Sorry for the late appearance of this update on yesterday’s activities – we’ve been out for the day today as it’s the Boys’ Day Off. You’ll read about all that tomorrow, in the bizarre publishing routine I’ve settled in to!
Monday, and the routine was broken up a little: The Boys are completing the last short leg of the Miner’s Trail, starting from Lough Key, and as they anticipate it taking no more than a few hours, they are travelling light. No backpacks, and home for lunch. The fact I had the rest of the day to myself, once I’d dropped them off, meant I could indulge in a ride on Iarnród Éirerann, taking the train into Sligo from Boyle.
Dublin to Sligo Train at Boyle
The explanation for the title of this post (however self-evident it may be to those of you who know us) comes later…
The first order of business for Monday was for Chappers to go and get more milk – and pay for the bottle he made off with on Saturday while he was at it. Apparently there were no hard feelings at all from the shopkeeper, though the language barrier may have kept them from reaching a complete understanding on the matter. That sorted, I duly dropped them off in the grounds of the Lough Key visitor centre; with them making a point to be dropped off short of the offending speed bump. Thanks to Bernie’s parting advice, I found the shorter route into Boyle, through a very impressive gatehouse and over the N4.
Lough Key gatehouse
I was parked up and in possession of my ticket via the very efficient self-service machine with half an hour to spare. I hung around in the waiting room, admiring the various photographs on the wall showing Boyle Station in its heyday. It remains staffed today, and while I was waiting the ticket clerk raised the blind at his window. He seemed as shocked to see me as I was him; though presumably he had the advantage of cctv and should have been expecting passengers 20 minutes before the first Sligo-bound train of the day.
There was only four passengers, including myself, who boarded at Boyle, though the train was fairly full. My bum had barely touched the seat as the cheerful and friendly conductor came and checked my ticket, and not at all long after, another friendly crew member came along with a refreshment cart, so I parted with €2.30 for a half decent cup of coffee. All that and free WiFi, both in the waiting room and on board the train.
It was a grey but dry morning, belying a truly dreadful weather forecast for the day. The journey was certainly scenic as the modern, South Korean built DMU chugged its way through the countryside. The major disappointment to me was the train’s horn, sounded at every level crossing. Whereas British trains have a powerful and distinctive two-tone blast, and American train whistles are a truly distinctive feature of the country’s soundscape, these things have what are no better than car horns. Thus, the journey was scored by a regular but very tinny ‘beep-beep’. Woeful!
The 40km to Sligo is scheduled to take 42 minutes, but our arrival at the terminus was ten minutes early (I think we left Boyle several minutes early, as it happened). To the point that we waited outside the station for the 11:00 departure to Dublin to free-up the platform. On disembarking, I followed the stream of people out of the station, winding the way down various steps and pedestrian walkways around the bus station and out toward the city centre.
Yes, Sligo — to my ignorant surprise — is a city. The road signs proudly direct traffic around the CIty Loop to avoid the City Core. It is all relative of course and Sligo is much larger than a lot of US settlements which call themselves cities. But with the greatest of respect to the place and its citizens, with a population of less than 20,000, a city it really is not. What it is, though, is a very compact, historical and picturesque place with lots to see for a first time visitor.
I spent an hour or so wandering the streets, though the profusion of tourist information boards meant I was far from lost or lacking in background about what I saw. After dodging a trio of Hare Krishna monks in their self-evidently futile attempt to divert the town’s populace from their Christian ways, I found myself in the Liber bookshop on O’Connell Street. After spending several happy minutes browsing, I treated the Boys to a little gift: Only the night before we had been discussing the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, and how hard it seemed to be to find anywhere which stocked their products. Although not having presented a real problem, it had been apparent to me the dynamic duo were lacking in their preparedness, on the Sligo Way especially, by not having a decent map [Though having now read this remark, both are dreadfully offended by the suggestion, which they refute]. To be fair, the little yellow Hiker symbols are so frequent, there is no danger of them getting lost, of course – they just may not always know where they are! Anyway, thanks to Liber Books, that has now been rectified.
Across the road and into Johnston Court, a twee little shopping mall and Café Souperb (geddit!?), therein. A sandwich and a sausage roll, washed down – inevitably – by coffee, provided the perfect accompaniment to typing Sunday’s blog. Once that was all sorted, it was time to head back to the railway station. (Side note to anyone who calls such a place a “train station”… please don’t.) The promised rain had arrived by this time, but — and I can’t believe I can keep saying this — it was still very warm.
Once again, I was about half an hour early for the train, but it was already in the platform and a ticket collector punched my return ticket before waving me aboard. I used the opportunity to take advantage of the train’s at seat power and surprisingly good WiFi to download the contents of my camera and admire my handiwork for the day. Soon enough we were on our way and I was duly whisked back to Boyle. There I popped into the Londis for supplies and headed back through the rain to the house.
I found the back door unlocked and Chappers unconscious on the settee with Bernie nowhere to be found. Maybe that’s a slightly over dramatised way of saying they were both enjoying a siesta, Bernie having gone the whole hog and gone upstairs to bed (he later claimed he was just reading). Of course I took a photograph of the slumbering Chappers, but it was so unflattering, even I had to take pity and agree to his plaintive request –nay, begging — to delete it. Gone for ever.
Diner was salmon, which isn’t on my personal menu, so I’d taken the opportunity of bringing oven chips and breaded chicken fillets from Londis. Dave & Bernie decided to share the oven chips with me and I left Bernie to the preparations. I wasn’t quite expecting him to use up the entire 1.5kg bag in one go, but he did and we each had a very generous portion. The salmon was declared delicious and I enjoyed my convenience meal.
It was during the after dinner conversation, about what in particular history will fail to record, that Chappers came up with the stunning observation that he was here with Mr. Picky and Mr. Pedantic. I surprised myself by the speed with which I retorted with the Mr Perfect label (though there may have been an additional adjective applied in all three descriptions in their original forms). It was also around about that point that I managed to spill a – fortunately less than a third full – cup of coffee all over the central kitchen dividing feature and part of Chappers’ leg.
Bernie: “Without the stools you’d never think it was a breakfast bar”.Chappers: “Without the stools it would still be a breakfast bar, just with nowhere to sit!!”
Having cleared that up, it was obviously time to go to the pub. We arrived to find them part way through the process of decorating the place for Hallowe’en. It wasn’t particularly busy tonight either, with only a couple of locals and the owner’s family present. For once, the Guinness was going down especially well, so for the first time in the trip, we decided to stay for two rounds.
(I won’t repeat what Mrs. C observed about her husband after I texted her a copy of this photo!)
Back at the house, Bernie was feeling, er, giddy, and decided to share the last of Karon’s finest Sicilian Liqueur (28% proof) with us. I took one sip and elected to redistribute my share with the others. A wise move, as it turned out. While Dave and Bernie consumed their liquor, Bernie with a tad more gusto than Dave, it has to be said, I put the kettle on. This time I am relieved, and only a bit smug, to report that the coffee spillage was nothing to do with me. Nor Bernie, for that matter. Oh, and it was a full mug this time. On a more happy note, no Denby mugs were smashed in either unfortunate occurrence, but I do have to admit responsibility for finishing off an already cracked bowl earlier on in the day.
The remainder of the evening was spent mopping and cleaning, though the next morning we still found coffee we’d missed. No permanent harm was done and Dave & I discovered the central kitchen dividing feature is quite portable when it needs to be for cleaning underneath purposes. There were some headaches on Tuesday.