A chance encounter on Grafton Street

23 Mar

It was dusk on Grafton Street. The Christmas decorations had begun to glow in the fading light.Her reflection could be seen in the window of Brown Thomas, the upmarket department store. Its contents had grabbed her attention and commanded her to stop and look. However, she was not in the mood to pursue a mild interest in the garment on display and, after a few moments, continued her journey along Grafton Street towards St. Stephen’s Green. At the junction with Harry Street, from behind a flower seller’s stall, Harry suddenly appeared in front of her.

She surprised herself by readily accepting Harry’s offer of a drink in nearby McDaid’s but she was not uncomfortable with the situation. During and after her separation she was taught to live in and accept the “now”.

Harry ordered the drinks and then found a discreetly located table. There was a lot of coming and going in this establishment. Seating as far from the entrance as possible was preferable.

‘Samantha, I am really, really pleased to have met you today. How have you been keeping? I haven’t seen you at the tennis club in recent times?’

‘I had a slight problem with my Achilles tendon which required rest and physiotherapy. It’s getting much better and I am just about to make a comeback – when the evenings get longer.’

“Well I am delighted to hear that. The Achilles can be very troublesome, you know. Sometimes they can only be repaired by surgery. They just snap for no apparent reason. I recall the case of a football hooligan crossing Chelsea Bridge on his way to a match. Without warning his Achilles snapped, causing searing pain. A policeman was walking behind him and the hooligan thought he must have been hit on the Achilles by the policeman’s truncheon. So he punched the policeman in the mouth – could have gone to jail. I assume his immediate transfer to the nearest hospital and subsequent diagnosis saved him.’

“Yes, I know, I heard about that case.’

She felt surprisingly relaxed about him telling her things that she already knew. Normally this would irritate her.

Harry was light-headed by just being in her company. He was besotted. He would settle for a platonic friendship but, dare he dream of more? She was less enthusiastic, being frequently admired. However, compared to most men, she felt he was on her wavelength. Harry was an ambitious courtier and she was a high-born eighteenth-century aristocrat. He was speaking too much, like a giddy gurgling brook, but he soothed her and she was happy to let him babble on.

He would have preferred to offer a more salubrious setting but he had to seize the moment. A proposal of a longer walk, only as far as the Westbury, may have caused her to change her mind, either immediately or en route. Besides, the quirky nature of McDaid’s provided a certain anonymity.

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can download it or get a printed copy from Amazon. If you’re in Dublin you can buy it in Sweny’s Chemist Shop (Joycean Museum) in Lincoln Place, near Trinity College.

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Deciding to be Irish

15 Sep

Donal’s job transfer from the London office to Dublin seemed ill -advised and badly timed. This was Ireland in the mid-1980’s. The Government was up to its neck in debt. Unemployment stood at 18 per cent and Draconian rates of income tax were inflicted on those fortunate to have a job.

‘You’re mad! Why would you want to go back now? The country is on its knees!  I’ll go back myself someday, but not now.’

Donal was not deterred by these sentiments. His resolve was rock solid, the legacy of several beautiful summers spent on and near his grandfather’s farm in County Cork. This experience had caused him to view Ireland through rose-tinted glasses. His ready-made answer went along the lines of:

‘If every ex-pat Irishman who said “I’ll go back to Ireland someday” actually went back, there’d be about 40 million people living there. I’m prepared to pay the price for living in Ireland right now. Indeed, I’m happy to do so if that price keeps you fair-weather Paddies out of the place!’

He could understand why his Irish-born friends were perplexed by this London-born Irishman’s demonstration of fearless but naïve enthusiasm for Ireland. However, for Donal a holiday or an occasional business trip would never be enough. Dublin was where that he was destined to carry out the day-to-day business of living.

The vast majority of his London work colleagues, on the other hand, did understand his reasons for moving. They saw him as Paddy the Irishman, a moniker with which he was quite happy. He knew that in the Dublin office he would probably be known as John the Englishman, but this did not bother him. He would quickly set about convincing all who cared to listen that his credentials were sound.

‘You guys just woke up one morning and realised that you were born Irish – I had to decide to be Irish and then work at it!’

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can buy the ebook or printed version on Amazon.

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

30 Aug

 

Donal did not think that he was in any way different from born and bred Dubliners. Although his accent was London, he believed his Irish DNA would keep him one hundred per cent in tune with all around him.

In fact he definitely did not want to acquire an Irish accent – either by intention or osmosis. He had met a number of Irish people in London who had tried too hard to achieve a local accent. The result was a hilarious mixture of sounds. Whilst he was very amused by this Donal did not want to become a similar source of mirth in reverse.

When he joined London Irish Rugby Club, in the late 1970’s, he was desperate to fit in. After training and a drink, the players helped to clear up the bar. Donal leapt enthusiastically to the task. Then, in a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent, he found himself saying “Are these glasses for the washing” – not even Tom Cruise could have delivered a worse sound and word order. Donal felt guilty, ashamed and naff. He vowed never to do it again.

Besides all that he quite liked his English accent. On a few occasions people remarked that he sounded like Michael Caine. Donal liked this – he thought Michael was a brilliant actor.

In response Donal would offer a more contrived impersonation in which he combined Michael’s “did you know  … not a lot of people know that” technique with a standard music hall joke :-

“Did you know, did you know that every day a man gets knocked over by a London bus? – and he’s getting bloody annoyed at it!”

Donal thought this was a sure-fire winner – the feedback he received was mixed.

When shouting his Michael Caine head off in support of Ireland at a match in the Lansdowne Road stadium, a polite Irishman, sitting next to him, gently inquired as to what part of Ireland he was from and observed that he must have spent a lot of time in England – he was correct.

It was several years later, with the coming of voicemail messages, that he realised just how very English his accent was. In the early days of his time in Dublin this revelation might have shaken his belief that he would totally integrate with the Dubliners but by the time he became aware of it he was already fully settled.

This is an edited extract from “London Irish Dublin Irish”. You can download the eBook or order a printed copy from the Amazon website.

The move from London to Dublin

30 Aug

Donal’s job transfer from the London office to Dublin seemed ill -advised and badly timed.  This was Ireland in the mid-1980s. The Irish Government was up to its neck in debt. Unemployment stood at 18 per cent and Draconian rates of income tax were inflicted on those fortunate to have a job. Moreover, Donal was a born and bred Londoner.

The reaction of Donal’s London-based customers to his move fell into one of three categories. Depending on how highly or otherwise they regarded Ireland, their line of questioning went something like:

  • ‘What did you do wrong?’ (This from the customers who felt that moving, or being moved, to Ireland must be some form of punishment meted out by the company’s senior management team.)
  • ‘Are you going there as general manager?’ (Some customers believed a posting to Ireland was like a Victorian civil servant being sent to darkest Africa. Donal would adopt the role of governor of the territory and bring civilisation to it.)
  • ‘Good luck!’ (These customers understood Donal’s rationale for moving to Dublin even if they did not see why he thought it was such a great place. By moving locations within the same company, Donal got to do the same job but in a place where he much preferred to live.)

The vast majority of his London work colleagues, on the other hand, did understand his reasons for moving. They saw him as Paddy the Irishman, a moniker with which he was quite happy. He knew that in the Dublin office he would be known as John the Englishman, but this did not bother him. He would quickly set about convincing all who cared to listen that his credentials were sound.

He would explain thus:-

‘You guys just woke up one morning and realised that you were born Irish – I had to decide to be Irish and then work at it!’

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English” You can download it or order the printed version from the Amazon website.

Ronnie and Len have tea in the Westbury

18 Nov

 

 

Rain, earlier in the day, had prevented Ronnie from taking his usual Saturday morning walk along a road called The Scalp, in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.

A furrowed brow and a branch broken from a giant wild rhubarb plant, growing by the side of the road, accompanied Ronnie. As his mind wrestled with various weighty matters, the rhubarb cudgel would strike the weeds beside the footpath. Rhubarb was his weapon of choice because he liked the firm but springy action of the stem. It flicked the large leaf forward, thus achieving maximum velocity on impact with the weeds.

At four o’clock Ronnie decided to substitute his morning exercise with a walk around Dublin city centre. The train took him to Pearse Street station. At the corner of Westland Row, Sweny’s chemist shop came into view and reminded him that he planned to buy soap but, as he did not want to carry it around with him on his walk, he deferred this purchase and proceeded directly to the grounds of Trinity College. He caught the last ten minutes of a rugby match but had little interest, being a Gaelic games man. After a few more laps of the playing fields he left the campus by the front gate and turned left. Passing the provost’s house, he proceeded along the length of Grafton Street. On entering St. Stephen’s Green he was very tempted to break off a small branch of a tree to make a thinking cudgel but he was concerned that this might be frowned upon by the gardeners and, besides that, there were no weeds to attack. On the way back to the train station, retracing his steps along Grafton Street, he met Len while passing a flower seller’s stall at the corner with Harry Street.

Len was in ebullient form. He had just completed the procurement of an overcoat at a very satisfactory price. The garment had been identified a couple of weeks previously. Winter would soon be over so Len reckoned this was the time to do a deal. He entered the shop at 6.10pm, 20 minutes before closing time. He engaged the salesman fully for the next 18 minutes, trying on various other coats. Then he struck, when all the staff wanted to shut up shop and go home to their loved ones.

‘Give me 50 pounds off this one and we have a deal.’

What a snip! A double-breasted, Pierre Cardin camel coat with double stitching and 40% cashmere! Arthur Daly and Del Trotter would have been very proud.

Len insisted on buying Ronnie a nice cup of tea to celebrate his success. Whilst walking up Harry Street they spotted a window table on the first floor foyer of Westbury Hotel. They were pleased with this location not only for the view it gave, back along Harry Street, but also because it was quiet and, as they were both drinking tea, it was the furthest point from the bar. That is not to say that they did not enjoy a drink but Len enjoyed it more than Ronnie. The former embraced the mood change it caused. It assisted him when he wanted to be quirky and playful in a social setting. The latter saw it more as a duty. It was an act of camaraderie with his colleagues but should only to be taken in moderation.

This is an edited extract from the book London Irish Dublin English. You can order a hard copy or download the ebook from the Amazon website.

London versus Dublin – some cultural drinking comparisons

13 Aug

During his visits to the London office, Donal observed that lunchtime drinking was far more common than back in Dublin. Emanating from London’s financial district, male Londoners saw nothing strange in downing two or three pints of ale with their lunch on each and every working day of the year. However, having stereo-typed the Irish as being heavier drinkers than themselves, they were surprised when representatives from the Dublin office abstained from drink at lunchtime. When the Londoners asked their Dubliner colleagues why they abstained, the response reassured them that their preconceptions were not too wide of the mark.

‘Sure if we started drinking at lunchtime we’d never stop.’

True or false, this was what they wanted to hear. However, the stereo-typing wasn’t all one-way traffic. For every joke about the Irish being wild and uncouth, there was a counter relating to English conformity and lack of individual spirit.

If the definition of an Irishman was that of a most sophisticated and efficient mechanism for changing Guinness into urine then the way to get ten Englishmen into a mini car was to make one of them the boss and the rest would crawl up his backside. And so on….

Donal had holistic experience of this international banter. Born and bred in London, declaring himself an Irishman and then living in Dublin, he received it from both sides. Rarely was he given the opportunity to explain that the banter did not apply to him. He just had to suck it up. This could be very frustrating.

Christmas Eve in Dublin was one of those rare days when the momentum of lunchtime was maintained for the rest of the day. Some left the office for lunch without clearing their desks. Their plan was to take it easy over lunch and do another hour’s work before heading for the pub. For some this plan worked out, but for others it didn’t.

When they returned to the open plan office, any slip of hand or lip was immediately pounced upon by the self-appointed drink police who, smugly or begrudgingly, remained super-vigilant for the afternoon. If a returnee so much as slightly stumbled on taking his seat or slurred just one syllable, a voice, which sounded like it came from a megaphone across the street, would make the following announcement.

“Please back away from your desk. Do not touch your keyboard. Do not speak into your phone. Put your jacket on, raise both hands and keep them visible at all times. Now please leave the office immediately and return to whence you came. We’ll take it from here. You will be issued with further instructions after Christmas.”

This is an edited extract from “London Irish Dublin English”. You can buy the paperback or e-book version on the Amazon website.

Deciding to be Irish

6 May

Donal’s job transfer from the London office to Dublin seemed ill -advised and badly timed. This was Ireland in the mid-1980’s. The Government was up to its neck in debt. Unemployment stood at 18 per cent and Draconian rates of income tax were inflicted on those fortunate to have a job.

‘You’re mad! Why would you want to go back now? The country is on its knees!  I’ll go back myself someday, but not now.’

Donal was not deterred by these sentiments. His resolve was rock solid, the legacy of several beautiful summers spent on and near his grandfather’s farm in County Cork. This experience had caused him to view Ireland through rose-tinted glasses. His ready-made answer went along the lines of:

‘If every ex-pat Irishman who said “I’ll go back to Ireland someday” actually went back, there’d be about 40 million people living there. I’m prepared to pay the price for living in Ireland right now. Indeed, I’m happy to do so if that price keeps you fair-weather Paddies out of the place!’

He could understand why his Irish-born friends were perplexed by this London-born Irishman’s demonstration of fearless but naïve enthusiasm for Ireland. However, for Donal a holiday or an occasional business trip would never be enough. Dublin was where that he was destined to carry out the day-to-day business of living.

The vast majority of his London work colleagues, on the other hand, did understand his reasons for moving. They saw him as Paddy the Irishman, a moniker with which he was quite happy. He knew that in the Dublin office he would probably be known as John the Englishman, but this did not bother him. He would quickly set about convincing all who cared to listen that his credentials were sound.

‘You guys just woke up one morning and realised that you were born Irish – I had to decide to be Irish and then work at it!’

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can buy the ebook or printed version on Amazon.

A wannabe Irish man with a Michael Caine accent docks in Dun Laoghaire on St. Patrick’s Day

17 Mar

He’d finally done it. He had achieved his ambition to live in Dublin and what better day to start this adventure than on St Patrick’s Day?

As the ferry docked, Donal surveyed the magnificent coastal facade of Dun Laoghaire. His arrival may not have had the pomp and ceremony of Queen Victoria’s but this was different. He considered himself a man of the people. Although his accent was London, he believed his Irish DNA would keep him one hundred per cent in tune with all around him.

In fact he definitely did not want to acquire an Irish accent – either by intention or osmosis. He had met a number of Irish people in London who had tried too hard to achieve a local accent. The result was a hilarious mixture of sounds. Whilst he was very amused by this Donal did not want to become a similar source of mirth in reverse.

Paradoxically, this wannabe Irish man quite liked his English accent. On a few occasions people remarked that he sounded like Michael Caine. Donal liked this – he thought Michael was a brilliant actor.

In response Donal would offer a more contrived impersonation in which he combined Michael’s “did you know  … not a lot of people know that” technique with a standard music hall joke :-

“Did you know, did you know that every day a man gets knocked over by a London bus? – and he’s getting bloody annoyed at it!”

Donal thought this was a sure-fire winner – the feedback he received was mixed.

On the following day he went to the Ireland v England rugby match at Lansdowne Road. While  shouting his Michael Caine head off in support of Ireland a polite Irishman, sitting next to him, gently inquired as to what part of Ireland he was from and observed that he must have spent a lot of time in England – he was correct.

It was several years later, with the coming of voicemail messages, that he realised just how very English his accent was. In the early days of his time in Dublin this revelation might have shaken his belief that he would totally integrate with the Dubliners but by the time he became aware of it he was already fully settled.

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin Irish”. Photo0108 (1)

Cabaret – Dublin-style – at George’s Bistro

19 Feb

 

Nicky,Terry and Donal turned left at the corner of Kildare street and Nassau Street. The glow from the Pavilion Bar, frequented by generations of students, could be seen through the railings of Trinity College. In the final embers of the early evening, the remains of the post-match rugby crowd were finishing off their drinks before they moved on to pastures new for the rest of the night. Our trio kept to the left-hand side of the street so that they could look into the shop windows along the way. Heraldic artists, great designs from Kilkenny – a veritable cornucopia for the tourist – greeted them. A left-hand turn at Knobs and Knockers interiors shop brought them up South Frederick Street with only a short hop to their destination – George’s Bistro .
A flight of period stone steps brought them down to the restaurant at basement level. Being seated near to the entrance, they had a good view of all the comings and goings.
Shortly after they had settled, a tall, well-spoken man in his late fifties arrived. He had a good lot of drink taken and had got it into his head that the two ladies whom he accompanied might be disbarred from entry, due to the amount of alcohol they had consumed. They stood back in the small entrance hall while he negotiated in a hushed, secretive tone.
‘I have a couple of ladies with me who, I fear, are a little bit under the weather.’
Various promises were made that he would take full responsibility for those in his charge and that they were joining a larger party already in the restaurant and would be no trouble to anybody. The young waitress to whom he spoke was in no position to refuse admission and, when he eventually stopped talking, she immediately waved them forward. Donal surmised that they had been at an equestrian event at the Royal Dublin Society. The two ladies were indeed of the horsey type. Straight backed, broad-shouldered, ample breasted, their heads held high as they tried their best to glide effortlessly, imperiously between the dining tables.
A loud man, sitting at a table nearby,said: ‘Strong as a brood mare that one. She wouldn’t flinch at a stone wall or a five-barred gate but I bet she’d be full of brandy at the time.’
‘How rude’, said Nicky.
Next to arrive was Eoin Granby and entourage. He was a well-known journalist and writer. A British Tory politician once accused union leaders of ‘whipping up apathy’ amongst the workforce. Eoin could never be accused of this. Like him or hate him, he left no-one with a feeling of indifference. He was often cantankerous and sometimes entertaining when on TV, in the print media or just out and about in Dublin. A walking contradiction, he came from an unprivileged Dublin background and was, therefore, a genuinely self-made man of the people, but he was also an unashamed snob. He believed his circle of celebrity friends was intellectually superior to ordinary people.
En route to his table, he said hello to those whom he considered worthy of his salutations and then merged into the general ambience.
George’s Bistro had a good reputation for cabaret-style singing. Some of the waiting staff were accomplished singers. In between serving food and drink they might be heard to deliver a sumptuous fillet of jazz or blues. Customers, who were known to have a voice, also participated.
Fifteen minutes later Eoin got up from his table and made a very good fist of Kavanagh’s Raglan Road in a blues/jazz style. Hearty applause accompanied him back to his seat.
Next up, uninvited, one of the horsey ladies had seized control of the microphone on her way back from the ladies’ room. She began a slow and solemn attempt at the Irish traditional favourite Danny Boy (also known as The Derry Air, or more cynically as ‘the derriere’) Within a few bars, Eoin leapt to his feet and grabbed the microphone from her.
‘No, no, no. We’ll have none of that. That’s the old Ireland. The repressed Ireland. Those days are gone. We must look forward – not back to the times when your lot ruled this place.’
Her sturdy frame and fearless nature proved serious opposition to the vertically-challenged Granby. Without speaking, her arms and ample breasts flailed around his neck and shoulders as she tried to regain control of the microphone. Desperately, with one hand grappling against her fearsome tentacles and the other still clutching the microphone, he made a last-ditch appeal to the management:
‘Is there no f***ing security in this place?’

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can download it from Amazon.

 

A chance encounter on Grafton Street

1 Dec

It was dusk on Grafton Street. The Christmas decorations had begun to glow in the fading light.Her reflection could be seen in the window of Brown Thomas, the upmarket department store. Its contents had grabbed her attention and commanded her to stop and look. However, she was not in the mood to pursue a mild interest in the garment on display and, after a few moments, continued her journey along Grafton Street towards St. Stephen’s Green. At the junction with Harry Street, from behind a flower seller’s stall, Harry suddenly appeared in front of her.

She surprised herself by readily accepting Harry’s offer of a drink in nearby McDaid’s but she was not uncomfortable with the situation. During and after her separation she was taught to live in and accept the “now”.

Harry ordered the drinks and then found a discreetly located table. There was a lot of coming and going in this establishment. Seating as far from the entrance as possible was preferable.

‘Samantha, I am really, really pleased to have met you today. How have you been keeping? I haven’t seen you at the tennis club in recent times?’

‘I had a slight problem with my Achilles tendon which required rest and physiotherapy. It’s getting much better and I am just about to make a comeback – when the evenings get longer.’

“Well I am delighted to hear that. The Achilles can be very troublesome, you know. Sometimes they can only be repaired by surgery. They just snap for no apparent reason. I recall the case of a football hooligan crossing Chelsea Bridge on his way to a match. Without warning his Achilles snapped, causing searing pain. A policeman was walking behind him and the hooligan thought he must have been hit on the Achilles by the policeman’s truncheon. So he punched the policeman in the mouth – could have gone to jail. I assume his immediate transfer to the nearest hospital and subsequent diagnosis saved him.’

“Yes, I know, I heard about that case.’

She felt surprisingly relaxed about him telling her things that she already knew. Normally this would irritate her.

Harry was light-headed by just being in her company. He was besotted. He would settle for a platonic friendship but, dare he dream of more? She was less enthusiastic, being frequently admired. However, compared to most men, she felt he was on her wavelength. Harry was an ambitious courtier and she was a high-born eighteenth-century aristocrat. He was speaking too much, like a giddy gurgling brook, but he soothed her and she was happy to let him babble on.

He would have preferred to offer a more salubrious setting but he had to seize the moment. A proposal of a longer walk, only as far as the Westbury, may have caused her to change her mind, either immediately or en route. Besides, the quirky nature of McDaid’s provided a certain anonymity.

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can download it or get a printed copy from Amazon. If you’re in Dublin over Christmas you can buy it in Sweny’s Chemist Shop (Joycean Museum) in Lincoln Place, near Trinity College.