Monday, 5 August 2013

The Galway Races: immoral and magnificent!

What’s a fella to do, as the song says. The thunder clouds roll in and it’s sweaty and the flies are out and it’s been another Race Week. To be honest, I’ve no idea what the weather’s like as you read. I just took a punt. A gamble. Sunshine, showers, humid and bit on the shtinky side, d’y’know. Race Week weather.

Siobhan in Claregalway spent hours in front of her long cupboard mirror on Thursday morning, checking her accessories. Tommy from Salthill, well, nobody’s seen hide nor hair of him for days, but that’s the way it is in Race Week. He’ll get himself into a card game and you won’t see him ‘til he’s done. Used to be a problem back in the day when the kids were young, but now, well, to be honest, it frees up his long-suffering missis for a few days. So everyone’s happy.

Everyone's happy because it’s Race Week. Himself from Ballybrit is happy because he gets a bit of work at the Owners and Trainers Bar. He’s on the door, watching the good money coming in and the bad money going out. He’s grinning to himself at the pittance he’s being paid compared to these Fianna Fail gombeens. He’s watching it all and lapping up the scenery. It’s like a human Noah’s Ark so it is, coming and going. 

There’s the ones who should be coming and going, and they’d tend to be yer trainers and owners, and then there’s all these other yokes who are looking for nothing but a little bit of information, d’y’see? Just a nod or a wink from the bloke who owns a fetlock and Colm from Roscommon is on to his phone to do the betting on t’internet faster than the Heineken floods cold nectar into his glass from the tap in front of him.

Then there’s the players. He sees them, because he knows how people can hide in plain sight. The really good ones are the ones that most people miss, but he sees them, what with his training and all that. Hiding in plain sight, relaxed, happy, calm, but sucking up the hottest angles, placing the biggest bundles on the nose.
They’re not yer each way betters. He smiles as he thinks of it. No, these aren’t yer each wayers. These are the players.

The work is good, he’s happy for it, but the watching, listening and learning, that’s better than a banker’s bonus. Well, no, not better than a banker’s bonus, but great craic. Rather be doing it than not, safe to say.

Siobhan’s met up with her friends in Eyre Square, and heading up to the course on the bus. They were going to get a taxi, do it Full-On Girl Style, but there was a bus right there, so wha’the.

Her mates all look great and it’s just a kickin’ day out. She’ll get the first round in. That’s it, she’ll get the first bottle of bubbles for the girls, that way everybody’ll remember and nobody’ll notice that she doesn’t do much betting. The bus had been a Godsend. Thank you God, she says to herself as she listens to Anne-Marie’s story about Bulmers and an English lad called Brian.

She’d budgeted for her share of a taxi, but now, as long as the bubbles weren’t too crazy expensive, she might even have a bit left to bet with, too. Now that’d be a bit of a laugh alright. She’s working part-time in a supermarket and hitching to lectures at NUIG. Loans and rent and life’s not all fun, but you have to sometimes.
Sometimes you just have to, and it’s Ladies Day.

Then it’s Family Day, at the weekend, and another buzz, relaxed and bouncy castles and still the streets of the city are buzzing and fussing with eaters and drinkers, Gardai and men in gold and silver standing still on top of boxes.

After his stint working the bar door, Himself is back in town, sitting outside Coili’s, watching a fire juggler across the way.

Turning to the grey-haired boho next to him he says
“He’s alright, s’pose, but not good enough for Johnny Massacre Corner!”

The man replies,
“I am sorry. Vot? Who is John ze Masterpiece, pliz?”

Himself smiles, moves his head forwards and backwards like a wading bird and
“S’alright mate, no bother.”

What was he thinking? Like yeh, really, the guy’s gonna be a Galwegian, tonight, in Race Week!

Race Week, the concentrated essence of the city of Galway, attracting the rest of the country like no other single national Irish event. Cork’s got its jazz and Kilkenny makes comedy and well as hurlers. There’s the All Ireland Finals at Croker, but that’s a couple of hours sport with a day and night’s drinking. They come to Galway for a week, but it’s not the length of days. This is not merely some pathetic endurance test. Back when Wednesday was the big day, Plate Day, and the meeting ran only a few days, the Galway Races were no less significant; important; immoral; magnificent.

There’s a depravity, corruption and decadence to the affair that cannot be ignored, but putting aside the traffic and the pavement pizzas for a moment, the best part of Race Week is the spirit of the city. Galway soaks up the farmers, politicians, insurance brokers and hairdressers. They are all welcome to have their own parties, to gamble and screw each other, or gently sip tea and suck Galway oysters from the half shell.

Siobhan’s mascara is a disaster by the time she’s back on Quay Street. The cobbled streets are a total mare to her now, ouch, those bleedin’ heels, exhausted, too much to drink, but nobody noticed about the money. Now they want to go for a drink. She’s enough for one and the bus home.

“Coili’s for the music?” asks Roisin.

So they head up High Street, and in the distance, Himself spots Siobhan, and she kinda catches his eye.

What’s a fella to do?

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