The train/ferry from London to Dublin is a bargain at around £35, taking you to Holyhead in Wales, then onto a ferry for the easy crossing to Dublin on the Irish Sea. I sat with two Irishmen, James and Paul, for part of the trip. James is a thoughtful fellow who is considering a career change into the field of renewable energy. Paul is an older know-it-all who pulls his wheeled suitcase with an improvised piece of blue nylon rope.
At James’ mention of renewable energy Paul claims you could build a windmill with a used car alternator and propeller. “Of course you also need the tower. And wind.” He’s got an opinion on everything and is foul mouthed. Both men seem to think that an American has designed an efficient steam-powered car which baffles me. Paul is certain that the ongoing nightmare at the Japanese nuclear power plants is only a temporary setback for that industry. He is deeply contrarian. He books straight for what he calls “refreshments” on the ferry, even though it is still morning.
Talking to Paul reminded me of this conversation between characters discussing the Emperor Nero in Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds:
The like of him would have no principles, of course, said Mrs. Furriskey.
Oh, he was a terrible drink of water. Death by fire, you know, by God it’s no joke.
They tell me drowning is worse, Lamont said.
Do you know what it is, said Furriskey, you can drown me three times before you roast me. Yes, by God and six times. Put your finger in a basin of water. What do you feel? Next to nothing. But put your finger in the fire!
I never looked at it that way, agreed Lamont.
I’m telling you now, it’s a different story. A very different story, Mr. Lamont. It’s a horse of another colour altogether. Oh, yes.
When we get off the ferry in Dublin a police dog gives all the passengers a sniff and James is pulled out of the queue. I’m concerned that he’s in trouble but he turns up within minutes, explaining that he likes the occasional joint and the dog must have smelled the one he enjoyed the night before in England. James helpfully points me to the bus I need for central Dublin and urges me to visit Killarney, which I plan to do.