There’s a soft sound in the back of her head. She’s been hearing it since making breakfast under the awning while looking over the bay. It’s a tune from way back when, when holidays were simple and straightforward. When no new discoveries were to be made, when holiday-islands were small and could be ‘done by bike’ in a day.
A few words pop up, the melody is coming back. It’s a song that seems to fit so well there and then. It underlined the idea of at least staying one day at the bay. One day to give to the wet tent and the damp sleeping bags. Although there’s a light mist over the bay and no sign of sunshine, they will take that one day. Wondering if that would be enough to walk around, to hike, to paddle, to be amazed and to hopefully find a few souvenirs on the beach.
So, she’s humming while crouching in the wet sand….
….stones small and big, pebbles in all colours, rocks and boulders too….
The pebbles, when covered by the seawater are precious gems. They all want to be picked and brought home. No no, don’t wipe them clean, they’ll lose their brightness and radiance. When fully dry they seem less valuable. The smallest and shiniest ones will disappear in the pockets of jacket or jeans, to be put in a dedicated canvas bag in the back of the car. Later, at the end of the day.
The song remains. It has settled itself firmly in her head, the lyrics coming back with every pebble she decides to keep.
* 🎵 Turn, turn, turn 🎵 with thanks to The Byrds
After customs and other formalities him&her got on the way, the right way: on te left.
They had only be driving in Ireland for a few hours, when -of course- there was this typical ‘drive left !!’ experience. There had to be. One bend in the road and the car seemed to direct itself to the right lane. Not very clever. A gasp, a “hou links!!” and a jolt to the left corrected things just in time.
The driver of the babyblue Ford Escort who was met (almost) head on by a red Citroen GS must have cursed those bloody silly tourists for this.
Sure it’s a well known fact that people learn from their mistakes, especially when learned the hard way.
It did not happen again. Other drivers they met on the narrow roads and lanes greeted them in the most peculiar ways: some just lifted one finger off the wheel, others shortly jerked their head. The one finger greeting was strange but funny. The jerk with the head was puzzling: in the Netherlands it would mean something like “what do you want?” or “are you looking for trouble?” Him&her started using the one finger greeting, i.e. index finger, that other one-finger-gesture did not exist in 1979. The jerk of the head was never properly mastered, neiher by him, nor by her and also never used in the Netherlands again in later years
Somewhere in Waterford -for all different reasons- the Citroen lost its way. The map wasn’t clear, there were lots of “major road works ahead” where seldom any work was being done or road signs weren’t always legible. In one of the many places this-Bally or Bally-that they parked the car beside a newsagency annex foodmarket annex bar. When asking for directions at the counter one of the customers said he’d show them “in a minute” as he was “going dungarvan ways anyway”. Slowly he drove in front of them, very very slowly, probably thinking that lefthand driven cars must be slow by default. At some crossroads in the middle of nowhere he waved his arm out the open window and shouted: “Just go straight till you come to the bay. Good luck!”
Indeed, a Caravan Park, so different from all the campsites and campings they had ever been to. No tents to be seen, only caravans and mobile homes, yet plenty of space for one tent, one car and one quite content couple. Delighted with themselves that they had managed to get there on the right side of the road.
It was tempting to leave the first part of the trip unmentioned.
I could have just pretended him&her did not need any further introduction and did not come across any nice spots or unexpected sightings before setting foot on their final destination. Not fair, not true either. The kilometers* from NL to LeHavre were a nice start and nice part of the holidays. Imagine trying your best French to buy a grand pain and des saucissons secs or to figure out how much to pay for your carburant**. If you’d be interested in any of that, here’s a mix of snaps*** and snippets.him -after the first fourhundredsomething kilometers- along the Route de Neufchâtel pouring not too hot water on Moccona coffee granules. There may be a possibility this very spot could still be identified, just outside Aumale. That is without him, car and chairs.
him -amazed by the mountains of coal on Le Havre’s quays- on board of the Saint Killian, where the nicest deck chairs were available. Not their camping chairs, as those were left in the car and access to the car deck was forbidden throughout the journey. Those quays may still be there. Supposedly without those heaps of coal.
* no autoroute to Le Havre, only country roads and route national
** the currency being Francs, seventy seven francs and twenty centimes is not easy to understand in French (80 would have been easier and funnier)
*** snaps were limited, 6 rolls of film for 6 weeks holidays
People from the Netherlands are called Netherlanders or sometimes even Hollanders. That’s fine, no big deal.
People from the Netherlands are also called Dutch. Why that became to be like that is a story on itself, but it’s fine, also no big deal.
Yet, to presume people from the Netherlands are German and hence speak German is a different thing.
Sure, one could mix up Dutch and Deutsch. Dutch being the English word for Netherlanders and for the language they speak. Deutsch being a German word for German people and for the language they use.
Confusing, isn’t it. Just read it again and you’ll understand the English used.
When speaking English you simply cannot confuse these two words: Dutch and German, or can you…
Entering the green isle, the earlier mentioned him&her were asked where they were from.
They answered “We’re from the Netherlands, from Holland, as shown on our passports”.
True, I have to admit, they may have spoken English with a touch of Dutch, but without further ado they were handed a leaflet…in German, as if …
as if him&her were not in the right holiday feeling yet,
as if him&her wouldn’t have been able to read such leaflet in English
as if her&him would not have preferred that leaflet being in Irish
as if etc. etc. etc.
But then, this was July 1979 and continental tourists to Ireland may have been mostly
….Deutsch, from Germany (aus Deutschland),
not Dutch, not like him&her, from the Netherlands
Quick introduction to the holiday makers: just your ordinairy set of human beings.
Him: finishing yet another year of teaching and examining secondary level students
Her: doing final rehearsals for the yearly musical with her 30+ primary level pupils
Both of them -meanwhile and constantly- thinking of the upcoming holidays.
Somewhere in March the plans were made, somewhere in May the holidays were booked.
In general holiday bookings were done by third parties, with travel agencies providing travellers-to-be with piles of fat brochures full of blue skies, exotic beaches, pretty parasols and luring sunshine.
Him&her had no need for browsing brochures. No need at all.
Their destination was chosen ages ago: Ireland.
“Irish Continental Line” was the best way to get there, so they had only required a leaflet with sailing times. “World Wide Reis- en passagebureau” had confirmed the booking.
All that was furthermore needed was a car that would bring them all the way and a tent that hopefully would keep out the expected rain.
Warnings and advice came from tourist boards, departments and wellwishers
˚ Precautions against Rabies
˚ Petrol Vouchers for sufficient fuel to tour the island in six weeks
˚ Driving on the right side of the road, which is left side
July 9th 1979, 40 years to the day