Getting used to the journey


WELL TRAVELLED The cliff road to Achill Island.

The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

When I was younger growing up in Breaffy and playing football, I used to always wonder how people from places like Belmullet and Achill managed the amount of long journeys the had to face.
Every once in a while we might have to play a match away to either club and it used to fill us with dread. The thoughts of the journey would dominate our thoughts for days in advance.
The only thought that would brighten it for us was the knowledge that we would definitely be stopping at a shop on the way home. A pound went a long way for a 12-year-old boy back in those days!
Most journeys for us were shorter, whereas for Belmullet and Achill, most away games would involve an hour or more on the road.
If they were playing Davitts in Ballindine, say, they’d only be just past halfway there when the get to Breaffy.
I always remember playing Achill Rovers in an U-18 soccer match for Ballyvary Blue Bombers and they rocked up with just nine players. I wonder how much they must have been dreading having to come all that way to play against a team with two more players. (Except we were very obliging the same evening and had only seven players!)
Of course, now I know the reality of these journeys intimately, settled as I am these days in Achill. And you get used to being in the car. With plenty of practice.
But for the locals it is all they ever know. We’re all products of our environment and if you are from a more remote part of the county, you are immune to the journey. It is part of your life.
Now Frankie, Éamon and Séimí are growing up in Achill and getting used to long spins. You’d have little change from an hour if you’ve to go to Castlebar or Westport. And, believe me, that’s a journey you have to make quite a lot with the kids.
Frankie used to get a bit car sick when she was a baby. Not ideal, but she wasn’t long adjusting. She had to!
Éamon hasn’t been car sick much at all, but the last day we were going to Castlebar he said, ‘But Daddy Casselbah is such a long way away!’. You had better get used to it Éamon, I told him. But he loves it, as does Frankie, because a trip to Castlebar almost always means a trip to Nanny and Granddad and Auntie Ruthie in Breaffy, which always makes their day.
And if they’re very good, they might get a Happy Meal on the way home. NB: eating a Happy Meal in the car on the journey back to Achill can be a very efficient way to get them fed after a long day – and unlike actually going into McDonald’s, they can’t be running all over the place.
Plus, you’re almost in Mulranny by the time they’re finished. You might even get to listen to a podcast uninterrupted.

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.