On an eventful trip to Derry: 'I told the soldier that I was very sorry. Could they, please, not blow up my car?'
Derry was at the other end of the country and, as I had been lent a car for the day, I thought it'd be a nice chance to drive up to the northwest and see some of the country first hand, rather than from a rugby team's bus window.
I crossed the border with the usual questions and drove to the factory address where I was due to pick up the packaging.
Unfortunately, I arrived at lunchtime and, as everyone had gone for their break, I decided to do the same. I parked up the car and headed to the nearby pub for a bite.
Soon afterwards, I heard a commotion outside and could see a crowd beginning to gather. I finished my lunch and wandered out to see what was going on.
There were armoured cars and soldiers with guns all over the place and everybody was looking worried.
When I asked someone at the back of the crowd what was going on, they told me the army was sandbagging a suspicious vehicle.
The helpful onlooker explained that the next step would be sending in the robot to examine the car and then, most likely, a controlled explosion would be carried out on it.
Wow. This was like the Troubles I'd seen all those years previously on the old black-and-white TV.
"And how," I wondered aloud to the local, "does the army decide what constitutes a suspicious vehicle?"
"Oh, that's easy," came the answer, "the car has Dublin plates and is parked in the same spot everybody knows a previous bomb was left in."
Crap! It was my car. I bolted for the soldier in charge and, in my best Kiwi accent, explained they were sandbagging my car. It was a terrible mistake, I was very sorry.
Could they, please, not blow up my car?
The guy was furious.
Pointing to a nearby sign that warned parking was prohibited in that area of the city centre, he started yelling and threatening to take me in.
I just apologised and played the naive Kiwi tourist card. Eventually, they escorted me out of the city.
I never collected the goods for my friend but at least I avoided having to explain to him how I nearly got a brand new car blown up.