All the bread has gone. And all the peppers. And all the avocados. The shelves are bare. Am listening to some hilarious skits on the radio in Dublin as the country hunkers down for the worst snow storm since 2008 or was it 2004 or maybe it was 1984? I was due to fly out today. Back to Budapest. I had plans.
I could have gone back yesterday, but when I was booking my flight I decided to stay an extra day to catch the sale at Newbridge Silverware. I woke up this morning to 6cm of snow on the car with more coming down. And Newbridge Silverware, like almost every place else in Kildare, was closed or inaccessible or not worth risking a no claims bonus on getting to it. I had a rental car with third party insurance and a deposit of €1500 riding on my credit card. I had to get the car back. I could have extended the contract over the phone for two days but I’d have to go in on Friday to sign a new one. And Friday is when the worst of Storm Emma is to hit.
But there were patches of blue sky and I was hopeful. Around noon, I saw a tweet from RyanAir saying all flights out of Dublin were cancelled. I got online, booked a seat on the next available flight (Sunday), checked in, and as I went to print my boarding pass, the site went down. And it’s been down since.
I set off for the airport to return the car and hoping against hope that RyanAir might relent and the weather gods would cooperate and I might fly after all. My mate MH was heading back to Australia and was on the train over from Westport, so we’d planned to have a drink and a catch-up anyway.
Driving back was the stuff white knuckles are made for. I hadn’t done a great job of defrosting the wipers and the windscreen washer was blocked so for a while there it was like driving behind Venetian blinds. When the trucks let up, I pulled over, and doused the dirt with water. That lasted till I got on the motorway … where there was nowhere to pull over. I must have said five decades of the rosary, answering myself, and praying that I’d get there without a scratch, my deposit intact.
The car safely checked in, I took the shuttle to the airport with two others – both of whom weren’t scheduled to fly till tomorrow but were hoping to get out before the Beast from the East hit. They, too, were going home. And like me, they didn’t make it. At the airport, the expected wait time in the RyanAir queue was up at four hours. When I left two hours later, it ran the full length of the airport. What a nightmare.
In the bar, a bunch of lads from Kerry were getting sozzled. They were to fly to Budapest to go on the razz but they weren’t going anywhere. With no public transport and no way to get back to Kerry, they’d booked themselves into a hotel in Temple Bar (€150 a night) and planned to party. Booking.com was doing a great trade. Yells and screams went up any time someone managed to get a hotel booked. The only ones flying were off to Abu Dhabi. Everyone else was stranded.
Down in arrivals, the TV crew was out. The Irish skiers had arrived back from the Winter Olympics. Am sure they felt right at home. Upstairs in departures, the TV crews were using the milling masses as a backdrop as they commented on the chaos. And it is chaos. All buses stop tonight at 7pm and nothing will run tomorrow. The Luas (tram) will run tomorrow till 2pm. And that’s that. All outpatient appointments in the hospitals have been cancelled for the next two days. Schools and universities are closed till Monday. And employers have been asked to close shop before 2pm tomorrow and send everyone home. Mad.
I’m going to miss the first St David’s Day celebration tomorrow night. And I’m going to miss the Brain Dogs gig on Friday. But at least I’m scheduled to fly on Sunday. And hopefully, by then, the Beast will have passed on through and the runways will have cleared.
I think back to my Alaska days when this sort of snow wouldn’t have caused anyone a second thought. We were used to it. And we were ready. Ireland isn’t. It’s not a time to be homeless. It’s not a time to be scrimping on the heat because you can’t afford the fuel bills (fuel allowance payments have been doubled this week). It’s not a time to be looking for bread because all the shops have sold out. (When did people forget how to bake?)
But I have somewhere to stay. There’s wine in the fridge. And there’s coal for the fire. It’s not Budapest, but it’s a home from home-home. And I’m happy to have it.