Andrew just spilt my tea, and I’m putting it down as a record. I am off my thrice daily coffee, and have my brain is painfully shackled. It may be why I’m trying to write in rhyme and meter, and doing a terribly bad job of it. My head feels as if a great big hand is reaching down and squeezing the base of my skull with all five fingers. And Andrew spilt my tea. So if this blog is coloured with the sorts of angry skies that grace the skies of Dublin this morning, it is hardly my fault, because – well, you know why.
Harald came from the Netherlands and I only remembered to congratulate him on having a new king pretty late in the game, at the Dublin literary pub crawl last night. It’s fine, though – he works in political PR for one of the liberal political parties, and therefore doesn’t really want a monarchy to begin with. We are all on the top floor of The Duke, waiting for the show to begin. Harald is sitting across the table from me and I strike up a conversation, because he looks like he wants to have one. He is a petite man, his eyes are wide, and I can see him sitting with his knees close together, hands folded, above the coffee table, his head swatting this way and that, paying high attention to everything and everyone, but not being the first to say hello. He is blonde, but with a shaved head so it’s hard to tell whether his hair is red or yellow. His glasses are black rimmed with very thin frames, the arms and top of which are flat, the lower side black and the upper surface red, so that you only get occasional flashes of colour. They’re cool glasses, anyway. He’s from the part Holland near Belgium and Germany, and he’s visiting Belfast and Dublin on a two day trip because he has the weekend off, and he got a flight for €20. The same airline he flew with charges more for checked luggage.
The literary pub crawl of Dublin is by far the best thing we’ve done here. Two actors, Frank and Darren, introduce themselves with practiced jokes and put on matching bowler hats, launching into a long scene from Waiting for Godot – written, of course, by Ireland’s Samual Beckett. They are taking us to four pubs that have had a role in the literary tradition of Ddublin – but really, you could choose any of the five billion pubs in Dublin because all of the writers in Ireland have spent time in all of them, it seems. I am glad, however, that we went to these.
The Duke is a handsome, burnished golden wood pub that though we didn’t spend much time in, was gorgeous, and was the pub in which I had my first Guiness in Ireland. I’ve had it before, of course, but people tell me that it’s not the same in Australia. Andrew, for example, loves cider, but one hundred years ago, before he met me, he used to ask for cider in an Irish pub he used to frequent and it would be stale, sour and no good. Andy put the pint in front of me and I did not look back for the rest of the night. It tastes, I suppose, bland and run of the mill, if I’m honest. I don’t want to be too controversial, but it has a taste that anyone could wrap their jaw around and come up smiling. It is smooth and never bitter, never harsh or metallic. It is like drinking good, thick filtered coffee, but without the coffee flavour. It’s creamy and bold and wonderful.
During the trip we visited Trinity College, the university which queen Elisabeth I commissioned in the 1500s so that the Irish, who were going away to be educated in places the English didn’t like such as France, would stay at home and in the right religion. Oscar Wilde went to Trinity, and one of the actors did a great Oscar.
We stood under the archway and thought about how to reconcile all these famous, intelligent people could have been here, in the same spot as us, what that meant to us, and how to deal with it.
Then we went on to the next pub.
As it seems they did, too. Wilde said of the Trinitarians that they were an odd lot – always going out and getting drunk, during class time and outside it, hanging out with loose women and generally acting abysmally.
O’Reilly’s Pub was the coolest of all. It has three floors filled with small tables and little annexes and even a snug – the room the women used to have to sit in to drink, so that they did no corrupt the drunken men at the time. There are nooks and side bars and parts where you could hide away and pretend you didn’t have a drinking problem – you could probably spend a third of the day on each floor, and not be seen by the same barman once. We are going to come to Dublin again after we spend some time in the country of Ireland, and I need to go back there, I think.
The tour went to one other pub before it ended, and it used to be called the Morican, back when they drove cars that looked like tents on wheels. Wigan was playing Swansea on the telly in the front bar, and so that’s where we went though the rest were in the back. The two hosts were there, Darren (not his real name, because I can’t for the life of me remember it), the shorter of the two and the more cynical, was sitting to the far side of us and didn’t use a lot of eye contact.
‘Alright,’ said the other, Frank, with legs hanging from his body like a cloth dolly, with dapper silver slicked hair – the young kind, not the old – and a nice smile. We said hi and started to chat. Frank performs his parts in the crawl play with a real enthusiasm which looks like a plain love for acting. He bounces and makes hard ‘t’ sounds in his Irish accent for our pleasure. It is he that does the Oscar Wilde impression, and he cracks us all up. Darren looks like he’s learned his lines well, has done this thing about forty-seven hundred times, and is having problems at home (not true, I’m sure – just what it looks like), and just wants the world to look different tomorrow. We chat with them for a bit, and then one of the keepers in the football game got taken out on a stretcher, and we started to chat about football. We’ve been planning not to go to the England v Ireland match next week, but Frank explains that the last one was in 1995 – that’s almost twenty years ago – because the ‘English fascists’ as Darren calls them, caused a riot and started throwing wooden chairs at the other fans. Now, I think it might be a bit of history to go. Butters doesn’t seem keen.
In other news, Sir Alex Ferguson retired today.
Last was the Davy Byrnes, where Beckett lived on the floor upstairs while in college, and about which Joyce wrote the eighth chapter of Ulysses. It was here that we spent the rest of the night talking with Patri, a Finnish journalist, and Martin, who works for the BBC in Wales, and Harald, talking about Australian politics. Andrew was in fact the only person there that didn’t work in the media.
Today we took a bus from Dublin to Navan, and we’re in a pub (with wifi and expensive food, having the soup of the day for €4.95), getting ready to sleep in the van we’ve hired with a mattress in the back.