The journey went well enough; I trekked from the Flat of the Phillip to Glengall Street and hopped a bus easy enough.
I may have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: I like walking through my city at night. There something particularly impressive and even a little eerie about seeing Shaftesbury Square completely empty – completely quiet.
About a mile after we crossed the border our stalwart Ulsterbus Goldline was pulled over, and three officers in body-armour came on board to examine everyone’s passports and papers. It’s not unheard of, but it happens less and less, I’m told.
The experience was interesting for me. Even though I’m totally exempt from the sectarian issues in Ireland (being an American earns me a complete pass on any and all issues; I could get away with saying things that’d get many Irishmen in tight spots) I felt a bit uncomfortable when the officer gruffly asked for my papers. It's probably that he said ‘papers’ rather than ‘passport’ helped – it was like being in a WWII movie. And I'm told that technically the Garda are a part of the military of the Republic of Ireland, which is interesting.
Something that Michael said to me once flashed across my mind as I opened my passport and handed it to the officer; there are more dogs than Protestants in the Garda.
The officer glanced at my photograph, and immediately noted that it was an American passport. Then he flipped through it and examined my UK Visa, resplendent with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom. He glanced back at me, apparently deciding that I was an American on holiday in the Isles. I found this apparent becuase he leaned in and gave me a lopsided grin. “On holiday then, ah?”
I inclined my head slightly. “Sir.” I figured it wasn’t worth it to explain that I was studying at Queens but going home; the student travelling season for the semester break is over and classes are starting again. All the students had returned to University last week. He took my response to mean whatever it was he preferred for it to mean, I suppose. He gave me another friendly grin and went on down the line until everyone’s passports or in one or two cases drivers licenses were checked. He murmured something I didn’t hear to the driver, and ducked out of the bus.
NOTE – I honestly think that people living in These Isles need to take some lessons in Airport design from American architects and civil engineers. I can’t conceive of a society that is so good at designing other public spaces, but cannot quite get to grips with the most efficient and effective layouts for airports! One of their few irritating habits, I guess.
The nine hour flight to Atlanta went well enough. By which I mean that it was one of the best flights I have ever been on in my entire life. Maybe a quarter of the seats were occupied; almost certainly less. The service was prompt, efficient, and effective, we left 25 minutes early, and there was only mild turbulence during the flight.
I got randomly picked for an in-depth examination of my luggage by customs. The fellow pawing through my bag and I had a pleasant conversation;
FELLOW PAWING THROUGH MY BAG: Nice boxers.
ME: Thanks. I rather enjoy them.
FELLOW PAWING THROUGH MY BAG: I wear jockeys, usually.
ME: I bet you don't have this conversation with women.
FELLOW PAWING THROUGH MY BAG: Sometimes. I enjoy people's reactions. -- fingers one of my pipes, smells the bowl briefly-- Hm, that's nice. What kind of tobacco?
ME: Usually an aromatic cherry. There's two bottles of whiskey in there, along the side. The big one's for my friend who can hold her drink. Littler one for another friend who likes it, but gets a bit sloppy if you know what I mean.
FELLOW PAWING THROUGH MY BAG: --taking off gloves and closing suitcase-- Nothing exciting. You're sure you don't have something worth $10,000 or more hidden in the lining or something?
ME: $10,000? I wish. You can check again, and if you find anything fitting that description, I'll be a happy man. --reflects for am moment-- Well, maybe not.
FELLOW PAWING THROUGH MY BAG: We could just split it. Unless it were cocaine. Then we'd have trouble.
ME: I'm all for it, then. Wanna check again? On the off chance.
FELLOW PAWING THROUGH MY BAG: --sigh-- That'd be fun. But I gotta get to this old lady with all her worldly possessions with her.
ME: Yeah, that'll be fun for you.
FELLOW PAWING THROUGH MY BAG: ... you'd think that, but not really. It's not like many supermodels get randomly picked. It's sad.
ME: I bet that really takes some of the joy out of the underwear bit.
FELLOW PAWING THROUGH MY BAG: Yep. Go down this corridor and turn left.
Poor Gordon Brown. For his sake I hope he delays the next elections as long as possible. For the sake of the Labour Party, I hope Her Majesty spontaneously dissolves the parliament tomorrow.
Last night Fiesty broke down and decided that she couldn't possibly wait to see me until today, so she called me from the Lewis's house, and first befuddled Pops with a blur of incoherently speedy conversation until he figured out who it was, then he toyed with her emotions by acting as though I just couldn't be bothered right then.
At length she demanded that I drive immediately to the Lewis's, ostensibly to help her coach Amy and Joseph.
Fun times, fun times.
I brought her a bottle of 400 year anniversy Bushmills Black. Her head exploded in a frighteningly gory display of absolut(!) joy. It took us an hour to glue it all back together.