Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DAY 71 – 25 August 2014; Belfast to Dublin

It had rained heavily overnight. And it was cold, though not blustery. When I came down with the luggage Sijo John was waiting for me. The previous day he had contacted me to know when we would be leaving Belfast. He lived almost next door to the B&B we were in and hence, could easily make it to the place before 8 am. Over breakfast he told us how he came to UK and landed up in Belfast for his management studies, where he has been for the past 4 years. He now works as an in executive in the Delhi Lounge and looks forward to residency soon. He shared his ambitions and future plans in UK. Andre, owner of the Botanic Rest Queens Quarter B&B on Cromwell Road, had been a guide in Asia and Africa prior to coming to Northern Ireland to do business. He has done fairly well in the hospitality business. I got Andre to attest the log sheets and put his message on the Campaign Poster. Andre said that he has never had customers who had travelled thus far to stay at his facility. Breakfast at the B&B was a choice of various set main courses. I chose the one with the Potato Bread, Bulls Eye, Bacon, Baked Beans and Mushrooms. The potato bread, in particular, was super. Andre and Sijo bade us farewell from Belfast after a photo session with the car.

As I was driving through a part of the City, which had Union Jacks flying from almost every roof in the street, I recollected the conversation I had last evening at Restaurant 25 with Malachy, owner of the place. He had described in vivid detail the troubles in Belfast and the strong face off between the Catholics and the Protestants. He told us that as he was finishing school he was told by his teachers that he would not find a job in Northern Ireland because he was Catholic. The job opportunities available in the ship building, construction, police, civil service and teaching were the exclusive preserves of the Protestants. This resulted in young Catholics moving out of Belfast and UK. Moreover, till recently the Catholics had no vote and could not run for Office. The deep rifts in society resulted in frequent violence into which the young were sucked in. Malachy confessed to having been involved in many ugly incidents in Belfast. But, those were the times. He sadly said that only the surface had changed to give an impression of peace; the undercurrents were strong and bubbles up time and again, as it did last July when the City was under siege for over three days. Possibly due to the uncertainty and possibility of violence police vehicles in Belfast are armoured and heavily armed. The last time I saw this was in Shigatse and Lhasa, in China. Sijo narrated an incident where a riot was set off when someone threw a pet dog a bonfire!

Baby Pereppadan was to be our host in Dublin. He had got in touch with me a few weeks back when I told him that he would have to coordinate with Joji Abraham, who was coordinating the meeting with the Indian Embassy. Before embarking on the journey, one of the major tasks had been to obtain Visas for the countries that we had planned to visit en route. Accordingly 6 Visas had been obtained for China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, UK and the 19 Schengen States. The Irish Embassy website mentioned that Visa would be issued on arrival for those who held multiple entry Visa for the UK. Armed with this information I wanted to know from Baby how long the visa process would be at the Irish border, for that would determine when we would be in Dublin. He told me that there is no such arrangement at the land border. To quell my anxiety he cross checked and confirmed what he had said earlier. I looked up Google Maps and marked Newry and Jonesborough as the possible border locations of UK and Irish Republic. On the approach to Newry, in blinding rain, I noticed a Customs and Excise post. Since I did not have anything to declare I drove past the post and very soon was in Ireland. There wasn’t any border post even though the Navigator stridently warned of the approaching border crossing. I did slow down in the area to present the car and selves at the border control. Very soon I was at the outskirts of Dublin without a valid Irish Visa!

The meeting point set by Baby was not difficult to find; it was a large shopping complex. In the light drizzle we met Baby and his friend, Sunil. Since the weather was not conducive to sightseeing then we decided to go to Baby’s house for a cup of coffee, where we met Baby’s wife, Jincy, who worked in a hospital in the vicinity and their daughter, who was still enjoying her vacation. In a short while, as the coffee was being served, arrived Joji Abraham. He had been tasked by the Indian Embassy to liaise with us. Since the weather conditions stubbornly remained inclement we decided to go in Joji’s car to the Hill of Tara. The poor weather did not permit us to enjoy the lovely meadows and the views of the City from the remarkable site as well as we would have liked. But the mist and the non-stop humorous asides provided by Sunil made even the gloomy atmosphere enjoyable. Historically the Hill is best known as the seat of the Kings of Ireland and is an important site since the late Stone Age for powerful settlements of the Vikings. Exciting excavations continue to bring up new information about the importance of the site.

Through hills and dales we drove for long till we reached the seaside resort of Bray. The City is famous for the number of nursing homes – 18, said Baby. I was keen to visit one of the nursing homes since they basically cater to the aged. Kerala, in particular and India, in general has to deal with the issue concerning geriatric care. What has been done in Europe to deal with the issue could have practical take-aways for those intending to address it in India. However, time was short and the notice shorter than required to visit these facilities. Instead we went to the Porterhouse Inn located on Bray’s picturesque Strand Road for lunch. The Inn boasts of boutique rooms, restaurant, night club and a busy bar. The Inn also boasts the largest collection of bottled beers anywhere in the world – if empty bottles are testimony – and 9 of its own brews. The Inn boasts that customers get integrated service in there from snacks to night life! A peremptory scan of the menu indicated that they had everything to suit varied palates. Lal and I revel in sampling local cuisine; thus, it was Irish stew for us. It was yummy, yummy. The meat, potato and carrot stew with butter on multigrain bread was heavenly. It was so filling that the initial feeling that the stew is not a main meal was soon dispelled.

After lunch we went to the house where we were lodged for the two days we were to be in Dublin. Sajai and his wife whose home it was was arranged by Baby as our dwelling in Dublin. Dale, the neighbour of Sajai, was at hand to make us comfortable in the house. The first priority was washing. Dale insisted that the washing machine cum dryer should be used. Hence, Lal used Dale’s facility while I used the machine in Sajai’s house. Dale also brought us milk to us with the coffee ‘pilfered’ from Sajai’s provision storage. Sabu and Shankar arrived at the house as we were getting things organised. Sabu, an excellent singer/artist, has been a close family friend of my uncle, MK George; they have done many stage shows together. Shankar is a cartoonist and contributes to Manorama publications. Reji of Irishmalayalee online publication arrived for a chat and interview. Plenty was spoken about the journey and future plans.

By the time we had all this done it was time for dinner. Baby had arranged that in his house. Therefore, with Sunil we went to Baby’s house and met with his son, Britto, there for the first time. Dinner was not just a meal, it was a feast. Drinks, starters and the food was too much to call a dinner. once we tore ourselves away from the dining table Joji called us to his house, where we met with his family and a few other Keralite families who lived in the same apartment complex.

There had been more than a little disappointment in being billeted indoors due to the rain. However, that gave us the opportunity to get to know Baby, Sunil, Dale and Joji and their families better. Everything happens for a reason.

1 comment:

  1. Hello FRndz....
    Great Information! Nice post,it is really very helpful for me.One of the few articles I’ve read today.I’m saying thanks

    Best Nursing Homes in Dublin

    ReplyDelete