Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Travel Tails

Just a bit of Trouble

A month sounds like a long time, yet it can be really short, especially when there’s a whole country to explore in that time frame. It may be an island, but there’s a lot to do on the Emerald Isle. So much we wanted to see, so many places to go, so much to experience. As beautiful as Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway is, and don’t get me started on Dunluce Castle, we couldn’t stay there forever. It was time to move on and experience the Irish culture.
When we’d first arrived in the north of Ireland, we’d gone to a Boots store to pick up shampoo and a few sundries we’d decided to buy in Ireland instead of bringing with us. We prefer to travel with small backpacks and whenever possible, don’t check luggage. Because of safety restrictions regarding liquids we buy anything like that in the country we travel to. Without giving it a thought, we paid for our purchases in Euros, thankfully with a hundred Euro note. When we got our change back, we were surprised that the notes were different. We were given our change in English pounds. Never for a second had we thought about the fact that Northern Ireland used a different currency from the rest of Ireland. No worries, we now had enough in English pounds to pay for anything we might need while in Bushmills. All we had to do was make sure we saved enough money to pay for a cab back to Coleraine and we’d easily done so. We had sixteen pounds left, plenty for the cab ride back when we were done.
Bright and early the next morning, a Sunday, we were off. We caught a cab back to Coleraine, with the intention of taking the train to Londonderry, or Derry, depending on who you were talking to. To call it Londonderry was frowned upon by many, so we chose to call it Derry, like the locals do. To say our start was bright and early was really only a state of mind, as the day was rather overcast and dreary. Still, it was Ireland. There was a good chance that a train ride would take us to sunshine. It was certainly within the realm of possibilities. In fact, it was more than likely going to happen. We were dropped off at the train station, and there our troubles began. We quickly learned that there was no ticket window open on Sunday. There was a train, but not until noon, and we would have to purchase our tickets from a machine. No big deal, we’d buy our tickets and wait. It wasn’t that long before it would arrive anyway. That’s when our trouble started. It took cash to buy a ticket from the machine, and we didn’t have enough. It was ten pounds to go to Derry, ten each. We only had six, as I’d paid the cabbie ten for the ride in. I asked the bus superintendant if there was a bank machine around, and he gave us directions. It was simple enough, and like I said, we had plenty of time, before we had to catch the train. We’d walk to the bank machine, take out some cash in pounds, then have a nice walk back … no biggie at all.
We found the ATM easily enough. It was just where the superintendent had said it was, and the walk had been an easy one. Then the second problem reared up to give us an annoying poke. My bank card was new to me, with a new pin number, a number that completely escaped me. No matter how I tried to remember, it wasn’t happening, and after three tries, that’s it, no more tries. I managed to take ten pounds out of my other account’s card, but that was it. I’d pretty well cleaned out that account to pay for the trip. My credit card wasn’t much use either. We’d used it to buy our plane tickets and flight insurance. I’d made a payment that wasn’t applied to it yet, so the ten pounds was it. We now had four pounds to go. We had sixteen, we were almost at the twenty we needed. What to do? What to do? We were rich, with a thousand US dollars and two thousand Euros each, it wasn’t like we were without means. We were flush with cash, just the wrong kind. All we had to do was offer to exchange Euros or dollars, for four pounds, and we were golden. We’d have our twenty pounds, and we could catch that train. Time was ticking by. We had to get on this new idea. Well, we tried. We tried over and over again. Offering a more than fair exchange of Euros or US dollars for the four pounds we needed, and no one would help us out. No one even considered the US cash, which we learned was pretty well useless in Ireland, as nobody took it. Though I explained our situation, people looked at us like we were vagrants, or some sort of con artists. No one would help us. Though they were taking money out of a bank machine, they all said they didn’t have the money. They would’ve made money on the deal, but nope, not a one would do so.
“What are we going to do?” Sweetpea asked with a slight frown of worry. “We have to get back to the station, or we’ll miss the train. We’re running out of time.”
“I know,” suddenly sure of it, I smiled though a soft, steady rain began to fall, completely suiting our circumstances, “we’ll go to the police station. If a tourist ran into trouble back home, the police would help them. I’ll bet they will here too.”
Wrong again. The police wouldn’t help us. Though I explained the situation, they simply said that they couldn’t exchange some currency for us, not even for the small amount we needed. We were out of luck. Leaving the police station with a sense of disbelief, we began to walk back towards the train station. Of course, the rain began to get more serious, which seemed fair and appropriate. What can go wrong, will.
“Now what are we going to do?” As disappointed by the refusal of help as I was, she appeared somewhat downhearted. I looked at her and made a decision.
“We’re going to that train station,” I firmly stated, “and we’re getting on that train.”
“But,” her frown deepened, “we don’t have enough money. We’ll get kicked off.”
“If we get kicked off,” I smiled reassuringly, “at least we’ll be away from Coleraine. We’ll figure it out from wherever we end up, no worries.”
With new determination, we strode through the rain back to the station. Funnily enough, there was the superintendent of the station, chatting with one of the police officers. As we came through the doors, they looked at us then the superintendent walked over to us.
“There the pair of yeh are,” he chuckled with amusement, “my mate here,” he nodded towards the cop, “was just telling me that there were a couple of Canadian lasses who were as wet as drowned rats, looking to trade a few bob. We’ve chatted over it, and we’ve come up with a solution for the pair of yeh. Yeh can pay when yeh get to Derry, no worries.”
“Really?” both relieved and unsure, sweetpea and I exchanged looks, “we won’t get kicked off the train along the way. They’ll know when we get to Derry?”
“Ay, they will at that,” he jovially assured, “rest assured. Get on the train, and yeh’ll settle up in Derry.”
So, we got on the train. Because we actually were as wet as drowned rats, the water dripping off us actually made puddles whenever we stood in one place too long, we decided to sit in what was pretty much an empty car at the back of the train. The strange looks we earned, as we went by the other passengers were worthy of a few grins on our part. I have to say, it was good to be sitting and out of relentless rain, and though it might be a bit petty, it was good to be leaving Coleraine. The people there weren’t very helpful at all to tourists. At least that was our experience.
The train moved speedily along, we were just beginning to feel comfortable, when concern suddenly began to build all over again. The reason for that concern was simple enough, there was a ticket taker coming down the aisle. I could see her working her way through the cars, and last car or not, she would get to us as well. What if no one had told her about us, about paying when we got to Derry? What if she decided to boot us off the train? There was a couple sitting a few seats forward of us, and after she checked their tickets, she walked up to us, “tickets please?”
As quickly as I could, I began to tell our story, how we were short four pounds of the twenty needed, how the superintendent had said we could pay in Derry. By the look on her face, I could tell he hadn’t told her. She had no clue at all. Things were not going at all well. We were about to be kicked off the train. We were sure of it. Then she said it, “did they not tell yeh ma’am? There’s a sale on at the moment. Eight pounds a ticket to Derry … yeh only need sixteen pounds.”
“You’re kidding, sixteen pounds?”
Sweetpea and I could hardly believe it. We didn’t need to get rained on, or walk all over Coleraine trying to exchange Euros for a few pounds. We’d had enough from the moment I’d taken ten pounds from the bank machine. Well, I paid and she left us sitting there, laughing and shaking our heads. It was the funniest thing.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB