Friday 12 September 2008

The most dangerous thing in Galway City? A coffee on Monday at 4 o'clock!

Neachtains Bar
Weekend nights have never figured much on my social map of Galway. Everywhere is packed, and many of my friends are busy working, keeping the city pumping with great food and foaming pints.
So by Monday this scribbler is in need of some kind of human interaction. I'm not looking for a major session. I just want to sit and watch the people go up and down Quay Street. A cup of coffee, maybe even one pint, and then back home for a quiet evening, to be followed by a productive day's work unhampered by heinous hangover.
Pretty soon after moving to Galway I discovered that there is nothing more dangerous than arranging to meet a friend for coffee at 4 o'clock.
By five the second coffee is kicking in and then a wee whiskey appears, and the next thing you know you're waking up at 10:30 the next morning on a sofa in a strange house, wondering who you are, why you're not dead if you feel like this, and maybe you are dead and this is hell.
These days I am more careful. The auld fella jus' can't take it like he used to, d'ya'know?
That's not to say I don't occasionally take the risk of enjoying myself.
A couple of weeks ago I wandered innocent into Neachtain's at 4 o'clock, and was as surprised and delighted as an ingenue to find the place packed with eclectic bunches of friends, from all strands of my life.
Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case with my strange head, I couldn't handle it, standing there frozen like a Fianna Fail minister in the dock suffering from Memory Loss Syndrome.
How am I?
She only asked how I am. For god's sake Charlie, get your act together,
Sorry love, can you start with the easy ones, please. I don't know how I am, and believe me, if I try to explain how I might be, you will truly regret ever asking.
Even though I still l consider myself a non-smoker, I carry a pack of fags. Not only can a sly smoke make me feel wonderfully and instantly sick and jangly, but going outside for a ciggy can make for a pretty handy escape.
So I turn and make to flee, when I suddenly hear a voice calling my name from the cubby hole. Ignoring it, I press on, but the voice calls again, with the unmistakable Northern brogue of my esteemed colleague and talented artist Allan Cavanagh: he wot herein visually makes me look like a complete twerp each week.
Excellent! Allan I can deal with, and dive into that wonderful little snug square at the front of the pub. Whiskeys, pints, and gentle craic flow as steadily the soft rain outside.
The Snapper arrives. More whiskey and oh my goodness what a surprise - I now find myself well able to go and talk to the crew with whom I abjectly failed to communicate earlier. Now we are all operating on the same level of intoxication, and my oh my, how could I ever have felt alienated?
I love it!
I love you and you and you!
Allan, the Snapper and I dive out and head to Dominick Street to avail ourselves of the excellent Spanish food available at Cava. Obviously it's not like the Spanish food you eat in Spain, any more than bacon and cabbage in Lanzarote is the real deal, but it is as delicious and authentic as might be possible in Galway. The service is excellent, the company witty and acerbic, and by the time my belly is full of chorizo marinated in sherry, the world looks fluffy and cute.
Then I decide to have a second espresso with my cartoonist colleague, which tips me over the edge and leaves me babbling like an asinine idiot on steroids. Thankfully, my company find it amusing, but I should have known better. A half hour later my head is splitting with a caffeine comedown, while the alcohol is still pumping merrily around my bloodlines, unable to be processed by my poor old overtaxed liver.
I hate it when somebody doesn't know their own limits, especially when it's me. By the time you make 'adult' you're meant to know what is enough for you. Of course we all need to fall off our controlled perches of responsibility once in a while, but what on earth was all that throwing up for when you were a teenager, if you learned nothing about where to draw the alcoholic line? Caffeine I underestimate, and even though I am unable to stop my mouth blah blah blabbering at the restaurant, deep inside I sincerely wish I would shut the fuck up and stop being such a prat.
Now is the time to say "Well Done!" to Alan Williams, the chef-proprietor of Abalone, who had the balls to open his restaurant on Dominick Street a few years back, when that end of the road was dying on its feet.
Since Abalone's arrival, and subsequent deserved success, the entire block has come back to life with a vengeance: Hehir's have opened a branch of their bakery/cafe; Arabica have opened next to them; Cava has opened next to Abalone, and just up from a recently-opened Mocha Beans cafe; E Brun's excellent pub has opened on the other side of Abalone and Galway Taxis have moved their base to a few doors up.
Cava is a welcome addition to Galway City, as indeed is all that inner-city regeneration off Quay Street.
What time did we get home? I don't know, but those 4 o'clock coffees, man, they're lethal.
The day after that night's excesses, I met a friend for lunch at the Racing Lodge in Doughiska, and took the opportunity to do my shopping at the new-(ish!) Dunnes in Briarhill. So great was my alertness and well-being that I drove all the way back to Salthill before I realised that I'd left half my shopping in the bloody supermarket. Having trudged through the rain and endless traffic back to Briarhill, I was delighted to be greeted by smiling caring Dunnes staff.
The Dunnes girls had put my bags to one side for safekeeping, and even thought to store my dairy items in the fridge. Ladies, thanks so much for your smiles, and for giving a damn. You made my recovery much less painful!

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