I found it hard to concentrate on our Tour Guide’s facts and figures, reassuring myself that I am a visual person and needed to see it all written down, or illustrated on paper to retain such information. Or maybe I just retain things that I consider useful? If I need to find out more, I can always consult with Google after all.
‘That balcony was built for John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979’, the Tour Guide said and suddenly, I tuned in. The year that Eoin Paul Russell was born, while the Pope was in Drogheda. I was a 5 year old, bored to tears in Mrs Mc’s house with nothing on TV, except yer man, smiling and waving to the joyful crowd. I was raging that I didn’t have a new sister. Meanwhile my Dad trying to convince the security staff in Drogheda Hospital that his wife really was having a baby and that he wasn’t just blagging a much sought after parking space to go and see the Pope. My mother queued for the pay phone in the hospital. She had to interrupt my Nana retelling details of the Pope’s visit to announce that there was a new grandson, before her coins ran out. My illusion of how innocent and holy the Papal visit was, was dispelled many years later when I heard about a teenage encounter, underneath a currach en-route to see the Pope in Knock. I guess it was the nearest thing to a music festival in the ‘70’s.
The Tour Guide pointed out the Stations of the Cross. They seemed to be hand painted directly on the walls in pastel shades. A few extra stations had been added, beyond the usual twelve. 'To prolong prayer? To fill the wall space ?', I wondered.A lot quieter than usual, probably because of the unfamiliar company, he eventually whispered,
‘You know Jerusalem ?’‘Eh, yes ?’ I said, hoping that there was no accurate geographical information required in what was to come next.
‘Can we go there ? Jerusalem?’
‘Maybe, some day. Why Jerusalem?’ I wondered how his holiday destination of choice had jumped so drastically from Disney Land.
‘I’d like to go and see Jesus’s grave. But he’s not there anymore. He went up to heaven. ‘ I smiled and nodded, going along with this familiar story as if it was the first time that I had heard it.
The Tour Guide moved us along. I regretted that I hadn’t more time to take it all in. I had one of those familiar Greta Garbo moments, where I realised that I wanted to be alone.