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9
St. Enda Lets Us Off

We began yesterday to try to book a flight on the airline that connects Inisheer with Galway. The plane is very small, and both regular flights were already full. Luckily we were staying in the house of the local agent, and she put us on the list for a possible extra flight.

We were ready to pay whatever it cost to get on the plane, or hang retching the entire boat ride - whatever we had to do to get off the island, we were more than willing to do it.

I forget exactly when, but at some point this day we located St. Enda's well. We saw a boy standing by a huge puddle, and asked him where the thing was.

"It's right here," he said. "It's flooded right now, though. The water's not usually this high."

We climbed on the walls and tried to see the source of the puddle. We couldn't, but we did our best, and felt that St. Enda would be satisfied, and not inhibit our departure.

After breakfast we got news that we had seats on the extra flight at 1:00. I immediately paid for the tickets, and while the agent was running to get my change, Mywatt whispered to me that we didn't know whether the boat was running. The day looked so-so, and we hadn't seen the ocean yet, so Mywatt went down to the island's store to find out.

The agent came back, and as she finished my business a couple came in who visit the island every summer. The man made various jokes about the plane, and how the pilot couldn't aim directly for the runway, but had to fly parallel to it on account of the strong winds. Then, the man said, he'd let go, and the plane would slide sideways and hit the runway. At that point, the story went, the pilot lept from the plane and ran for the lavatory. We all laughed. The man confessed that the part about the lavatory was not true, but I decided not to tell Mywatt the story until after we'd landed in Galway.

As I carried our luggage down the hill, I saw a group of teenagers eyeing me with a strange, uncertain look. I supposed they were here for the summer, studying Irish. "Excuse me," one girl said, "are you leaving the island today?"

"I hope so," I replied.

"By boat or by plane?"

"By plane. They put in an extra flight. Are you from the Irish School?"

"Yeah, and there are 124 of us, all stuck here, with no way to get off."

"Wow. And are you all from the same place?"

"No, we come from all over Ireland, but now we can't get home."

They told me there was definitely no boat that day, and I could see the whitecaps from where I stood. Mywatt got the same news at the store, where one of the boat crew was languishing, because he was stranded, too. I later figured that the kids asked me how I was getting away because they hoped I had my own boat, or some other connection, and that they might have a chance with us. We saw each other later on, and one said, "Enjoy civilization," and another, "Tell my mom and dad I'm okay."

At the little terminal building by the airstrip we counted 11 people - and knew there were only 9 seats. "We have got to be aggressive about keeping those seats," Mywatt told me, and went outside to watch how the plane would land. The wind was blowing pretty strongly in a direction perpendicular to the airstrip. The agent weighed us all so she could work out an even distribution of weight in the plane.

We sat behind the pilot, just ahead of the wings, so we had a great view. A Dublin woman, who had stayed in our bed and breakfast here on Inisheer, described the plane trip "like riding a motorbike in the sky," and I found that it was a good description. The plane slid back and forth across the runway, but when we got airborne, it evened out. Mywatt gripped my hand. I noticed that the pilot's headgear was a bit tatty, and patched up with plastic strips, which struck me as a homey touch. The plane felt perfectly safe and reliable to me, and the pilot seemed well in control. The view was very nice, since we were about the level of a high building. For the entire 15-minute flight, the noise of the engines made conversation impossible, but the moment we landed and the noise level dropped, the conversation rose in an exuberant flood of relief. We thanked the pilot for coming to get us, and then ran off to catch a bus to Galway, where we found a good pub, then sat in the park at the central square for a bit, until the bus to Spiddal left.

We were so glad to be back in Spiddal once again, back in our car, back in civilization, back where more things are possible...

Mywatt said, "I know that Ireland is an island, but it's so big... on Inisheer you really feel that you're on an island."

"Tonight," I said, "let's find a nice hotel, and take long baths, then go for steak dinners."

"Maybe we can see a movie or a play," she suggested.

"Good idea."

We took off on an inland route for Limerick. It is at Limerick that the Shannon River opens up in a grand way just before it joins the Atlantic Ocean, and the area is really beautiful. Mywatt declared that the next time we came to Ireland we should take a boat trip down the Shannon: it runs from somewhere near the north-south border, opens into great loughs and closes again, cutting through what is roughly the middle of the country, then finishing grandly at the Atlantic Ocean.

As we got closer and closer to Limerick, we saw quite a few bed and breakfasts, and - after Shannon Airport - dozens of hotels. We tried one hotel, but it cost 48 pounds a night - almost 100 Italian pounds (100,000 lira), and it was not so incredibly lovely. We stayed instead in a beautiful Georgian house that is now a bed and breakfast: a very clean and attractive place.

We put on our nicest clothes and went into Limerick for a steak dinner. The food was very good, but the staff seemed fairly confused, which was kind of entertaining. But everything was wonderful after the cultural deprivation of Inisheer. We were, however, too late for the movies, so we went to bed instead.


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