August 17th, 2020
LGW - DUBThe boy stood with his suitcase and a backpack, and as the car rolled away he watched for only a moment before turning towards the lifts and hitting Level 3 fro Departures. The afternoon flight was full and he sat in the gate lounge looking around at the other passengers, wondering what journeys they were on. Most looked like the business sort, briefcases rather than travel bags, shirts and trousers, a casual air that read I've done this a million times, I know this airport like the back of my hand, I know where to get good coffee, where the best toilets are, which gate my flight will be from before it shows up on the board. Little did the boy know that one day he'd be a seasoned traveller to, flying to and fro for holidays, winter break and summer, the occasional weekend at home, visiting friends in distant lands. He reached into his bag for one of the books he'd packed, mostly for the part, he wasn't much of a reader, on the digital side of screens vs pages. He put the book down almost straight away and looked around and the people again. He was brimming with excitement, though he didn't let it show, didn't want the others to see how much of an aviation novice he was. The flight was exciting, and boring. He was lucky enough to be recognised on boarding as a person of advanced stature, in that a member of the cabin crew took pity on him as he was putting his bag overhead and offered him a seat in the central rows, where he was warned he would be responsible for opening the over-wing exit doors in case of emergency. He smiled and nodded, that's fine. Planes are safer than cars he told himself, not knowing if it was strictly true, but a reassuring thought regardless. Clocking in at somewhere between 55 minutes and and hour and five you're barely up before you start coming down again, gliding in over the Irish Sea, sparkling sun reflected on the million cresting waves that swell rich and deep. Later he would learnt he significance of this crossing, Brits making their way from London to Dublin, Kildare, the Pale, all of eight-hundred years of oppression and education were ahead of him, to be doled out comedically liberally by those close enough to him to know when to lay it on. In his class he would be the one Brit in forty, and the butt of every joke made for four years, though he wouldn't mind. He quickly learnt of his country's pride and had no shame in accepting his fate as an image of the oppressor. It was good, he would think, that I was there not twenty years earlier, when tensions ran at a high, and the jokes were real, the animosity pungent, the roles of repressor and repressed acted out in real time. As it was, Ireland was a mystery to him, having only been once before, and on that single day been incredibly ill, dizzy and sick, memory of the University he'd be attending nothing more than a blur and embarrassment as he asked the lecturing leading a workshop where the nearest toilet was in case he had to run for the bowl. The plane into DUB came in from the North-East, over Howth and several miles of suburbia before touching down just ahead of schedule. From there it was a bus, the aptly named 747 into the city centre, then another bus, yellow and blue, Northwards again to his new home. Home, for the first half of the year, took the form of the student accommodation of another college, which was never filled and so let out to Trinity, mostly for Postgraduate students looking for somewhere clean and secure to rest between twelve-hour library stints. As an eager young fresher, he would find the whole vibe a little mature, and instead spend his waking hours in the drama society building, a theme which ended up lasting his whole time there. He arrived on the Friday, with the weekend to settle before he walked into the city on Monday morning, ready to meet and greet with the rest of his class, who had arranged to assemble at eleven o'clock by the front arch. Oscar was the first there, he was the second. He recognised Oscar from the furious Facebook stalking he'd done in the weeks preceding the move. They made some small chit-chat, but were quickly interrupted by the sequential arrival of some fifteen others, who huddled together exchanging names and outfit compliments. It would take him all of six months to get used to everything being in two languages, not in a complicated, I don't understand anything way, but in a, this is so amazing, I have to say everything out loud and be corrected on it. Names were the first kicker. Pah-rake turned out to Paw-rick. Sour-ease and Lour-ease were Seer-sha and Lee-sha. Grace was Grace so that was good but Grainne was also grace and Cliodhna was completely lost. Eliza turned out to be a friend from a couple of years further back, they'd done a Shakespeare workshop together with the National Youth Theatre. Henri was like Henry not like Thierry Henri, and would correct every lecturer on that for four years. They spent the morning perusing various societies and joining half of them, then made their way to a nearby Costa for a coffee, or Earl Grey tea. The afternoon was more divided, with some heading back to Halls for their naps and outfit changes before the Freshers Gets opening night. Others went to some of the events organised, debating society, drama society, other debating society, sports meet-ups, or straight to the Pav, the pub, Maguires for naggins. Remarkable, looking back on those first few days, how similar they were to the four years that followed.
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