John Arnold: I have my Covid birth certificate thingamajig and I’m mad for road

John Arnold reflects on the arrival of his digital Covid cert
John Arnold: I have my Covid birth certificate thingamajig and I’m mad for road

John Arnold said he has no longing to travel... as home is where the heart is. Picture: Stock

WELL to tell ye the truth I was all excited when on the ‘Inbox’ on my computer last night didn’t I get the covid birth certificate thingamajig. I have a passport and a driving licence with decades and before now they were the only two documents which proved who I am. Now I know who I am and most others do too, but in case I ever meet a stranger that I know but he or she doesn’t know me well then either of those things can verify my identity. My picture is on both though my driver’s licence is in Irish. That did create a problem one day in December about ten years ago in Toulouse Railway station. I had flown by plane - the only really good way to fly, from Cork to Dublin by Aer-Aran and then by Ryanair to Stanstead in London and then by British Air to Toulouse. My plan was then to get a train down to Lourdes which is where I was going when I first left home the evening before.

Being a cute Corkonian I had everything pre-booked; flights, transfers and the train ticket to Lourdes. Well everything was going swimmingly well til I got the bus from the Airport to the Train Station in Toulouse. I was in plenty time, arriving there about 11 o clock in the morning and my train to Lourdes wasn’t going til ten past twelve, just after the Angelus. I was looking up at the Arrivals and Departures for the trains and faith saw no sign of my one. I checked my ticket and I was correct ‘Departing Gare Toulouse at 12.10’ but why wasn’t it on the yoke telling the times of the outgoing trains? I went to the Bureau de Information and after a lot of ‘Merci’ and so on and so forth I gathered that due to some technical fault ‘my’ train which was coming from Biarritz or Cannes or somewhere had broken down and the next train to Lourdes wasn’t until five o clock in the evening!

Well I thought about walking or thumbing until I realised ‘twas about 110 miles! Nothing for it only wait and change my ticket -that’s when the fun and ruaile-buaile started! I went to the ticket office and as best I could explained my predicament and said I wanted to swop this ticket for the five o clock train to Lourdes. ‘C’est no problemo’ the girl behind the desk said but she wanted Documentation of Identification before completing the transaction. Glad to see my ticketing malaise was being solved I pulled out both my passport and driving licence and offered her both. The picture on both was the same but she called over a Gendarme to look at the documents and look at me! Then they shook their heads and looked at me once more. I’d say they thought I was some kind of a split personality spy with two different names. I was thinking to myself that explaining that Gaeilge or Irish was my native language wouldn’t really get me out of the diplomatic bother. Singing a verse or two of the ‘Puc Ar Buile’ also sprang to my mind as a kind of example of my native culture but I dismissed that thought also.

Eventually the girl behind the desk and the French Garda had a conflab and help was summoned. From a back office came forth a girl who smiled at me every now and then as the pair explained my dual nationality to her. Luckily for me she’d worked in London and had holidayed in Ireland and was aware of our One Nation Two Languages situation. She spoke English fluently and before I left Toulouse she had a cúpla focail also. I got me ticket, enjoyed a three hour tour of Toulouse and got the train that evening. All’s well that ends well.

So when I got the paperwork, well computer paper work, just last night I was delighted and mad for road. I know now having got the two jabs or injections as I call them they say I can eat and drink indoors as much as I like. But sure as a teetotaller on a diet that prospect doesn’t excite me at all!

Then on the news I heard about yer man Richard Branson and the thing that’s all the new rage - Space Travel. Apparently Branson and Elon Musk and a boyo called Jeff Bezos are all in a race to see who can get a Holiday Villa in Space the quickest . They’re in a woeful rush, a bit like at the bumpers in Perks at Youghal long ago when the ‘round’ would end and the passengers would be getting out there’d be a mad scramble to get into the bumpers for the next spin! In all fairness I don’t know if this trio are The Three Wise Men, Three Musketeers or The Three Stooges! Now they are multi billionaires and fair play to them they don’t seem to have robbed or stolen their immense wealth. But have they more money than sense? ‘Tis said that fools and their money are soon parted but they seem to have bottomless bank accounts and seem intent on spending a lot of cash as ‘Spacers’..

Would I fly to space for a holiday or just on a day off? Somehow I doubt it. I remember after the Leaving Cert I got a job as a World Book Encyclopaedia Salesman. Well I did an interview anyway in a Cork hotel for the job and was accepted. Then a few weeks later I got Royal Mail stamped letter telling me I’d have to go to London for training. Sure I’d only been to Dublin a handful of times and I balked at the idea of ‘foreign travel’ to London and never did get to knock on any doors selling books! I was on a plane as a 14 year old child when I went to Lourdes with Mam but have no real memories of that trip.

My first major ‘foreign’ trip that I recall was in the late 70’s when a crowd of us from Macra na Feirme went by boat one December over to Smithfield Show in London. I’m not certain but it may have been the Innisfallen we travelled on. We had a great time over but the return trip was woeful. We were sailing by night and got tossed and tumbled by a savage sea storm. Talk about sea sickness! Unfortunately before we boarded the ship, at Swansea I think, I was after a big feed - the works, starter, soup, main course with chips, mushrooms and onions and ice cream, jelly and strawberries after that. Well if there are three different kinds of vomiting and six versions of diarrhoea I got them all that night and the following morning! Never since was I on a boat for longer than maybe half an hour.

Anyhow I’m after getting the Anastasia Zwelleger vaccine twice and whilst I felt lousy after the initial dose the second one was a doddle. It does give a sense of security after all we’ve been through but I’ve no longing to travel to Outer Space - they say it’s the Last Frontier. Not for me - I’ve not been to the Aran Islands or the Giant Causeway or Benbulben or the Cooley peninsula or the Green Glens of Antrim yet.

Travel is great, they say it broadens the mind but home is where the heart is.

You can venture to Rome, Milan or Capri

Some journey to Africa, Poland and Francs

When all’s said and done be certain to chance

Home to old Erin and our own Bartlemy.

On Ciarán Mac Mathunas Sunday morning Radio Programme on RTÉ years back Sean Mac Reamoinn oft quoted a poem ‘The Two Travellers’ by CJ Boland,

“All over the world”, the traveller said,

“In my peregrination’s I’ve been;

And there’s nothing remarkable, living or dead,

But these eyes of mine have seen.

From the land of the ape and the marmoset,

To the tents of the Fellaheen”

Said the other, “ I’ll lay you an even bet

You were never in Knockeen.”

Let me paraphrase a few lines of the poem;

“And I wouldn’t much care for Sierra Leone,

If I hadn’t been in Bartlemy Hall,

And the man that was never in Garryantaggart

Shouldn’t say he had travelled at all”

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