Gotta get ready – The Irish Chronicles #1

The wait is almost over. Originally scheduled for September of 2021, Kathie, Hannah, and I will travel to Ireland for our long-awaited retirement trip to the Emerald Isle. While I lived in London and travelled in Wales in the late 70s, and as Kathie and I have visited the UK and Scotland (with and without kids) a number of times in recent years, this will be our first trip to Ireland – and we leave in just four weeks’ time. Slainté! (Irish for Whoo-hoo).

We will fly during a dodgy time for global travel. Passing through Calgary en route to Dublin, we hope to be spared some of the distress and confusion experienced by passengers passing through Toronto, Pearson or London, Heathrow. The idea of wearing a mask (yes Virginia, COVID is still very much with and amongst us) for countless hours in terminals and planes notwithstanding, we will smile through the medical KN95 fabric at countless other travelers, exercising their pent-up travel ambitions with only modest concern about the cost of carbon-intensive air travel. Certainly, this will not be my finest ethical hour, though I will purchase carbon offsets through the Canadian Foodgrains Bank at the very least. Blood money in exchange for a Guinness. Seems fair!

So with time running out, we’ve gotta get ready, there’s a plane a-comin.’ First things first, we have to figure out how to manage our power supply needs. Thankfully, much has improved over the last twenty years. Most electronics (computers, phones, electric toothbrushes, and NETFLIX viewers) will function at both 120V and 220V. You just need the right adapter plug to connect your devices. No more transformers! We have purchased a veritable menagerie of adapters over the years — it’s important to get the right one. You can purchase before you fly or sometimes purchase when you arrive at your destination. They literally come in all shapes and sizes. If you think the UK plug is large, well try South Africa — their electrical connectors are the size of a closed fist.

Additionally, I need to remember to pack all our mobile device chargers and camera battery systems. I need to bring power bars, extension cords and USB hubs. I should put a sign on our luggage: “This trip sponsored by Best Buy Canada.” It’s so great to live off the land while abroad. All of the above items must be stored strategically in luggage lest the unfortunate physical arrangement of this equipment does not resemble incendiary devices while going through security. Had a problem with this in Frankfurt some years ago – not fun, but a story for another time.

Next challenge, luggage. We will try to take carry-on only, but I am not a light traveler. It would be great to avoid the dreaded carousel given recent concerns around baggage handling, delays, and loss. Also the car we have rented – the most expensive cost of our travel I must say – is quite small, so we can’t use our usual large rolling stock carriers. I wonder if we requested a roof rack. I count our blessings however, as these days we are lucky to have secured a car.

Another challenge is wet weather gear. No sunblock for this trip; just lots of waterproof outerwear. I am told it rains — a lot — in Ireland. The fairies sprinkle liquid sunshine much of the year on the soggy peat; so hats for the head and waterproof shoes with extra socks for the feet.

Did I mention photo gear? I will take much less equipment with me this trip; when last in South Africa, I was equipped for safaris, bringing long glass, tripods, and multiple lenses with me. This time my kit will include just my Fuji XT-4, a backup XT-1, a standard 18-135 travel lens, and a wide-angle 10-24 for close environments. Oh, also a 35mm prime 1.4.

We will have three drivers on this trip. Kathie is our primary chauffeur  having driven in New Zealand; daughter, Hannah will assist having also driven in NZ. Rounding out the triad, I will direct from the back seat.

We are working on our language skills as we watch re-runs of The Derry Girls. My word, in Northern Ireland they talk so fast and furious, talking over each other (I should have been Irish), the louder and faster the better — an aural bedlam for the visitor with both hearing aids and low vision – I can’t read body language well. We watch the show with sub-titles on. Hannah did wonder if we could somehow arrange for subtitles for in-person visits; I wish! There must be an app somewhere.

Both Kathie and I have read Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland in an attempt to understand the complexities of The Troubles, a period of extreme violence in Northern Ireland from 1968-1998. I first heard this history from my Irish roommate at the RCM in 1977, Patrick Lannigan, who grew up in County Down on the southern edge of Belfast. Compared with my upbringing in Oak Bay (Victoria), one of the calmest environments in the world, his stories were as fascinating as they were shocking.

Our hosts, David and Allison, have already sent material relating to reconciliation initiatives in which they participated for many years. Our tour will include the Black Taxi Tour of the streets of Belfast as well as a visit to the historic Corrymeela Community, itself a centre of healing and reconciliation for over fifty years.

Well, enough for now. I am sorry that Cameron cannot join us for this trip – another time, another place with you bud. For me, it’s time to stream The Chieftains and get back to packing. And hey, whenever we used to travel as a family I would encourage everyone to plan in advance as best you can; “and for the rest there’s Mastercard.”

The Chieftains, celebrating their 50th anniversary this year

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