Andrea Mara

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Trains, Trains and (Strangers’) Automobiles

There’s something about the train. This is, granted, mostly if you almost never get the train. I suspect if you get it every day, there are frustrations like crowded platforms and delays and never getting a seat. But for people like me who only get trains every now and then, it’s very much an adventure in people-watching and eavesdropping  – not something you can do as easily when driving a car.

Today’s train-adventure was a trip to Drogheda, for an interview with Gerry Kelly on LMFM radio. It started with a DART trip, during which I was entertained by Alan*, who has just moved from Cork to Rathmines. He wasn’t talking to me directly – the conversation was with a guy on the other end of the phone – but he was right beside me and speaking quite loudly, so I figured he was kind of talking to me too.

Anyway, Alan isn’t mad on the whole office job thing, he told his friend; the 9 to 5 is a bit of a pain. But the girls are great fun – brilliant craic. The guy at the other end of the line – let’s call him Barry – asked a question then. “Yeah, exactly like that, but with big scaldy Dublin accents instead,” Alan replied with a chuckle (not a word I often use, but it was definitely a chuckle). Then he went on to tell Barry about some girls he’s a bit peeved with; Aoife, Aisling and Kara are all a bit painful at the moment. “Like if you were away with Aoife, you’d nearly want to commit,” he said. Murder I guess? I curious, but didn’t feel it appropriate to ask.

“Their house is like a horror show,” he went on. “Like, you should see the shower. But they’re only paying forty quid a week so they can’t complain. When the washing machine broke and they said it to the landlady, she said, ‘I’d love to fix it like, but you’re only paying forty quid a week so I can’t,’ and the girls said that was fair enough like.”

Then a woman, also on her phone, sat between us, and I couldn’t catch all of what Alan was saying anymore. I really wanted to hear more, and when we stopped in Connolly, I was tempted to slow down and keep in step with Alan, but at risk of missing my next train, I had to give up. To Aoife, Aisling, and Kara, I salute you on your cheap rent and wish you washing machine fairies and less fastidious friends.

Next up was an hour-long train journey to Drogheda, with two seats and a table to myself, and nobody had any phone conversations at all, so I had to actually do some work. But then again, how lovely to be able to do some work, or read a book – have I mentioned I love the train?

I arrived in Drogheda at 1:30 and stood outside the station to get a taxi. With none in sight, and the clock ticking towards my radio slot, I asked the man in charge of the station if a taxi was likely to show up.

“If there’s not one here in five minutes,” he said, “I’ll call one for you.” So we gave it five minutes, then he made the call. No answer. He tried another number. An answer this time.

“Thirty to forty minutes?” he said, looking up at me.

“I need to be at the radio station by 2 o’clock!” I said, starting to panic just a tiny bit.

“Right,” he said, “don’t worry, we’ll get something sorted.” He tried another number, and I messaged Louise, my contact in LMFM, with the update.

Then I heard someone calling me from the other side of the car-park – my friend from the station was waving me over.

“Jerry here lives near LMFM – he’s going to give you a lift,” he said, indicating a car that was just pulling out. Not a train station employee or anything, just a man who was getting into his car to go home, and now bringing an unexpected passenger too.

So in I got, messaged Louise to tell her I was on my way, and had a lovely chat with Jerry about driving on the continent (he does so reluctantly, I don’t at all – that may already be apparent), holidays in Spain (his, upcoming) and Italy (mine, upcoming) and the way you can get stopped for all sorts of odd things when you’re driving abroad and it might not be worth it at all (both of us).

He pulled up at LMFM, I thanked him profusely for his kindness and made it in with plenty of time to spare.

As I waited in reception, I chatted to Mary Mulligan, a secondary school principal who retired today after 37 years, and in the five minutes we spent together, we covered half a dozen topics, and she managed to reassure me that I’d get through the teen years if I keep the lines of communication open (a hope I cling on to). To me, there is something endlessly wonderful about the ability of women who are strangers to connect through conversation in extraordinarily short amounts of time together.

The interview was lovely as it always is with Gerry Kelly in LMFM, and then he kindly organised for someone to drive me back to the train station.

“You wrote a book about stalking and you’re taking lifts with not one but two strange men today!” he pointed out as we said goodbye.

“It’ll be in a blog post by tonight,” said Louise.

Or by this afternoon, typing on the train back to Dublin, because unlike driving, you can type when you take the train. Did I mention I love the train?


*Not Alan’s real name, same goes for the girls from the horror-house.





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