Hope you are all packed and ready to depart. I'm up at crack-of this morning after last night's PEN event (more of that soon) to get us to the airport on time.
I've only been to Ireland once before and that was with a gang of student nurse friends on a horse-drawn caravan holiday around Westport in County Mayo.
No, I don't know what I was thinking either, I'm not a lover of horses so it was a terrible ordeal that had me wishing myself back on night duty on the Infectious Diseases ward, but I blame Laura Ashley completely.
We'd all bought our long dresses for £6.30 from the shop in Sloane Street and nabbed those little short smocks that you wore over your loon pants (the jeans that with a fair wind behind the legs would have got you right across the Atlantic) and we were all desperate to get out of 1970's London and try all this out whilst gliding through real flowery meadows in the real countryside. It was a blessing that at least the horse had a brain and knew the way round and when to stop because none of us had the first clue. The horse also knew that its food was kept in a very horse-accessible box on the back of the wagon, so having scoffed a week's rations when we weren't looking on the first night, it had to live on slim pickings of grass for the rest of the week.
The countryside was indeed beautiful and I clearly remember the sight of Croagh Patrick with its pilgrim's path visible around every corner, but I also recall being consumed with worry that our starving nag would be skeletal by the time we got back to where we'd started and we'd be in awful trouble.
As for catching the thing to harness it up for the day's journey...
Anyway they let us out of the country, but I just have to think Ireland and, as well as caravans, in piles all the other imagery gathered hither and thither down the years; Dana singing All Kinds of Everything and lush green fields and poverty and misery and no potatoes, dissent and unrest and a general dissatisfaction with all things emanating from England, jolly good funerals and fantastic wakes, McGahern and Trevor, a bit of horse rustling, some Flatley River Dancing, shilelaghs, shamrocks, Guinness and the Liffey, Toibin and Sebastian Barry, to say nothing of all those recently acquired layers of Bloom and Molly and more funerals and fried kidneys.
Ridiculous muddle, it's time to sort it all out and see for myself and I'm very excited to get the chance to do so.
So I'm on my way to Dublin and the City of Literature events today and will hopefully be meeting and doing dovegreyreader asks... with Joseph O'Connor at lunchtime (RyanAir willing etc... please say a novena or whatever works best for you on my behalf) going to various events at Culture Night tonight and a day in an around the city tomorrow.
OK everyone, I have a flag on stick here, please don't lose sight of it.