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.

What’s so funny?

4 Sep

I believe the answer to this question is “people” – human beings. People can often be at their funniest when they’re not trying to be funny at all. Most people believe they are unique. There’s some truth in that thought but others go much further and believe that they are the only sane person on the planet.

“All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer.” Robert Owen (Welsh philosopher and philanthropist 1771-1858)

Some people think that the world revolves around only them. The British nation used to feel like that. Back then, in days gone by, they described mainland Europe as the “the continent”. On a dark and damp morning in the 1950’s the headline of the London Times proclaimed “Fog in channel – Continent cut off.”

Speaking of the continent, I am reminded of a witty one-liner about a place called Frinton-on-Sea. This is a resort on the east coast of England in the county of Essex. It is a quiet place, populated by retired geriatrics – the last resort? This part of the Essex coast is one of the nearest points to “the continent”. A few miles north of Frinton-on-Sea is the port of Harwich. It used to be a popular starting point for English holiday makers who were brave enough to travel to mainland Europe. The ferry’s advertising slogan was:-

“Harwich for the Continent! “

How exciting! Not to be outdone, a wag from Frinton extrapolated this slogan:-

Harwich for the Continent!

Frinton-on-Sea for the incontinent!

Let’s move on…

“Oh, what a great gift we would have if we could only see ourselves as others see us.” Robert Burns (Scottish poet 1759-1796) said that. He knew, of course, that we cannot view ourselves with complete, detached objectivity and wouldn’t life be boring if we could? We would lose all the humour to be found in observing how people perceive their place in the world and how they prevent reality from interfering with that perception.

I am not suggesting that I want to laugh at people but rather with them. Pathos and empathy are essential ingredients of humour. Watching people skilfully reconcile their perception of self with the real world is like watching a tightrope walker or a trapeze artist.  We marvel at their ability to defy gravity, as we fear for their safety. We also laugh, nervously, from the relief of knowing that we are not a risk of harm from what we are watching.

Some people work hard to present themselves in the most favourable light. Is this selling or acting?

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

Take me, for example. Most people I know call me Danny but that wouldn’t be good enough for an author – so I became Daniel. It’s commonly acknowledged that your name sounds more intellectual if you stick a middle initial into it. So I have moved from plain old Danny Boy to Daniel M. Doyle – author, wit and raconteur.

In Ireland, where I live, our president is Michael D Higgins. He’s a Michael Daniel and I’m a Daniel Michael. So who knows? Today I am talking to you and tomorrow – maybe the presidency of Ireland? Am I losing the run of myself perchance?
Lots of people in Ireland like to answer a question with a question. For example:-

“Excuse me. Can you tell me where is the nearest Post Office?”

“Is it stamps you’re after?”

Some people might find this to be a funny reply but it is merely good selling. The respondent is looking for more information so that he can accurately determine the requirements of the inquirer. There might be a sweet shop around the corner which sells stamps – so the inquirer actually has no need to visit a Post Office at all.

What is logical to one person might seem perfectly illogical to another. For example, a visitor takes a taxi to a remote house in rural Ireland. Eventually the taxi turns off the road and proceeds along a narrow boreen. After a few miles the passenger says:-

“This boreen is very long?”

The driver replies, logically:-

“Well sir, if it was any shorter it wouldn’t reach.”

Humor must not only make us laugh – it must also make us cry. I don’t cry about sad things or the terrible misfortunes of others but I do get a bit bleary-eyed when I see the best of human nature displayed in people. When I see qualities such as unconditional generosity and bravery I know that these people are not aware of how great they are. As with the funny side of humor, they are just being themselves. The tears flow from the sensation of experiencing beauty – as in a painting or a piece of music. We are momentarily lifted out of our day-to-day lives and reminded that life can be wonderful!

Sometimes I get it wrong. I make an inappropriate or flippant comment about a subject which I should have left well alone. My standard technique to recover this situation is to quote from Lord Byron’s Don Juan:-

“And if I laugh at any mortal thing ‘tis that I may not weep.”

I have achieved mixed results from this manoeuvre.

 A chance encounter on Grafton Street

22 Jul

 

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.

Computers are like cars – right?

7 Jul

A meeting with Phil – the procurement manager

“The residual values in your computer leases are pathetic. It’s an awful indictment of your lack of faith in your own products when you’re prepared to put no more than a 10 per cent residual value into a three-year lease. In the motor trade you’d get at least double that.’

The salesman replied:-

‘Phil, the similarities between mass-produced cars and computers only go so far. The speed of technical innovation in computer manufacturing is far quicker. For example, a newly launched computer may not be fit for purpose within four or five years of its first shipment. After this time it is still reliable and it still performs at its design speed but the IT environment will have moved on. New software and applications require ever more powerful processors and the original computer has to be replaced. It will have minimal second-hand value because no one will want to buy it. However, a five-year-old family saloon can still do the job at acceptable levels of speed, comfort, reliability and safety. A Formula 1 racing car provides a better comparison to the IT environment. A five-year-old racing car may still achieve the speed it was designed to do but it won’t win any races because more recently built cars go faster.’

‘Listen. I’ve been around the track so many times that it makes me dizzy just to think of it. There’s nothing you can tell me about racing cars. Anyway, there’s still a good market value in old Formula 1 racing cars.’

‘But it’s nothing compared to the cost of the original build. Formula 1’s are not mass produced. They are collectors’ items. You won’t find many vintage enthusiasts polishing a 20 year-old computer every Sunday morning in their garage before they take it for a sentimental batch run.’

This is an edited extract from the book – London Irish Dublin English, available on Amazon. Photo0108 (1)

Edwardian Bloomsday banter in Neary’s

16 Jun

There is something reassuring about a visit to Neary’s. Things don’t change. You are greeted at the entrance by two strong metal arms, each of which holds a big conical lamp to guide you in. Inside, spherical glass lampshades, the size of footballs, sit on great brass stands which grow from the bar. Due to its familiarity, all this seems quite normal but it is far more special than that. A friendly but reserved greeting can be expected from the barmen, smartly adorned in their famous livery of black bow tie and white shirt.

A line of small round tables accompany a continuous couch along the wall which faces the bar of this beautifully appointed rectangular room. I was fortunate to find a vacant table and was relaxed the moment I took my place on the couch. To my left were a group of retail workers resting after a hard day’s selling. To my right were three intellectual types. The looked like real or aspiring Trinity College professors, much like Michael Caine in the film Educating Rita. Perhaps Rita was sitting to my left? This I shall never know.

The professors were aged between 30 and 45 years. One had a beard, a heavy tweed jacket and green corduroy trousers. The second wore thick, black-rimmed glasses and a white, woolly Aran jumper, whereas the third was quite bald and smoked a pipe. They engaged in a giddy Edwardian-style conversation which became more pronounced during the process of procuring each round of drinks. The general banter went as follows:-

(1)The offer:-

‘Could I interest you in a further libation?’

‘Could you make a hole in another pint?’

The acceptance:-

‘Can a duck swim?’

‘Can a bird fly on one wing?’

(2)The order:-

‘James, give us another dose of that.’

‘Whatever he’s having and none for yourself.’

(3)The delivery:-

‘Now take this in your right hand and say after me.’

‘Imbibe one of these every 30 minutes and the itching should subside.’

(4)The acknowledgement:-

‘The blessing of God, Mary and Patrick on you.’

‘Tanks awfully muchly.’

‘To those like us.’

‘That one’s mine, as the devil said to the dead policeman.’

‘More power to your elbow.’

(5) Followed by general small talk:-

‘It’s the greatest country in Ireland.’

‘Who made those allegations?’

‘I am the alligator.’

‘The oldest woman in Dublin is still alive!’

‘I beg your parsnips.’

‘And there was him and him gone.’

(This is an edited extract from my book – London Irish Dublin English)    

The move from London to Dublin

3 Jun

Donal’s job transfer from the London office to Dublin seemed ill -advised and badly timed by many of those that knew him. 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” It has recently become available to download from Nook/Barnes & Noble at special launch price of 99c/99p for the next couple of days. You can also download it from Amazon at the regular price of $2.99/£2.