Your columnist - Gerry Moran
You don’t feel them coming around. Birthdays, I mean. And it’s faster and faster they’re coming. Gathering speed at the rate of knots. Jesus, you’ve hardly celebrated one when the next one is upon you. Whoa for Godsake. And let me state here and now that I am not one bit happy at the rate at which I am growing old. Older, I should say. Sounds better. Older sounds younger than old! If that’s possible. Anyway, this birthday coming is a biggie. And it doesn’t end with a zero. This birthday, however, is definitely a milestone, mile being the operative word. This birthday, ladies and gentlemen, and a roll of drums here, yours truly is getting the Free Travel. Oh dear! Don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Celebrate or fall into a depression.
Free Travel! I am well and truly old (forget older) now. My taxi driver put it very ‘succinctly’ the other night. ‘Gerry’, he said, ‘I’m f***ed.’ ‘How’s that?’ I enquired. ‘I turned sixty last week.’. ‘I’m turning sixty-six next week’, I informed him. ‘Well you’re rightly f***ed’, he laughed and sped off into the night, leaving me standing in a haze of exhaust fumes. I didn’t sleep well after that encounter. I never sleep well being a part-time insomniac but I almost became full-time that night. But then as I lay there in the bed counting sheep – sheep! Get a grip - who the hell counts sheep these days to get to sleep – apart, maybe, from sheep-farmers and the Lemon Bucket Orkestra (who’ll perform ‘Counting Sheep’ at our Arts Festival) Counting sheep is so passé. Good God, imagine striking up a conversation at a dinner-party with: ‘I was counting sheep the other night when….’ Oh boy, enough to put everyone round the table to sleep. But I’ve digressed, a prerogative perhaps of being in one’s 66th year. What I count when I can’t sleep are my cousins! I swear. I start with my first cousins, then my first cousins once-removed, then my second cousins, then my second cousins once-removed (third cousins?) back then to my first cousins twice-removed, then my second cousins twice-removed and pretty soon I am so utterly confused as to who the hell is who I just close my eyes and fall asleep. Try it. It works (though maybe not if you have some unsavoury cousins) And I’m still digressing! Oh, oh. Senior moment no doubt. I had better get used to them.
Getting back to where I was - as I lay there in bed I thought, or tried to think, of all the positives regarding Free Travel. I could, for instance do what a friend of mine told me her father, a Dub, and his friends do; every Wednesday morning they meet at the railway station, make a spontaneous decision to visit some city or town (Galway or Cork, for instance) find a good pub there, have several pints and return home, nicely oiled, and nicely pleased at having utilised their travel passes. I could, of course, make a cultural excursion to the Capital, visit the National Gallery (have a look at Henry’s portrait) I could have ‘breakfast at eleven and a stroll through Stephen’s Green’ then pop into the National Concert Hall for a lunch-time concert. I could even take a gander at the giraffes in the Zoo. Or I might go west (and rustle cattle in Connemara – sheep more likely but we’ve enough of them) Hell, I could even grab my towel and togs and go to Tramore. And suddenly having the free travel didn’t seem so dark and depressing, though my chances of travelling Route 66, at 66, on a Harley (an old hippy aspiration) are diminishing. But not extinguished. Hope springs eternal – it had better as some of the body’s ‘springs’ are not as coiled, or as oiled, as they used to be.
And so, this is a significant, very significant, birthday in the scheme, the travel scheme, of things. And if you do spot me strolling to the railway station some morning soon you’ll know where I’m off to – even though I mightn’t! But should you see me chugging around town in the Kilkenny City Tourist Train, smiling and waving at folks – call the wife immediately. I’ve definitely taken the wrong train, taken leave of my senses even. Meanwhile, so what if it’s all downhill from here on in, thanks to my travel pass I’m going to enjoy the ride!