The bus tour

The nice Polish woman selling the tickets asked us if we’d come far.

‘Just down from Belfast.’

She smiled to reassure us that we’d come to the right place, rather than falling for the seductive charms of any of the vastly inferior rival tour bus operators. I relaxed a little.

‘How long are you here for?’

‘We’re going home later today.’

This answer seemed to encourage her to tell us about the merits of the 48 hour bus ticket. I listened patiently as she listed all the things it would allow us to do in Dublin tonight. When we wouldn’t be in Dublin.

For a moment I wondered if I should change our departure plans, just so her labour wouldn’t be wasted.

Instead I opted for the 24 hour ticket. In truth all I really wanted was a two hour ticket but that didn’t seem to be on offer today.

Then she asked if we preferred to go on the red line or the blue line.

Huh?

My wife stepped in at this point to take charge. She often does this just at the point when my general social idiocy is about to be exposed. She’s good that way.

Then I paid. I’m originally from Ballymena and as I handed over the money the old Jimmy Young joke was in my mind. ‘I only want a ride on the bus, not to buy the whole thing.’

I didn’t say it though. I’m not sure the charms of Jimmy Young ever made it as far as Poland.

‘The 24 hour ticket will be valid until this time tomorrow,’ the woman told me helpfully.

‘And your time starts now,’ I think she said. At this point I’m imagining the Countdown clock in my head.

We headed to the top deck of the tour bus. After our walking odyssey the day before, carrying a four-year-old around the tourist attractions of the city, I was looking forward to something a little more sedate. At least we would be sitting down.

But seeing that the only available seats were at the back of the bus, my son now decided that he wanted to sit at the front. This immediately thrust him into bad form and was a wound that festered and spouted yucky hissing puss throughout the trip.

I don’t usually give advice but if you are looking for a simple way to see all of Dublin’s rich and varied selection of roadworks then the bus tour is surely the best way to do it.

Also it’s worth going onto the top deck because you are able to see so much more of the top deck of all the other tour busies.

My main problem with any form of tourist attraction is my inability to retain a lot of the information as it is relayed to me. I decide I’m going to try really hard to concentrate this time. I’m not going to let my mind wander.

The bus pulls out and a recorded voice begins the commentary.

‘If you look to your left you will see a magnificent building with a green dome….dah di dah, la, la, la, tweety birds.’

Having a recorded rather than a live guide leads to difficulties with co-ordination. Often the architectural wonder or historical artefact is nowhere to be seen when we are being told about it.

We are informed at one point that there is a statue of Oscar Wilde on our left but when I turn all that is there is a Lidl.

Between the bouts of commentary Bob Marley tracks are played to us. I didn’t even realise Bob Marley was from Dublin. At least I’ve learnt one thing today.

All the time my son is sitting on mummy’s lap seething that we can’t sit at the front of the bus. Of course he has decided this is my fault and scowls at me each time I smile.

Then he tells me he hates the bus and wants to go back to the wax museum. This is the same wax museum that I carried him from kicking and screaming yesterday. Yesterday when he spent hours asking me when we were going on the bus.

A number of passengers get off at the Guinness factory, no doubt attracted be the offer of a free pint of stout.

I spot a free seat at the front and make a dash for it, knocking German tourists flying like skittles.

Mummy carries our boy forward and he sits in my lap, a brilliant panoramic view of the Georgian area of Dublin now visible to us.

I bask in the glory of being a good daddy, not allowing any circumstance or German tourist to stand in the way of what my son wants.

But I need my accomplishment to be validated. To have my son acknowledge what I’ve done.

‘Hey buddy, this is much better now, isn’t it? We can see everything up at the front.’

No answer.

I look down and realise he’s asleep in my lap, his face heavy resting against my stomach.

And so it remains for the rest of the tour.

I don’t know of any city quite like Dublin. Any that is so full of stories, so immersed in its own sense of history.

Soon I begin to worry there just aren’t enough streets to accommodate the names of all the writers, revolutionaries and political giants whose accomplishments need to be commemorated.

My son awakens just as we’re disembarking. We dander around for a bit, stopping for a coffee and a chat. But we’re all pretty much spent and soon it’s time to head for home.

As we’re walking back my son spots a couple of living statues. They are dressed as two old men sitting together on stools, painted black, like dirty iron.

My son becomes more animated than he has all day, insisting on dropping coins into their hat to make them bow, until my last reserves of Euros are drained.

He spends so long staring that in the end one of the men holds his hand out. I expect my shy, sensitive son to back away at this point. Instead he steps forward and gives the painted hand a firm and confident high five.

And so it is over. My son walks away beaming. I lift him and he puts his head on my shoulder as we head back to my car. I can tell he is thrilled with his Dublin experience.

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