Getting there

Getting there

Monday, January 31, 2011

My Life As A Criminal

When I was 18 a friend gave me a jacket. My friend had been serving in the Canadian Armed Forces and had grown extremely disillusioned with the entire environment. He said he could see no better use for his jacket than to give it to his young punk friend, and so it came to me. It was a Corporal's jacket, I believe, complete with stripes and other decoration. I was, of course, quite delighted - what a unique piece to own!

The weekend after he gave me the jacket I went to a local restaurant with my boyfriend and his best friend. We were dressed in our punk finest, of course - me with a miniskirt, fishnets, heels, and hair teased up high. We arrived at the restaurant and on our way to the table I saw someone I'd known in high school and a couple of his friends. They looked at my jacket and sneered "Nice jacket". I said thank you and continued to our table. I noticed them shooting me dark stares throughout the meal but I assumed it was due to the attire of my friends and I - being some of the few punks in the city this was a pretty common reaction.

After we finished the meal we exited the restaurant, and standing outside were the three young men who had been glaring at me. Also there was a police cruiser with two officers. What happened next was entirely unexpected, of course. One officer exited the car and asked to speak with me. The other officer, sizing up my companions, suggested to the other young men that they leave as what happened next could likely lead to them being followed home and having the snot beaten out of them by a gang of young punks. You see, what happened next was that I was arrested for unlawful use of a military uniform and impersonating a military officer. When the officer explained the charges I began to cry. He looked at his partner and said "I feel like a complete jerk". He then told me that if it was up to him he would just ask me to remove the jacket, but that because the young men had complained (they were Army cadets, apparently) and wanted me charged he had no choice. He took my jacket as it would be held in evidence, and he said I could pick it up after my court date. He wrote up the summons, explaining that I would need to appear in court and might want to find a lawyer. I was aghast at the whole affair.

When I got home that night I decided against telling my parents. I was eighteen, and an adult, so there was no legal requirement to tell them. I'd also already put these people through a lot. I was the person who brought home entire punk bands, often sweaty, smelly, and foul-mouthed, and expected my mother to feed them (bless her German heart, she always did). I'd had a boyfriend who drove an old hearse. When I dyed my hair pink, black, and blue my father hadn't spoken for a week (initially I thought he just didn't speak to me until my sister later explained he didn't speak to anyone for a week - I had traumatized the poor man). I'd had parties when my parents were away that ended with all the screens on the windows being removed and several men's t-shirts in the freezer (and no, I still have no idea why those things happened, but I do recall trying to explain to my father why he found all the screens off when he returned, and to my mother why there were soiled t-shirts in the freezer). My parents had already raised my four sisters but I think they'd started to think I was a horse of a different colour entirely, and I was worried this latest stunt might well break them.

So, I called my eldest sister who was a practicing lawyer in another city. She advised me to contact a friend she had graduated with and see if he would represent me. I called him and after explaining I'd been arrested for impersonating a military officer while wearing a fishnet and heels he agreed to take the case (after all, how many times in one's legal career does a case like that cross your desk?).

I was quite anxious as my court date approached. My parents still knew absolutely nothing of all this, and I intended to keep it that way. On the day I went to court I tried to appear as demure and responsible as possible. My lawyer was actually quite disappointed I didn't wear the heels, fishnets, and miniskirt to court that day, although I'm not sure how that would have helped our case. I suspect he just wanted to see the judge's reaction. In the end I was granted a conditional discharge, which required me to spend 4 hours doing community service at the local Salvation Army (hardly punishment for me - I believe I came home that day with two bags of clothing as I loved vintage stuff and this was like being able to jump the queue to get to the good stuff!). My lawyer charged me $85 for his services, I believe, and had a story to tell at cocktail parties for years.

After the court date I wanted to forget the whole thing. I had no intention of picking up the damn jacket - it could rot as far as I cared. One night a few weeks later, though, the doorbell of our suburban house rang as my mother, father, and I sat down for supper. My father went to answer it, and when he returned he glared at me. He informed that there was a police cruiser in the driveway, and an officer asking to speak to me. I believe I stopped breathing at that point, but finally collected myself and went to the door, trailed by my parents. Realizing this could end very badly I stepped outside and shut the door behind me. The officer was the same one who had arrested me. Due to my distress during the arrest I hadn't noticed that the officer was quite young, perhaps in his early twenties, and quite a handsome blonde man. He had in his hand my army jacket, neatly wrapped in plastic.

He looked at me and said "I noticed after your court date that you didn't pick up your jacket, so I thought I'd bring it to you". He handed it to me, hesitated, and then said "Oh, and I'm wondering if I could take you out to dinner sometime?". I politely declined as I had a steady boyfriend, but thanked him for both the offer and delivering my jacket. As he drove away I drew in a deep breath and tried to figure out how I was going to spin this one for my parents.

I went into the house and they looked at me questioningly. I explained that I'd left my jacket at a local nightclub and the officer had been kind enough to return it, and I went to my room. I can't imagine they bought that story, but they didn't question it, either. Perhaps they were too scared to ask.

Some months later a new friend told me his father worked with cadets at the local army facility. I told him the story of the jacket, and when he told his father he was appalled. He said any true army man would have just explained why I shouldn't wear the jacket, and that he was going to ensure that those particular cadets ended up doing some extra grunt work as "payment" for their attempt at public relations.

I lost that jacket many years ago during a move, and never missed it really. I lost both my parents, too, and they died never knowing this story. I realize now that I could have told them - I doubt they would have even been surprised. I imagine they would have been disappointed, but I know that in time we would have laughed about it, like we did about the hair and the parties. I wish I would have told them that police officers don't deliver jackets left in nightclubs, and that their daughter never meant to hurt them with her shenanigans. I think they knew that last part, though - they loved me unconditionally all their lives, and I suspect they would have loved me even despite my criminal transgression.

I have a young daughter now. I hope she doesn't repeat my mistakes. I hope she knows that she can tell me everything - even if she's ever arrested for impersonating a military officer while in fishnets and heels. I'll still love her, I'll get her a lawyer - and I'll tell her to wear her fishnets and heels to court, too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Union Jack and I

When I was12 my family bought a new house, and I transferred to a new school. This was a very difficult transition for me. The kids at my old school were very much still children - we played at recess and climbed on the playground equipment. The kids at the new school were terribly sophisticated in comparison - they had begun dating and at recess were holding hands, not playing tetherball. I was hopelessly out of my depth, and desperately unhappy. There was only one saving grace at this new school - and his name was David.

David was in Grade 7 and I was in Grade 6. I thought he was the most perfect thing I'd ever known. He had sandy blonde hair. He played soccer. He had an unusual accent. And David was British. David's family had immigrated to Canada and had embraced the Canadian lifestyle but there was no hiding their British roots. I fell quite madly in love with David (as only a 12 year old can), but sadly it seemed these feelings were not returned. However, I decided that while I may not be able to have David, I could always have Britain.

I began to read everything I could about Britain. I read British history and became enchanted by the Tudors. Henry VIII was the perfect fool for love, while his daughter, Elizabeth I, was the exact opposite. I read about the Wars of the Roses, I read about the city of London, I read everything I could get my hands on. I started drinking tea whenever I could. I embraced all that was British - and I fell in love with the Union Jack. Something about that flag always made me smile, no matter how miserable my day.

In high school the Union Jack and I spent even more time together (although we went to the same high school David and I did not spend more time together, to my sorrow). When I was about 15 I heard the Sex Pistols for the first time, and Britain become even more deeply entrenched in me. I rapidly became all about the music and the bands and the culture. I embraced all that was punk and loud and, well, British. Punk made me realize I didn't have to be the prairie city girl wearing a rabbit fur jacket and mukluks - I could be different. I could be unique. The Union Jack was on my album covers, on my clothing, and on my mind.

By the time university rolled around David and I had become friends and we actually spent a fair bit of time together. My feelings for David had begun to cool, but I still carried that love for the Union Jack. When I met the man who eventually became my husband I was delighted when I was in his basement bedroom and hanging from his wall was a giant Union Jack. It seemed prophetic, as if the Union Jack was the sign I needed to know this man was the one for me.

For many years I carried that feeling about the Union Jack - never stated, just there, under the surface. I got married, moved all over the country, had a daughter...went about life. That love of all things British never went away, really, it just simmered. My path crossed David's occasionally, but we were no longer friends, and eventually we lost touch, as you do when you are going about your life.

A few years ago David and I reconnected through the wonder that is Facebook. I was now happily married with a young child and he was happily married with a new hobby farm just outside the city we had grown up in. We chatted about our current lives, and about the past. Turns out that during many of those years when I was secretly in love with David he'd been secretly in love with me (and there, my friends, is how our lives spin on the thin edge of a dime - had either of us voiced our feelings back then what would it have changed?). I thanked David for introducing me to the Union Jack. If it hadn't been for him I would have never discovered that I love British history, never found punk, and probably never become the person I have. It was all due to the unrequited love of a 12 year old for a British boy.

I recently reconnected with the Union Jack, too. When we moved into our new house I was unpacking a very old box and found my husband's Union Jack. My daughter spied it and asked if she could hang it in her room - how could I say no? It was almost like watching myself at the same age suddenly discovering that flag. Even more recently we travelled to London for the first time, and I was able to immerse myself in the culture and place I'd loved from afar for so long. While in London I found a handbag from Aspinal of London made of beautiful patent leather. It is, of course, loudly decorated with the Union Jack. I now carry my Union Jack on the outside, where everyone can see it, as well as hidden deep inside me.

I lost touch with David shortly after we reconnected. I think we both needed to finally reveal that secret to each other, and that is why we needed to reconnect. Once we had revealed it we knew that we each shared the same fond place in each other's memories, and we just kept on going with our lives. I think the Union Jack and I, though, will have a much closer lifelong connection. Every time I look at the flag on my daughter's wall I think of myself, almost exactly her age, discovering that the world was a far larger place than I'd ever realized and knowing I'd only seen a glimpse of it. Every time I see my Union Jack handbag I smile and think of that young adult who discovered punk and realized that the world around me just kept growing as I kept changing. I see the Union Jack and I think of how a single image can become tied to so many memories.

It's hard to believe a flag could have such a profound impact on one's life, isn't it? But sometimes we can't predict the things that will impact us the most or that we will carry with us the longest. It can be a person, a place...or even a flag.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On English Butlers and Irish Chauffeurs

When my husband and I started to plan our recent holiday in London and Ireland there were decisions to be made, of course. Where to stay in London was easy - years ago I had read about the Savoy Hotel and been so entranced by it's glamorous history that I knew I had to stay there on my first visit to the city. This meant a delay in our holiday plans as the Savoy has recently undergone a massive renovation, and was closed for some time. When it re-opened for bookings, though, my husband immediately started the process of finding a room. We settled on a small suite, and he informed me that all the suites came with butler service. Butler service? What the hell was I going to do with a butler? Have them hang out and open the door for room service and housekeeping? I was bemused by the idea of a butler, but figured everything in life should be tried at least once. A butler it would be.

When we looked into booking our trip in Ireland we knew we didn't want a tour group. Neither of us has the patience for a "be here at this time, look at this, now move on" atmosphere on holiday. We do things at our pace, things that interest us, and any tour group would frustrate this desire. We also knew, though, that we didn't want to rent a car and spend our holiday studying maps, getting lost, and contending with unknown roads. So, my husband found a chauffeur company online that not only provides drivers but would book hotels and suggest activities. Chauffeur? At first glance this didn't sound any better than the whole butler thing. What if we got stuck in a car for several days with someone we couldn't stand? What if they were a bore? What if they were annoying? But, it seemed the only solution, and the chauffeur company impressed us with the assistance they provided in booking our holiday, so we were optimistic about the chauffeur, if a little cautiously so.

When we arrived at the Savoy we met the butlers. Nice young people, men and women both, but I never did quite figure out their role. They appeared at our door at least twice daily to offer their services and I began to wonder if they worked on commission. When one admonished us for not using the butlers enough I began to really wonder about the commission idea. Now, they did do many things - they provided the room service, and found me scissors when I needed to wrap gifts (scissors presented on a small silver tray, of course). When I left our laundry on the floor with the laundry bags and order forms on top (meaning to get to it when I returned later) they helpfully packed it off and had it done. And they discovered we enjoyed tea so teas and the means to make it appeared daily in our room. This was all quite lovely but still seemed, well, unnecessary. When we were leaving they offered to pack our luggage, and while some might jump at that chance I declined. My husband of many years has never packed my lingerie, and a 22-year old man in a morning coat and top hat wasn't going to do it, either. I was really never comfortable with the butlers - in Canadian culture having "servants" just isn't common. My first instinct was to try to befriend them, take them out for a drink, or sit down with them for tea - but that's not the role of the butler, and the institution is far too stuffy and starchy for that.

So, we left the Savoy, and overall we had a glorious stay. We flew off to Shannon, Ireland, where we would meet our chauffeur. After the butler experience I had some trepidations - what if the chauffeur turned out to be like the butlers? It would be a very long few days in a van indeed.

We arrived on Aer Lingus in Shannon, and there to meet us was Kevin from Ireland Chauffeur Travel. Kevin immediately seemed like a fatherly sort - kind, soft-spoken, and gentle. My trepidations began to melt away, but this was early still and who knew if perhaps this first impression was incorrect?

By the end of day one when Kevin dropped us at our hotel in Limerick I knew it would be fine. He was a gregarious man, but not obnoxious. He had spent time in Canada as a young man, so he knew a bit about Canada, enough to make us feel more at ease. What was really clear was that he knew Ireland - the history, the roads, the people. Kevin was like a walking Irish guidebook with audio in that lovely lilting accent.

By the end of day two we had begun to solve world problems. We had lots of time to discuss issues as, while Ireland is a small country, there is no such thing as a straight road, and they have a mind-boggling fondness for round-a-bouts. All this driving meant we could dissect many world issues, such as what was wrong with North America (a sense of invincibility that after 9/11 and financial crises had turned into a sense of utter vulnerability), and why Canada survived the financial crisis better than the USA (Canadian bankers made "just say no" their motto). By day three we had pretty much solved world problems and the conversation was heading into stories of our families and personal anecdotes.

One of our stops on our holiday was at the B&B Kevin and his wife own in Cashel. By that time we had begun to feel less and less like guests and more like friends. This was confirmed when we met Rory, the family Irish Setter that my daughter adored, and Kevin's lovely wife (my husband and daughter keep asking me when I will become as nice a woman as Beatrice - the answer is likely never). We even spent an evening at their local pub in Cashel, joined by Kevin and his son Shane, the charming managing director of the chauffeur company (I know the word charming keeps coming up when I describe Irish men - if I could find an adjective that better described them I would use it, but there isn't one, trust me!). By the time we left Cashel we knew we were onto something very special in Ireland.

The rest of our time in the van was spent discussing the merits of Irish hurling versus Canadian ice hockey (if you don't know what hurling is, look it up - you'll be amazed), singing more songs, discussing why men (mostly Irish, apparently) lose all common sense when they fall in love, family vendettas and fights, Irish race horses, why dogs are better than cats, and every topic of which you can possibly conceive. Any trepidation I had ever felt about using a chauffeur was gone. Chauffeur? What chauffeur? Kevin was our friend, and pretty damn close to family. My daughter in fact began to refer to him as Uncle Kevin and, already having begun planning a post-graduation backpacking trip in Europe, was joking with him about her future "Uncle Kevin, I'm stuck in a pub in Donegall with no money" rescue phone call.

So, there you go. I never did, and never will, embrace the whole butler thing. It's foreign to my existence, awkward, and uncomfortable. If you really are dying to try having servants then I recommend a stay at the Savoy and giving the butlers a whirl. If you want to really have a bloody marvelous time, though, go to Ireland and hire a chauffeur. You might start with a "chauffeur" but by the end you have a new friend, and really isn't that part of what travelling is all about?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shades of Green: A Tale of Ireland, Boat Rides, and Money

New Year's Day 2011. I'd danced until 2 am the night before, when the band finally threw in the towel and admitted they couldn't go on even if the rest of us could. I'd drunk bucket loads of champagne, more than is wise or healthy. So, did I find myself ensconced in my bed at Ashford Castle waiting for room order breakfast and nursing a thankfully mild but all too present hangover? No, I found myself on a small boat named Isle of Innisfree about to set sail for Inchagoill (a place that deserves it's own future blog entry).

The boat was a small one, holding about 85 passengers. An open deck above, a closed cabin below, and a crisp calm day - what could be better? On the way to Inchagoill we decided to sit on the open deck as it was the perfect opportunity to take some photos of this beautiful part of Ireland. It was cold on the open water, but bearable. After we'd done the trek on Inchagoill we returned to the boat, and my daughter begged me to sit in the enclosed cabin below. One step in and I knew I couldn't stay there. It was crowded,as I imagine the steerage compartments were crowded with immigrants heading to America. It was loud as there was talking and shouting and laughing. Worst of all, alcohol was being served so it smelled of mulled wine - even worse, it smelled of stale liquor and cigarettes. I knew there was no chance my hangover would allow me to stay there for a single moment, so I told my husband and daughter that I would ride above again and they could stay below.

I headed to the open deck, found the seat I had occupied on the way there, and settled in. Soon a woman, probably in her seventies or so, asked if it was alright if she joined me. She was terribly concerned that she was taking the seats of my family, but I explained they were below and that I welcomed her company. She asked where I was from, and I told her Canada. She had recently been to Ottawa, and so we began to talk. She had visited Banff, and Vancouver, and Toronto. She had enjoyed Canada, and I told her that I loved Ireland. Once we established the common ground of pride in our respective countries our chat began to wander to other topics. We spoke of my daughter, and her children and grandchildren (who were also celebrating at the castle, a large group that seemed to adore this matriarch). We spoke of the house they owned close to the castle and tried to spy it through the trees, but were unable to spot it. We spoke of Ireland's financial woes, and I told her of my parents experience of living through the Depression years. We talked of frugality, of life decisions, and of our pasts. At one point her husband appeared and asked if she had her hat, and out of her battered bag she produced an equally battered hat. We spoke of our husbands, and she told me her spouse had been an accountant before he retired. By the end of the boat ride I felt quite cosy despite the rather brisk wind because this lovely lady had warmed me to the core. When the boat docked we said good-bye, but knew we would see each other again at the castle.

We saw each other very soon, as my husband and I stopped into the lounge after the ride to warm up. She was there with her husband, and she asked if I had yet tried an Irish coffee in Ireland. When I said I had not she insisted on buying me one and would accept no denials. So, we shared an Irish coffee and chatted some more. Her husband and mine had met the night before in the wine cellar as they selected wine for our tables for New Year's Eve, so we all settled into a comfortable conversation. We realized when they left that we had not learned their names, so the lounge attendant was kind enough to tell us we had met the Kilroys of Dublin.

We saw each other again and again for the next day or so, this lovely lady and I. Each time she would ask if I was alright, if I was enjoying my time there - as if she was a hostess, a hotel employee, when she was a guest just as I was. She was just so determined that I would enjoy my time at the castle, and I did.

The next day our driver returned to the castle to collect us and take us on to our next adventure. I told him how much we'd loved Ashford - the hotel, the staff, the activities - and that we'd met the nicest people, the Kilroys of Dublin. Our driver looked at me and quietly said "Billionaires". I believe I cleverly replied "What?". "Billionaires", he repeated, "one of the wealthiest families in Ireland. He was the governor of The Bank of Ireland for years". I sat back in shocked silence. Accountant indeed. I'd just met some of Ireland's wealthiest people and they were some of the humblest and kindest people I've ever met - anywhere. I couldn't help but contrast this with my recent experience in London where people "of means" would be quietly sizing up your financial worth and deciding if you were worthy of the investment of their time (being colonial Canadians and not even knowing how to use a butler I suspect we didn't measure up well). I sat quietly for some time because I had just seen true humility and grace and kindness, and it needed to be absorbed for a bit.

So, shades of green. Me, in shades of green on a boat as I nursed a hangover. Ireland, in shades of green during a winter that had seen uncharacteristic snow and cold. Money, in shades of green that matter only if you decide they do and allow them to. I will never forget the lovely Kilroys, nor that boat ride. I will always be grateful for the leftovers of a night of merriment that forced me into the cold, and into the warmth of the kindness of strangers.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On Depressing Irish Musicians

When my husband travels, as he often does on business, he is kind enough to allow me to live vicariously by bringing back items he knows will interest me. Often, these are newspapers (which I regularly find inexplicable, especially almost-English-language Korean ones, but fascinating regardless), or items of designer clothing, or CDs of local musicians from wherever his journey has taken him. Three years ago after a visit to Limerick, Ireland, he returned with a CD titled "Seize the Day" by an Irish musician named Damien Dempsey.

Now, on first listen I was hooked. No one would ever call Damo (as his fans call him) cheerful. No songs of leprechauns and unicorns for him (Canadians who remember the Irish Rovers know exactly to what I refer). No, Damo sings of drug use, oppression, bar fights, child labour, loss, and the perils of the Celtic Tiger (which seems rather prophetic in light of Ireland's recent financial crisis). In fact, upon listening most people would likely call Damien a bloody depressing bastard and go off and find some pop music to load on their iPod instead. I, however, found his lyrics fascinating, his melodies charming, and his accent irresistible. When I travelled to Ireland recently I found myself understanding him even a bit more. The Irish don't feel the need to "pretty up" things - not their history, not their castles, and not their music. Damo sings of what he feels, what he knows, and what touches him, not of what people want to hear or feel. I think one has to respect that even if they don't become a fan as I have.

I wish I'd had the chance to meet Damien while I was there. I strongly suspect that he's not a depressing man at all but rather, like all Irish men I met, utterly charming and full of fascinating tales (with a touch of blarney, of course). But Damo wasn't playing any live gigs, and I didn't really think he'd appreciate being stalked down during the holiday season by a Canadian fan, so I'll have to satisfy myself with listening to his CDs and hoping to see him live on a future trip. If you want to give Damo a try I recommend the songs "Negative Vibes" and "Apple of My Eye". You never know - maybe you'll find you love this depressing Irish bastard as much as I do.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On Dublin Pubs and Memories

There is a pub on Merrion Row in Dublin called O'Donoghue's. If you've been to Dublin then surely you've been there. If you've been to Dublin and not been through that door then I'm afraid you need to return immediately and do exactly that, because you've rather missed the point of Irish pubs if you've neglected to visit O'Donoghue's. O'Donoghue's has been around since 1934, and is considered one of the homes of traditional Irish music, and  Irish musicians play there nightly.

Now, that's the dry, understated version of what this pub is. What can't be said but can only be experienced is being inside this pub. I recently enjoyed a couple nights there, and those memories will forever be with me, stamped in my mind indelibly. That sounds rather grandiose for a small Irish pub, doesn't it? It seems non-descript enough from the front, and when you go inside it's no more fancy than any other Irish pub - a bar, some stools and tables, and some pictures on the walls (the pictures are of musicians who have visited the pub, from The Dubliners to more recent, more famous in North America, names). But it's not the decor that makes this pub, and the booze is booze you can get anywhere. No, what makes this pub what it is is the people inside it.

The first night we visited we opened the door and realized the front room was already quite full, and a small group of musicians was already at play. We decided to head further back, and settled on a table in the back room. Soon a tall redheaded man sat at the table next to us, and we began to chat a bit, as you do in pubs. He introduced himself as Connor, and indicated that the music would be starting soon (never letting on that he was part of the music). Two other musicians arrived, with guitar and banjo in tow, and after settling in the music began. You see, in this kind of pub the musicians don't stand on a stage and play for you - they sit at the table beside you, and play to you, and occasionally play with you. They played and sang many traditional Irish melodies - "Rocky Road to Dublin", "The Auld Triangle", and others (if you've ever been to a North American St. Patrick's Day party you may have heard these tunes). It was quite an experience, and for me brought back many memories as this was how I first experienced music, when my father and his family would sit in our basement and play guitars, banjos, and accordians, with music flowing more freely from them as the rye flowed into them. The musicians in Dublin weren't playing "You Are My Sunshine", but the feel was exactly the same. That night we left rather early, having another day of touring ahead of us, but the musicians encouraged us to return two nights later when they would also be back, and we said we would certainly consider doing so.

Two nights later we did indeed return to O'Donoghue's. The saying goes in Irish pubs that the first time you visit you are a stranger, and the second time a regular, and this felt very true when we walked through those doors a second time. We sat down at the same table we had sat at before, and soon enough our new musical friends arrived. This time, though, there were introductions all around (including our 11-year old daughter who joined us in the pub briefly, as the joy of Irish pubs is that you can bring children in until 9 pm in winter and 10 pm in summer - is it any wonder the pub is the heart of their social life?). We had met Connor, and now we met Kieran and Tommy, who had played to us before and now would play to us again. However, this time they dedicated songs to us, their "Canadian friends", and we shared rounds of drinks and stories and laughs. I sang with them as the words to many of the songs are easy to learn and the melodies so catchy that you can't help but sing. Finally, as they began to play their final song we told them we would have to leave soon as we had an early morning flight home, and this was our final night in Ireland. After they finished there were hugs and handshakes, words of gratitude from both sides, and a strong feeling that we had connected on a very real level. They seemed genuinely sorry to see us go, and we were genuinely sorry to leave them. Suddenly, as I was about to leave, Tommy, the very quiet musician who hadn't really spoken at all, popped up and shouted across the table, loud enough for the entire pub to hear, "You're gorgeous, you are!" at me. I was flattered, and touched, and pleased beyond words. It was just the final touch of an experience I'd always remember, and a place I'd always feel at home. As we left they were enjoying their toast and sandwiches (as an Irish friend with us that night said Ireland is a wonderful place, where in pubs after the musicians finish they don't give them beer as they've likely had enough, but rather toast and sandwiches to thank them for their contributions).

I walked back to our hotel on a cloud of happiness, and satisfaction, and pure joy. It was like all my experiences in Ireland had culminated in this final moment, and it was quite utterly perfect. I left Ireland early the next morning, quite hung over after one too many gin and tonics, and entirely in love with a country, culture, and people that I'd never even before given much thought to.

So, if you ever find yourself in Dublin head straight to O'Donoghue's. If you happen to be there on a night when there are three musicians named Connor, Kieran, and Tommy, give them a quick squeeze for me and settle in for a night you'll never forget - I promise.


Friday, January 21, 2011

On beginnings and names.

Recently a dear friend sent me a message on Facebook and asked if I had a blog. I told her that I had considered it many times but always rejected the idea as I really couldn't imagine anyone being interested enough to actually read my blog. She replied that she would love to read more of my stories in depth, and I decided that perhaps just my writing it and her reading it was enough reason to do it - and that if others decided to read it was just a bonus! So, here we are....

Speaking of being here I should explain the name of my blog. When I lived in Toronto many years ago I worked at the reception desk of a veterinary clinic in Cabbagetown, close to the heart of downtown. As the front desk person I fielded many questions, including those from occasional passersby who would ask for directions to places such as the CN Tower. Being 24 and mischievous I would often brightly reply "Oh, you can't get there from here!". Now, most would wait for the wink, laugh, and real directions, but I was always astonished at the number of people who would reply "Okay, thank you", and walk out the door. I was left speechless, wondering if this was how they lived their lives - believing they couldn't get there from here?

So, here it is, peeps. You can get there from here. In fact, you can get here from there, and all points in between. You just need to believe it, and, well, occasionally a map helps! In future entries I plan to tell some stories about my travels, people I've met, and share some opinions which may or may not be popular. If you enjoy this blog all credit goes to my friend Jo who convinced me it was time to start blogging. If you don't enjoy it then all blame is mine, and you can't get there from here!