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It is not easy to compile trip reports in November, so this is by way of amusement. Over the course of many journeys to Rathlin, I have had great fun, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. Here, in increasing order of potential to make me cringe are my top 5 memorable moments. All are real life. But please, keep visiting!
The thing that went lispth in the night
I shared a room with a guy once. I knew him quite well. We retired to our separate beds after some beers at the pub. In the darkness of the wee small hours, I realised that I needed a pee. I wasn't too aware of the layout so I thought it best to switch on the light and as I did so, I whispered apologies to Hugh (pseudonym) for dazzling him. But Hugh had disappeared, to be replaced by a stranger. " Thath all right Paul, it doesnth bother me" came the interloper's reply. Who was this foul creature, who spoke with a forked tongue? I then realised that it was still Hug under the duvet, except that his teeth were in a glass on a table, not in hith mouth.
The carefree dog
I'm often in a rush as I drive into Ballycastle on my way to the boat. One fine summer morning I was driving down the steep hill that you take a left from to get to the Harbour. The boat was leaving soon and I wanted to get to journey's end asap. To my right, on an otherwise deserted street, a man walked in the direction of town. My car was being held up by a carefree dog sauntering down the middle of the road. It was in the days before cars had electric windows. Furiously I wound dowm the window and yelled at the man " You should keep your dog on a lead!" Back came the reply "Its not my dog". Luckily for me he wasn't on the boat.
Water that wasn't
The craic had been might at Tristram's party,his real name. If I wanted to stay the pace and avoid a hangover in the morning, I needed a drink of water. I was definitely in luck... there, on the windowsill, was a big bottle of Ballygowan. I unscrewed the top and glugged a big mouthful. AAARGHHHHHHH. It wasn't water; I was drinking my host's finest poteen.
When you're organising a group its not uncommon to get some folk who won't be told. Many years ago I had such a group on the island. It was a big group and we had enjoyed a day in the sun. Now it was time to go, the last ferry leaving at 5.30pm. Most of the group meekly turned up at the Harbour at 5.20pm, as I has directed. In those days my daughters often accompanied me to Rathlin as they got to drink unlimited free Quosh orange as part of the all inclusive tours that we ran at that time. So I bundled everyone onto the boat and did a head count. I was five short and I had last seen them well-ensconced in the pub. If they didn't hurry, they would be stuck until the next day. Acting decisively, I borrowed a car and returned to the pub. Despite my best efforts, the revellers wouldn't budge. I had to return to the boat and we did indeed depart without them (I never heard of them again). It was only this year that I realised that I had been a useless dad. My daughters told me that they had been scarred for life. They had witnessed me jump out of the ferry, Robinson Crusoe reluctant to leave an island paradise, and they thought they'd never see me again. Sorry girls!
No room at the inn
For a number of years I led weekend residential trips to Rathlin. As I recall, the sun always shone and we had great fun. The first residential was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. I had checked out the bedroom availability in our accommodation and had details also of the prospective guests. We met as a group at Ballycastle on a Friday evening, just before the boat was departing. I have consistently been let down by maths through my life, but never with a more awful result than that weekend. I had two surplus people, but no room to give them. I picked a couple to boot out and, understandably, they didn't go quietly. I can still remember the man's name and where he worked.
One less for the return journey
All my experiences fall into perspective when compared to an incident that happened to someone who was in charge of a trip to the island in the early 1980s. The group had puffed its way up the brae at the Chapel when a lady said she was a bit tired and would sit on the wall for a while. Unfortunately she died.
|© 2010 Paul Quinn. All Rights Reserved. Additional title photography © Andy McInroy|