The Accidental Orienteer


This weekend I learned lots of things about my betrothed. At my uncle Declan’s 50th birthday party in Belfast, I learned that he has no difficulty holding a newborn with one hand and a pint of Guinness with the other. I’m not sure when this will come in handy...but I’m fairly certain that it’s positive. I learned that he can eat three bowls of cereal and still be hungry an hour later (interesting). I learned that he will do
anything to put off starting an essay, including the dishes (useful), that children are unafraid of him despite his size (good) and that when he grows his beard and hair too long he looks like a cross between Jesus, a tall monkey and a tennis player circa 1972 (odd).

I also learned that he cannot be allowed to undertake even the simplest of long journeys unsupervised. One would think, looking at any map, that the drive between Dublin and Belfast was relatively straightforward, if not, exceptionally straightforward on account of the fact that it’s essentially (if not entirely) a straight road from point A to point B.

We were driving back down to Dublin early on Saturday afternoon and I had made the fatal mistake of drinking two cups of tea before we left with the result that after about half an hour, I needed to pee again. I was trying to distract myself by putting new words to the Gummi-bears theme song when I noticed that we were not too far from Omagh. Isn’t that nice, I thought, I’ve never been to Omagh.

A few moment later, it occurred to me that I have driven between Dublin and Belfast hundreds of times without ever getting the opportunity to go to Omagh. I looked at the next road sign and realised that I hadn’t ever been to any of the places on it, except Donegal, I had been to Donegal and remember it because of the 7 hour journey from Dublin so I was pretty sure I didn’t want to go there this weekend. I asked Mr Oh calmly, ‘Are you sure we’re on the road to Dublin?’. He shot me a look of what I think might have been contempt and said, ‘Yes’ (I think he was rolling his eyes internally too). I thought, maybe we are on the road to Dublin, Mr Oh tends to know what he’s talking about and the fields outside the window do look vaguely familiar, they’re green and square and I’m fairly sure I’ve seen that cow before somewhere. I relaxed a little bit and then I saw the next sign, ‘The West’. I was very sure I did not want to go to the West. It was then that I started screeching.

Rather than come off the motorway and go back the way we came, Mr Oh thought that we’d take a detour and ‘triangulate’ to Newry to rejoin the Dublin-Belfast road - a decision which launched us on an hour long tour of the heartland of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. We drove down the Garvaghy Road which was fun. It was one of those places that I have often heard mentioned on the news but have never been entirely sure where they are on a Srebrenica or Bazra.

Mr Oh seemed quite pleased with his scenic tour of sectarian hot-spots until I pointed out that I really really needed to go to the bathroom so could he please hurry up and get us to Newry. He started to slow down outside a petrol station and said ‘You should just go in there, I’m sure they have a bathroom’. I pointed out that the petrol station was draped in the Union Jack and adjacent to an Orange Lodge which seemed to make his reconsider the wisdom of pulling his southern registered car into the courtyard and idling in it for several minutes looking as he did i.e. bearded, papist and 1970sy.

I resolved to make it to Newry and we whiled away that part of the journey looking at scenes of pastoral hilliness where we reckoned we could afford to buy a rather generously sized house but would have to change our names to Nigel Patterson and Arlene Dobson (which I quite liked).

The rest of the journey was relatively uneventful and we made it back to Dublin before nightfall where we spent the evening watching Charlie & the Chocolate Factory followed by Tallafornia (which we pretend not to like but can’t stop watching).

Today turned out to be the first day of spring and the whole lack of hangover thing opened up to us an entire world of early morning (i.e. pre-noon) possibility. We decided to go running. Well, Mr Oh went running and I cycled alongside, jollying him along with motivational observances like ‘gosh, this is easy’ and ‘you look very pale in the sunlight’. He refrained from pushing me off my bike which I thought was damn decent of him but suspect this would not have been the case were I not pregnant.

As we arrived back to our little house, the woman in the flower shop across the street shouted out ‘Mr Oh, I have your plate and your cutlery’....that’s when I realised that there were some things about my betrothed that I would never learn.

Actually, that’s not true. The flower shop woman had helped Mr Oh with the roses on the day he proposed, even though he hadn’t bought them from her but from another flower seller on Grafton Street - who happened to be her sister in law bizarrely enough. So anyway, she helped him make the roses into a nice bouquet so he - just after we got engaged - ran across the road with breakfast for her which is why we now live in an Irish episode of Coronation Street. They’re great friends.

I don’t mind Mr Oh’s mysterious visits to the florist as he inevitably returns with pretty things for me...see below.