The ferry that moved quietly up the Irish coast from France was the W.B. Yeats, the newest flagship of Irish Ferries.

It was the 26th of August the ferry pulled into Dublin Port. The crossing had been so smooth, duck pond we’re told.

It was quite a sight as we slid past the wind turbines of Wicklow, seen from my cabin window but hadn’t realised which coast this was. The best place to really look at the coast was up on deck, it wasn’t disappointing. Oh, how amazing it was watching the gulls hang on the wind, it felt as if they were there to escort the ferry. They were fixating to watch, wings poised and held to allow for the flight on the waves cut from the bow. There was a slight haze, the one you get before the day warms up.

The deck was still full with people looking to the land, a mix of Irish holidaymakers and Irish returning having not been able to return home due to the pandemic. I was one of those. There was a roller coaster of emotions, so many of us leaning on the barrier away in our thoughts as we look at the land, I could feel the tear well up.

You knew you were back, going through customs, but could hardly understand the guy with his mask. I think he asked me did I have over €20,000? I wish! It was hard to hear what he was asking me with me being all wired up and having lost the ability to listen. My heart was bounding, the road home was near but far.

Then it was on to passport control. Where to now, oh yes, follow the van I was already following. Was everything ready, time enough to have while waiting in line. The mind off in another world. Thinking of the road which would lead me to my family, get a grip, concentrate, so what was needed! Passenger location form filled out and ready, tick, passport open on the correct page, tick, Q code for Covid status, tick.

I look out the window back to my daydreaming. Get this …the sun was splitting the stones. I was ready for the fleece and trousers; will need to chance did I even have summer clothes in the bag…. never mind the van had moved on and now needed to go on to the kiosk; my rooftop was open and your-man, the customs man was looking in through the roof.  He had such a smirk on his face.

“Where are you from?"

“I’m Irish living in France”. 

Sitting there waiting, heart doing it again pounding in my chest, will I be blocked at this last checkpoint, it’s been a year, I need to get home. He didn’t ask for any of the paperwork on the ready beside me on the passenger seat.

“On you go,” he replied.

“Oh gosh I’m so emotional I haven’t been home for a year,” I said with a quiver in my voice. He was leaning on his elbows relaxed as can be. “Welcome home and thanks for bringing the sun with you”. I flashed a look while putting the car into gear, he had a grin on his face.

So, on I went and then 'oh! which side of the road do I put myself' is flashing in my brain, a voice behind me shouts again with the grin ”remember we drive on the left here at home".

So, waving back through the roof of my little car as it takes off down the docks on the left. Oh no, I’m all teary again. Such a welcome home you couldn’t ask for better. What an eejet I am for worrying about getting here. Now, feeling like a film star as I headed to Cork with the roof folded back, just missing the scarf and the sunglasses. Yes, I had the glasses but would need to stop to find them, I wasn’t going to stop now that’s for sure.

When you have this image of the road home it isn’t always correct as the new roads aren’t fixed in my mind. Cruising along past Naas, the curragh, before I knew it, I was passing the Horse and Jockey. It was incredible, I had told the family to expect me at least four hours later but here I was driving up the gravel two and a half hours later. The door opened and out came one of my brothers and my mother. She looked older, frailer but she had that smile. The warm motherly smile, the one your dreams had correct.

Of course, when back home in Ireland there is shopping to be done! My list wasn’t too long but still, there are the staples you know - tea, flour for making the brown bread, porridge (yes, I can get it near me but sure we all know it’s not the same), and bits. One can only love this part of being home.

The day that has been allotted to the shops starts with brown bread, my aunt’s marmalade, and a decent cup of tea. The list is revised and discussed. When you're back from these trips it stretches that sense of still being there. My brother was home from the USA and we hadn’t seen each other for several years. It was good to see him. He too had a list, let me add, wayyyyy shorter than mine.

It’s the bits that have got me, my fridge is full of various magnets “Cork, Not Cork”, "I love Cork”, “Ah for feck’s sake!”, "There’s great drying there today”! My keyring is on the same line, "Cork”, “Yellow phone box”, “green post box”, a Celtic cross, you know yourself. The downstairs toilet has a sign Mnà/Fir on it as if my French friends will know what that means and will it stop them from getting lost, NO! Not that our place is big.

So, one of the places to hit was Blarney Woollen Mills, out in Blarney of course. It’s not far down the road and normally a good place to meet up with some friends for a chat over a pint or a latte.

Like all over the world, the image of back home can be different from the reality. We can become really patriotic, shamrocks have a deeper meaning. When I lived back home, I wouldn’t have been seen dead in anything with shamrocks on them but things happen when you’ve been away a while. Maybe I’ve gone soft or something. 

Anyway, first stop were the bargains. I have found many the great clothes there. Even though I had no shame for a bargain, there is a limit. My brother was pulling out something that made me understand why he did admit he hadn’t bought himself decent clothes for decades, yes, I joke not, decades!  

I did feel like the returning Irish immigrant surrounded by an overwhelming sea of green, shamrocks, and hoodies with Ireland on them, interesting for the Irish / French matches though or even the Paris Paddy’s Day parade, but this was only one area, there is some really cool quality buying to be done as you go from one area to another. On we browsed away from the bargains and into the real shopping.

Having had some success for the brother and his shopping for the wife done, he was losing focus and dreaming of his pint out on the terrace in 22°c, sun still splitting the stones. I hadn’t done the bits part yet but then it hits me, when you see something that meets all the criteria the sight becomes tunnel and misty. Hanging on this stand of real bits, really that’s all you could describe them as real bits, factory-made in the ton but wait for it, there it was, "fecking eejet” it had the stars in a circle for Europe with IRL on the left, "fecking eejet" in big in the middle with the shamrock on the right. Under the words “Fecking Eejet" are "Cead Mile Failte" with the Irish flag each side in small. I couldn’t have dreamt this. Beyond perfect. My brother laughed at the silly smile I now had, like a cat with cream.

For sure it will be on the back of my little car. I went all out and got the keyring version for the said same car keys. The weight of all these rings will put my neck out of that I’m sure but there is a connection you know “fecking eejet" for buying them, for adding more weight to the handbag which would already win gold if there was a sport in the Olympics, carrying around all the things you don’t need and then add the kitchen sink.

At last, my brother had his pint and I had my latte, we didn’t meet friends as they were working and then again we liked to chat and catch up. The sun in our faces taking in the voices trying not to listen too much, it was one of those moments that warm the soul, just being in the moment.

I like this sticker as when I reflect on the swirl of emotions of getting home and heading back to my other home, I realise what a fecking eejet I was for worrying would ever I get back to Ireland. There had been months of hearing of regulations to travel, flights being changed without warning. Flights being missed due to wrong information as to which terminal you need to get to. I was so strung up trying to make my own plans yet again. Twice a trip had to be canceled over the previous 8 months for covid rules and others.

On the 24th of August, I had stood on a quay waiting for a ferry that would never come (there had been a misunderstanding in my booking). I was an eejet howling down the phone telling my husband, if he was aware of eejet he would have said “you fecking eejet” but he doesn’t have this in his vocabulary thank goodness. I’d be hearing it very day!

In-between my sobs he was online booking a place for me the next day, Cherbourg to Dublin. He understood the need for his woman to head back for the shopping and look up more bits/junk stuff we don’t need, covered in shamrocks. The feeling of complete despair when I realised there wasn’t a ferry, was there an omen telling me I wasn’t to get back or what. My fraught mind couldn’t get a grip. It hadn’t dawned on me that I could of course go the next day from another port. He laughed with kindness at the face of me when I returned the same day only to pack up again to head to the other port the next day. If he hadn’t already gone to work, I’m sure he would have been waved at through the roof like a film star.

So now the ferry carries me back to France.  Again, a duck pond crossing, thinking over all the goodies in my car. You wouldn’t believe it but I also had fresh farm eggs from hens that run free, oh and the pansies which my mother insisted were needed to remind me of her garden (she thinks they don’t have them where I was going).

This is all a welcome distraction from the sadness. It’s best to move the mind to the other things like cleaning the car so I can put on the sticker and have some fun to see if anyone of my French Irish village spots it when I drive around Paris for my work. Who will be the first to spot the “Fecking Eejet” on the little blue French car? It won’t matter if no one does as it can only bring a smile when I see it and remember this trip back to family and being one of the lucky ones who got to hug her mother and her Aunt’s.

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