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Out There: I can't get over how Irish Ireland actually is

I'm back in Ireland and I can't believe how Irish it is. Cork is so Cork it's unreal, and the train from Cork to Kerry on Monday morning is nothing short of surreal.

It stops for 40 minutes at Mallow and for 39 of those 40 minutes I am the only person on the train, until a crowd of pensioners all lugging bags decorated with yellow and green Kerry scarves and shouting at each other (or into their latest Samsung Galaxy smartphones) get on board. "What are you ringing me for? No, we're not in Banteer at all, we're in Mallow," one formidable lady bellows into her phone while shoving her husband into the seat opposite me.

In the chaos I offer to put her luggage away while she screams a real-time update of events to her son on the other end of the phone. "A girl is taking my bag," she tells him, which makes it sound like I'm stealing suitcases from the over-60s.

I'm just about to sit down again when a farmer whose pants are mysteriously staying around his waist despite being unzipped and unbuttoned, hands me his ticket and says: "Where am I sitting?"

I have no idea why the whole carriage of the 12.20 to Tralee have appointed me as the unofficial conductor, but as I would like to get to Kerry before I'm old enough to qualify for free travel myself I help him to his seat.

The only problem is another gentleman in the winter of his life is sitting in his pre-booked seat. I point to the sign above the seat that has his name on it by way of explanation, which has the unintended consequence of making everyone in carriage D look at the names above their seats, realise they are in the wrong ones, get up and try and move themselves and their spouses and bags to new seats, causing pandemonium.

We eventually pull off and I go back to my seat, where my book is still on the small fold-down table, but another man, who is a little hard of hearing, is in my seat. "I'm really sorry, but I think you're in my seat," I say, pointing to the sign above him. "I'm Katy Harrington." To which he just shouts back: "Who?"

Sunday Independent