There’s a certain something about the older generation of Dublin pubs that has a magic all of its own. The nooks. The crannies. The sheen of the polished bartops that have seen some quare reflections. And the ageing bartenders, who have been privy to many more.
Eons ago, having been gone from Ireland for seven years, I returned to Dublin in time for the Six Nations. We were playing Scotland at home. Rugby.
I didn’t have tickets to the match and truth be told back then, I wasn’t all that interested in the game. We watched it in the house so that I’d have some idea of what I was talking about before we headed into town to have the craic.
We had different ideas of what would make it a memorable night, my friend and I. M wanted to lose her voice in a singsong. I wanted to go into a pub and be remembered.
We started off in Neary’s. Upstairs. I recognised the bartender. Pat Lennon. He’d been behind the bar in the Sheaf of Wheat in Coolock back when I was working out there. He’d moved into town and had served me the odd G&T in Neary’s before I’d left. But it had been a while. And in that while, he’d pulled a million pints and added lemons to a million glasses of Cork Dry Gin (this was back in the day when Ireland had but one gin that sat alongside Beefeaters and Gordons).
I put in the order. He took it, without a hint of recognition. I felt inordinately disappointed.
As we waited on him to come back with our drinks, M pointed out that it’d have been a miracle if he’d remembered me. I wasn’t a regular-regular of Neary’s. More an occasional-regular.
The rational part of me knew that. The romantic part still held out hope, not that there’d ever been a hint of anything romantic-romantic between us. I was just another punter. But in the years I’d been away, romantic Ireland had risen from O’Leary’s grave.
As he put the drinks on the bar, though, he looked straight at me and said: Well, MM. Where’ve you been? It’s been what, seven years?
He knew me by name. First and last. He knew how long I’d been gone. He’d remembered. The night couldn’t get much better.
But it did.
We traipsed from pub to pub, enjoying a litany of post-match discussions. M sang her heart out. I’d been remembered.
I was reminded of this today, at seven minutes to eleven on a Bank Holiday Monday (in Hungary) when I clicked on the most recent post from Enda, an Irish blogger I follow.
He and his mate, Mick, have been meeting in The Palace Bar for yonks. I’m not sure we made it there that night but it’s an old favourite of mine, too. And like many of the older generation of Dublin pubs, it’s still the way it’s always been.
I love the way he writes; how he uses words to unleash the floodgate of memories that needed to be dusted off. And for that I’m grateful.