Archive | March, 2019

Free speech and a look-alike Bono clash in Grogan’s Pub

29 Mar

Grogan’s Castle Lounge is located on South William Street. This is not a wide street but from its pavement grand stonework steps lead up to the magnificent eighteenth-century Powerscourt House. A few yards further down this street, on the other side of it, stands Grogan’s.

It was Saturday evening at around 6pm when I entered this fine establishment. This was twilight time – the crossover between the business of the day and the night. The space was shared by shoppers and regular drinkers. The shoppers were rewarding themselves after a hard day’s procurement. Many were single, professional-looking females aged between 35 and 65 years. These people were confident and not to be messed with. They sat, cross-legged, at small tables, with their backs to the wall and facing the bar. They drank gin and tonic or a glass of wine. A few eccentrics drank Guinness. Some smoked a cigarette. Others read The Irish Times or a book. Branded shopping bags rested neatly against their legs for both security and economy of space. The regulars sat or stood at the bar. They were old and young, intellectual and artisan, a very mixed bag. The inner sanctum comprised a loose group of eight to ten individuals, mostly male, located at the far end of the back, inner bar. They could all have been members of the Dubliners band – shaggy beards, woolly jumpers, some flat caps, a few thick, black-rimmed glasses and a couple smoking pipes. They were either finishing off a Saturday afternoon session or starting out on an evening routine. These two powerful groups, the regulars and the shoppers, seemed to co-exist very comfortably, with an air of mutual respect.

I edged my way to the bar and managed to purloin a small part of it on which to put my elbow. The shoppers had taken all the seats by the wall. There were a couple of larger tables by the window but these were taken by students and tourists who were determined to maintain exclusive possession of their valuable space. Paintings hung on the wall behind the row of seated single ladies. Each had a price tag attached to it. When a painting was sold it was replaced by another. During the summer season many tourists probably woke the next morning wondering why they had made such a purchase.

My attention was drawn to a young man who looked just like Bono. Short in stature with brushed-back hair and black wraparound sunglasses, he was clearly working hard to look cool. He passed by and went through to the inner bar. Only a minute had passed when he returned with a bunch of newspapers under his arm. The publication was The Socialist Worker. He walked around the bar repeatedly saying: ‘Buy The Socialist Worker – smash the boss class.’ No sales were made. He had just about completed his lap when he came to a small table at which two male drinkers sat. They looked like experienced session musicians, with lean, worn faces, aged 45 to 50 years, casually dressed in jeans and check lumberjack shirts. One had a long, white-haired ponytail reaching to the base of his back.  After the Bono lookalike had repeated his clarion call to arms, they both looked up at him. After three seconds silence, the guy with the ponytail spoke in a loud, clear theatrical Dublin accent:

‘There was a time (pause) when people in this pub (pause) did not need to be told (pause) how to think!’

His clear, firm voice had momentarily silenced the bar. All had heard his pronouncement. It was followed by a gentle murmur of approval and then the general conversational hum was reset to normal volume. Everybody went back to their own business.

I believe that moments like these are fantastic. They stay with me forever. It is as though I have been momentarily transported to an O’Casey scene from Juno and the Paycock or The Plough and the Stars. There are very good literary pub crawls arranged for Dublin tourists but, if you hang around the right pubs for long enough you could witness live, original material performed spontaneously!

This is an edited extract from the book – London Irish Dublin English. You can order it as a hard copy or download an ebook from the Amazon Website. If you’re in Dublin you can buy it at Sweny’s Chemist Shop (Joycean Museum) at Lincoln Place, near Trinity College.


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.