Our Gap Year has been wonderful and things have fallen into place for us as we went along. One such example was staying with Neil & Bernie on the way home. It was a great transition from our year on the boat in Europe to coming back to Dublin and work. It helped prepare us.
Neil and I have known each other since we were four years of age. Neither of us have brothers so we bonded and we have always kept in touch over the years, even though he as has lived in England for most of his working life. Firstly we had planned to go to Neil & Bernie for Christmas, that got changed and we decided to go and stay with them for New Year. Then the car broke down and put an end to that. So then we decided to come back to Ireland via Portsmouth and spend time with them on the way home.
That turned out to be an inspired decision (as many of our Gap Year twists and turns have been) because we had a great five days with them. They treated us like royalty and as Nuala said she did not wash a dish for five days. Neil drove us everywhere ( which helped me greatly to get used to driving on the left hand side of the road again after eleven months on the “wrong” side). We did some trips around the Portsmouth area including a visit Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport. There you can walk through the only remaining World War Two submarine “HMS Alliance” which has been set up like it was ready to go to sea including boxes of Heinz beans in the provisions.
On the same site is a preserved Holland One submarine which was the first class of Royal Navy submarine put in service in 1914.
Neil and Bernie’s daughter Aoife ( who is my god child) came down to meet us with her fiancé Lewis and we all went out for a Chinese meal, at my request as I have not been in a good Chinese restaurant in ten months.
On Friday night Neil and Bernie cooked dinner at home and invited their friends Sarah and Mike to join us. As Mike had been a submariner it was great that we had visited HMS Alliance the previous day- we had some understanding of what his life at sea has been like.
So, all in all, an inspired decision. The visit helped us readjust. Like divers decompressing before coming to the surface.