Monday, 31 October 2011

...And then I left the country for a bit.

I flew for the first time in nearly five years.
Apparently that makes me a nervous flier.
I don't think it helped that the aeroplane was only marginally larger than the tiny ones little boys fly round their heads at the speed of light, making that delightful 'neeeeeeee-awwwww' sound. You know the one? Very irritating.

So yes, a nervous flier and a super excited Frank who had only found out about an hour before boarding that we were flying to Dublin for this birthday surprise. Much better than driving to Scotland which is what I had originally led him to believe.

If I have learnt anything in the last two and a half months, it is that 1) as a blogger you must regularly blog, 2) getting fit requires exercise and 3) I am an excellent (if that can be a good thing) liar.
Poor Frank had no idea and he'd heard so many tit bits of information and mistaken conversations that he really had no idea what I had planned for this birthday.

I must say I am a little smug.

We landed in a somewhat soggy Dublin, do not fear my friends, we are alive and well and arrived post flash flooding. I had eaten even less than when I had boarded the plane and desperately wanted coffee. But alas.
We had to fight our way to the baggage carousel to collect the lone bag I had paid to check into the hold because this little moron is incapable of reading a baggage measure scale thing. When I paid this particular low cost airline who's name coincidently rhymes with my car, an additional £50 for oversized bags - I was reading the 'lb' measure rather than 'kg'. (Much to Frank's amusement as I relayed this to him on the transfer bus from the car park)
I think perhaps I told Frank that it was fine, it was quite funny - but actually I was seething at my level of stupidity.
I have a degree and I am still unable to read scales. Wonderful. That £9,000 proved to be a worthwhile investment.

Anyway - we found our bus to take us to the centre of Dublin. Then we found the hotel. And then we wandered the streets. Aimlessly.
We hadn't yet located a local map.

Being the English tourists we were, Frank and I jumped onto a tour bus. We picked up a set of complimentary head phones and plugged ourselves into the sockets to listen to the tuneful renditions of traditional Irish ditties, as well as insightful facts about important buildings along the route.

Frank will deny it, but I am sure that he shut his eyes and slept part of the way round, we had been up since 6am. He argued his lack of sleep the following day by reboarding the tour bus and reciting each of the important facts before the recorded Irish man could say them. Some say Frank is gifted, others say he is wise. Me? I say that sometimes he is annoying (honestly I don't really Frank!) and I don't know how he does it. If I had been me 'sleeping' - I would have been out for the count, and no version of 'Whiskey in the jar' would stir me.

Frank awoke on Wednesday morning to a little pile of perfectly wrapped presents. These had caused no end of problems in security at the airport  - that and the fact that my bag was so overloaded that the scanner couldn't actually see inside it. Oh and I basically had a full body search. Bloomin' ridiculous, how is one meant to smuggle a weapon in skinny jeans and fitted sweater?

So Frank had a lovely birthday morning, I treated him to a very swish breakfast in one of Dublin's oldest cafes. If ever you go - you must visit Bewley's on Grafton Street. It was lovely. Frank wolfed down a good old Irish breakfast (the distinguishing factor from its English counterpart was the absence of bakes beans and the addition of white pudding - bleurgh!)

And then?
Well when in Dublin...
Do as the Irish do.

Drink Guinness in the Guinness Storehouse of course.

Now, I ain't no fan of that heavy stuff, but actually I managed to drink a little more of it than usual without scowling. Maybe it was the fear of being lynched by Irish locals that made me keep it down!
Of course I am joking.
The Irish we encoutered were the most welcoming people I have ever met. Now Frank loves a good natter with anyone, and usually I smile apologetically to people - but here? Well I just let him chat.
In fact, I found myself conversing with strangers, and even  with some Canadians.
Did you know that Ireland has the highest population of Americans and Canadians outside of North America?

Obviously I am lying. But it felt like it.
It was quite odd, but very funny to listen to their excited exclamations about "little Irish buildings", oh and the squillions of photos of ... "Me and Chuck by some bricks, me and Chuck on these cute little cobbled streets and ...oh these were good weren't they Chuck? What were they again? Oh yeah, pubs that's right - all those pubs. Here's me and Chuck eating Irish stew and ....."
Oh dear, I actually pity those poor folks back home!

Frank's biggest surprise, perhaps bigger than the actual trip, were the secret tickets to see Lee Evans on his last night at the Dublin O2.
Now, I'm not biased or anything, and he didn't pay me to say this - but he was absolutely fantastic! Frank had a cheshire cat grin throughout the entire stand up, and my tummy hurt from chuckling.

And to all those people who left early - yeah you, the guys who left when you thought it was the end, you know to beat the queues? Well you didn't get your full money's worth did you chaps? Oh no - that little sweaty monkey man continued for another twenty minutes!

We walked back a long the river side into the city centre. The River Liffey was exceptionally high, (because of the floodwater) but had a fat man jumped in - he would have displaced all the water onto the pavements and roads that ran along side.
It was quite a pretty walk. Dublin is very flat. Very pretty. But has a lot less street lights than London. There were a lot of dark patches. And some rather obscure sculptures of what looked like emaciated people.

And then all of a sudden it was our last day in this lovely little city.
We spent the afternoon in Cafe En Seine, Dawson Street (another little hotspot to visit). It was all art deco and very suave. I felt like Frank should have been wearing spats and a suit and hat, and I should have had finger-waved hair, a fur coat, and a cigarette in a holder between perfectly painted red lips.
But no - we were not so overdressed.
We enjoyed the paper, drank coffee, and maybe a cheeky liquer coffees and then decided after a long afternoon of doing very little, that we really should move on and find somewhere else to consume our very last truly Irish Guinness.
That and the fact that we were being goaded to clear our tab by the waitressing staff who were trying to prepare the bar area for the evening.
Oh dear, we always seem to be in the way.

The only thing to put a little downer on our lovely week, was that Brian - my poor little Brian who was carted off to hospital last Friday, has been fighting a losing battle.

It turns out that his fight with Discovery wasn't quite so victorious. He came away more wounded than any of us would ever anticipate.
He has a damaged chassis.
The mechanic told me he was beyond economic repair.

Naturally I feel a saddness, and ache in my body (perhaps though this is the whiplash), but I know that letting Brian go is the right thing to do.
He will be donating his organs to other needy Ka's who have been injured and need help to recover from less serious incidents or merely to prolong their lives. It's what he would have wanted,.

I will say one last goodbye to Brian tomorrow, collect the last of my possessions from his trusty care. He will wish me all the best for the future.
I shall look longingly back at him as I leave the compoud - playing a montage of images and treasured moments in my mind to a beautiful soundtrack playing softly from his speakers.

(It will have to be softly because, well to be honest, his speakers never worked that well...)

And then back to reality, and the dreaded shopping for a new set of wheels...
Almost as important as purchasing the perfect pair of shoes.