T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, “we have liftoff.” As an apocalyptic fire engulfed the Kennedy Space Centre launchpad. At the time I wondered if the Saturn V rocket had destroyed itself even before leaving the ground. Fire shoots out horizontally for a mile or so as the space capsule pokes through the cloud and smoke on its inexorable journey towards the moon and into the history books.
As a child of the Apollo space flight program I remember the countdown routine well, immediately followed by the voices of mission control and Walter Cronkite, NASA’s most enthusiastic fan and supporter. “We have liftoff.” And we all smiled. In the rocket man countdown, there was so much pent-up anticipation, an energy released at liftoff, an orgasmic explosion, a triumph of technology and brute determination. Apollo 11 handed a decisive victory in the space race to the United States whose flag adorned everything from command modules to ballpoint pens. “We did it” every American cried. And they did, both!
As Kathie and I count down the days prior to our imminent Irish trip there is a similar anticipation, smaller in scope though equally intense for us, something we think about as we sleep at night and rise in the early morning. The anticipation itself is such fun, hence these blogs. Our deliberations are not without logistical anxiety and concern around the ever-present COVID confusions and challenges. There is much to do. We continue to check and double-check our documents; we have downloaded the Arrive-Canada App. We have confirmed our insurance coverage and confirmed our accommodation schedule. We continue to study recent Irish history and contemporary conversations so I don’t embarrass my family or create an international incident in the local pub. We think about how we will use our phones (praying for some direction around the confusing UK number system — if indeed there is a system). We clean and service our CPAP machines — and here I have a neat idea.
With others I am no fan of prolonged mask-wearing, though mask use is arguably the most effective COVID safety protection apart from extended remote-island isolation – remember Napoleon on St. Helena. I have decided that while in the air I will simply hook myself up to my CPAP machine which is actually very comfortable. It will be awkward carrying the unit down the aisle to the bathroom but I will work on a solution.
We are learning how we will manage money which I assume will involve both Euros and Pounds Sterling. We think about what medications to bring and how they should be used. There is, for instance, a big difference between Preparation H and Compound W. Used improperly, Vitamin E may be required, if not a visit to the ER (or as they say in the UK, casualty) which if the two are misused there will be one.
People continue to send us lovely messages which I divide into two groups. The first group includes a very, very long list of recommended places to visit and explore. It seems that everyone has their own ideas and experiences which is great. If we had a year available we could possibly get to most of them. Time and space however do not allow for a complete listing but we have received something like fifty suggestions in the past week. One experienced Irish traveler noted at the bottom of his fine list that “the above are offered in the hope of keeping you out of the pubs some of the time.” Alcohol and pubs do seem to occupy a prominent place in Irish culture . . .
This brings me to my second category of suggestions. Folks simply say: “Have a Guinness on me.” The truth be told, if we acceded to all these besotted requests we would be both pickled and parsimonious. That said, I will do my best, inspired by my favourite commercial of all time.
Well there’s more, but that’s enough for now. Our anticipation continues to grow; the preparations continue. Boris and Jason have both resigned but continue in their political pits. John will retire in September. Anne continues to celebrate and Justin dithers. And so it goes . . .