The Titanium Princess had been all agog in Brussels, which we'd not visited since we were kids in 1974, and I'd had hazy memories of the place (ok, I'd forgotten about it altogether). But Brussels was pretty cool; we stayed in a penzione just down an alley called the Rue Chair et Pain, a stone's throw from the famous square that housed the superbly elegant Grand Palace, the Museum van de Stad Bruxelle, and the Stadhuis van Bruxelle - all superb works of architectural and artistic genius.
But no - what took the T.P.'s fancy was the Musee du Cacao et du Chocolat, and I'm sure I don't have to translate that one even for American readers. Her Metal Majesty was high on hog heaven - she waltzed through the doors as if she were the number one shareholder in Belgian sweet-goods, and proceeded to expand by the minute as she tasted every single available offering. I must admit - Belgian chocolate is a pretty fine substance, and one which, I think, had it been dispensed freely to the Nazis and the Poms, might have prevented quite a few unfortunate fracas a few years back.
After taking photographs of Japanese tourists taking photographs of each other taking photographs of the Mannekin Pis and giggling and laughing, we jumped on a bus and headed out to the airport, where Ryan Air unceremoniously dumped us into the sky, went horizontally at a great rate of knots, and just as unceremoniously dumped us on the tarmac of Dublin Airport. (And that's just what Ryan Air does - talk about "no frills"; you even have to pay to vomit into their sick-bags!)
Well, I thought, as we trundled across the tarmac into Customs, after several weeks of hastily learning a number of languages including Turkish, Greek, Italian, German, Belgian and Alcoholic (ok, I was already fluent in the latter), here we are back in a land where everyone speaks English.
But what an English it is. I fancy that the Irish are the world's best users of our great and noble tongue - they have a way of making the most common conversational constructions appear as Shakespearian dramaturgy; if you ask for directions they will be offered with so many conditional subjunctives that you will forget where you were going in the first place. I was intrigued and bowled over by the friendly lunacy of Irish English. (As an example, when I breasted the bar in the Bleeding Horse Hotel one afternoon, the publican asked of my origins. I told him "Kurrajong, near Sydney". He whistled into his beard for a moment, scratching his nose, and replied "Well, now - that'd be a place, then, wouldn't it?")
There was a higher purpose to our arrival in Dublin. We were to meet up with about twenty friends of mine, none of whom I'd ever actually met face-to-face, but who had become good friends nevertheless via the magic interweb. We were all regular contributors to a well-known forum of atheists, rationalists, scientists, philosophers and other goodismists, and had been badgering away at each other for the past two or three years. A couple of the bright sparks, Titania and Decius (I'll use screen-names for these characters, considering the revelations that are about to unfold, haha), ended up planning a meet-up in Dublin about a year previously, and it turned out to coincide with the Laurie/T.P. Grand Tour. The stage was set.
The T.P. had organised our digs in another one of those youth hostels, which turned out to be not so bad, because it was within easy walking, stumbling or crawling distance from about thirty different pubs. (Have you ever crawled on cobblestones? It's a life-changing experience, let me assure you.) We tossed our bags on our bunks. (I got the top one, and dimly surveyed the kind of drunken calisthenics I'd be using to get up on it in about twelve hours' time. The prospect wasn't pretty.) A quick shower and change later, and we were walking towards Sheehan's Hotel, and a date with doom, or Oromasdes, as he's better-known...
...to be continued