Places, — April 25, 2009 21:32 — 0 Comments

Trip to Warrenpoint

When I was about ten, my mother took us on a bus trip to Warrenpoint.  Although Dundalk was only about 12 miles away I had never been to the seaside before and I can remember the excitement of my first sight of the sea at Narrow Water Castle as we approached the town.

The large town square was packed with rows of buses from all over the country and what space was left was taken by a substantial Fair. There were swingboats, chair-o-planes, hobbyhorses, bumping-cars, rifle ranges, coconut shies, hoop-la stalls, fortune-tellers and hucksters of all kinds, selling tickets for Spin the Wheel or other games such as Find the Lady, designed to part the holidaymaker from his and her money.


The place was packed with more people than I had ever seen in my life. They came in all shapes and sizes, in all kind of outfits, speaking in strange accents.  Everybody seemed to be eating and drinking – fish and chips out of newspaper, ice creams, popcorn, candyfloss, toffee apples, sticks of rock, huge yellow and red lollipops.  The crowd surged hither and yon, making it difficult to make way. For a small boy, used to the peace and quiet of a sparsely populated countryside, the place was a turbulent ocean of strange, noisy, boisterous giants, whirling, roaring, clashing machinery, shrieking children, stressed and paranoid parents, shouting showmen and panhandlers of all sorts.


Despite the noise, the press and the bustle, we all enjoyed ourselves. I really liked the hobby horses. There I was, perched on a gleaming gold and crimson charger with flaring nostrils, flying mane and galloping hooves, whirling round and round while pumping up an down and hanging on for dear life to the upright pole which pierced the charger’s back. The bumping-cars were just as good, spinning round the metal deck, being flung in all directions by accidental and deliberate collisions, amid showers of sparks from the contacts on the wire mesh roof and the acrid metallic smell of the electricity.


I did not like the swingboats. After a few swings my stomach seemed to be trying to enter my throat and the nausea was too much to bear so I threw up all over the boat. Luckily for my sister on the other seat this happened when I was on the down swing.


Then I got lost. I don’t know how it happened but it must have been next to impossible for mother to keep us all together and she also had Eileen in a pram. Anyway I found myself alone in the throng. I recognised no one and no one was interested in me. For a while I stood there petrified, too scared to move or ask anyone to help. After a while I decided that I would go to the bus and wait there.


This was a sensible idea but its execution was more difficult than I had imagined. I moved into the rows of buses. Which was ours? They all looked the same. They were all the same shape and colour. There was nothing to distinguish the one we had come in. They were all locked and every destination board said "Private Hire".


I panicked, I was lost for ever, I would never see my Mammy again. I stood there is a red fog for some minutes. Then I figured that it would be sensible to get out of the "bus park" to a more prominent location. I thought it might be best go to the first bus on the first row nearest the Fair and wait. It seemed to me that I was there for ages, buffeted by the surging waves of humanity, feeling emptier by the minute, convinced that my family had already gone home without me.


At last, a shout and a familiar face.  I had been found.


Then a cuff around the ear and home.


… more later …

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