Archive | June, 2016

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.  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.