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- Eurovision in a Cowshed
- The Boll Weevil 3: On the Waterfront
- A Year in Brocante 11: An Easter Egg
- A Year in Brocante 10: Upscaling and Hacking
- Kevin Pearce
- The Bol Weavil and the Lightning Bug 2: On the Ground
- The Boll Weevil and the Lightning Bug 1: A Home in Ireland
- Love In The Air
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I had forgotten to bring my passport when we boogied off down to Spain from Beziers in the south of France last week. Turned around after lunch in Figures and drove straight back up to the Swiss border to change cotton dresses for cashmere sweaters, flip-flops for boots when we learned the funeral we durst attend in Cork was taking place next day. Home at midnight, we unpacked and repacked – carefully ensuring the green leather passport holder was in my bag – and got up at 4.30 for a 7.30 am flight to Zurich-Dublin.
As Himself checked us in at Geneva, I put the familiar, soft-rubbed leather sleeve on the counter…..it felt very, kind of….limp. There was no passport inside. I had my Irish driving licence, a resident’s season ticket for our local beach (out of date) and membership cards for Cork City and County libraries (even more out of date.) I hate to spoil a good story with mere facts, but Himself also had a scan of my passport on his laptop. We waved the machine, the driving licence and the St Jo Plage card around a bit, and they let us through to the boarding gate.
I was toting a carry-on (Longchamps, regulation size) a handbag (ditto, of the long-handled variety) and an insulated bag of chocolate bunnies. Before leaving, I asked my sister on the ‘phone if she’d like me to bring her anything from France and distinctly heard her say “a lint bunny,” so despite the unearthly hour – 2.00am –I went out the buanderie, collected the lint from the filter of the tumble dryer and packed it, with a felting needle and a rabbit shaped cookie cutter, to make her a needle-felt lint bunny. Then, passing the airport shops, it occurred to me that maybe she meant a “Lindt bunny”….which is chocolate. So I bought one each for the family and carefully carried them in a padded bag (Aer Lingus, freebie) so they wouldn’t lose their heads.
At the boarding gate a jobsworth man noted that I had 3 bags instead of the regulation one and confiscated the carry-on, to go through to Dublin in the hold. There was such a cafuffle as I wrestled the bunnies from him saying they needed to be hand-carried, that they forgot to ask me for i.d. At Zurich passport control, I realized the beach pass and driving licence were in transit in the carry-on and all I was left with were the library cards. I was allowed through passport control, but at the boarding gate, a very glamorous young black woman asked for my passport. I told her the story and she said I must have a letter from the police…..no police we said, we need to get on this flight, leaving, er….now. First she shook her gleaming head “Have you got ANY form of identification?” she asked. I produced my “Leabharlann Chontae Corcaighe” and “Leabharlann Cathrach Corcaighe” reader’s cards, she flicked them and said “Go ahead.” They don’t have photo i.d. (they are from a previous century) and are written in Irish, but still, they did the trick. Thank you, thank you, dear Liam Roynane, City Librarian with whom this Belle toiled when you were a mere callow (albeit eminently fanciable) youth.
At Dublin airport passport control, I said “Howrya” to the immigration official, and he allowed me through without a quibble. When I enquired how I’d get out of the country again, he said “You’ll be grand.” In Cork, I rang the Passport Office, explained that I wanted to travel back to France via Switzerland (non EU) from Dublin (non Schengen) today and they said that with the Easter holiday, there wasn’t a chance they’d get an interim document to me in that time. But, they implied, I’d be grand.
The guy at the Swiss check-in desk at Dublin wasn’t so casual. Sure, I’d be grand, but they mightn’t, as if I travelled on their airline to Switzerland without official documentation, I could be sent back to Ireland and the company would have to pay my fare and would be fined for being naughty and letting people into the land of cuckoo clocks and Toblerones without a valid passport. The check-in guy passed me, and the next in line in the queue, two greyhounds in large wooden crates, on to the higher echelons. At that desk, there was much shaking of heads, but we were lucky. Roger was on duty. Roger quizzed me, perused the St Jo Plage season ticket (proof of local residence) and a subscription copy of the New Yorker magazine which we’d taken from the post box before leaving home and never got round to opening; examined the print-out of my passport which my dear brother-in-law had made, checked our French and Swiss bank cards and lifted the phone. Then, reasonably, respectfully and with a perfect grasp of the situation and the seachange – akin to Chinese whispers – stories suffer when crossing from an island to a continental mass with a different language and a different culture (one that doesn’t run on “you’ll be grand) he talked to the highest echelons in Swiss immigration control, got me a name and number and we were through.
At Zurich they couldn’t believe the tale. No such thing had ever happened in the history of the Swiss state. A blonde lady said she’d call a colleague. I was very glad I didn’t have a tattoo on my hand reading “HATE” or “SUBVERSION” but I was very glad I did have a brass neck. A six-foot policeman in a pair of heavy black leather boots, a gold earring in his ear and a gun strapped to his thigh came out and did a bit of Swiss German glowering. Then he went into the privacy of his own office and did something private with my photocopy, my beach card and my driving licence and his computer. Then he came out and escorted us through immigration control. I love Swiss Germans. Can’t talk to them mind – but they’re pussycats, even with guns and gold earrings.
As we left Zurich, it was snowing. This morning we were on the road at dawn, before the sun rose over the Galtees. It did not dance, but now it sets, pink and gentle, behind the Bauges. We may not have had the required documentation, but we are home safe, because we have the right technology, the right cards in our pockets, a shine on our shoes, a gloss on our blás. As I lounged in an airport lounge reading a book of poetry, waiting for my fate to be decided, knowing I’d be grand, I thought of the day we crossed by foot from Tijuana back into California, with barely a nod of acknowledgement, of those who stand behind the rails, fingers curled through wire, anxious and aching with envy, unable to cross the divide.
”They’re flying them back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again….
Who are these good people all scattered like dry leaves
The radio said they were just deportees”