The Road To Mccarthy: Around The World In Search Of Ireland, by McCarthy, Pete
- ISBN: 9780007162130 | 0007162138
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 2/12/2010
|Part One: Ireland and Morocco|
|Part Two: New York City|
|Part Three: Australia and the West Indies|
|Part Four: Montana and Alaska|
|Part Five: Return to Cork|
Around the World in Search of Ireland
Attack of the Killer Macaques
It had seemed a romantic idea to arrive in the port of Tangier, andthe continent of Africa, by sea; but the painfully early hour of my flight toGibraltar, where I will catch the ferry to Morocco, has already turned romancesour. An alarm clock ringing at four in the morning in the middle ofan English winter is a cruel and unnatural thing. The fear of getting up soearly pollutes my sleep, filling it with nervous, guilty, premature awakenings,as well as nightmares of having overslept and missed the taxi, the flightand the rest of my life.
It's frosty and still dark as we board the plane at a shopping mall withan overcrowded airport attached somewhere in Sussex. The young man inthe seat next to me is Estonian, like his friend across the aisle. When breakfastis served he orders two quarter-bottles of red wine from a surprisedstewardess and knocks them back at high speed with his sausage, bacon,mushrooms and powdered egg. Then he eats the muesli and yogurt. It's soearly my brain isn't working properly, and I'm struggling to decipher themeaning of such extreme behavior.
The Estonians are accompanied by a hearty English business type in aWinnie-the-Pooh-on-a-balloon tie who is keen to show that he's in charge.He keeps telling the Estonians very boring things in a loud, slow voice withall definite and indefinite articles removed, like a whisky trader talking to injunsabout heap powerful thundersticks. When the stewardess comes tocollect the breakfast debris my Estonian orders a gin and tonic to wash thewine down, while his friend opts for another cup of tea and some port. Ihave been to Estonia twice, and can report that it is an enigmatic country,with a glorious tradition of choral singing.
We're crossing southern Spain when the pilot comes on the intercom totell us that the weather isn't very nice in Gibraltar. Very windy, apparently.More than fifty miles an hour.
"Under the circumstances it would be hazardous to attempt a landing.We'll get back to you in a few minutes to let you know what's happening."
"WINDY!" shouts Winnie the Pooh at the Estonians. "not landing! dangerous!go! somewhere! else!"
He's using his right hand to mime what he thinks is a change of direction,but the Estonians think is a plane crash. They have taken on thehaunted look of men who are about to plummet from 36,000 feet and don'tknow whether to use their last seconds to proposition the hostess or ordermore gin and port.
Before they can decide we enter a cloud and the plane starts pitchingand bumping in the most terrifying manner. It feels as if the controls havebeen seized by two teenage boys who are pulling and pressing everything insight to see who can make a wing fall off first. Clouds look such gentle, fluffythings, so what the hell's inside them that can cause aircraft so much grief ?Monsters? A giant anvil? Gods who are displeased with us? Not for the firsttime I find myself wondering whether you pass out as soon as the fuselagecracks and you hit the cold air, or whether you remain conscious and havea brilliant but eye-watering view all the way to the ground, or sharks.
We ricochet down through the clouds and suddenly we're clear of them,descending rapidly but seemingly still in control. The PA system bing-bongsand the pilot is back on the airwaves.
"We've decided we'll try and give it a go anyway."
His voice is alarmingly casual. I suppose he's hoping to reassure us, buthis words couldn't be more worrying if they'd been spoken with a slur andpreceded by the phrase "Ah, sod it." Though we've spent the last two hoursflying over land, we're now very close to something that looks like the sea. Ican see white tops on the waves. I can see individual drops of water, but nosign of land anywhere, as we go into an abrupt gung-ho bank to the rightthat suggests our man may be a frustrated fighter pilot who failed the psychologicalprofiling. All around me passengers are exchanging panic-strickenglances with complete strangers with whom they've so far beenscrupulously avoiding any kind of eye contact.
And now there it is in front of us, the Rock itself, massive, gray, broody,windswept; but, above all, very solid-looking. The PA pings back on.
"I'm afraid this may be a little bumpy." And that's it. He's gone quiet.Perhaps one of the stewards has managed to force a towel into his mouth beforehe could add, "but I really couldn't give a toss." We're hurtling flat andlow across the water, straight towards the Rock. Why are we so low? To getbelow the radar? Are we going to bomb it? They're on our side, aren't they?We're so low over the spray that I can feel it on my face; or is that just theEstonians crying? And now there's the airstrip straight ahead of us, immediatelybeneath the enormous bulk of the Rock. At close range it really doeslook dauntingly dense. If we do hit it, it seems unlikely we'll have the optionof surviving for ten days by eating each other.
A brutal gust of wind strikes the plane, tipping the wing on my side uptowards the Rock, then down towards the seabed. We're dropping everlower, rolling from side to side in newer and scarier ways, when withoutwarning the G force sucks back our stomachs ...The Road to McCarthy
Around the World in Search of Ireland. Copyright © by Pete McCarthy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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