I know how dangerous it is to meet someone for coffee at 4 in Galway. I know that just popping out for the milk can sometimes take three days. I know that there is no such thing as ‘just one quick drink.’
Sitting at the bar of an Tobar in 1993, I discovered how dangerously different Irish drinking culture is to English. My excellent friend The Body turned to me.
“Are you going out tonight, Charlie?”
The question completely threw me. I’d spent the previous 4 hours of darkness drinking whiskey in a city centre pub.
What part of that wasn’t ‘out’?
Back in the day in England we went down the pub at 7:30 because it closed at 11:00, so that we could have enough sleep to fulfill the Protestant work ethic, arrive at our jobs on time, brimming with energy and bulldog spirit.
Like many other Catholic countries, Ireland prefers to go out at 10:00, but that’s where the comparison ends. While the Spanish and Italians enjoy a late dinner, splitting their working days into morning and evening shifts with a siesta, many Irish eat early and go out to drink at 10:00, heading to bed when standing up becomes a little too troublesome.
Some will sleep until they wake up and there’s the rub for me: I'm condemned to bloomin’ wake up early. Perverse and unnatural, this business of being conscious and active through the morning hours must’ve been drummed into me as a lad.
A few weeks ago I needed a night out, but felt a bit betwixt and between. Like the weather, like a slightly nutty scribbler, I didn’t know if I wanted the Irish-style social late night, with attendant sleep deprivation, or the early start English version, more of a solitary wandering anti-social ramble.
Deciding I wasn’t really in the mood for making small talk, I hit Quay Street at 6:30, aiming for the only certainty in my head.
Every Adley organic ramble has to start where the white flesh of fresh cod is magnificent. No good Galway night out can begin until you’re full of PJ McDonagh’s fish and chips.
Coach parties wandered up and down Quay Street on that fine evening and there was not a seat to be had outside Tigh Neachtain but - ah wonderful! - the barstool facing the fire in the middle bar was free.
One of my favourite barstools in the entire city, especially on a wet cold Tuesday afternoon in February, I sit and watch the flames and drift off into the bizarre and exciting world of Joe Boske and his Arts Festival posters.
Rather too happy, I down three whiskies in fairly quick succession, and find myself twirling Pádraic Breathnach in a ballroom manoeuvre as I take my leave.
Plenty of time Adley, pace yourself.
Drawn by the full moon in a cloudless twilit sky, I wander towards the docks.and lean on the wall at the end of the pier, wondering at the elemental splendour of that silver wash on inky waters.
A whiskey in O’Connaires, once Sheridan's and other incarnations, but to Galwegians of a certain age (and this blow-in) only ever Padraig’s as is and was and ever shall be. Despite the nasty metal bar stools, I meet Peter Connolly of the exceptional Claddagh clan, who updates me on the progress of Bádóirí an Cladaig and their superb mission to regenerate Galway’s maritime traditions, by restoring and sailing a fleet of Galway hookers on the modern day bay.
A while later I’m sitting outside The Quays, blissed out in my own space, very happy to look like Billy-No-Mates. On my left five American men drink five pints of Guinness, roaring with laughter at each shared story, while to my right three bearded hipster cyclists in Spandex drink bottles of water.
Onwards I wander, up to Murphy’s where the last vacant barstool invites my arse to sit on it.
Perfect. I love it in here. Checked shirts and men being men, watching Barca thrash Celtic. Mind you, times change: the lad sitting next to me at the bar is reading a book on a Kindle.
I stare into the mirror, the optics, drift off with the gentle hum and tinkle, giggle and cough of the bar.
Another couple of wee ones down me and I’m feeling perfectly toasted, wandering up High Street to sneak a quick nightcap in Tigh Coilis, watch Dalooney ply his musical art and head back for a good sleep after an excellent evening out.
My phone vibrates, alerting me to a message from Vinny. He’s out of the theatre and how about that drink?
Nothing I’d enjoy more than a drink with the inestimable Mr. Browne, but I’ve already had my night out and - oh, whatever.
Four very splendid hours later, Dalooney, Vinny and myself fall out of another city centre hostelry. My friends have been in sparkling form, having only had the single night out (although, to be fair, Dalooney had played an earlier set in Taaffes too, so he was on his own ‘double’) but I am now absolutely Galwayed, bad and improper.
After 24 years this city can still catch me out. I thought I knew all its tricks, but on reflection I suppose I was asking for trouble, heading out without knowing which kind of night I wanted.
In the end I enjoyed both the quiet solitary wander and the big blather night out.
I’ve been introduced to the Double Galway: 2 nights out for the price of one. Well actually, the price of two, plus a double hangover and sleep deprivation thrown in for good measure.
Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.