I used to have the reputation of being a bit of a Jonah when it came to travel, especially air travel. Flights would be delayed or cancelled; my luggage would go missing and end up in Dubai instead of Dublin; bad turbulence would be experienced just after the meals had been distributed, which would result in food spilling all over the place and the flight stewards then frantically trying to gather trays in again. On one occasion I had timed my flight to be home in Glasgow to watch the World Cup Final on television, only for the plane to turn around in mid-air and go back to Dublin because of a technical fault, which then resulted in having to change planes and miss the match. On yet another occasion I arrived in Dublin from a Passionist meeting in the Netherlands, intending to celebrate the four o’clock Sunday Mass in Mount Argus, only to realise that, in my rush to get to the airport for my outward journey, I had totally forgotten where I had left my car in the long-term car park. I had to phone back to Mount Argus to ask someone to cover the Mass for me. About two hours later I found the car. On a Mount Argus Parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes, when I was parish priest, we were stranded on the plane on the tarmac for three hours because the air traffic controllers at Dublin Airport had been distracted by a penalty shootout as Ireland played Spain in the 2002 World Cup, and we missed our take-off slot.
These are just a few of my jinxed experiences with air travel. Until now, though, I hadn’t experienced too much trouble with ferry travel, but that all changed last Sunday. As I had mentioned in my Log last week, I had to travel to Dublin in my capacity as Provincial Bursar, to meet with our Provincial Secretary and our Accountant/Auditor to examine and finalise our Charity Accounts for the year gone by. I had chosen to take the car and travel by ferry as it allowed me to attend to some other business on the way. All went well on the journey over. The meetings went well, and I was able to catch up on a friend or two that I hadn’t seen from before lockdown. The last time I was in Dublin was, in fact, January 2020, so the best part of two years had gone by. I also celebrated Mass in Mount Argus Church for the first time since I finished up as parish priest in October 2016, and so I was able to greet parishioners I hadn’t seen for a long time too. I was telling the people of St. Mungo’s this week, on the feast of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, that while our Passionist church and parish in Dublin is named after St. Paul of the Cross, nobody knows it, or calls it by that name. It is only ever referred to as Mount Argus and, under that name, is a very iconic church in the city.
Then came my journey home. I was on the evening ferry and I arrived at the Port of Belfast in good time. I was just beginning to relax in the passenger lounge when we were suddenly called to return to our vehicles, a full hour before departure. My first thought was, great, maybe we’re going to set sail early. I settled myself on the ferry, ready with my book and my nibbles to help pass the time on the crossing but, when it came departure time nothing seemed to be happening. I couldn’t even hear the hum of an engine. Then came the first of many announcements. The crossing was delayed because of a technical fault. Then, engineers are trying to locate the fault. Then, the engineers have located the fault and are trying to fix it. Then, the engineers are still trying to fix it. Finally, the engineers have fixed it and we’ll be setting sail in a while. On eventually arriving at Cairnryan, it was pitch dark and raining. I was trying to drive carefully around the windy roads to Girvan, much to the annoyance of some of the drivers behind me who wanted me to go faster. On reaching Turnberry a sign told me that the road ahead was closed, and I was taken on a huge diversion via the Trump Turnberry Leisure Complex; Culzean Castle, and the electric bray into Ayr, eventually connecting with the A77 again. Twice I had been confused by the diversion signs and taken a wrong turn. I thought I would never get home, and it was almost 1.30 a.m. before I turned into our estate. The last part of the journey was made more pleasant because, having eventually received a decent radio signal, I listened to the latter part of Ian Anderson’s late-night show on BBC Radio Scotland, during which he was paying tribute to Paul Simon, who had just turned 80; and to Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, who had recently passed away – two musicians whom I admired greatly. Still, I was glad to get home and fall into bed, pondering whether the next time I have to travel, should I risk a return to air travel. We will see.
Meanwhile, as ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.