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!