Chapter One – The Arrival.
The plane landed at Heathrow Airport on time, from Dublin; Conor enjoyed the flight as he had been allowed to sit on the flight deck for just about the whole flight, including the landing. He loved flying, especially when he could spend the time up front where it all happened. The last passenger left the plane, he left the flight deck and went to his seat and gathered his hand luggage and walked off the plane, across the tar-mac and into the terminal building. It was the start of a new adventure; off to a new school, a boarding school in England to complete year 12, his last year of school. England of all places, not home in Ireland as it should be. But his dad was in the British Army and this school offered a sizable discount to the children of soldiers and that suited his parents; they weren’t flush with money.
Conor gathered his case from the luggage carousel and made his way outside to catch the airline bus into the city of London so he could catch the train to Wellston in the Midlands. He checked his watch; it was 11:45 am. His train left Euston station at 2:20 pm and would arrive in Wellston at 4pm where he would be picked up by the school bus and driven the two miles to the school; Saint Joseph’s College.
After grabbing a bite to eat in the station cafeteria he settled into a window seat in the compartment ready for the trip.
Conor was glad that there was no one else in the compartment; he didn’t really feel in the mood for company right now. He didn’t know how he felt about this move. He wasn’t scared, he felt apprehensive. He felt sure it was going to be a kind of adventure and that could be good but it wasn’t one he had chosen; his mam and dad had. Conor hadn’t really been consulted on the matter, they had virtually told him that he was going and that he would enjoy it. As an after thought his mam had asked him if he minded, but it wasn’t really a question, he was going whether he liked it or not. So here he was, sitting in a carriage on a train going from London to Wellston and Saint Joseph’s.
The train left on time. The compartment was quite hot as the August sun streamed in through the window. Conor sat mesmerized by the views of London as the train made its way though the suburbs of one of the world’s most famous cities. He didn’t like it one bit. It was so very big and dirty, especially closer to the city centre. As they moved away from the city and closer to the countryside it got cleaner but all the houses looked the same and there were so few trees and open spaces. Nothing like Carraroe, home, with all the wide-open spaces on one side of his house and the beach and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Conor couldn’t understand why anyone would want to live in such a dull boring place.
However, as the train left the suburban sprawl and moved into the countryside the scenery got much better and he started to relax. The compartment became warm and drowsy and Conor started to feel sleepy. It had been a long day and it still had a long way to go. He stretched out and started to think about the events of the day so far……
“Conor tis time t’ be gettin up now.” his mam shouted up the stairs.
“Yea Mam”, he called back, only he was already up and dressed and had been for about an hour. He had packed the last of his things in to his case and had sat looking around his room and all his bits and pieces; they had taken on a much deeper level of importance and attachment just now. He wouldn’t see all this again until the Christmas holidays and that seemed like a lifetime away. Right now about a hundred questions, most of which didn’t seem to have answers were running around in his head. Would he talk in his Gaelic, would anyone understand or even speak Gaelic? Did they play Gaelic football and rugby? Would they understand his religious beliefs? After all, it is a Catholic school and they are bound to want him to go to Mass every Sunday, maybe more often and believe in the church and all their stuff. Conor was fey and his belief system was of the ancient times. And how would he get by with out Aoife, his very special friend and mentor who was teaching him to understand and come to terms with his beliefs, gifts and the craft. Conor was Wiccan. He could see this as causing a great deal of trouble if he let it slip. He was also worried about the social aspects as well. How well would he get on with the other boys there, would he be able to mix in well with them? Did it matter that he didn’t have a girl friend and never had? How would he get by without his close friend Ciaran, they did just about every thing together even some things he couldn’t tell his mam about or any of their other friends, come to that. How would he cope being on his own for the first time in his life? On his own, that’s a joke, he thought, there is going to be another two hundred odd boys there!
All these thoughts and questions ran around in his head and there didn’t seem to be any answers or resolutions anywhere. Ah well he thought, there was no point in getting in a state about it just yet. Time would tell. He got off his bed and walked down stairs with his suitcase and backpack and dumped them in the hall near the front door, then went into the kitchen for breakfast. There wasn’t much in the way of conversation during breakfast, mostly it was his mam asking if he had finished packing, got all that he needed, was his uniform in his case and so on. Conor’s dad chimed in with comments about how they were going through the same process for his posting to Germany. Conor’s dad had been posted to NATO headquarters in Reindarland and would be leaving with Conor’s mam in a week’s time.
When breakfast was over Conor took a last tour of the house and garden so that he would have a good picture of it in his mind. Then it was off to Galway city airport for the short flight to Dublin and then off to London.
As his flight was called there was a good deal of hugging and emotional good byes between Conor and his mam and dad. They had always been very close and not afraid to show their emotions; tears were not held back. With a final wave Conor made his way to the plane.
Now he was on the train to Wellston and the new school. The morning seemed so long ago now and the good byes seemed to have happened so quickly; ahh well.
Conor was still thinking about the morning events when the train pulled into the station at Wellston.
“Well dis is it.” He said to no one in particular as he gathered his stuff and stepped down on to the platform. The station was virtually empty, no body else had got off the train and there were no other passengers waiting on either of the platforms. He walked to the exit and handed his ticket to the clerk and walked through the entrance to see a mini bus with the Saint Joseph’s College” logo on the side and a priest standing next to it. The priest immediately walked over, asked Conor his name and introduced himself as Fr. Yates, the English master. Introductions completed and bags loaded they set off on the short drive to the college. Fr Yates asked how the trip was and had all gone well and by the time Conor had given him a brief description of his journey from home to Wellston they were pulling into the school drive.
Conor looked at the old building and said to him self, “So I’m arrived here now.”