This is being written in advance because we are travelling northwards through France today, from Labenne deep in the south-western department of Landes, up to Ouistreham, to catch the ferry to Portsmouth.
It is twenty-seven years ago today that Herself and I met, and twenty-five years this week since we were married.
When asked where we met, I answer “Aghadoe, Co Kerry”
(The ‘h’ aspirates the ‘g’ giving a placename that sounds like ah-a-doh, not aggadoo!)
“How romantic”, they say.
“Not really”, I think.
We met at the youth hostel; it was desperately overcrowded and you were lucky to get a bunk, latecomers slept on mattresses on the floor. The paper bag of potatoes she was carrying split as she and her friends walked up the stairs. It was an unlikely conversation opener.
That evening, we sat at a table in the lounge area of the hostel – a dozy wasp living out its final hours settled on the spot where my left arm was resting while I tried to get my camera to work.
The sting caused my arm to balloon and necessitated a hospital visit. It meant my friend and I were unable to travel on to Galway as we had planned – we were using an A5 sized map of Ireland in the middle of the youth hostel handbook – we travelled westwards instead with Herself and her companions.
Had the bag not split at that moment, life would have been different, but, then doesn’t life hang always by the slenderest of threads?
A while back, I posted a poem called 1st September 1981, an attempt to capture the moment!
A line of people and a bag of potatoes
and laughter in the queue as we stood
hoping not to get a mattress on the floor.
Bare wooden stairs to even barer dorms
and the bag burst and the potatoes fell
one by one down the steps,
a tattoo giving rhyme to hilarity.
Meeting over spuds the bond was sealed
by a late summer wasp,
putting me in hospital.
Were it not for broken bags and wasp stings
where would we be today?
If it was a bet, I wouldn’t take it.