Solipsism and Me

Idle reports from an idle fellow

A trip to Dublin

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To get to Dublin from here, you can get the airport bus to Heathrow and fly, or the train to Birmingham and fly, or, if like me you think airplanes are to be avoided as far as possible, you can actually take a train to the topmost left hand Corner of Wales, and cross the Irish sea by ferry. So that’s what I did. The Stena Line ferry to Dun Laoghaire leaves at 10 am daily, which means you have to start the night before and spend the night in Holyhead, an experience in itself. Oh yes, indeed. After extensive research with Google Maps (how did we ever manage without Street View?) I selected the “Rockleigh” B&B, over the road from the Ferryport and booked my travel accordingly.

Our journey begins on platform 2 of Oxford Station, at 1306 on Sunday. First stage of the journey is the familiar Oxford to Birmingham run: a bit more than an hour on a good day. The 1306 Cross Country departure from Oxford
Platform 4C for the 1436 from New St to Liverpool via Crewe. At New Street, I discover that there really is a platform 4c tucked away in an obscure corner, from which a little tram shuttles to and forth to Crewe and sometimes even unto Liverpool. It’s raining by the time I find it, but there’s plenty of space, and time to eat a sandwich as we potter off into the unknown.
Through the window, I glimpse this historic signal box, several minutes before we actually roll into Crewe station, which seems to have moved a mile or so further away.
Crewe Station is undergoing renovation and the platforms are thick with scaffolding. Strange stylistic juxtapositions like this will presumably be removed in due course.
It’s a sunny day and the train to Holyhead fills up rapidly with people noisily enjoying the weather and each others’ company — I bury my nose in my laptop occasionally taking peeks out of the window as we leave Chester, and rattle along the North Welsh coast, passing through exotically named resorts like Prestatyn and Colwyn Bay, down to Bangor where everyone gets off and the train takes a sharp right turn over the Menai bridge onto Anglesey. For the last part of the journey the train is suddenly eerily empty, as if we have left civilisation behind and are headed for Injun territory. But stepping out of the station one is confronted by this comfortingly solid monument to the Victorian engineering which brought the railway thus far and thus developed an obscure Welsh creek into the bustling ferry port it now is. (Well, maybe “bustling” is a slight over statement)

Commemorative clock tower between Holyhead railway station and ferry port marking the opening of the new harbour extension by the Prince of Wales in 1880

(See further)

It is a mere five minutes walk from here to “Rockleigh” where I deposit my bag. The sun is still shining as I then set out to savour whatever excitement Holyhead has to offer on a Saturday night, or at least get some dinner.

The gilded youth of Holyhead apparently congregates at the base of this monument overlooking the port to get drunk and shout a lot. It's an exciting place.

The Celtic Gateway bridge is a futuristic stainless steel construction linking the ferry port with the town centre. It's so new there's a website about its construction.


(read all about the bridge)

Downtown, there appears to be only one restaurant open this evening (it gets very busy later, I was told): it’s called Mala’s Bistro, and is noted for its Thai/Welsh fusion cooking. I try out the Mushrooms Napolitana (“sauteed mushrooms with sweet tomato, creamy garlic, and herb cheese, finished with melted cheddar served on a bed of salad”) followed by sea bass in an equally cheesy sauce with my choice of potatos, rice, pasta, or salad. Reassuringly, I learn from their website, they have won a hygiene award even if recognition for their exotic menu remains elusive… I retire to Mrs Bennett’s front parlour and avail myself of her free wifi for an hour or two.

Next morning sees me up and enjoying the first of what turns out to be a series of traditional British breakfasts.

Would you like brown toast or white with that?

View from the back end of the High Speed Ship. There are two small areas open to the sea air on this ferry: one for smokers, and one not. No seats on deck: you're meant to stay indoors.

And thus onto the HSS (High Speed Ship) of the Stena Line, which ferry has definitely gone up in the world since I last used it, back in the 1990s. There is wifi for one thing, and there are loads of comfy places to sit, and the captain has just made a welcome onboard announcement apparently scripted by the same people who script those announcements for airoplanes. He then hands over to a an audio recording for the security briefing rather than a video, which similarly seems to come from the same robot as the one who works for Virgin Trains. In this case the robot gets to talk about exciting things like the ship’s whistle though. On the other hand, the ferry is still full of excited kids rushing around and slightly frayed parents. Last time I took this ferry someone actually fell off it, and it was delayed for hours as a result. No chance of that this time: access to the outside deck is strictly limited.

Some aspects of sea crossings will never change

Is it a ship? is it a disco? No idea, but it's plenty spacious.

Walking off a ferryboat is a lot easier than walking off an airplane, and the DART train to Dublin Connolly is about five minutes walk across the road. I then have to wait for about ten minutes before the next suburban train out to Drumcondra rolls in.

The 1250 train for Maynooth arrives at Dublin Connolly

Nice to know you can win an award for being tidy. It didn't look particularly tidy to me, but then I haven't seen what it was like before.

All the way to Drumcondra I glimpse through the train window people wearing blue football shirts — and when I get out of the station to the street I am immediately set upon by touts with the offer of tickets for the match. I sense somehow that “What match?” would not be the right answer, so protest that I am actually looking for the bus to Ballymun which fortunately draws up at this point. Why am in Drumcondra? Because that is the nearest suburban train station to the hotel where the ISO meeting I am headed for is happening. And it’s not actually very near. And wherefore to Ballymun? Because Google maps is a bit vague about the exact location of this hotel (the Crowne Plaza, Northwood Park) — or rather it offers a number of possible locations, one of which is close to the bus terminal in Ballymun, noted I discover for its tidiness, but not (alas) its hotels. In fact there is only one and it’s not the one I am looking for. Curse you, Ken Google..
In retrospect, there was absolutely no reason for me to get lost: if I’d gone to the right web page I’d have found the right pointer to Google Maps and wouldn’t have wandered round in circles for half an hour before finally finding my way into the wrong end of Northwood Park. But then I wouldn’t have seen the burnt out (but still inhabited) tower blocks down at the untidy end of Ballymun, nor been misdirected twice to the only hotel in the vicinity by the local peasantry, on this implausibly sunny afternoon. Nor would I have had the very long tedious walk through Northwood Park’s nice new Development Zone.

Northwood Park contains a lot of undistinguished modern housing development and office blocks, plus something called 'Santry Demesne' which is all that's left of what must have a huge country house: it boasts a park containing some rather fine old trees, and a walled garden (actually just some walls -- no garden inside them)

Welcoming speech on the ground floor of the office block where the NSAI hangs out. Yes, that is Alan Melby on the right.

The NSAI staff in their nice green t-shirts.

Why am I here? Because ISO TC37/SC4 is meeting here, and Laurent has requested my presence in order to beat the drum for Sebastian’s hard work on making it possible to draft ISO standards documents in TEI rather than boring old Word. The meeting is hosted by the National Standards Agency of Ireland. They give us all a nice bag containing amongst other things a sample copy of one of their publications: the definitive standard defining how anything which professes to be Irish Coffee should be prepared (Irish Standard I.S. 417 (1988) … I suppose this is meant to be serious. Hmmm.

Laurent enthuses TC37/SC4 with the joys of Oxygen.

View from NSAI offices

Kara Warburton welcomes us to take a few drinks at the end of the first day's meeting

Kiyong and friends show that ISO geeks also know how to party

After two days of meetings, at each of which I found myself being volunteered to do more work, I judged it appropriate to make a rapid exit.

The final breakfast at the Hotel posh. There's never enough time to linger over this sort of thing, sadly.

And this time, I managed to identify the right bus-stop for the bus back to Drumcondra.

The return journey was another beautifully sunny day, with plenty of time to make connexions at Drumcondra, Conolly, and Dun Laoghaire as before. I had an hour to kill at Dun Laoghaire, so went for a pleasant stroll along the front, along with the other retirees enjoying the sunshine.

A very cheerful bit of sea wall near Dun Laoghaire's East Pier. Why? No idea.

View from one side of the overgrown gangplank leading on to the HSS ferry back to Wales...

.... and view from the other side of same. Pillar of salt situation avoided.

That's the Irish Sea getting all churned up down there. I recognise it from Sunday afternoon.

And here we are again in the Holyhead train shed, which seems to be awash with disgruntled people wondering where the train to London is. All that's on offer is the 1536 to Cardiff. Which has only three coaches and is already 45 minutes late. Ah well, it's still a nice day.

Nice wall, at Chester railway station

Everyone, including me, abandons the train to Cardiff at Chester. Two more connexions, at Crewe and Birmingham, and I’m back in Oxford by 2230, and ready for bed. Definitely, this is not the quickest way of getting to Dublin and back, but it’s been a relaxed experience: reasonably comfortable, mostly peaceful, and I got lots of low-key work done. And it only cost 30 quid.
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Written by Lou

August 21, 2010 at 22:52

Posted in Biographical

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