05 April 2012

Ireland: the trip back

The ferry departs from Rosslare at 9. One is expected to board 19.30. And it's a few hours driving from the hotel which hosts all the geographers. So to be on the safe side, each year the whole Plymouth Fieldwork army leaves Lisdoonvarna at 1PM. In earlier years, the students were made to evacuate their rooms in the morning, and then just somehow amuse themselves until that time. This year, the presentations went on until ~12AM. So we only had an hour in which we could do little more than twiddle our thumbs. Still, it was the bellwether of quite a tedious trip.

I was the responsible staff member on one of the coaches, so I counted all my students, and when I had them all we could go. This time it was light; we now could see what landscape the itinerary takes us through. And it was good to have Jamie, one of the cartographers, on the coach too. One is staff, after all, and even though I don't see myself as unapproachable there's not much student-staff interaction at such times.

We reached the ferry port early enough for having time for a small walk on the beach in the evening light. And then we embarked. By now I was hungry; I enjoyed a final Irish stew, and then decided this was the time for a nap. The ferry was largely empty, so everyone who so desired could find a place to lie down properly and get some sleep before the chairs in the coaches made further horizontality hard. I laid down feeling tired. I got up feeling slightly ill, and without much of a voice. That didn't bode well.

The ferry seen from across the beach

I counted my students for the second last time and then we were off, to Bristol, where we would change drivers. The original ones weren't legally allowed to drive us all the way. It was in the middle of the night, and most tried to find some vaguely sleepworthy posture in the seat belts. And after the driver swap I counted them for a last time, and tried to make myself comfortable for the last stretch.

I woke up as we were encountering speed bumps; what was that? It turned out our driver suffered from bad timing and had pulled over at Exeter services (only an hour from Bristol!) to empty his bladder. Please! We want to go home. We want to go to bed.

I woke up for the last time in Plymouth itself. When university was in sight I grabbed the microphone for a last time, and croaked something about thanking them all for a great week and wishing them a nice Easter break. And then I stood outside. The fresh night (morning!) air in my face and the sound of an alarm in my ears.

I walked to my office; I wanted to drop my big bag off, so I could bike with only the small one. And of course, it was our office building that was ringing loudly. The resident students on campus must have been delighted; it was 6AM on a Sunday. None of us could switch it off. I stopped caring and left. Later I found out the whole alarm unit had been changed while we were away, and none of our codes worked anymore. Excellent planning.

I biked for a few minutes and then the so desired moment came: I could lie down in a proper bed. As it happened, even one equipped with a charming man. The field trip was over. Time for some well-deserved rest. I would dream of Ireland...

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