Monday, 16 March 2015


Arriving deliberately early I plonk my arse onto a barstool in the Hotel Meyrick and take stock.

As human beings we tend to seek constancies: people, places and possessions that might always be there. I’m lucky to have many precious and astonishing people in my life, a benign possession in Blue Bag, and for places: barstools.

There’s something about a barstool that sets my mind at ease. It has nothing to do with the drinking. 
Of course I’m looking forward to my whiskey but first I breathe out, slump forward a little and rest my elbows on the bar.

It makes no difference if it’s a tiny corner bar in a train station, a barstool in one of my old locals or a pub in which I’ve never been. Wherever the barstool, I sit, relax and stare at the optics. My back to the world, I’m defiantly alone. Might want conversation but more likely I just want to sit, sip whiskey and think of random barstools in countless other bars, and how I’m doing in life right now, compared to then.

It’s not obsessive. I’m not fascinated in rating my life performance to any great extent. It’s just that barstools trigger reflections in my brainbox.

This barstool here equals that barstool there. 
What was life like, back there, back then?
Can I glean from it some wisdom or just self-indulgent romanticism?

That barstool in the Deluxe on Upper Haight, San Francisco, when I lived down the road. The barman wore a straw boater, cheeky eyes twinkling between his hat and his grey waxed moustache. That was a good cocktail bar.

America arrives familiar to our European eyes, as we’ve already lived there through our movie screens, TVs and books. I love American bars. Different from both English and Irish pubs and European café bars, they feed my love of American low-life culture.

My mind wanders to that wobbly tall wooden barstool in the bar just up from the Projects. Good people who were looking out for me advised me not to drink there but they needn't have worried. I grew up sitting on barstools in pubs where mine was a rare white face, so I never gave it a second thought.

I was fine, as I am now, sitting in this bar in what used to be the Great Southern Hotel. I’ve been to the Meyrick only once since its conversion, and that was to a wedding, yet it lived up to my expectations.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, so I’ll resist stifled sniffs and singing lyrical of the old place. 

There’ll be no yearning for concepts such as ‘cosy’ and ‘sumptuous’, no wittering wistful for the grand old Dame of a hotel she was.

No, I won’t do that, because the Meyrick appears very good at what it does, occupying the metallic monochrome glitzy side of anodyne. Looking across to the optics in front of me I feel like I’m in a place that knows what it’s doing, all the way from the staff to confidence that allows such sparseness on the walls. It’s neither different nor clichéd because there’s nothing to see, except the bricks which are, as my friend astutely points out, identical to London Underground’s restored platform walls.

Although unpretentious and friendly, I personally found the place a little cold, preferring something warm, more Irish; but then I’m a foreigner so I’m probably hoping for something that the native wants to avoid at all costs.

Back in the early 90s any available barstool along the front in an Tobar, with Blitz on one side and The Body on the other, Whispering Blue serving behind the bar, a far away look in his eyes, everyone happily resigned to another night of excess.

The brown barstools in Keogh’s old pub in Ballyconneely, before Brendan converted the place. Back then you’d leave with a rim imprinted on your buttocks from the frame, while the cushion sank below, long retired from supporting human backsides.

While he was building the new pub he erected a massive marquee over the pub garden, and set up the bar inside. So for a few months we sat and drank our pints on barstools staring at a palm tree and a flower bed. Sometimes we thought we were losing our minds, drinking beer in Connemara while the white cotton walls flew in and out on the western wind.

The vital barstool in Terry’s in Clifden, where to this day I ceremoniously have a pint of Guinness in celebration of having yet again driven past the hills and lakes of Connemara, and yet again been moved and enthralled.Sadly, over the decades, it has also become the barstool to which I flee when someone dies.

Any of the middle stools at the bar of Harriet Leander’s Nimmo’s, with Charlie Minot behind the bar. Bliss.

The far corner of the front bar in Taylor’s Bar, now that was a great afternoon barstool. Just away from the window, perfect for a crossword, to look out at the street or over the bar to Una. Down the road, the barstool at the very far end of the Blue Note used to have a groove on worn to match my own.

A freezing cold midwinter midweek afternoon in Neactain’s middle bar, on the barstool facing the coal fire; steam from the wetness of my jacket.

Each barstool a moment, snatched or given, a few minutes or maybe more to collect my thoughts; to simply be.

Given enough time, I’m might emerge from my reverie and engage with fellow humans. On rare occasion, I have been known to exhibit some social skills and cause smiling to break out.

More often than not though, while I’m on a barstool, I’m looking to drift; meander; remember and wonder.

I’d call it meditation but you’d all have a good laugh if I did. Open to the future, drawing from the past, whilst being in the moment and asking nothing of anyone else.

Except, oh, thanks, yeh, I’ll have another one, ta.


©Charlie Adley

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