Monday, May 26, 2014

How do I get back to Mullingar?

“Miss, are you going to see One Direction at the weekend?”
“Of course. I’m bringing my niece.”
That was the conversation that I had with my class last week, before their three sell-out concerts in Croke Park. It was the truth; I just left out the fact that my niece is 27 years old and really didn’t need me to bring her! What can I say? I’m not a snob about my music. I like and listen to a wide range of tunes, including some of One Direction’s. Also the fact that Niall is a local Mullingar lad gives us an unmerited sense of pride.

The last time I got the opportunity to see some Westmeath men play in Croke Park was back in 2004, when we won the Leinster Football Final. I haven’t been there since. So I have to grab every opportunity, however slim.

That’s the reason why myself, my sister and her daughter were sitting in the largest crèche in Ireland on Friday evening. We were the only group that didn’t have at least one under 10 girlie in tow. But we didn’t let that phase us. We sang, clapped and cheered along with the rest of them.
We did draw the line at the ear-piercing screams every time Niall appeared on the screen!
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Then came time to get out and get home. It must have been a nightmare for the organisers. They would be used to holding music concerts that are normally attended by adults, yet this audience of 80,000 consisted of at least 75% under 10's. Hats off to the ground staff, they were excellent. They got the crowd out in an orderly fashion, no panic, no pushing.
 An announcement came over the system
“Will you please follow the instructions of the stewards when you exit the stadium. Even if you have been here before and normally depart in a certain direction, please follow their instructions.”
Dilema #1
So it was that when we exited we were all herded to the left, despite the fact that Roxy was parked in Clonliffe College which was just a few 100 metres to the RIGHT! Being placid people, we followed like sheep. We soon realised that there was no turning back. We stopped and spoke to a nice steward (of which there were plenty). When we explained where we wanted to go, he shook his head and said that he was sorry but we would have to walk around, taking about 45 minutes.
“What?” we exclaimed “But we have a pregnant woman with us!”
“Well you can try going back, but I can’t see them letting you through.”
“Right Lauren,” I announced. “If you’re asked, you’re seven and a half months pregnant, not five.  And if they insist on us walking the full way around, pretend to burst into tears!”
“What do you mean “pretend”? I will burst out crying!”
It worked! We swam against the tide and arrived back at Roxy in no time.
Dilema #2
The whole college campus, including the sports fields, was used for parking. There were thousands of cars there, and of course we had been directed all around the area and eventually did the circuit and were parked at the back of the college building which was near the entrance/exit.
But if we did the correct thing, we would have had to drive back around the campus, wait for all the other cars to filter out in front of us, which would have taken at least three hours. I saw a car turn in the opposite direction, drive down a little lawn embankment, across a kerb and hey presto! It was on a side road heading straight for the exit!
Okay, Roxy. Let’s see what you’re made of!”
Off we sped, held our collective breaths……and made it. We were on the home stretch. 
And then we sat….and sat …..and sat. 
Nobody was moving anywhere fast. After twenty minutes we had moved about a metre. To pass the time we were listening to FM 104. It was buzzing all about the concert and getting people’s opinion on it. The presenter suddenly asked
“It seems to be all young people who were at it. If there are any “older” people  who were there, let us know what you thought!”
“Quick Geraldine. Ring them. What else have we to do at the moment?”
Not thinking she would get through Geraldine rang.
 Panic! She got straight through to the researcher. We heard her explain.
“Well, we are a 50 something, a 40 something and a pregnant 20 something stuck in the car-park after the concert.”
“Brilliant. We’ll call you back.”
And that’s how we found ourselves on the national airwaves.
“And where are you trying to get back to?”
“We’re from a little village just outside Mullingar.”
“Mullingar? I suppose you know Niall?” he asked, a little sarcastically.
“Actually I know his mother Maura and his granny,” announced Geraldine proudly.
“Really”, he squealed, suddenly getting more interested.
“And not only that,” says Geraldine, looking over at me. “My sister fancied his dad Bobby, when she was 16!”

Sure by this time we had been exalted to the status of celebrities! We were practically part of the Horan family. We lost the run of ourselves and spilled the beans on how we had exaggerated Lauren’s condition to get back to the car and then we had scooted across a little lawn in order to cut out a few hours queuing.
Then we let out a squeal of delight. We moved…….about three metres.
 Suddenly I saw a guard up ahead directing us out. When the presenter heard this, he warned us
“I hope that guard hasn’t been listening to FM104 and heard about your illegal cross country run!!!”
Shit. I hadn’t thought of that!”
Very sheepishly I wound down the window.
“Where are you heading to?”
“If you go over that way, down the North Circular Road, across….”
“I’m really sorry, but I’m a culchie. I only know the one way home and it’s in that other direction.”
He shook his head ruefully and said
“Okay then.  Go whatever way you know. I was only trying to speed you up.”
So it was that after an hour and a prime time slot on national radio we got to the exit, onto the road and then sped home in no time.
Certainly a night to remember. Though the next time we might take Niall's advice and use the Sligo-Dublin train that goes through Mullingar.


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