Both places where the culture comes in bite-sized chunks – so an overnight sea crossing between the two was always going to be an interesting experience. In the end, it was a bit like the church at both its best and its worst – lovely people doing their very best but they hadn’t quite worked out how to do it.
We sat in the cold waiting to check in for a while – and then another while. Alison was getting restless but was totally disarmed by the greeting from the staff, ‘I love your Radley handbag.’ And then we moved on to the Security Staff – ‘Are you carrying any dangerous substances – or any substances for which you require a licence – not including the wife?’ As they say in Belfast, ‘Hard to beat.’ But better still – after we had waited another while in the cold – was the wonder of an escalator from the car deck upwards. But the queue at the top to collect cabin keys was so long that people were having to run briskly backwards on the spot because they couldn’t get off. But the ship was big and the cabin was great so we survived a rough crossing well.
Seeing Liverpool in the dark and the dawn reminds me that the generation which has grown up with Easyjet and Ryanair knows nothing about the way in which most Irish people’s experience of England began with unslept and unwashed dawn arrivals. For me, ‘abroad’ began with a childhood crossing from Cork to Fishguard on the Inisfallen and somebody selling the Western Mail on the train to London. Nothing has ever again seemed as foreign as that.