herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Victory lightens up a heavy week

THURSDAY I visited Uganda for the first time last year, and today I am paying tribute to the man who filled my head with tales of the country when I was young. Mount Jerome is the venue for the funeral of my cousin Michael Moore Corry, or "Mick the Medic" as he was known in my family. The funeral was designed for people who love to travel, one of those transcendent Buddhist-Humanist 'close your eyes, breathe deeply and send him our love' affairs, crowned by Leo Cullen's peach of a eulogy. A consummate rebel, Mick the Medic was fighting the system until the hour he died.

FRIDAY MSC Cruises' new 3,500-passenger ship Magnifica comes to Southampton for a pre-launch outing and we are hosted on board alongside 1,500 thirsty travel agents. The ship reflects the trend in cruise-ship design: more and more layers of balconies and more eclectic activities. Magnifica has a retractable roof for its swimming pool and oozes classic Italian chic and sophistication. MSC are making a play in the Irish market, helped by the fact that the on-board currency is the euro. "The trouble is so few of them can speak English," colleague, Malcolm Ginsberg, declares.

SATURDAY I disembark the ship in the early morn, with trepidation. Some of it is pre-match tension, the rest is "will I make it to Twickenham" tension, as the journey is complicated by the hunt for a taxi from port to train station, departure to London with a ticket which, as I discover when the train inspector comes round, has the previous day's date on it, and the closure of four Tube lines in London. The trip from Waterloo to High St Kensington is a marathon, but I make it to watch the magic.

SATURDAY NIGHT I haven't had Chinese like this, even in China. The 14th-floor Min Jiang restaurant at the Royal Garden hotel has one of the finest views in London, across Kensington green to the skyline beyond. Here we dine on the signature Beijing Duck and sing the praises of Tommy Bowe.

SUNDAY Remember where the revolution started. There is no charge for room service at the Royal Garden hotel in Kensington. The GM says that he is paying waitering staff to carry it to the table anyway, so what is the difference?.

In contrast to Saturday's match traffic, the road to Heathrow for flight BD 127 is clear and the flight lands 10 minutes early. Better still, we don't have paper boarding cards. BMI will send you a link to your mobile phone to download your virtual boarding card. The security staff then scan it.

MONDAY: The bar is heaving in the Radisson in Galway when I arrive after midnight Sunday for the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) conference. The complaints are familiar; too many hotel rooms, too few customers.

TUESDAY: John Power is retiring as IHF general secretary - a gentleman and an astute negotiator, good at identifying what is achievable and what is not, and getting things done. A hard act to follow.

WEDNESDAY: A trip to Blanchardstown hospital brings news of problems in my own family. My brother Ciaran's bowel tumour had decided to do some travelling on its own, his operation is abandoned amidst uncertainty about what is to come.

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