Monday, 28 January 2013

It’s time for my Organic Galway Ramble #4,365!

As regular colyoomistas will know, I’m a strangely conflicted type of bloke. The lucky owner of a full range of social skills hewn, sanded down and polished up during years spent hitch-hiking around the planet, I can talk to and get on with anybody from any country, social stratum and culture.  

Thing is, I don’t really like to. Essentially I’m a reformed loner. Living on my own in west Connemara and north Mayo for several years, I settled into a silent life of walking, work and talking to animals. If it wasn’t for my need to watch Chelsea games I’d never have left the house.

Thankfully I was blessed in both houses with good friends to visit nearby, god love ‘em, preservers of my sanity, but inasmuch as I loved that life, I knew that it wasn’t good for me.
Whether you call it OCD or control freakery or just another scribbler going stir crazy, I started to behave obsessively:

My plate.
My knife and fork.
This goes there and nowhere else.

Not healthy at all, but thankfully from the inside I was able to recognise that it was a bit of a dark one-way street, so I returned to the city and engaged the human race once more.

Now I have the best of both worlds, with rural solitude during my working walking day and the Snapper for company in the evening. Her presence encourages me to behave as an almost fully-formed human, but truth be told, I get away with murder. Maybe it’s one of the benefits of married life: as mutual comfort levels increase and personal standards plunge into decline, I regress into slobdom.

Social skills are like all others; they require practice. So in an effort to polish up my personality, I head into town for one of my Organic Galway Rambles.

Unlike sane and sensible people, the two ingredients required for my ideal night out are a lack of people around town and, as a self-appointed honorary Galwegian, an absolute absence of firm arrangements.

Heading across Wolfe Tone bridge, chin down into the freezing north-easterly wind, I head up into Quay Street. The blackened glistening cobbles echo the utter emptiness of Galway’s social heart. The early night air is sodden with sideways rain, while the wind is whipping around my gonads like spaghetti around a spoon.

Lovely! Perfect! A freezing cold lashing-down Tuesday evening in January. It has been too long. 
Welcome home, Charlie Adley!

My anti-social ingredients increase the likelihood that there will be barstools available everywhere. Nothing worse than having to sit at a table on your own. Let me stare at the optics and space out.

But first, as ever, a feast of fish and peas in McDonaghs. Nothing else better sets me on my way mentally, physically, spiritually prepared for anything.

Belly warm and lined, I slip onto a barstool in the front bar of the Quays, where three others are sat, having a chat. A basket of hot sausages and goujons appears. The craic is quiet and mighty all at once. A late Christmas whiskey arrives in front of me, which tastes all the sweeter, because somehow the barman knew my name.

Without doubt I should stay here, chipping into the others’ conversation every now and then. There are tales of Sean McDonagh’s days, which ended just before I arrived in Galway. A welcome dip into local history and personality.

The old front bar feels comfy and civilised, without being conformist. But my arse wants to sit on another stool. My legs want to ramble and like a lost character from the Wizard of Oz, my heart wants to prove to itself that it is truly human.

My mistake.

Somebody who shall remain nameless (truth be told I can’t remember who it was, but I’d like to find out because I’d give ‘em a piece of my mind!) had said to me that a pub just away from the city centre was a bit like Taylor’s Bar. Apparently all the old Taylor’s crew went down there. I should really check it out, he said.

So I plough through the rain and walk into the empty pub, where the barman and a female companion are sitting on barstools, drinking and chatting. One other soul drinks at the far end of the bar, but as soon as my backside hits the barstool furthest from him, he drains his drink, ups and leaves.

Had he been waiting for someone to come and save him, and if so, from what?

Sitting sipping my whiskey, trying neither to look nor listen, my eyes and ears are unfortunately drawn to the only life in the place. The barman and his companion appear to be re-enacting a really bad play about Ireland in the 1950s. You know the sort. The curtain rises and as soon as you see the set, you wish you’d never left the house.

The play I’m both appearing in and simultaneously watching would be acted out on that most-dreaded set of Irish theatre: an Irish country kitchen, circa 1950something, with a bottle of Jameson on the table, doubtless a brother coming home from America, a drunken stumbling man and a drunken agitated woman.

The night is young and I don’t want to skull my whiskey because there’s yet a lot of drinking to be done, but every cell in my voluminous body wants to get the hell away from this pair. Their speech is unintelligible. I watch them flirt with each other and stumble and mumble as the rain lashes the window and the wind swirls around the pub.

It’s all too miserable.

I drain my glass and flee, free, free at last, back to the town centre. In my quest for real human beings I’d somehow found a desperate mockery of fiction. As the Snapper pointed out, if I’d wanted pub theatre, I’d have been better off going to the Kings Head for one of their lunchtime shows!

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