corey says… Trip day.
“Will we need our passports to go to the North?” Gaeney asked.
“No, but we can bring them just in case,” we assured her.
“Will they be going through our bags when we cross into the North?”
“There’s no worry of that.”
Gaeney was trying to make sure she was ready for whatever came her way when she returned to Armagh. Her questions were spaced about once a day throughout the week. All of them valid considering how much times have changed since she taught in Armagh in the 1980s.
I think she was quite surprised when we were in the car and I announced, “We just entered Northern Ireland.”
“Just now… about a minute back.”
“How did you know? Was there a sign?”
No, but the lines on the side of the road changed from yellow to white and the road signs are a bit different.
I think she was even more surprised when I said, “Oh, we’re back in the Republic…Oh, we’re in the North again…Oh, this is now the Republic…Okay, now we’re in Northern Ireland once and for all.” The route we took passed through County Cavan, Fermanagh, Monaghan, back into Fermanagh and Monaghan and finally, Armagh over the course of about 45 minutes.
Many people wouldn’t even know they had been traveling between two countries.
CALLING FOR ASSISTANCE
When we entered County Armagh, we called Gaeney’s friend Fionna from the border. Our rendezvous point was established, we just had to ring her from the parking lot of “Mac and Ernie’s.” What ever that was.
Well, we were first faced with a diversion (detour) that put us entering Armagh from another road, but somehow we quickly found our destination McAnerney’s… not Mac and Ernie’s.
I pulled out the trusty mobile phone and dialed. “Bleep, phltttt. Your call cannot be completed as dialed.” Darn, there’s some secret combination of numbers I have to punch in to make calls from Northern Ireland, and of course, I didn’t get those numbers.
“Bleep.” An incoming text message that announced the number I needed to call to get details on making calls in Northern Ireland. I dialed it. “Bleep, phlttt. Your call cannot be completed as dialed.” WHAT? The call has to be made from the Republic. I really should have done my homework before our trip.
Inside the store, the woman at the Service Desk was very helpful. She gave us some suggestions on dialing, but they didn’t work. Then, she used the phone behind the counter to call Fionna’s house. We were almost there, but there was no answer at Fionna’s. We gave her Fionna’s mobile number, but she said she wasn’t able to call mobiles from that line. We just couldn’t get a break.
TO THE PRINCIPLE’S OFFICE
Then Gaeney suggested we go up the street to the Christian Brothers school she used to teach at. We pulled in, and Gaeney and Liam went into the school office here the woman behind the desk, Carmel, immediately recognized her, “Gaeney?” Yup, 28 years later and the same woman working in the office…and she remembered Gaeney.
Carmel then pulled out the annual for the year Gaeney was there, and they were going right down memory lane. Carmel was able to give an update on nearly all the children. “Oh, those were the twins”
Gaeney was carrying on “Oh, he had the cutest red hair….he lived right across the street…”
“We won’t mention this one,” Carmel whispered as she pointed to one of the former students, “he’s in prison. I think it was her influence,” she said with a smile.
Carmel called Fionna and a few moments later we were enjoying tea…and ham and coleslaw and salad and turkey and strawberries with ice cream at Fionna’s. There Fionna let Gaeney know some of the people who she would be catching up with over the next few days. On Saturday, they were even planning a little reunion at a hotel. I swear, Gaeney could hardly contain her excitement.
We left Gaeney in the good hands of Fionna and went off to do some exploring of our own.