Tuesday, 11 September.
So, our final day in Ireland arrived. With packing, internet uploads and other domestic requirements, the morning soon passed. However, we managed to be efficient enough that we had a last hour of tea and chat before we headed off to Shannon airport. Farewells are always hard, especially when you know it will be for a while, but all went well anyway and finally we set off at 1:00 pm.
Along the way, we dropped in to Bunratty Castle in the vain hope that the camera battery I had left behind (remember? Seems ages ago) had been found. Unfortunately, it was exactly that, a vain hope. Still, if losing one battery is the worst that happens to us on this trip, we have done really well. We have been blessed with excellent weather for the great majority of days, good info fell into our laps just when we needed it to determine a plan for the day and great surprises came our way. I'll take that balance any time!
We arrived at the airport in good time, despite our detour, and checked in without any problem. Going through security was a little distressing, though. Marie had a bit of a problem with the X-ray machine and had to go through a couple of times. Too much jewellery, or some such. Anyway, a fellow-passenger very unhelpfully advised her that the reason for all the extra security was that it was the anniversary of 9/11. Having been previously blissfully ignorant of that fact, Marie was then unnecessarily worried.
Nevertheless the flight, our last with Ryanair, was fine and we arrived at Stansted pretty much on time - then the problems began. Although, in the greater scheme of things they didn't really matter in the end (see previous paragraph), they did cause some frustration at the time. We obediently joined the line for passport control, only to be told when we reached the front of the line (30 minutes later) that arrivals from Ireland don't have to go through passport control at all.... OK, lesson learnt for next time - and I hope you have all taken note!
Good, not too much time lost - let's find our car. Next problem, our car company does not have a desk at the airport - would have been good to know that when they confirmed our booking. So, we'll ask for help from one of the other companies - outside, down a level and catch their shuttle was the advice, but when we got down, there were about 70 bus bays and no indicators to show us where to go. OK, I'll cut a long story short. After receiving conflicting "information" and traversing the airport several times, we finally got the right info and shuttled to the depot, where we picked up our car and were on our way about 90 minutes later than expected. (I refer myself back to paragraph two, again - it's all about balance!)
Angela drove like a demon, I navigated like a legend (sorry, modesty fails me) and Marie kept up the encouragement. Thanks to great roads and light traffic, we made up a bit of time and arrived at my Aunt's place only an hour later than expected (Balance, Ray, balance!). After that, things improved in a hurry. My brother and sister arrived just as we did and we went into my Aunt's place to a great reception from a crowd of first and second cousins.
Of course, most of the evening was family stuff, so again I won't discuss details. Suffice to say we spent a terrific few hours catching up on all the news and gorging ourselves on Aunt Eily's great spread. Afterwards, we returned to the old homestead, where my brother and I stayed up to the wee hours. Angela and Marie, being far more sensible, went to bed for a halfway decent sleep. In the end, we had a really good day, despite the couple of frustrations. It really is all about the balance.
So, for now, toodle pip, old things! Marie, Angela and Ray.