In all the years traveling back and forth to the States, I have always travelled Aer Lingus. I rarely if ever check the prices as I am always of the opinion, when one can, one should support companies from home. Especially during these times of recession. However, recently, I have noticed that the prices of gas have dropped yet the prices of their flights were rising. So for the first time I looked elsewhere. Now when flying back and forth to Dublin from New York you only have three choices for a direct flight. One is already mentioned, the second is Continental and the third being Delta. Once before whilst on Celtic Thunder duty I was flown Continental. Never again. Small plane from the 80's does not bode well for a relatively tall man. Indeed there is always the option of first class, but as mentioned, I was not paying. Not that I could afford it even if I wasnt. So I swore I would never do it again with them. This time round, I checked Delta, and they came in a couple of hundred dollars cheaper. Needless to say, I thought, lets do it Byrom. I felt guilty for not supporting the national airline of my homeland, but until they learn to be competitive, I need to look elsewhere. Plus, its not like I get anything more for my money that a shamrock on the wing, and trust me, even thats looking a different shade of green these days!
So before I went to the airport, I checked in and choose my seat,which many of you know always ends bad for me. I seem to always go for seats that are in the kindergarden part of the plane, which I never realised existed until my past 8 flights. Im possibly just unlucky, but I always seem to be behind, in front or beside a child. Now again, anyone that knows me, knows I LOVE children.Possibly because I am one at heart, but I get the company of "that" child on the majority of my flights. (I must insert here,that I am not talking of babies,we all know its difficult to control a baby, and I always feel for parents who have a crier.) Im not sure its the child I have a problem with, or the modern thinking parents who feel it will serve the child better not to reprimand him/her and ignore them. Therefore not giving the child pleasure of attention. I know I travelled a lot as a kid and let me tell ya, I dare not budge. Colouring books and crayons were at the ready. There was no game consoles or personal movie systems. Im not sure really what my point is here, but I just find it utterly inconsiderate to other passengers to have to sit through 7 hours of an unhappy child without some attempt to restrain it. I know also that the majority of the comments flying at me from this will be from mothers telling me that one day it will be me and that I should consider them. I do often. I try to keep that in mind, and indeed try to imagine what I would do differently. I have no idea, so please don't go there. Im just venting and possibly, hopefully opening a discussion amongst you all.
Anyway, I digress (as always). So I check in the night before. All grand, aisle seat picked, and am checked in and ready to go. Seats and my knees get to know eachother early on. I take out my noise reducers (which after the last paragraph clearly dont work,I hear you say!!) Pick my movie (We Bought A Zoo......dreadful) and dose off. Only to be woken as I often am by a trolley cart testing the strength of my knee caps! Little or no sleep got and I land in Dublin. First time since April. Flying from 90 degrees everyday to what can best be described as apocalyptic weather is never good for the soul. However I dont know why I was so shocked as I grew up in Ireland and know what the weather is like in July. What is harder to figure out was why I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. When I was met at the arrivals gate by my sister, she burst out laughing and told me she had my coat in the car!
At this point I will say, one should never come to Ireland expecting good weather. We are not a sun destination. We have far more to offer than that. So give us a shot and come visit. I am also thinking that this is why we enjoy a pint so much, as there is nothing better than sitting with great company in an old pub around a fire looking out at the rain. Thats who we are. Its why our country is so green and grown. I wouldn't change it for the world, but its been a while since I went from such heat and sun to the utter extreme's in July! So worth mentioning.
This trip home I flew solo as Dominique doesn't get much time off at work. Days off are a lot less than what workers in Ireland are entitled to. In fact in a recent world survey, Germany and France top the poll of amount of days off, and surprisingly, the US is bottom of the list with an average of 5 days off. Just a useless fact for you! Anyway, I was due to attend my cousins wedding in Monaghan, and as they asked me to sing and that I set them up in the first place, I couldnt let them down. The reception was in the beautiful Castle Leslie, as many of you would have seen as a bonus feature on one of the CT video's.
The party went till the sun came up and I was in bed by 6am!Since this was the first wedding I was attending since my own proposal to Dominique, I was noticing every little detail, and it all started becoming very real, knowing that soon it would be my turn!
The following day I was off to Leitrim to join my school pals as one more of us is taking the plunge, so a good stag was on the cards. There are not many of us left on the shelf so none of us want to miss a stag as there are not many excuses left for us all to leave our wives, girlfriends and children in some case for a weekend with the boys. Needless to say, what goes on stag, stays on stag, so I will end here. However I did wake up the next day in wet clothes from head to toe! Thats all your getting! Next stag is mine and I am scared!
During the following week I spent most of it with my family and catching up with them. Its so nice everytime to go home and have them all around me. Mom's cooking doesnt help with the fitness regime, but when I say she is one of the best cooks ever, I do not lie! Grandma is looking stronger on every visit home and that is purely down to the dedication of my mother to give her the best of everything in her twilight years. It is an incredible task for anyone to take care of a loved one. Be it, elderly, disabled or ill. I have the utmost respect. I've said it before and I'll say it again. My mother has a HUGE heart and wouldn't have it any other way.
On Thursday last, Dominique arrived home in the early hours of the morning. I collected her from the airport, and even still, after nearly five years together, my heart pounds when I see her come through those gates at arrivals. Even after 6/7 hrs in a plane, she looked radiant. We went to her home and had a big Irish breakie with her parents and family then started out in what would be a jam packed visit. As Dominique only got two days off this year and probably wont be home again with me till our wedding day, we needed to do and see a lot! Including friends and family. We visited a number of venues, met the priest and booked the church. Even got an engagement party in there as well. Everyone was so excited to see her, as Im always back! The girls get very excited about the ring, and I got real joy out of the fact they all thought I did very well in picking it!
On Sunday, I was at the airport dropping her back for her return to NY. The weekend was all over in the blink of an eye. I was flying on Monday due to schedules and airline. I felt so bad putting her on a flight alone,but knew I would be seeing her the next day.
When I arrived at the airport early on Monday morning, I realised I forgot to check in on line, and when the lovely girl behind the counter informed me that in order to assign me a seat I would have to pay €40.00 for the pleasure, I laughed. I thought she was joking. Well then she informed me that "flying is a serious business and Delta don't joke", I declined the offer of paying on top of the €800 I had already spent to get a seat. I was confused. Was I going to be sitting in the toilet for the flight? In between two burly men? Standing in the aisle? Amongst the kids (sure why change now)?serving drinks and food to the customers who were smart enough to check in, or wealthy enough to pay at the desk? Or worse yet, down below with the chickens and goats?!?!?
All these things were going through my mind,but my stubborn streak would not give in and I told her I would take my chances. Well when my mom rang as she always does before I board, I told her my dilemma and she assured me I did the right thing and "ya never know, you might get bumped up to first class". I laughed out loud as we all know what my luck is like when flying.
I went to the desk prior to boarding and asked the assistant what do the plebs like me do when waiting to find out our fate for the next 7 hours, and she said all the seats were taken and that I would have to make do with what was left........1ST CLASS! I couldn't believe it. I snatched the ticket and ran to the toilet before she changed her mind. I knew she couldn't come in there! I looked at the ticket and there it was, seat 1E. I couldn't stop smiling. I felt like Charlie did when he opened the chocolate bar and discovered the golden ticket. I was off to Wonka's factory!
I boarded and settled in to my seat. All the time waiting for someone to come up to me and say, excuse me sir, are you having a laugh? This is not your seat. Instead I was greeted with a menu and a glass of champagne. I was living the dream. For the next 7 hours I was that person up there in 1st class that I always wanted to be, yet could never justify spending the cash on. I always thought it was silly money,it is, but after sampling it, I could see what the attraction was. It was the best flight of my life. I will NEVER check in on line when flying Delta again! I felt after all the years of unlucky child roaring, feet in my back, men farting flights I took, God decided, today Paul, it ends. Enjoy, and by God I did. I got some sleep in my fully reclined chair,watched a fantastic movie called "The Best Marigold Hotel", had beautiful food, without the needles in my sandwich and each time I used the toilet, I caught myself smiling in the mirror. Nothing beats winning!!
Anyway, now Im back to reality and expect never to enjoy flying home as much as I did yesterday. As a thank you to Delta, I booked my flight home in August with them and although I know I will not be as lucky as I was this time, I will still smile at the thought someone else is experiencing the trip I did!
For the next two weeks I will be annoying management and agent about getting more dates in the diary for the US, and hopefully even Canada, but what has been explained to me is that few promoters in America will touch me unless I have the support of the local PBS station. Indeed this cant and wont happen till I have something to air for them, so priority at this moment in time is finding the funds and creative team to get one put together. It has always been a dream of mine to get my own PBS special, and hopefully I will. If not, my American dream of touring the states on a regular basis my come to a shuddering end, and I wont let that happen till I have drained every possibility. Life here is great for both myself and Dominique. Much as I miss and yearn for home, my family and friends, this is where I see real things happening for me. For us. I would love nothing more than to spend the next few years here. Starting out married life here, maybe, God willing, having children here. Without putting the cart before the horse of course! Though the stark realism is that a lot of it is out of my hands. The net few months will be critical to both of our American dream. Lets keep the positive thinking going and I will continue to fight the fight and chase the dream. After all, its meant to be......right?