Okay, let me be the first to say that this was probably a massive mistake – making my way from Dublin to Flanders over land and sea. Twenty-six hours on a coach with perhaps an hour in total to get off and stretch the legs. Let me tell you this, my buttocks now bear the permanent impress of the weave of the bus seat’s upholstery. If I had thought that the English Channel would have offered the reprieve of a boat to walk about on, I was sorely mistaken. We made our passage to Europe under the waves via the leaky Channel Tunnel. Adding to the stress of the journey was the fact that I hadn’t the slightest clue where I was going. Well, not really. I knew that I was headed for Brussels, and from there to the West Flanders town of Kortrijk, but after that I was in the dark, and for all I knew Kortrijk could have been a metropolis. Some lad called Shane, who had flown ahead of me, had my number and the key to my room, but I didn’t know where that room was – yet. All that I could do was promise Annick, the unknown other at the other side of the internet, that “I would be there.”
Ùr-Fhàsaidh (@UrFhasaidh) August 24, 2015
On both sides of the Channel the English and then the French border police made a big show of checking everyone’s passports. Every effort is being made to stop illegals from crossing the borders of Europe at the moment, but no one seemed to notice that my passport was out of date. I shall be kind and suggest that this was simply an oversight on the part of the authorities on account of the massive number of documents they have to check every day and nothing at all to do with me being a white guy. Part of me is very glad that they didn’t notice my dodgy documentation, as those who were caught with similar invalid passports or no passports at all – all curiously Black or Middle Eastern by appearance – were being kept in cages while the police thought about what to do with them next. You may well imagine that I did not much relish the idea of being kept in a cage when I had travelled for so long on a coach with a drunken Kerryman regaling us all with tales of his Gaelic team’s sporting prowess. At length I made it to the student residence in Kortrijk, and my new friends – Shane and Frank – duly introduced me to the delights of Belgian beer at The Canon.