Tag Archives: Dublin

Christmas Eve in a Dublin Office

12 Dec

In some houses it is said that nothing stirs on the night of Christmas Eve, not even a mouse. This could not be said of the public house situated not a stone’s throw from the company’s office. From about 4pm, various members of its staff gravitated towards the pub. Some came sober, directly from the office, while others came from meetings with customers. The unfortunate ones had had tense, stomach-churning encounters which would determine whether the salesman could or could not afford Christmas. For the more fortunate ones it was a Christmas lunch to give thanks for a year, nearly passed, which had reason to be celebrated by both seller and buyer. The food and drink tasted even sweeter because it was free, correctly charged as a business expense.

Donal entered the pub at 5.30pm. People stood in groups ranging in number from two to eight. The bigger the group the noisier was the conversation. The most popular topic centred on how the year had gone for the company overall, followed by a drill down to those individuals who had done particularly well or badly. This led on to speculation about what organisational changes would be announced in the New Year. Who was going up and who was going down? By this time of the evening, the talk was becoming more jovial and flippant. There was much self-congratulation among the teams who had had a good year.

After completing a survey of those present, Donal’s gaze rested on the window of the bar and out into the middle distance. There were plastic snowflakes stuck to the inside of the window pane but real ones were starting to fall outside. There were only a few, falling slowly, softly, faintly, individually. Like furry prawn crackers wobbling in the air, skilfully adjusting their flight plan as they prepared for an economic soft landing on a windless night

They fell upon a window ledge of the Westbury Hotel and formed a small drift which enhanced the seasonal view along Harry Street, past McDaids and on to Grafton Street. Two fluffy white cones were formed by them on top of the lamps outside Neary’s. Across the playing fields of Dublin they fell, casting doubt on the matches arranged for St. Stephen’s day.

They formed a smooth, white carpet upon the flat roof of a bank’s data centre in which computers lived in ambient, water-cooled surroundings. Thickly, they balanced upon the telephone lines which left the data centre to carry asynchronous information across the dark central plain and treeless hills until they reached the far flung branches of the west in Clifden, Westport , Dingle and beyond.

They fell on all the giving and the led. Upon those who made things happen and upon those who saw things happen.

Finally, they came to rest on those who asked “what happened?”

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English” by Daniel M Doyle. You can download it from Amazon.uk for the special price of 99p until Thursday 17th December.  

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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: danielmdoyle.com.)

Free speech is alive and well and living in Grogan’s bar (Dublin city)

20 Aug

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 delivered in the best spoken English in the world – Dublin English – the rich, poetic and descriptive structure of the Irish language laid down in English.

(An edited abstract from the book – London Irish Dublin English)

Reality TV with Dick and Mary

10 Aug

Reality TV, these days, seems to involve paying people who cannot act, and who are quite boring, to live out their dull lives on our television screens. It was not always thus.

After settling in Dublin, back in the 1980’s, most Sunday evenings I would head off to the local pub at around 9.30pm. This timing was about an hour after the broadcast of a very popular weekly television soap which had consistently enthralled the nation for years. The main storyline for months had revolved around the marital difficulties of Dick and Mary.

Dick had been less than faithful and had been found out. Week after week, he made episodic and increasingly desperate attempts to repair matters. Every Sunday evening, when I arrived in the pub, there was the actor who played Dick holding court at the bar, a pint of Guinness in his hand. I had to resist the urge to walk straight up to him and say:

‘Dick, Dick, Dick drink is not the answer. Now leave your pint on the counter and go straight home to Mary. She’s very upset you know – only this evening she was on the phone to her mother in floods of tears!’

But I never did.

(Edited abstract from the book – London Irish Dublin English)

Moss Keane bids farewell (repeatedly)

5 Aug

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, I had religiously followed the Irish international rugby team. My heroes were the likes of Moss Keane, Fergus Slattery, Willie Duggan and ‘The Blessed’ Oliver Campbell.

Following my arrival in Dublin, in the mid-1980’s, I was absolutely thrilled to find that these legends, although past their best on the field of play, were still very much alive and out and about around the city. One beautiful May evening, I arranged to meet an old school friend in Toner’s pub on Baggot Street. Only a few feet away from us sat Moss Keane, Peter Wheeler (the former England captain) and a few others in their company.

After Moss finished each pint, his huge frame would rise off the stool and assume a standing position. He would solemnly put on his jacket and bid farewell to all. A process of persuasion would then ensue, culminating in Moss agreeing to stay for just one more pint. The jacket would be removed and was hung up neatly.He would then resume his original seated position. This procedure was to be re-enacted repeatedly throughout a very pleasant evening.

Note: RIP Moss Keane. When we have admired a hero from afar for many years, some of us might prepare ourselves to be disappointed if ever we were fortunate enough to be in their company or to just to see them in the flesh. “Surely Moss can’t really be that larger than life.” I would tell myself.

I am happy to report that he met all my expectations.

(An edited abstract from my book: London Irish Dublin English)