICULOUS.”

You would think that the Nashville airport would be reasonably quiet and calm at 1am. But if it’s two days before Christmas, you would be wrong.

Side note on the new arrivals lanes at BNA: They suck. In years past we had a simpler system, a thing of beauty, really, but sometime in the last couple years, airport expansion construction eliminated the ten-minute pull-in parking for loading arrivals and left us with three lanes plus a fourth separated by sidewalk, and it’s insanity because people don’t know how to use it. Drivers are stupid, stopping in the middle two lanes to load their people, thus holding up the entire process, rather than pulling to the two available curbs (lanes 1 and 4) to load, leaving lanes 2 and 3 for through-traffic.

By the time I decided to drive to the terminal, these lanes were backed up well past the curved arrivals entrance (if you know BNA, you know what I mean). And it was raining. When I pulled to the curb, Gerry was banging on the trunk, waiting for me to pop it. He had the suitcase in the trunk before I was out of the car. “This is madness!” I shouted over the roar. No tender hug. “Take me home now!” he shouted back.

• • •

Future tip for airport pickups (especially at holidays): pick up your beloved arrival at departures. Traffic in these lanes is moving quickly, so everything’s more relaxed. In Nashville departures are up one level from baggage claim, and you’re tired and dragging luggage, but pickup goes a lot more smoothly, I’m told.

• • •

            We fell into bed around 1:30am. Gerry awoke at 5am, still on Dublin time. I slept until 6:45am (late for me). We have had breakfast. We are, otherwise, an advertisement for the Walking Dead. But he’s home, and we’re a little travel-wiser. Merry Christmas!

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Funny Story, But You Had to Be There (Touring Howth, Ireland)

And speaking of private tours …

A year ago I helped a friend who was taking her family to Scotland on vacation decide what to do with a little two-day layover in Dublin. We talked about it a lot in email. And then I got busy and the trip came and went and I never followed up.

Last week my friend realized the same thing and sent me a funny email:

I was going through pictures of our trip and realized I had never sent you a followup and thank you for all of your help in planning the trip to Dublin. [I’m not giving you all of my friend’s personal details, of course.] … We stayed in the Clayton Hotel and it was just perfect. A nice walk to the park and the shopping. We also found a great tea shop in the opposite direction.

We wanted to get out of Dublin to show the kids the countryside so I scheduled a tour of Howth. I thought it would be like the Disneyish tour we were heading to in Scotland—they drive you to nice scenery and you walk a short distance to a photo op. It wasn’t like that. Our tour guide was a six foot five lunatic who led us on a five-mile hike/jog up the mountain. It has passed into family legend now …

This made me laugh out loud (it sounds so Irish to me!), though I know my friend is in a lot better shape than me. But Gerry and I tried to guide ourselves through Howth, in a car (with stops), and didn’t see much, so I have to say I think a tour guide would be a good investment.

I snagged this from the interwebs. 🙂

Here are some links to check for guides to Howth:

Howth Guided Tours
Little Gem Tours
Sandemans Howth Tours
Tours by Locals
Get Your Guide

Go! Enjoy!

The Casino at Marino

The Casino at Marino, Co. Dublin (Margaret's photo).

The Casino at Marino, Co. Dublin (Margaret’s photo).

My husband grew up in the neighborhood where Dublin’s perfect little summerhouse—the Casino at Marino—is located. I’ve driven by it countless times and visited twice, in 2003 and again in 2012. It’s got a lot of history.

And now there’s more of it to see. It’s long been known that there were a series of underground tunnels related to and accessible from the Casino. But what were the tunnels used for? The Journal tells us,

The Casino’s tunnels, like the house itself, are approximately 250 years old – but they have never been the subject of an archaeological excavation; … the reason behind the garden’s small pleasure house having eight tunnels has never been satisfactorily explained.

Neither has the reason why they vary so much in structure. The passageways are not uniform in size or supposed purpose; varying in length from between 10 and 20 ft. Some have steps that lead down to natural springs, while others have several mysterious alcoves carved into their walls.

The longest tunnel was originally linked to main house, which was demolished in 1920s to make way for Ireland’s first affordable housing project. And, to provide light and air to those travelling along the passageway, a number of grates where dug from the ceiling. White says this passage was most likely used by servants moving between the main house and the Casino—and by the master of the estate last at night (probably after an ale or two).

Tucked into the left side of this tunnel are two large rooms with curved ceilings and—seemingly useless—inner window spaces. A supposed second passageway—now blocked off—veers to the right of the main route. It is believed that the second passage, along with the main tunnel to Marino House, were blocked by the Christian Brothers when they took over the estate. However, White points out, without a proper excavation, details are frustratingly hazy.

The Irish Times reports some interesting stories about Michael Collins using the tunnels to test a new gun, and has video too. Now this is the sort of thing that gets me all excited!

The Times also reports the tunnels will be open to the public, as a part of the tour.

The Casino will be closed for a commemorative event on Sunday. But from next Monday, August 22nd, as part of Heritage Week, visitors can explore the story of the long tunnel in an exhibition, Tunnel Vision: Going Underground at Casino Marino, as part of the regular paid tour visit at the Casino.

After Heritage Week, tunnel access is on Thursday to Saturday inclusive only, and the usual admission charges apply. Entry restrictions can apply due to weather/operational conditions.

I’ll definitely be going out to Marino the next time I visit.

In Flanders Fields*

My father was a history major in college, and we kids grew up discussing it at the dinner table. It was my first experience with how interpretation and perception shape the events that we (or our children) will one day call history.

Since we are approaching the one-hundreth anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland, I want to tell you about a book that changed the way I thought about it. You might enjoy it. (I repurposed this column from my other blog, Read Play Edit.)

I recently (recently when I wrote this post in 2012) read A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry, one of Ireland’s finest writers, and I’m still shaken by it, by what I didn’t know or didn’t understand about the First World War (that’s just for starters; God knows there’s plenty I don’t know). As I was thinking about the history I learned, it occurred to me that as an event moves from the present into the past (and it never stops, my friends, it never stops; we grow older so quickly) we learn about it first from journalists, reporters, participants—people who were there. As distance and perspective are gained, the historians and memoirists begin to weigh in. (Here’s a beautifully written—and current—article from the Guardian about the facts and the myths of that moment in history.)

And then the artists take over, and playwrights, screenwriters, the poets and the novelists.

For those who have eyes to see (and hearts, I think, to comprehend), there’s a lot to learn from them. That’s probably why our teachers had us read All Quiet on the Western Front in high school, although by that time I’d already read Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago. I read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914 not long after that. Last year I tracked down a used copy of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse after a World War I–reading hiatus of a couple decades.

These novels and others like them will live on long after those present at the events have left us (in fact, the last veteran just died in February). (Again, 2012.)

I have no personal connection to the Great War. My parents were born too late and my grandparents too early for me to have an immediate family connection. But history—no matter whose it is—is personal. It’s horrible enough to think of all those boys dying; nine million of them. Nine million.

Nine million.

Two hundred thousand Irishmen fought in British uniforms, as Ireland was then a part of the United Kingdom; many of them signed up because they were promised this show of solidarity would lead to Home Rule (that is, self-government). Some went for the idealistic reasons young men tend to go; in this case, to stop the Kaiser. Others did simply because that was what their government called them to do; the Acts of Union in 1800 had forced Ireland into the UK and further under England’s thumb. There was a lively opposition to the Brits, but a great many Irish even in the south accepted the status quo; there’d been four generations of peace.

And then … the Rising. An insurrection staged during Easter week 1916 by young men who believed Ireland belonged to the Irish changed everything.

Easter_Proclamation_of_1916

Willie Dunne, the protagonist of A Long Long Way, has been fighting in a British uniform for considerably more than a year when he finds himself home in Dublin on a brief furlough during Easter 1916. Because he is in the British army, he is sent to help quell the Rising. Think about that: an Irishmen called to bear arms against his own countrymen. Willie’s father knows exactly which side he is on, but Willie himself, just nineteen, is mightily confused.

How could a fella like Willie hold England and Ireland equally in his heart, like his father before him, like his father’s father and his father’s father’s father, when both now would call him a traitor, though his heart was clear and pure, as pure as a heart can be after three years of slaughter?

Willie is in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 16th division, which saw action at the battle of the Somme, Guillemont, Ginchy, and Ypres, sustaining enormous losses. At the third battle of Ypres (July 1917) casualties were so high the battalion virtually ceased to exist. Willie is wounded there, so it is only later he learns that most of his comrades are gone, and that the English generals blamed the dead men for not fighting well enough.

There was a terrible lack of new Irishmen now in the army. You could hardly meet another fella in transit. It had all dried up, those thoughts and deeds of ’14. It was all a thing long done and past. No one now thought it was a good notion to kit up against the Kaiser and go to Flanders. The 16th was gone the way of all old, finished things. … Ceased to exist! And then to be blamed for that themselves. That was a test of loyalty anyhow, to hear a thing like that, never mind a rake of Germans rushing at you. But Willie heard it on the trains; he could smell that opinion almost in the sea air of Southampton. Better forget about the Irish. They always had been a strange crowd anyhow. … Between your own countrymen deriding you for being in the army, and the army deriding you for your own slaughter, a man didn’t know what to be thinking. A man’s mind could be roaring out in pain of a sort. The fact that the war didn’t make a jot of sense any more hardly came into it.

Of course, they blame them because they’re Irish. Because the Irish in Ireland are in open insurrection against the British king.

Mothers in Ireland said they would stand in front of their sons and be shot before they’d let them go, and that was a change … They could raise one hundred and fifty thousand men immediately, and that would win the war. But the Nationalists wouldn’t stand for it. Said King George could find lambs for the slaughter in his own green fields from now on.

There is much more in the story than what I’ve told you, of course. It’s very compelling. A Long Long Way is not a typical historical novel, but it’s got the kind of history that will make you think. That will make you glad for the circumstances of your own precious life, and your children’s.

The prose is breathtakingly beautiful. You should read it.

* We are the Dead. Short days ago / We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, / Loved and were loved, and now we lie, / In Flanders fields. (John McCrae)

Alas, Poor Horatio, We Hardly Knew Ye*

Fifty years ago today, 8 March 1966, Nelson’s Pillar—the 121-foot-high column in the center of O’Connell Street in Dublin that sported a statue of Horatio Nelson atop it—was blown up by Irish Republicans.

A half-demolished Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street, Dublin. From the front page of the Irish Times on Tuesday, 8 March 1966: “The top of Nelson Pillar, in O’Connell street, Dublin, was blown off by a tremendous explosion at 1.32 o’clock this morning and the Nelson statue and tons of rubble poured down into the roadway. By a miracle, nobody was injured, though there were a number of people in the area at the time.” Date: Tuesday, 8 March 1966 Source: The National Library of Ireland/Flickr

A half-demolished Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street, Dublin.
From the front page of the Irish Times on Tuesday, 8 March 1966: “The top of Nelson Pillar, in O’Connell street, Dublin, was blown off by a tremendous explosion at 1.32 o’clock this morning and the Nelson statue and tons of rubble poured down into the roadway. By a miracle, nobody was injured, though there were a number of people in the area at the time.
Date: Tuesday, 8 March 1966
Source: The National Library of Ireland/Flickr

Erected to commemorate the life of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson—and particularly his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where he was killed at age 47—the statue was completed in 1809. As Lord Nelson was much celebrated, the Dublin pillar “was among the first and grandest monuments erected in memory of Nelson in the then United Kingdom,” according to Wikipedia, though we are also reminded that

The Irish Monthly, a contemporary nationalist newspaper, joked at the time the statue of Horatio Nelson on top of the Pillar was unveiled that “we never remember an exhibition that has excited less notice, or was marked with more indifference on the part of the Irish public, or at least that part that pay the taxes and enjoy none of the plunder”.

In this same article a few myths are laid to rest, including the notion that the pillar was blown up by the IRA.

The pillar has since been replaced by the Spire of Dublin, which was erected in 2003.

* Yes, it’s a deliberate misquote. 🙂

Wedding Past, Present, Future

My dear friend ’Becca (I’ve mentioned her before) brought her plus-one to our dinner party in Dublin. She’d emailed me about him. “I’m bringing Mike. He’s great—you’ll love him. Everybody does.”

She was right. He’s fun to talk to—and a good sport (he flew in that morning!) too.

And he’s an even better sport than I knew: While they were in Dublin, Mike and ’Becca went shopping at Powerscourt Centre, where they looked at antiques. Mike bought ’Becca an old, beautiful ring. A special one for a special reason.

It was a process.

It was a process.

This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing; they’d been talking about it. They’d been looking around for the right thing. But as ’Becca told me later, “It’s all because of you and Gerry! Ireland has the best selection of antique rings!”

But this was the one.

But this was the one.

Oh yeah. It’s gorgeous.

The ring is a pretty basketweave design.

The ring is a pretty basketweave design.

What a great travel story! I am delighted by the synchronicity: they were in Dublin to celebrate my wedding to Gerry, and now we’ll have an excuse to travel to Texas, later, to celebrate theirs.

’Becca wore the ring home on the plane (for safekeeping, of course!), but when they got to Texas, Mike took it back; he wanted to talk to to her father. First things first. So life went on, everybody got back to work after a fabulous vacation in Ireland. The holidays arrived. And the day after Christmas, Mike—having spoken with ’Becca’s dad—asked my friend to marry him.

The day after that, ’Becca emailed me with the news. I don’t mind admitting I shed a little tear. Or three.

Perfect timing. Congratulations, you two. I’m so happy for you!

Mike and ’Becca. Taken outside the Portmarnock Hotel on 3 October 2015.

Mike and ’Becca. Taken outside the Portmarnock Hotel on 3 October 2015.

 

Winding Down, At Last

19 October 2015 Monday

We had a final breakfast at the Celbridge Manor, then loaded up the car and went to Gerry’s house to grab things (gifts, dress clothes) we’d left there. Visited with Bridie for a couple hours. Then we took all that stuff to the airport hotel—the former Bewley’s Hotel, now the Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport.

One of Gerry’s best ideas ever is staying in an airport hotel the night before we fly home. At that point we’re tired and we want as little hassle—and rushing—as possible. I’ve done that thing of dropping the car off and then rushing back to the airport, and I swear, it’s hazardous to my health! So the day before we fly, we check in, unload the luggage, then take the rental car back, shuttle back to the hotel, have an early night, and shuttle or cab to the airport in the morning. It’s just so much easier to wind down this way than rush rush rush.

For this trip, we splurged on a suite—only €20 more!—so we could sort out all our luggage with plenty of room. It was a brilliant idea, this splurge. For one thing, it was just a few steps from the elevator. But it was also a huge room—and we could well remember the size of the regular rooms here.

I’m standing behind a couch and in front of a desk. There was plenty of room to spread out four suitcases.

I’m standing behind a couch and in front of a desk. There was plenty of room to spread out four suitcases.

Nice touch. :)

Nice touch. 🙂

We were delighted with the room.

It was a deluxe bathroom too—this is only one feature of it.

It was a deluxe bathroom too—this is only one feature of it.

They’ve done a lot of work on this hotel and the airport area in the last couple years. The access to the airport is vastly improved, and the construction is finally finished, so a tourist like myself can drive to and from with minimal confusion. At least one more gas station has been added to the mix, which is handy for those of us turning in rentals—and the best part is it’s right across the street from the hotel!

This photo, taken from the elevator tower, shows the new gas station. I have a photo—can’t find it now—taken from this same spot and the field has several horses grazing in it. I’m sorry they’re not still there.

This photo, taken from the elevator tower, shows the new gas station. I have a photo—can’t find it now—taken from this same spot and the field has several horses grazing in it. I’m sorry they’re not still there.

So we gassed up, returned the car … and then spent at least an hour, probably more, working out the packing, getting it so each suitcase weighed less than 50 pounds—or less than 23.0 kilos, which is just slightly more than 50 pounds. (And as it turns out, when we got to the window the next day, the heaviest bag was 22.0. Yay! Of course, we put everything heavy that wasn’t liquid into the rolling carryon bag we’d bought at Samsonite.)

We ate in the bar of the hotel, then grabbed two apple tarts (pie) to take up to the room with us to enjoy with a cup of tea; I shut down the computer and we were just going to relax in our jammies when Gerry’s brother Richie called. Then Gerry’s nephew Eoin called. Both were dropping by to see us—no plan, just each had decded to do that. So we got dressed, and they arrived within seconds of each other. What a great visit to see us off!

Richie, Gerry, me, Eoin.

Richie, Gerry, me, Eoin.

That was nice. Gerry also called his older brother, William, before we went to bed—and he called his preferred cab company to arrange an early pick-up. With so much luggage—he also requested a van—we don’t want to hassle with the hotel’s shuttle bus, which will drop us a block or more away from the terminal. The cab company will put us out right in front.

We’ll be home tomorrow! It’s interesting how the time zones make this westward trip seem so much shorter. Seem being the operative term. 🙂