Gaelcon... Probably The Greatest Convention In The World
Friday afternoon everything was good. My week's work was gliding to a neat conclusion. My luggage was at home, all packed and ready. I'd had international roving enabled on my mobile. I'd contacted everyone the night before to check they knew where and when (Aer Lingus desk, Terminal One, seven-thirty pm). I just had to take the train home, pick up my luggage, and head for Heathrow. Friday afternoon everything was good.
Friday afternoon was when Evil G. phoned me to tell me he'd lost his passport.
As you can imagine, this caused me some distress and annoyance. There are a number of good times to discover you've lost your passport, and five hours before check-in time is not one of them.
"Well how lost is it?" I asked. "How much have looked?"
"I'm so desperate I've asked my mum for help." That did indeed sound desperate.
"Can you get a new one?"
"No, I phoned them up, and they said it takes a week."
Then a thought piped up in my lower brainward reaches. The conformation booking email from Aer Lingus - which I'd forwarded to all the guys - said something about what ID was required. Had Evil G checked out the email? No, apparently his home Internet connection was buggered. But then I remembered I'd also forwarded it to my work account, so I rooted around, and bought it up on screen. And I stopped worrying when I saw all the options it listed:
The only forms of photo identification accepted for Irish domestic travel and travel between Ireland and the UK are the following;
1. Valid passport
"We don't have any."
"You haven't got a bus pass?"
"International student card..?"
"Never had one, and I'm not a student anymore."
"You've got nothing with your photo on it?"
So we hung up at that point, so he could continue searching for his passport. But then five minutes later I had a brainwave.
Five minutes, one netsearch and one phone call to Transport For London later, I had the answer. You can get a London Transport bus pass (which consists of a photocard ID and a separate ticket) by simply walking into any London Underground station - or any shop that sells bus tickets - with a single utility or mobile phone bill, a photo, and filling in a form. And it's all done there and then on the spot.
(Actually, when I think about it, I'm pretty sure that when I got mine they didn't even bother to look at the phone bill I'd bought. After all, the only purpose of the Photocard ID is so that if you buy a monthly ticket to go to work, you can't loan it to your mate at the weekends. They don't give a shit who you are, only that your ticket is linked to a photograph so that it can only be used by the person who bought it).
I phoned G. to tell him the news, and gave him the Aer Lingus number so that he could double-check that a London Transport bus pass was acceptable. He checked. It was. And so the emergency transport plan was born. G. would get himself the cheapest bus pass possible (something like a one week zone 5 ticket) and use that to get to Ireland.
I wanted to make sure that other guys (who I'd been keeping informed of the ongoing situation via email) didn't cause any trouble over this, so I sent out the following email:
And remember, if on Tuesday afternoon - when G. is attempting to re-enter the UK on the strength of nothing more than a buspass purchased from Ahmed's 7-11 Newsagents & Off-Licence in Southall - the Immigration Officer asks you: "Do you know this man sir?"
...You are not to answer: "Who, Mohammad? Yeah, I met him a few years back at the Finsbury Park Mosque."
So did G. have to present a buspass at the check-in desk? No, because when he grabbed his last mobile phone bill he found, neatly concealed within its folds... his passport.
But we did think the whole thing was pretty funny, so the next time we go to an Irish con we're all going to fly on buspasses, although we will of course still have to bring passports because the Bureau de Change won't let you buy Euros without them. (Aer Lingus might be happy to allow you access to a Airbus fully laden with jet fuel on the strength of a buspass you purchased that afternoon from some bloke in Southall, but apparently the currency people have somewhat stiffer security regulations).
So we were all set.
The Flight Out
I got away from work a little early, checked that I had my passport and the flight conformation email, had a bite to eat, checked that I had my passport and the flight conformation email, walked to the underground station, checked that I had my passport and the flight conformation email, got on the train, checked that I had my passport and the flight conformation email, and settled down for the journey.
So I worry about things! Shoot me. Actually, I wouldn't want anyone to think that I spent the entire train journey worrying about the flight. No, I spent some of it worrying about whether I'd left the lights on or the curtains closed.
One funny thing was the length of time the tube train spent to get from the Heathrow Terminal 4 station to the Heathrow Terminals 123 station. I've lived near Heathrow all my life, but have only flown from there a couple of times. (One of the cruel ironies of living near Heathrow is that since it does mainly scheduled flights, and since most of the people who live nearby only fly on charter flights as part of package holidays to the Med, it means that most people who live near the airport never fly from it, and instead have to trek all the way over to sodding Gatwick, which is the other side of London). In fact, the last time I did fly into Heathrow, to Terminal 4, I walked from the terminal to my parent's home (they live about a quarter of a mile away) and cadged a lift from there.
I was sharing the carriage with two other blokes, and when the train started to slow a couple of minutes after leaving the Terminal 4 station I nearly stood up there and then - but in the end decided I might as well wait until the train actually stopped in the station. Good job, because it sped up then, and took about another five minutes plus before it finally arrived. God knows where the hell it goes between the two stations, but I'd have been standing like a twat for a hell of a long time.
I got to the station about 7:25, a bit later than I'd expected, but still on time, and immediately got a phone from G., to say that he'd already arrived, and that he was in the Burger King, and where was I? So I set off down the moving pavement at a pretty furious rate, the wheels on my suitcase squealing like banshees (I had the finest luggage £12.99 can buy).
To cut a long, boring and largely anecdote story short, we eventually found each other, checked in, and went flightside. Which was actually a bit of a mistake. My advice to anyone flying through Terminal 1 (which I guess is about 40 years old) is to delay going flightside as long as possible, because there is basically nothing over there except for a small shop and a bar (unlike modern terminals where flightside is basically a shopping mall).
We ended up by the gate, waiting for our flight, which was late, and talking very loudly about the couple in front who'd blatantly pushed in front of us. The flight itself, which managed to run even later, was uneventful, except for a cracking row by a gay couple sitting just in front of us.
"How could I know? How was I supposed to know? Tell me, how was I supposed to know? I didn't know, how could I know? You didn't tell me? How was I supposed to know?"
"STOP THIS NOW"
"Did you just shout at me?"
Etc. Etc. Great stuff.
I'd spent a lot of the time with my nose glued to the window. I love looking out at the ground below, so when we checked in I announced that since I was the one who gone to the hassle of booking the flight and the accommodation - I was taking a window seat. I made the same announcement on the way back, except that it turned out we were in a row by an emergency door, and since I'm notorious for not being able to open things (locks, doors, ketchup bottles, women's legs) I figured it was safer for all on board to let Mark sit by the door.
We eventually got to the guesthouse sometime around ten minutes past midnight, but the landlord was really good about it and didn't mind. So we settled down for the night (me and G., the slobs, in one room, and Bog Boy and Mark, the houseprouds, in the other).
We were staying at Aishling House, which was one of the recommended places of accommodation on the list supplied to us by the Gaelcon organisers. It was a really nice place (cable TV and en-suite shower in each room), only about ten minutes walk from the convention, and with easy transport links to Dublin city centre, and if any of you guys are attending next year I can strongly recommend it.
Just so that you can get a feel of the place, here's a picture of the room (not a very good one I'm afraid, but when I reviewed the pictures that G. had taken over the trip, it turned out that most of them were people looking wasted on Monday night).
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