Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Wrong Side of Everything

...I got a later start in the morning than I had planned, so I bagged the idea of taking a long, slow route to my next destination, Portrush, Northern Ireland from Dublin. In hindsight, I am glad I did this. I was driving pretty slowly in two way traffic, the kind of driver I hate to get behind when I'm on American roads, and the more direct route was mostly divided highway with no oncoming traffic.

There is an episode of Absolutely Fabulous that I keep playing over again in my mind where Eddy and Patsy go to France and Eddy can't figure out how to drive on the right side of the road. It's funny as hell, and it's exactly how I feel.

I drove out of the rental car place at like 5 mph and down the street at the same pace. Fortunately, there was no traffic. I nearly turned into the wrong lane when I made my first turn and got a minute to think about it at a red light on my next. The hardest thing for me was judging the left side of the car. I hit the curb several times along the way, but fortunately did not damage the car! I did buy the full insurance coverage but did not have to use it, hallelujahaha. No, it really isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. When I first got on the highway, I was too scared to pass cars. When I passed my first truck, it felt like an accomplishment, and as I was passing, I actually said to myself, "I'm doing it. I'm doing it!" An hour into my three hour trip, I was speeding as usual. At least I think I was speeding. I only saw one speed limit sign and I was exceeding it there. What a unique souvenir a speeding ticket would be! Haha

I slowed down significantly once I hit the last stretch and the road narrowed to two lanes and there were so many damn roundabouts! It took me forever to figure out how you are supposed to navigate them. I never knew which lane I was supposed to be in so I was driving around them like a jerk. Sorry, people!

Those were in Northern Ireland, every time you came up to another road, just as you got going at a decent clip. I found fewer of them here in Ireland but they still exist. I think the motorways, which are like our interstates, are better developed in Ireland. There aren't many of them, but the M1 at least is as good as any interstate in the US. But the drive was boring. The motorway is lined with trees and you can't really see anything, and there weren't any quaint little places to stop off. I suppose I couldn't look around even if there had been more interesting things to see, because I already have the handicap of driving on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car. On the right side of the Atlantic.

When I got to Portrush, it was chaos. There were people everywhere crossing the streets anywhere, and every street was one way for a very long way with no roads to cross, and the GPS told me I was at my hotel when I didn't see the hotel anywhere, and I literally had to drive around the town for a half hour in the same circle until I got fed up and parked far away and walked back to the town. Me having the handicap of driving on the wrong side of the car and not being able to judge the left side of the car made parallel parking impossible, which is a shame because I am a whiz at it on the right side of the road. I tried parking in a very large space once, or what I thought was a space, and I was like two feet from the curb the first time and kept hitting the curb after that. I was like those people I make fun of when I watch them park. It was truly awful, and that space turned out to be a no parking zone anyway, so I had to move.

When I was driving around in a circle with the unhelpful GPS (GET ON IT, GOOGLE), I turned down some alley, and an old man who was both get off my lawnish and trying to be helpful told me I was in the wrong place. At this point I was beyond frustrated. That's when I parked far away and walked to where the GPS was telling me the hotel was. Of course, I had driven by it FIVE TIMES. I had been looking on the wrong side of the street because the GPS was telling me it was on that side of the street.

This is what I get for depending too much on technology, which will be the downfall of humanity. Probably.

Anyway, that was the start of the Portrush part of my stint on this island. I stayed there far too long and didn't care much for it. This was my first venture into Northern Ireland beyond Belfast and I can say this: it is definitely not Ireland, at least not these unionist towns. Later I went to Derry, which felt a bit more like Ireland, at least as much as Belfast felt like Ireland when I went all those years ago. But towns like Portrush and Colraine, towns that proudly fly the flag of the red hand next to the Union Jack, those are something entirely different. In fact, I struggle to find an accurate label for them. They aren't British, because they don't live on the isle of Britain, though they identify as that the most. It's not accurate. It's a bit different, but what if Canadians or Australians called themselves British because they are part of the British Commonwealth? Then again, "American" is a made up term, as we're all just a bunch of mutts whose ancestors couldn't make it in Europe. They aren't English or Welsh, either, and though many of their ancestors are Scottish, they aren't Scots. Some of them are Scots-Irish, I guess, but that would make them kind of Irish and I am sure they don't want that label, either. They are Protestant, but that's not a nationality or an ethnicity. Quite frankly, I think they suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. Sorry.

I keep thinking about the Reformation and how many of the world's problems were caused by Martin Luther, who really only wanted to rid the Church of corruption, not split it and cause centuries of warfare. The truth is that most of Luther's theses were about indulgences and the Catholic Church ceased that practice years ago. If you really think about it, Vactican II nearly reformed the Church to how Luther wanted it. Not everything, but a lot. Excluding the fringe sects that call themselves Christian (largely those coming from the Anabaptist ideology, especially those who call themselves "evangelical" ), there are few real differences between Catholicism and Protestantism anymore. Which makes any conflict of that sort even more ridiculous.

The problems in Ireland go back to that time. I can't even keep track of all the king changes that happened post-Reformation. The English banned Catholicism and killed Catholics for awhile. Then Charles I gave rights back to Catholics but wanted absolute power over the parliament, so they executed him. Then I think there was no king for about ten years or so, then the monarchy was restored by one of Charles's Catholic sons, James some number, who was friends with France and the Pope so people hated him and he was defeated in the late seventh century and there has never been a Catholic king since, and in fact, Catholics were treated poorly after that, so poorly that one million of them starved to death in Ireland despite there being ample food on the island.

I ask myself why I side with the Irish when it shouldn't be my fight. But I always side with the oppressed. Is that not what I have been doing my entire adult life, working with human rights activists? Have I not witnessed first hand what hate and oppression can do to a people? It can't just be some ancestral spirit or something in my own Irish DNA, can it? I wouldn't exist if my own ancestors hadn't come to America to escape the famine and oppression. 

What an odd thought.

But I digress, somewhat. See, my introduction to Portrush, aside from the maddening driving in circles and the wintry wind whipping through its streets, was a parade of dozens of unionist marching bands, celebrating, I think, Orange Day (a few days late), when Protestants celebrate the defeat of James some number - that last Catholic king of England, Scotland, and Ireland - by the Dutch Protestant king William of Orange, husband to Mary, sister of James. I think that's how it goes, anyway. It's all just one big family feud, isn't it? LOL

Why are they wearing US Marine Corps uniforms?

The parade was a cacophony of flutes and drums and military style uniforms and brainwashed kids and probably some older men who had participated in The Troubles and probably longed for a return to those days. It was fascinating and ridiculous and archaic and childish and bizarre. And I couldn't help but think America might be heading down that same, dark road.

Why are they wearing Nazi uniforms?

I watched for an hour or so before heading off to watch the sunset over the Atlantic, the same sun that sets no matter what your religion or ethnicity or race or gender or orientation or ideology or whatever other label that human beings use to create division and oppression among humanity.


  1. Cathie how do you rate this trip compared to others you have taken overseas?

    Was Chris able to go with you?


  2. Can't rate, each is different.

    Chris couldn't come on this trip. Next time.