Saturday, November 24, 2007

Been There, Done That.

I've just spend an excellent evening with a good friend and her family (the pretext of which was to celebrate the 2nd birthday of her daughter). I love this house (and the people in it). My first memory of the house was when I woke up in it one morning some time back in my college years with very little recollection of having got there. This established something of a pattern for many occasions to come.

The conversation turned, as it inevitably does these days, to the upcoming trip. I'm trying my very best not to be a bore on the matter. After all, there are so many other things that I can be a bore on, and besides, the idea of this blog was that anyone who was interested could come and see how we were getting on. No need for me to personally inflict the details on captive audiences.

But in this house, travel is nothing new. Both my friend (hi Aoife!) and her two brothers have covered a lot of terrain between them, and this evening I got an insight as to why. 1950 was proclaimed by pope Pius XII to be a Holy Year. Aoife's father was 17 that year, and being an Irish Catholic - and wearing a pioneer pin at that - he decided to travel to Rome, along with a 16-year-old school friend, during the 3-month school summer holidays. On bicycle.

I've never been to 1950s Cork. I've never been to 1950s anywhere in fact. But I can just about picture this man's parents' reaction to his plans. They thought he was start raving mad. Nowadays there is a direct Cork-Rome flight that takes about 2.5 hours to cross the two bodies of water and one major mountain range that lie between. Back then, there wasn't even an airport in Cork. The route was pretty much like this, just less direct. About 2600 kilometers. These two boys got up on their High Nellys and took off with no money in their pockets!!!

A High Nelly, for those who don't come from these parts, is an Irish term for a particular style of bike. Here's an example I found:

No gears or alloy wheels here.

They camped on train tracks, got arrested by the Italian army on suspicion of arms importation, broke their pioneer pledges on two bottles of alter wine provided by a Italian parish priest in lieu of food and were presented with medals bearing Stalin's profile by an unknown, presumeably ex-partisan, peasant. There is, I'm sure of this, a book's worth of anecdotes on this trip alone.

I had barely caught my breath after learning all this, when I found out that the family penchant for travel was inherited from both sides of the family. In 1954, Aoife's mother and another female friend from Cork left Ireland to go hitch-hiking around Spain, travelling on the Mauritania II to get there, and eventually making their way as far as Morocco. Two Irish girls on their own in 1954 Morocco!!

Who do we think we are kidding with our little squirt around the globe?


Simon Moore said...

Has Aoife's mother sold the film and book rights to her road trip? What a fantastic story. It's one I can see up on the big screen. Dreary, rainy 1950s Ireland in B&W contrasting nicely with the technicolour world of post-war Lamberetta-festooned dolce vita di Italia - coupled with an exotic tinge of Arabian naughtiness up in Atlases.

"What's that strange smellin' ciggie you're smoking there, Aoife?"
"Ah, it's um... um.... sorry you were saying?" etc..

Brendan Lawlor said...

Well, the Italian trip was Aoife's dad, so I guess he'd have first dibs on the rights. But it would make a terrific book (and yeah, why not, film). The handful of anecdotes I was given were just the tip of the iceberg, I suspect.

Simon Moore said...

And I am sure the parents sanitised them for the long-term psychological benefit of the kids.

Fancy giving up the glamorous world of IT for a stab at film producing?

Brendan Lawlor said...

Ah Simon. You have no idea how long I've been waiting for somebody to propose something like that to me. When do I start?