Sunday, March 19, 2017

A day in Dublin never disappoints.

Hollywood Boulevard has street performers, the London tube stations have buskers – Dublin has lunatics!  And oh, my god they are funny, as long as you’re not the butt of their ‘crazy’ or their shenanigans.   After spending a day that set me on a path of forming solid opinions of the people in the Republic of Ireland, I set off again from Barnacles Backpackers and walked down Grafton Street.  

I came across another ‘challenged’ or perhaps just a drunken bloke.  I was walking behind him and I was quite amused at his somewhat ‘friendly’ antics.  I thought it might have been the same bloke from St. Patricks Park but it wasn’t, he was too short.   I was pretty thankful that I was walking behind him after what happened next. 

Walking in the opposite direction was a man in business suit.  He was most likely on his way to work.  The drunken looney stopped right in Mr Businessman path and grabbed him by the front of his suit.  He pulled him down to his level, pointed to his cheek and puckered up.  Mr. Businessman was mortified and tried to push him away but “Mr. Affectionate” had a quite a strong hold of his suit.  Mr Businessman grabbed a hold of one of his hands and prized it off his suit and gave him a shove to get him off him.  After the previous day I figured that Dublin had a pretty good level of consistency for crazy OR was it full moon kind of cycle?  I would like to stay there longer to see if it was a regular thing. 

It wasn’t even 10am and I’d been entertained by the Irish.  I was on my way to the Guinness Store house for a tour.  It’s a good many years since I did the tour, if they’ve left it relatively the same, I highly recommend a visit.  They have the usual old historical memorabilia, old adds and information about how they make Guinness, the things you expect of these sorts of tours.  However, in one area they displayed a heap of sporting moments (obviously sponsored by Guinness).  They were displayed in a semi-circle type room and the acoustics of the room were like a small eccentric amphitheatre.  The only music they played in the room were Irish drums.  If you stood in the middle, the drums seemed to take over the rhythm of your heart and it felt like the drums had gotten inside you and were playing from within.  My body seemed to sway and move in time with the drums.  It filled me up and gave me goose bumps.   

One of the funniest sporting tales from the storehouse was a telegram they had on display that was written by a Jockey to his father, this is all it said –
“S.F.; S.F.; S.F.”  End.

The Jockeys father was completely clueless as to how to interpret the telegram and he had to wait until his son came home.  On his arrival home the Jockey interpreted – “Well Dah tis says – “Started Favourite, Slipped and Fell; Shot the Fecker; Seeya Friday”.   Given that telegrams charged by the character, what the jockey didn’t realise he was probably one of the first to come up with text language.

The spoil of the tour is at the top of the Storehouse in the Gravity Bar. It’s one of the best views in Dublin.  I claimed my first ‘legitimately’ free Guinness that was complimentary and lent on the bar to check out the Dublin view.  A yank named Charlene introduced herself and we struck up a conversation. She was travelling by herself but she was actually teaching English in Egypt and she was on a break from her job. 

The barmaid came over curious by our accents and started chatting as well.  She desperately wanted to travel to Australia.  As the conversation followed, a group of pommy girls came up and said that their tour was leaving and asked if we’d like their pints… Well why the hell not! They gladly handed over their ring pulls (token) and we ordered another.   Those pints didn’t last long and another friendly barmaid came up and offered us another four more pints.  He said that he couldn’t sell them because they had been pre-poured and were 2 degrees cooler than what they could them sell at.  Which didn’t make much sense because they served them two ways… one chilled to a certain temperature and the other at room temp.  So why not wait till they were at room temp, OR did that mean they’d be flat by that stage.  Given that we’d managed 3 freebies, we tried to con another one but we came up dry.  So, we brought another one (the only one).  I had nowhere to be until my flight later that night and I had made the executive decision that I’d had to leave the place at about 3.30pm.   I think that was the last of my cognitive thought process.   I did leave at 3.30 as planned.   I walked the teacher down towards the Temple Bar and showed her where to go to get to St. Patricks Cathedral.  That alleviate the problem of asking an Irishman for directions.  I don’t think it would have been the first time the Cathedral invited a drunk inside, so we parted ways and I wished her well. 

I bolted back to the backpackers and grabbed my gear, I managed to ‘filter out’ a fair bit of Guinness in the toilet and made my way to the bus stop.  Then bus was forty-five minutes late and I needed to go to the loo again.  Then bus got stuck in traffic for almost two hours on the way to the airport.  My balder was full and my back teeth were FLOATING!
I started entertaining the idea of wetting my pants just for relief and pretending that the embarrassment would be worth it.  In pain and desperation, I went up to the driver and asked to use the buses toilet.  “No lass, its locked and I don’t have a key, we’re not allowed to use it”.   I arrived at the airport unable to walk straight and my kidneys on the cusp of rupturing.  Once I got inside the way I was walking doubled over let me fit in amongst the special Olympics teams that were all departing that same afternoon.   I was all manner of DEFORMED by my predicament. I dragged by bags into the airport loo and unleashed.  As I glanced up to the back of the toilet door, I read this add – “Dreaming of shopping while having a pee, pull up your pants and buy tax free”.   

The Irish… they’re funny bastards!  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dublin - 'Cause we ahhh'

It was in June 2003 that I found myself in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.  I had off loaded my aunt the day before to fly back to London and I was left to my own devices for a few days to check the place out.  It was that afternoon that I settled in to take in the day and enjoy my first experience of an authentic Guinness… but actually IN an authentic Irish Pub.  The Temple Bar was little bit more alive than usual that afternoon.   Dublin was hosting the Special Olympics and they were putting on a show for the world.  There was loud Irish music coming from the “Meeting Square” and the pubs were bustling with activity.   The music bounced off the cobble stoned streets in the same rhythm as the drums .  After the events of the day I decided to ask an Irishman one question - “Do you fellas actually know that just about the entire world think the Irish are a bit stupid”?   His reply was in great humour - “Oh tas’ cause we ahhh”.  

What brought me to ask the question wasn’t from previously heard or told Irish Paddy jokes and stories.  It came from that day.  I’d started with some breakfast at “Pilgrims” on Lord Edward Street and I did a tour of Dublin Castle.  Dublin Castle was built soon after the year 1200 but it burnt down in “Irish” fashion in the 1800’s.  The fire had started in the kitchen and servant tried to put out the fire with what they thought was sand.  (Sand - the standard fire blanket of the 1800’s).  Instead they’d grabbed a bag of gunpowder and threw it on the fire, and of course the inevitable happened.  I still have one burning question over this - what the hell was gunpowder doing in the kitchen!  We are talking about the Irish so, i’m sure the reason made logical sense them.  I’d still like to know though.

The castle was rebuilt for royalty, for when they visited.  The ‘Royals’, being the English Royals.  It was Dublin Castle that was handed over to Michael Collins, the General of the Republican Army.  After Ireland became a republic they did many things to it to spite the Royals.  They obviously removed the Royal coat of arms but they also deliberately turned statues in the castle back-to-front.  Most relics in the castle do remain to show its history, however most of it was rebuilt.  The Irish installed pure crystal chandeliers and woollen rugs that had to be guaranteed to last for 100 years…. Well obviously they wanted the face lift to last at least a century, it had taken them that long to get it back from the Brits, why not ask for top shelf decor!

The castle guide explained a pair of tapestries that hung on either side of the main door way  - they were enormous.   The french who made the tapestries prided themselves on ‘perfection’ but the Irish were not going to cop perfection.  The Irish were of the firm belief that it would be a total insult to God because only God is perfect!  So to rectify the situation they made the stiff upper lipped french deliberately sew a left foot on the right leg and the right foot on the left leg in the Tapestries.  Makes perfect logical sense!

The petticoat mirrors were a hit for me as well.  Get a load of this - back in the day if the hem of your ball gown was slightly up and showed a little petticoat this meant that you were “DESPERATE” to get married.  If you didn’t show any petticoat then you weren’t looking for a hookup at all.  Women would retire to the drawing room to ‘adjust’ themselves to ensure they were sending the correct message.  Can you imagine the conversations these day if this was still the correct process of finding a husband.  “Oh Jez will you look at Betty she’s had her hem up for about 7 parties now, she’s either a total slut or she’s pretty hard up”.  Anyway, back in ‘those days’ the ball gowns were so goddamn large the only way to check their lack of petticoat or partial petticoat show was in very small mirrors which were under tables in the drawing rooms.  So effectively, up-skirting started in 1800’s with a mirror, the 2017 version of up-skirting just involves a bit more technology.  

There was an interesting ceiling in the castle (not exactly interesting as in the sistine chapel interesting), it had what looked like a stone finish.  The ceiling was actually just plaster.  How they achieved the effect was to mix beer with plaster powder and the bubbles would react and give it a rough like finish.   HENCE, where saying came from “I got plastered” or “God blimey he’s plastered” actually came from.

There was one yarn from the castle that was a cracker and it was about the irish crown jewels.  They were secured in a tower just outside the castle.  Over 100 years ago they disappeared overnight and have never been recovered.  There is still a reward to this day for the recovery of them.  The ‘Garda’ (Irish police)  could never quite work out how they were stolen and they seemed to vanish without a trace.  A rumour was that it was an inside job and the man who stole them was a drunkard, and on the night he stole them he hid them and got royally on the turps to celebrate and the next day he could never remember where he stashed them…. That sounds about right, it is Ireland after all!  

So after forming a rather solid opinion on the more historic events of Ireland I started to walk back towards the backpackers.  I strolled past St. Patrick's Park and there was a drunken irishman with his shirt on backwards and no shoes.  He was missing his shoes and the entire world knew at that moment that he’d lost his shoes.  I wished I had a bucket of popcorn to sit and watch the show!  A park warden came to his aid and helped the fellow find his shoes which were ‘missing’ about 4 metres away from him. I started to head towards the Cathedral and all of a sudden the drunk seemed fit to scream at me “YOUR ALL IN HELL”!  Lets just hope he’s back on his regular dose of lithium.  

Then I got lost on the way home, so I asked an irishmen in sports store for directions.  DON’T EVER ASK AN IRISHMEN FOR DIRECTIONS… EVER! LIKE NEVER EVER!  
This is how the exchange went - “Hi, I was wondering if you can point me in the direction of the Temple Bar”?
“Oh right there lass, so do you know St. Patrick's Cathedral”?
“Yes, I've just come from there”
“And den wort about da Tivoli”?
“Yeah, I think I walked past that this morning”
“So keep going until Arthur's Pub”
“Ok yeah, I think I know it”
“Right well, if ya go that way ya’d be headin the wrong direction”.
“You need ta go da udder way”
“What? Why would you tell me the directions for the wrong way”?

Well buggar me, he drew me a map and I was more confused than ever.  Just to humour him I let him finish one hell of a directional story that made no sense and I thanked him.  I headed off around the corner and out of sight and dug a map out of my bag and started looking for landmarks.

Anyway, personally I don’t think the Irish are stupid at all, I think they had some pretty tough times and they all found a way to laugh or ‘have a crac’ instead of lying down and being miserable.  They look at the world an entirely unique and different way, even if it seems a little odd.  Dublin and Ireland in general is one of the most friendliest places on earth, unless you’re an american!  And that’s another story!