Archive | October, 2014

The Shelbourne Hotel, Hitler’s brother and an East-Ender

28 Oct

‘Hello Dave. I’ve booked you into the Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephen’s Green.  It’s the “in” place in Dublin right now and very historic. Give me a call when you’ve checked in and I’ll meet you in the Horseshoe Bar on the ground floor.’

‘A bank you say, who are they? ‘Ave they got any money?’

‘All will be revealed Dave. See you there.’

Dave Basset was as one might have expected him to be. A London East-Ender, he was quick-witted and completely focussed on making money. If not employed in the City’s financial square mile, he would have been quite at home selling from a stall, half a mile down the road, in Whitechapel market.

The clock struck six as I entered the hotel’s fine reception. The large bar to the left was getting noisy. It was populated mainly by professional types in their 30’s. As this was a mid-week evening they were assembling to attend a business networking event which was designed to assist their upward mobility.  After a quick glance into the bar I turned sharply right towards the famous Horseshoe Bar. Here the clientele were older. The bar, being much smaller, was also quieter. About half of the occupants were residents of the hotel – having been told that they would not fully experience the Shelbourne if they didn’t have a drink in the Horseshoe. I found Dave sitting at the semi-circular bar with a pint of Smithwicks and a dainty bowl of peanuts in front of him. To his left were a brace of ladies in their seventies, beautifully presented in evening wear and bedecked with the best quality jewellery.

‘Hello Dave. I see you have made yourself at home. How was your flight?’

As we shook hands a Rolex watch glistened on his wrist, accompanied by a large and loose gold bracelet engraved with the initials DB.

‘Good, but my arms were really tired after it.’

I knew enough of Dave to be prepared to tolerate more of that wit during his stay.

‘How do you like the hotel? There’s a great buzz about it isn’t there?’

‘Yeah. There’s a lot of drinking going on all right but it could do with a lick of paint or sumfink. It’s really old looking.’

‘It’s historic Dave. It was built in 1824.’

‘Yeah, I was thinking about then.’

‘You should have a look at the Constitution Room while you are here. They have functions and dinners in it for around 20 people. It’s on the first floor. It has a beautiful bay window looking out on St. Stephen’s Green. It’s called the Constitution Room because, in 1922, under the chairmanship of Michael Collins, the Irish Constitution was drafted in that room.’

‘I didn’t know you lot had a constitution. What’s that for? We don’t have one and we’re getting on all right without it.’

‘You don’t need one, Dave, because you have a queen to lay down the law for you but we are a republic in Ireland, you see.’

‘Not really.’

In a sad attempt to connect with Dave, I did my Michael Caine impression.

‘Anyway, moving on, did you know, did you know that Adolf Hitler’s brother, Alois, worked here as a waiter in 1910 – not a lot of people know that.’

‘Adolf  ’itler! That f***er bombed my gran’s place in Befnal Green – bleed’n ’ell.’

It was time to move on from the introductory small talk and address the substantive issue at hand.

‘Dave, I’m very sorry to hear about the destruction of your grandmother’s abode but let me tell you about the opportunity which brings you here to Dublin.’

Dave’s shark-like attention immediately moved to the now. It was sad and inexcusable that his grandmother had been traumatised by the Luftwaffe, but that had been then and this was now.

‘So when do I get to meet the customer?’

‘Dave, you’re speaking to him.”

‘Sorry. There’s no deal unless I get to meet the bank and unless I get to sign a lease directly with them.’

‘Have you got the stuff I need?’ I asked.

‘Maybe. It depends on what the bank has to say. As I said, I am only interested in a deal if I get to sign a lease with the bank.’

‘Dave, you got your substantial arse over here because you knew this is a real opportunity. I know you want a lease agreement for the on-going relationship it would give you with the bank. However, a direct relationship won’t work on this occasion. You aren’t able to handle it because you are a financing company. You are not an IT company with a large balance sheet which is capable of handling this type of risk.’

The inevitable implosion of Dave’s employer was a number of years away but I felt that Dave, a street-wise geezer, was not unaware of this potential outcome. In the meantime, he would be given some reward for reducing the increasing pile of second-hand hardware which was accumulating in his employer’s warehouse. Thus the deal was done.

I left the bar to answer a call of nature. On my return Dave looked perplexed.

‘That bloke over there is a bit iffy – do you know him? While you were having a jimmy riddle he was giving me some grief.’

‘What happened?’ I asked Donal, in a deadpan voice.

‘He asked me where I was from and I said I was from the mainland. I was trying to be friendly. I didn’t want to be too specific so I just said the mainland. You know, I thought I’d better not give him a few bars of Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner.’

‘Dave, “mainland” is not a term one uses over here.  Now show me the person who had a go at you.’

I had noticed that the volume in the bar had increased since I had first entered. Then I discovered why. Only a few feet away, Eion Granby was holding court.

It was time to go, but I thought I might smooth things over with Eion before I left.

‘Eion, I’m sorry about my friend’s references to the mainland. He doesn’t understand the set up here.’

Eion’s attempt at a cockney accent was met with exaggerated guffaws of laughter from his entourage, while from me came surprise, sadness and disappointment.

“Blimey, ’ere’s anuver one of those bleedin’ foreigners!”

It had been made clear to me that I had further work to do in convincing the Dubliners of my Irishness.

(This is an abbreviated extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. For more information please check out my website: