Abroad in Dublin home

11. A Real Irish Pub

One back in Noel Leonard's, I addressed the barman with the words "You were right, it's closed." He seemed confused at this. I joined him in confusion until it was pointed out, by the lady customer, joined to the bar at the hip (so it seemed), that this was a different barman to the one I'd asked directions from only a few minutes before. I never again met nor apologised to the man whose admonitions of brewery closure I had so blatantly ignored. However, having just realised that one grey-haired Irish man looked pretty much the same as another to me, I was certainly not going to admit it to the confused barman. I feigned some sort of haziness of vision as an excuse for my mistake; I was fooling noone. Having paid for our Guinnesses, we sat down at a table near the bar to devour them.

One of the things you read about in articles or books, relating to traveling in Ireland, is that tourists are usually found in pubs that both cater for them and yet completely fail to give the true atmosphere of an Irish pub. Sure, there may be music, shamrocks (is that related to Glam Rock? - just a poor imitation of it?), Guinness and even regular exclamations about "The Craic", but it's widely known that many tourists pubs existing purely to simulate the stereotypical atmosphere of Ireland - a sort of cheap-plastic version of real life. Since we were sitting in an Irish pub that did not seem to have any tourists in it, and since it had few other punters, save for the aforementioned lady, who was clearly a resident of the bar, I hoped that we had found the real thing. The Guinness was very good, and the company seemed genuine enough, even including one fellow being shepherded home by his wife, who had the car keys and more pressing things on her mind than spending the rest of the evening watching TV in a half empty tap room.

So, given the desire for an authentic Irish pub experience, it seemed only polite to chat with the landlord when he fired questions at us from behind his bar. He mentioned the forthcoming sporting events, and seemed suitably unimpressed when I recounted that The Grant National weekend marks the anniversary of my first visit to the Emerald Isle; I'd only just realised it myself, and found it interesting enough to warrant sharing the news. I then completely failed to regain his interest when I suggested that I may have even won some cash in a sweepstake on the Grand National all those years ago. I'm not entirely sure that this is true, but I didn't want him to think that I was telling a completely boring story... I though that talk of a win on the Gee Gees might help with the heart of the Irish sports fan.

I was greatly relieved when the friendly publican continued the conversation with the seemingly innocent question "So, where are you staying?" Wish a suitable air of "Well I can't believe how lucky we were to get a discount", I explained that, after scooping a great deal on the Internet, we were staying at The Shelbourne. My protestations had not proved enough. The incredulous exclamation of "You? In the Shelbourne? did you win the fucking Lotto or something?" left us in no doubt that he thought us unusual clientele for the establishment in question. I was further alerted to the folly of admitting, in public, our place of sojourn when the gentleman told me that it was a good job that the bar was empty of its usual local drinkers or I would have "25 fucking rugby lads expecting you to buy them a round". I pledged to use the Guinness I was drinking to seal my lips against further admissions of this nature.

When we had finished our pints, we left Noel Leonard's bar and head back, along the slightly more salubrious northern bank of the Liffey, in search of our next watering hole - The Brazen Head.

>> 12. Brazen Behaviour

02 June 2002
Ashley Frieze