Arrived in London (Heathrow) at 0500 this morning. Cold. Dark.
Baggage delayed. Surprise.
Bus to Gatwick, leaving 0715. Still cold. Still dark.
Plane to Dublin. Still cold. Less dark.
Bus to Limerick. Less cold; less dark. Still haven't seen sunlight. Suppose I'd better get used to that...
Car (thankfully) to where we're staying. Thanks heaps to Syndia's registrar, George, for offering to pick me up. Much appreciated after over 40 hours in transit.
Wonderful to see Syndia again.
With respect to entry into England, and as was mentioned by one miffed friend, picture this:
Group together every country throughout history that has made war upon England or vice versa. Add a few more that haven't. Let's call this Group A. Add in anal-retentive, neutral Switzerland, just because their Nazi gold isn't welcome in the other group. Assign to a new group all those countries that have either allied with, been colonised by or have otherwise fought on the side of England in those wars. We'll call this Group B.
At Heathrow, citizens of Group A (now known as the European Union) are invited into the country with barely a flash of an EU passport. All the citizens of countries which, not very long ago, were making war upon England, including Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia and shortly Turkey (!), are welcomed with open arms.
Citizens of Group B ("The Colonials"), amongst them the Americans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, South Africans... the list goes on... are given pat-down searches, interrogated by customs officials, chemical-residue tested and generally harrassed. I wonder if they remember which side of the beach at Gallipoli we were on. "Dirty, stinking foreigners" indeed.
So, welcome to England. And, very shortly, farewell to England, at least for a while. My flight out was from Gatwick, so a short bus trip later I was sitting in another BAA airport drinking more insipid tea.
One remarkably stupid facet of Gatwick Airport is the completely broken method of boarding gate assignment. There isn't one. Someone must have had the bright idea to group everyone together in a departure lounge, stick signs up saying "Please allow 15 minutes to walk to Gate 123", then watch via hidden camera and snigger quietly as distressed travellers mill around aimlessly until, 5 minutes before the scheduled boarding time of their flight, the actual gate number appears on the boarding display.
The ensuing chaos when a flight's gate number is actually published is only lessened by the fact that they don't actually make any announcement to that effect, so rather than having one massive horde of people all scream loudly, pick up their baggage and run towards a common gate, instead there are numerous muttered exclamations of "Oh,f, my flight's about to leave," followed by several small hordes of people moving frantically but sheepishly towards a common gate. Brilliant, really.
The Dublin->Limerick trip is a 4-hour bus ride, so I heard all the news on the national talk-back radio station on the way. The issues dominating the news when I arrived were: 1) Dr Eamon Casey; and 2) Paschal Taggart.
Dr Eamon Casey, a former bishop of Galway, had had an "affair" (even though neither of them were married) with an American woman, with whom he had a son. The relationship (dating from 1972 or thereabouts) was discovered in 1992, and he was effectively exiled from Ireland, working as a missionary in Ecuador for some years. He's recently returned to retire in Galway and it's caused a huge controversy.
Paschal Taggart, the chairman of the Bord na gCon, was implicated in a doping and influence-peddling scandal. What's the "Bord na gCon?" It's the Irish greyhound racing board. Yep, that's right - that's national news here