Returning to Dublin after our time in the mountains we discovered that we were in the opening chapter of a 1970's JG Ballard disaster novel, in which a spreading cloud of invisble volcano dust puts an end to civil aviation and thus to Civilisation As We Know It. "When Will This Nightmare End?' demanded the headline on Dublin's freebie newspaper (which might as well be the headline on all newspapers, every day). Sam was a bit dismayed to learn that we couldn't fly home on Saturday as planned, but rallied once we explained that you can pick up Dr Who on Irish tellies and that our dwindling funds would mean we'd have to eat at McDonalds, fulfilling one of his lifetime ambitions. Indeed, we were much better off than most of this week's stranded tourists, since we don't have 9-5 jobs to get back to, and could afford (just about) the costs of our extended stay in The Most Expensive Country In Europe*. Not only that, we had the redoubtable Alex at Scholastic to 'phone for advice, and our hotel, Staunton's on the Green, had the most friendly, helpful, good-humoured staff you could hope to meet - if you ever need to stay in Dublin, stay there.
Even so, by Sunday it was clear that we needed to plot a Daring Escape, so I went down to Dún Laoghaire and booked tickets on a ferry out of Rosslare on Tuesday morning, and with one (very slow) bound, we were free... The ferry crossing was pleasant and relaxing, the long train journey through Wales and Somerset rather less so. Finally, late yesterday evening, we arrived home, and very glad we were to see it.
So what have we learned from our stay in Ireland (apart from, NEVER GO ABROAD, YOU MIGHT GET TRAPPED BY A BIG OLD CLOUD OF INVISIBLE ASH)? Well, we learned that Ireland is very nice, which I'd never really doubted, but it was good to confirm it for myself. The people are friendly, the countryside is beautiful, and they have good biscuits. (The confectionary aisle in Tesco's at Wicklow was a veritable biscuit museum: Mikados, Jammy Dodgers, Iced Gems... we stood entranced for several minutes.) It was interesting to be in a place which had been ruled (or misruled) by Britain for so long before it won its independence; it made for a strange mixture of the familiar and the foreign, and it felt good. It made me think that if we dug a big trench from the eastern end of the Bristol Channel down to Weymouth, then Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset might make a nice little country of their own. If Labour ends up winning the elections* again we shall all have to get our shovels out.
*I have no idea if that's actually true, but coffee and buns were Very Expensive, and since coffee and buns are what I basically run on, that hurt.
*EDIT: They didn't, but we're no better off: West Country UDI now!