Flying solo

As a child, Wimbledon was one of the few sporting events I would actually watch. I was never passionate about it, though I do remember being quite upset one year over Jana Novotna getting knocked out. In recent years, I have returned to watching Wimbledon. Two years ago, there were essays I should have been writing and last year there was a thesis due. Tennis became an almost compulsory distraction, as did Cash in the Attic, Countdown and countless other shows I wouldn’t normally watch. Last night, I should have been packing. But the women’s quarter finals seemed just too important. I was somewhat productive during the day, but during the evening I procrastinated my shorts off. 

As a result, midnight snuck up on me, and I still had to make a start on my packing. The atmosphere in the cottage wasn’t wonderful. I’d put on quite a lot to wash and it wasn’t drying fast enough, so I had every radiator on. The day was quite hot anyway, but the steam rising from my clothes gave the place the atmosphere of a Finnish sauna. I worked inefficiently, and took many breaks. At one stage, an enormous bumblebee flew into the kitchen. This added a good hour to my packing, as I quaked pathetically in the bathroom waiting for it to go away.

As time flew by, I realised that I wouldn’t get everything done. I didn’t have the time to pack and repack, to make sure I came in underweight. Nor did I have the time to go to bed. I’m writing this, not having slept in about thirty hours, so I beg forgiveness for any incoherences. 

Eventually, I just had to leave. I grabbed my bags, and walked to the main road. Luckily, there were lots of taxis. It was 5:15 am. My gate was to close at 5:45. I told the taxi driver that I was in a rush. He was incredible. I now know how Michael Schumaker’s wife must feel, when he takes her for a spin. The car shook with the speed, and amazingly, I was at the airport at 5:24. I challenge any of you to drive from Clanbrassil Street to the airport in 9 minutes. You won’t do it. 

Of course, my baggage was overweight, so that delayed things a bit. I started queueing at security at 5:41, and the gods were clearly with me. I made the flight. 

I was one of the last passengers to board, so there wasn’t a huge choice of seats. I sat next to a father and son, sweat pouring off me. I’m fairly sure I was stinky. If all was right in the world, my stench should have ensured my solitude, and thus my chance to sleep on the plane.  However, the father was a chatter. I was unfriendly and monosyllabic as I know how to be, and eventually he gave up. 

Then, to my horror, a late pasenger boarded the plane, carrying a guitar. Anyone who knows me well will know that the guitar and me don’t have a glorious history. It all probably dates back to when my brother used to sit on me and force me to listen to him playing House of the Rising Sun again and again. It’s an awful dirge at the best of times, but when you have to listen to it badly-played twenty times over, with a sibling on your chest, it’s much, much worse. It’s now my least favourite moment of a house party, when some guy, who usually needs a haircut, gets out a guitar and plays one of Damien Rice’s/Coldplay’s/insert other whingy “artiste”‘s lesser-known songs, badly, while all the girls around him look on adoringly, and all conversation is shushed so that we can all “enjoy” the music. I had visions of such an experience on the flight. Luckily, not a strum did I hear. 

As we were taking off, the little boy next to me bid farewell to Ireland, the Island of Saints and Scholars, the home of Brian Boru, Dean Swift, James Joyce and William Butler Yeats, saying “Bye bye Jedward”. He then started playing on his Nintendo DS, with sounds on, so I was lulled by the music of machine guns and car crashes for the rest of the journey. 

Except for a period in 2007, I have always been too big for aeroplane seats. The contents of my pockets form deep indentations and sometimes bruises in my thighs, the tray table sits at an awkward angle on my belly, while whatever I put on it slides away, and I have to ask for a seatbelt extension. This extension is bright orange and is designed for women with babies. Both the father to my left and the mother to my right shushed their children’s questions about my orange belt. I think I can live with the children’s jealousy. 

I spent the rest of the flight, suspended in a place between sleep and wakefulness. I landed in Treviso, retrieved my bag, and got the bus to Venice. 

I had booked a hostel on Ryanair’s website. They had emailed me what I thought were very clear directions. I was to walk out of the station and cross the white bridge. Unfortunately, there were three white bridges. I took the wrong one, my legendary sense of direction took over, and I arrived at the hostel after an hour and a half, which would be fine, except for the fact that the hostel was 800 metres from the station where I had started from. It’s give or take 32 degrees in Venice today. so it would be fair to say that I have sweated a good gallon of body fat off today. 

I trudged up the stairs to the hostel. I’m not allowed have a bed till 4:00, which is probably as well, given that I would probably have slept through the day and messed up my body clock completely if I’d been allowed in straight away. I booked a bed in a dormitory, but the manager is giving me a room to myself, because, apparently, most of the beds are too narrow. Don’t worry though. I’m getting it for the same price. 

I have been in Venice before, on a pilgrimage, while still in secondary school. I had forgotten that it is possibly one of the loveliest places on earth. The water is a colour unlike any other I have seen, except maybe in early technicolour movies. Also, it has a peace to it that other tourist spots don’t have. If it came to it, I wouldn’t mind being stuck here. I could go to gondolier school or sell ice-cream and fridge magnets. 

In spite of my stress and my tiredness, today has been an exceedingly good day. As well as the gallon of sweat I have excreted, I have had only one meal. I was too busy finding Venice and my hostel to have breakfast, and I can’t imagine I’ll still be awake by dinnertime. 

It’s all good.          

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