Our next stop was to the pub, Paddy Coynes, in the small town of Tully Cross. The bar was everything you could have wanted from an Irish pub. Musicians were playing classics like The Frost is All Over, there was a roaring fireplace, and photos and memorabilia lined the cozy brick walls.
Being able to pour our own pints of Guinness was awesome and felt iconic, but there was something noticeably off about the pub…we were the only ones in it. The owner told us that because of Europe’s COVID problem, tourism had plummeted, and now with the rumors of a lockdown, even locals weren’t going out. It was another cold reminder of reality in such a warm and welcoming place.
As we continued our excursion, it suddenly hit me… I had forgotten my dress shirt for our big dinner at the George V. Even worse, we were to meet with Niall, the castle’s manager, and Catherine, who handles guest relations at dinner that night.
I tapped Ann on her shoulder. “Ann, I forgot my shirt for dinner.” “Don’t worry,” she said, “there will be time to change at the castle before dinner.”
“…No.” I said, half croaking, “I mean, the shirt is not in Ireland…” Ann looked at me with an Oh God, seriously? face. I tried to make the situation better. “Maybe we can say I’m sick and couldn’t make it to dinner?” Ann glared at me. “Say you’re sick during a pandemic? Do you want everyone to get scared?”
“Ok then, let’s just be honest and say I forgot a shirt and couldn’t make it?” I felt like such an idiot on our way to our final stop, the shellfish farm. I bought an entire suit for this one dinner, and now I wouldn’t even be wearing it because I forgot one tiny piece of the ensemble.
When we arrived at the shellfish farm, the owner, Simon, along with his wife, greeted us with a spread of fresh oysters. After a quick bite, we were to head out on the boat and see how they grow shellfish along giant ropes in the middle of the fjord.
As Simon went off to get the boat ready, his wife asked how we were all enjoying the trip. I said I was having a great time, aside from forgetting my dress shirt at home.
“Oh!” she said, without an inch of hesitation. “I can give you one of Simons then, you look like you’re both the same size!” “Wait, seriously?” I said in disbelief. “Oh, sure!” She said.
“But how will you get the shirt back?” I asked, dumbfounded by this woman’s generosity. “Just leave it at Ashford! At some point, we’ll be seeing them,” she said as if the castle, some 40 miles away, was her next-door neighbor.
I couldn’t get over the kindness of these people, and its stark contrast with the emerging COVID pandemic. How, in a world with friendly, genuinely good people like these, could a virus be hijacking people’s bodies and killing them? Where is the justice in that?
Before we left, Simon’s wife brought out three shirts: blue, green, and pink. The whole group immediately voted for the pink. I thanked them numerous times, completely astonished by their effortless kindness. If the world was about to collapse, I wouldn’t have wanted my last days of freedom to be any different. These are the kinds of people I would gladly spend the viral apocalypse with.