Preparing for the best is often the worst
With me shillelagh under me arm, and a twinkle in me eye, I'll be off to Tipperary in the morning. Ah! If only it were so simple! I am off to Ireland this week but the planning and preparation has involved rather more grit in the eye than twinkling. This is the kind of thing that dulls the twinkle.
1. TED TALK
You can't travel these days without TED, or the Tedious Evaluation of Digital Devices. In the Olden Days, you had tickets, a paperback novel and a Lonely Planet guide and you carried them in a backpack. Occasionally you'd post an aerogramme to the folks. Now your carry your tickets, entertainment and guidebook in your smartphone and you're expected to be in touch with everyone, all the time. This is great - if you've got the knack for apps, and can remember a trillion passwords. FYI I've decided to use TripIt on this adventure. You send all confirmation emails from hotels and airlines to this nifty little app and it compiles them into an itinerary for you. I won't, however, be bombarding you with Instagram or Snapchat photos of every meal I consume in Ireland. Seen one potato, seen them all.
2. THE LIAM, THE WHICH AND THE WARDROBE
Holidaying overseas dooms you to choosing your clothing on the basis of check-in weight and the capacity of your suitcase, rather than their stylishness. Women's magazines might coo about outfits which will take you from boardroom to ballroom, but effortless chic is more difficult to achieve in real life, even with your entire wardrobe at your disposal. It's well-nigh impossible with only the rumpled contents of a suitcase to choose from. Polar fleece, Gortex and boots will take you from forest to mountain, but not onto the dance floor. It's tempting to throw frocks and heels into the luggage just in case you should come upon Liam Neeson on that dance floor. But then what would you wear to dangle backwards while kissing the Blarney Stone? And of course there's weather. Ireland has an awful lot of it apparently. Sadly, that suggests dreary old Gortex again - plus galoshes and umbrellas.
Even if your plans don't include a mid-winter march on Moscow, uncomfortable shoes can destroy a holiday. I learned this lesson the hard way, in New York. After three days pounding Manhattan's pavements, my feet were a mess of water-filled blisters. The solution – apart from a fetching patchwork of Elastoplast – was to exchange my shoes each morning at a Goodwill store, on the theory that different shoes would at least rub in different places.
3. INTIMATIONS OF MORTALITY
Buying travel insurance reminds you that you are nothing but a fragile bundle of pre-existing conditions and that when you are travelling, disaster is only a flimsy premium away. In effect you are betting the insurance company that you will die on holiday, or suffer a life-threatening illness or accident. It's a bet you don't want to win, but since you're flying Malaysian Airlines the odds are uncomfortably in your favour.
While you are entertaining such morbid thoughts, oddly pertinent facts come to your attention. For example, you discover that a plane's flight recorder is called a Black Box, but it's actually an Orange Box. Unlike humans, the Crash-Survivable Memory Unit can withstand enormous temperatures and pressure. And it's nice and easy to find amongst the wreckage because of its cheerful orange colour.
4. FREAK APPEARANCE OF DOMESTIC GODDESS
The prospect of travel transformed me briefly into a Domestic Goddess. That's if celestial beings are to be found crouched naked in the shower with scrubbing brushes and bottles of cleaning spray. Or vacuuming drifts of dog fur from carpeting. It's nothing but a chore being a Goddess. I did it purely for my daughter's sake. Should I fail to return from holiday (See 3 above) I don't want have the place cleaned by Sunshine Biohazard Cleaning Services before she can take possession of her inheritance.
5. GOOD LUCK!
A plane's Black/Orange Box records every iota of information about its last doomed flight except, of course, the mental turbulence of passengers like me: hunched in steerage, clutching bottles of Valium awaiting their demise in a mid-air collision, or deep vein thrombosis.(See 3 above)
When I'm anxious I descend rapidly into primitive superstition. For example, I'm convinced that I'll safe in Ireland because I'm going to wear a ring which is made from the combined remnants of my mother's wedding ring, my father's signet ring and a gold earring that belonged to my grandmother.
I've researched my Irish forbears in preparation for the trip and it seemed a very good omen to discover that a cousin on the Irish side of my family ran the Wakatu Hotel in the 1920s and that he lies with his wife in the Wakapuaka Cemetery where I so often walk with the dog.
One suitably rainy afternoon this week I searched the Roman Catholic section until I found their grave in the damp shadow of the Catholic Chapel. I laid a fistful of snowdrops and daffodils beside their headstone and told them I'd be in Ireland before the week was out. They said nothing, but I like to believe they gave me their silent blessing.