What was an Iowa Farmer's Wife doing in a Paddy Wagon Belonging to the Belfast North Ireland Police?
Belfast North Ireland Police....my experience.
Lately I've been seeing news headlines about the Belfast North Ireland Police. Well...I don't know if the reports are true, slanted or just plain erroneous...but the experience I had with the Belfast cops is in support of them...at least the ones I met at the Lisburn station who helped me immensely and went way out of their normal path of routine to assist me, for which I am forever grateful. I've rarely seen such care and persistence in helping a foreigner. "I was a stranger and you took me in." Thank you Belfast North Ireland police!
After my experience last fall with the Belfast North Ireland police...I have a strong sense of hope for North Ireland and for Belfast in particular.
Picked up by a Belfast North Ireland police paddy wagon in Belfast. Sounds kind of Victorian doesn't it? Like some criminal found stealing a loaf of bread and trucked off to a cold stony dungeon for life. Or was it a bad dream? Or perhaps I was really on a stage taking part in the latest production of Les Meserables.
But I didn't have to steal a loaf of bread or even a Twix to be picked up by Belfast North Ireland Police.
My crime? Looking for a B&B at midnight. Apparently, normal folks don't roam around at midnight in Belfast, with its history of violence, without locals taking notice. Someone must have phoned the local Lisburn, Belfast North Ireland police station about this tourist-looking person dragging a wheeled suitcase around the streets...because, yes, they found me searching the signs in an upper crust neighborhood for B&B vacancies.
I wish I had the presence of mind to have the lovely blond policewoman who rode in back of the paddy wagon with me to take my photo sitting on the little bench in the back of this niffy vehicle....how else will anyone believe me?
This cute little Belfast North Ireland police truck obviously stopped to get my attention, which I quickly and willing gave to them. After all...I hadn't stolen a loaf of local bread...I need not run.
The Belfast North Ireland police man at the wheel rattled off a stream of indistinguishable words through his smile. All I could say was, "So sorry...I can't understand you." He repeated, slower, but still I only managed to catch a word or two...something about "What are you doing?" I explained I was enjoying their fair city and looking for B&Bs and must have taken a wrong turn. I was sure the Lonely Planet directed me to this general area.
The Belfast North Ireland police driver said, speaking purposefully very clearly, "This isn't a good place to be walking at midnight..."
Having arrived on the ferry from Scotland at a late hour...around 10:30 I think, it was even later once we found our way off the ferry, (first the wrong way...then back out the right way...) gathered our luggage and a bus deposited us downtown. Naturally, I only had a few coins for phone calls and had not reserved a room. Hey...how else will one find some excitement when traveling if everything is predictable?
Well, I don't recommend you try my laizze faire approach to travel...especially if visiting Belfast on a Friday night when the weather is fair and all is peaceful in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
My British U.K. coins soon ran out without finding a vacancy in a B&B...also my phone numbers ran out...there were only a couple listed in the faithful Lonely Planet.
So....what does a plucky Iowa farmer's wife do? She starts walking, right? In the direction of the B&Bs...somewhere "over there." But as an open-eyed, business seeking taxi driver quickly assesses the situation, he approaches his next potential client...me! He quickly informed me: "You won't find a place to stay tonight in Belfast. It's a Friday night, people get paid and come to Belfast, plus there's a huge conference here this weekend."
His solution: Pay him $150 to take me to Dublin, where I was sure to find a place to stay. Well....sometimes I'm not too quick...but I'm really not THAT slow. The weather was beautiful, besides I did have a vintage Scottish wool quilt in my suitcase...I decided a park bench would be a better prospect. Besides...I wanted to see Belfast not skip it.
I was really hungry and had saved a few pennies by not eating on the ferry (a gorgeous vehicle, by the way). But my hunger bit at my stomach now...or maybe I was putting off the excruciating details of finding a place to stay. Ummm....how long do these night places stay open? Maybe I could slink into a corner and wait for dawn without much notice.
Anyway, as I walked by a Kentucky Fried Chicken place it grabbed me at the throat and said, "Comfort food...just like home...eat here...put off the crummy effort of finding a place to stay...." So I gobbled up some great fried chicken..just like home.
Finished...I set out "over there"...and kept going and going and going...obviously, I had taken a wrong turn. I thought of stopping one of several couples going past, who were heading for the night places, to ask for directions or advice...for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to ask. Maybe I didn't want to appear stupid...I'm not sure, but just keep searching. Every now and then a couple seemed concerned for me. How could I tell this? Not sure...just a feeling I guess.
Finally, I headed to the left and found myself in an exclusive neighborhood which I was enjoying and began envisioning myself curled up on a bench somewhere wrapped in my vintage Scottish wool blanket. I wasn't too worried. I knew I could survive the night. But I did start to feel a little like Joseph and Mary upon entering Bethlehem. I searched for some spiritual meaning in all of this.
Belfast North Ireland Street
Two young teenage girls soon approached me and anxiously asked, "Where are we? Do you know where this place is?" I naturally didn't. They decided to approach a big house with a long drive and lights on to find out where they were. I thought to myself, "They have more guts than I do...to find out where they were." I really do wonder how and why they were out alone on such a night in such a place...but will never know. I often wondered if I should have teamed up with them and then worked together to solve our problems.
It was seconds after meeting them that the paddy wagon buzzed up. Perhaps the girls told the folks in the house that a strange lady is roaming around their hedges...who knows...but the Belfast North Ireland police seemed to come directly to me.
The smiling Irish policeman said they'd take me to headquarters and make some calls and help me find a place to stay. I could ride in the back.
Oh...interesting...climbing in a paddy wagon. The driver seemed pleasant enough and the blond lady N. Ireland policewoman's smiling face reassured me, "All is well." But I must admit...my first thought after the back door was closed was: "Are you guys really police?" I squelched the impulse to ask realizing that even if they weren't really Belfast North Ireland police, they wouldn't admit it anyway...and I was trapped inside...best to just see what happens.
Belfast North Ireland View
The two Belfast cops in the back with me found out more about me...where was I from, did I have money, why hadn't I reserved a place...
We arrived at the station and they (three Belfast North Ireland police) kindly removed my suitcase and wheeled it for me, joking that they were porters in their former lives.
I was asked to sit down in the lobby and they began the daunting task of phoning hotels and B&Bs for me...trying to find a place. They had two phones in constant use, number after number after number...yup...it looked like the cabbie was right...no rooms in Belfast tonight. I began to wonder what a cell looked like, or what a cell was like to sleep in...now that would be a story to tell.
Once or twice I went to the counter and attempted to keep them company as they searched, but they asked me to just relax...it may take awhile. So I read my pearl book and waited.
Finally, after I would guess 40 phone calls there was a room for $150, so they called me over and asked what I thought about that price. "That's a lot of money for a room...but if I need to it's ok." They agreed...that's lots of money and they wouldn't want to spend that themselves...so on went the dialing, "This is the Lisburn Police, we have an American tourist here looking for a place to stay. Do you have an available room? Can you recommend a place?"
Finally, someone recommended the Windemere B&B which had a more affordable room for $56. Yes, I'd take it...gladly.
B&B Belfast, North Ireland
A Bed Has Never Looked So Good
I guess my night in a Belfast North Ireland police cell would have to wait.
Now...see how helpful these guys were to me. I'm amazed. Would I be so helpful and kind?
The end of my praise of the Belfast North Ireland police...at least the ones at the Lisburn station.