Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Epic Road trip - St Patricks Day 2011

We had planned to set off at a real 'Richard Dawkins' of ungodly hours. But the combination of work, family and fatigue all stacked up and it was mid-morning before we finally began the epic road trip. Ahead of us was a four day journey to recce the eight cities for JL's upcoming "Big Ad Job" all to be done in a Mercedes van recently purchased for the task.

The date had been picked more or less arbitrarily to fit around JL's schedule and only the very vaguest of thought had been given to planning. So it was, that we found ourselves heading to Cork on St Patrick's day and Dublin a day later which coincided with the England/Ireland Six Nations Rugby match being played there that night.

We arrived at the ferry terminal near Pembroke a few minutes before the sailing. At the border control we were greeted by a female officer in uniform and 'standard issue' silly hat bearing the legend, "What's the Craick?" 

Given that we were driving a kind of van/people-carrier thing, there were lots of security questions to answer. It was at this point I was glad that we had been sarcastically congratulated by JL's agent for our choice of recce-day. Had we not known it was St Patrick's, turning up and being thoroughly scrutinised by a woman in comedy headgear might otherwise lead to the suspicion that our fuel-stop coffee had been spiked with windowpane!

Once we reached Cork, JL rustled up our location list and the pair of us set off on the recce. The surrealism continued unabated, there was a tractor tearing up and down the main drag, blasting past lines of people waiting to get into the bars and clubs. 

We worked hard, speed marched round all the locations on the shot list , took a handful of pictures for the mood-board and managed to do all this without succumbing to the siren song of the many lively bars we had passed. But after four hours JL made the executive decision that we were finished for the night and that frankly, it would be rude not to make a contribution to the local economy.

Drink was taken in moderation but this triggered JL's all-eclipsing need for fast-food. After I had encouraged him away from various kebab shops on health grounds, we eventually found ourselves in a bustling pizza restaurant where we seemed to be the only two individuals not dressed green, amber and white.

Back to the hotel, and the tractor was parked up with random passers-by having there photos taken with it like it was some exotic super-car.

Ah, what a magical night of romance for the couples making out amongst the onlookers and the fast food cartons.

Next morning we ambled along the road to a cafe and sat in the bright sun drinking coffee in the brisk March air before taking the drive to Dublin. The previous night seemed somehow removed as though we had spend an evening at an Irish theme-park.

It is often remarked that St Patrick's day is celebrated more enthusiastically in the US than in Ireland. I'm not sure that is true but it certainly has a more downtempo vibe. In Wicklow, where JL had family ties, the atmosphere was restrained and nostalgic rather than raucous.

That evening in Dublin, Ireland's victory over England in the six nations match had overtaken any thoughts of St Patrick. There were no available hotel rooms so we just worked through until the early morning ferry and decided to sleep on the crossing.

So after an excellent meal and five hours of walking the length and breadth of Dublin's city centre, we eventually found ourselves heading past the striking new theatre to the ferry terminal. 

Like the snakes, we had been driven out of Ireland by St Patrick - with a little help from a rugby match.

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