The life coach: overnight to London
Who would make the 12-hour journey from Dublin to London by ferry and coach? The hard-up, the environmentally-conscious, the aerophobic and the contemplative, among others
I don’t know if there is a kind way to describe some of the people in the queue at Busáras, in Dublin, for the 8pm bus to London. I could be mean-spirited and say it feels a bit like The X Factor when they bring back all the awful auditionees for a final second of fame.
In the middle of the waiting room one woman has been talking to fellow passengers nonstop since queues began to form here, at 7pm. She curses from time to time into her mobile phone before resuming conversation with anyone within earshot. Another man wears ear protectors and looks at a map on the wall through an eyeglass while muttering to himself.
There aren’t many families, most people are over 40 and the choice of luggage is more Centra plastic than Louis Vuitton leather. I try not to think of the quote, often misattributed to Margaret Thatcher, that “anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life”.
But that was before climate change, and perhaps Ryanair, made air travel less desirable. Despite the 12 or more hours it will take to get from central Dublin to central London, this bus is pretty much full. As we get ready to leave, people are a lot chattier than they might be on a plane. One person is asking about the likelihood of making a 9am connection; it sparks a conversation between half a dozen other passengers.
A couple approach the coach. “I’m just escorting my wife to the bus. I’m not travelling with her,” says a man carrying a large suitcase. “I wish I could do the same with my one,” replies Richard Flood, one of our two drivers, as he puts on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, closes the door and heads for Dublin Port.
LEAVING DUBLIN ON IRISH FERRIES
As Ulysses pulls out of Dublin Port, Jimmy Delaney, a 42-year-old from Inchicore, orders a pint and stares out of the window, drinking to the last he’ll see of Dublin for a while. He is returning from a five-week break, having left Ireland for what he thought was a holiday with his mother when he was 15. Delaney has lived in Birmingham since then, working as a French polisher, although in recent years work has not been as plentiful as it was.
Delaney rattles the change left in his pocket after a few weeks of heavy drinking back home, staying mostly in hostels. He has a fresh scar on his forehead thanks, he says, to Arthur Guinness. It is more than a decade since he last took the boat; the amount of luggage he has today makes it the most cost-effective way to travel. “It’s hard leaving Ireland. I always hate it. Ireland is the country that made me,” he says. “I’m at a bit of a crossroads in life now. My mother had a stroke four years ago, so I take care of her, everything from paying all the bills to doing the grocery shopping and the washing. I’d make a great housewife to somebody, what? The way I see it, she looked after me when I was younger. It does wear you down. On the whole, I take life as I find it.”
Delaney never married, but he came close on one occasion when he was in a relationship with a girl during his late 20s. “We used to see each other four times a week, and once we went to the same pub on a night when we weren’t meeting each other. She was there with another guy. I think I loved her. She said it was a once-off, but that was the end of it for me. I think I’m a nice fella. I don’t go to nightclubs any more. I like going for a meal.
“Online dating is not for me. You could end up going home with an axe murderer or something. I try not to put too much pressure on myself. There’s always someone out there for everybody. I do think I’d make a great father. [At] home this time, my cousin has two kids, and they were all about their Uncle Jimmy. That’s nice. I have a lot of patience with kids. I suppose it is because I’m just a big kid myself.”