Sunday 13 August 2017

There are ghosts in Galway's pubs - yours and mine!

Ghosts come in many forms and some of mine are pubs. Sometimes you can’t see or feel the ghosts, but they are there. 

When you’re pumped up for an exciting night out, filled with bonhomie and pure thick with the thirst, you’ll sniff not one whiff of nostalgic ectoplasm.

Then there’s nights like the one I enjoyed a few weeks ago: gentle solo affairs that involve drifting from bar to bar, staring at optics.

Those nights are not missions to get sozzled. They are times to feel comfortably alone, soothed by the familiarity of my arse on a barstool. Apologies to women, who still sadly cannot always enjoy this cocktail of security and solitude in a bar.

That night my spirits were droopy, my energy levels low. While it was great to suddenly find myself out and free in Galway City, the reasons I'd ended up there were demoralising.

I wanted a gentle night, so I started by nursing a Jameson at the bar of the Crane. Downstairs, never up. I don’t care for being shushed by an earnest Hostelero from Fankfurt wearing a Taliban headscarf, sipping his half pint Guinness, complaining that very much he likes the folk music.

My ghosts rise up from behind the seats opposite the bar. Over there my friends The Guru and The Magician, clutching gins and crazed grins, rising to their feet at midnight to sing God Save The Queen at the tops of their voices. 

To my shame I’d cringed with trepidation, but naturally the locals loved the anarchic and absurdist nature of my mates’ behaviour.

So much laughter. Now gone, as is my whiskey.

Down Sea Road a few yards to Massimo’s, and ghosts of our wedding party. What an amazing night that was, and it needed to be, as my dad had died two weeks earlier. A pair of English blow-ins, the Snapper and I lured 400 friends and family through Mo’s doors, and Galway showed everyone how to party.

Our friends, the staff and our Healy hosts pulled off a miracle, for which we’re forever grateful.

Another deeply personal ghost in Mo’s, sitting next to my father in that back bar, watching Chelsea win their first title for 50 years. He’d taken me to my first match when I was 9 and then he was sat there, visiting my world, squaring the circle.

A man can have too many ghosts. Time to head off to the city centre.

Over Wolfe Tone Bridge I went, into Neactains middle bar, and behind me, in the back bar by the window, ghosts arose of a wonderful night of reunion. 

Sometimes Galway can feel like a Jimmy Stewart movie, and returning from our Christmas UK trips, we’d gathered around that table, the Guru, the Snapper, Yoda and all, feeling delight at being back where we belonged, together in the West of Ireland, as a bottle of festive Absinthe was passed surreptitiously under the table. 

We’re back!
Hooray for us and life and Galway!

Ghosts. A stormy Tuesday afternoon in February, on that middle bar barstool which faces the open fire, sheltering from the sideways rain sheeting up Quay Street. Drifting off in the steamy heat, staring at Joe Boske’s incredible Arts Festival posters…

Onwards into High Street, up to Murphy’s, where no ghosts are necessary, as it is, always and perfectly, as it is. 

Into Freeney’s, where ghosts of French chef friends screamed for Les Bleus during World Cup Rugby matches.

Another time I’d head up to Richardson’s and drift on to Tonery’s, but that night there was no energy in my legs. My heart was as weighty as my body was lazy, and that was fine with me.

This was my time, rare and precious. I’d do precisely what I wanted, when and where it most pleased me.

Bloomin’ lovely.

Back West, into the Blue Note, where so many ghosts rose out of the Smoking Section, I felt I was in a Romero movie. This was where we believed we ruled the world, back when we cared about such things. It was impossible to take life too seriously with the inimitable Cian Campbell heading the crew behind the bar.

Some pubs have themselves become ghosts. The wonderfully lowlife Camden-esque Jug of Punch burned down, and the old Cottage, which had of course always just been The Cottage, became the super dooper tapas Cottage, which never filled the same hole.

Nimmo’s crammed a lifetime of friendship into a few years. Harriet Leander imbued the place with her unique mystique, and while I’m sure Ard Bia is wonderful, it’s a wholly different beast.

An Tobar, scene of so much debauchery back in the day, has been assimilated, as if part of Borg. It is no more.

Finally into the Universal, which used to be the Old Forge, the cheapest pub in Galway. Still trying to get my head around the fiver my Jamie cost in Neactain’s, I’m appalled that €5 won’t even cover the cost in here.  

€5.20? Come on lads, you’re having a laugh.

To be fair, the barman had offered me a taste of Badger’s Fart 64 year old craft organic artist anal whiskey, but it’s just not on to receive one Jamie and less than a fiver back from a tenner, when 50 yards away I’d been given loads of change in the Crane.

Maybe I’d finish my trawl of Galway’s great pubs in what was once Taylor’s Bar, pretty much my second home in a past Galway existence.

Did that mean I had to end my gentle evening at a lap dancing club?

Is it just me or does anyone else feel Paradis Club should be called Club Paradis?

Nursing my last whiskey I smile deeply; quietly.
No it’s never going to be the right time to go there.

©Charlie Adley

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