Monday, 15 February 2016

A gentle anti-social ramble around the Wesht...

 My very own decompression chamber...

No human could enjoy a better greeting in Tigh Neachtain. At the corner of the front bar sits the Snapper, elegant in her long woollen dress, alongside a smiling crew, who leap to their feet to cry

“Charlie! How arya!” and offer firm handshakes. As one of them sniffs my neck another declares:

“It’s good to see you back in Neachtain’s!”

which leaves me wondering when I left...

The politics of Quay Street are simple. You’re either a Quays person or a Neachtain’s person, and never the twain, except of course for your contrary colyoomist. I love them both. One of my great pleasures is to sit outside either and watch life as it drifts over the cobbles.

For me it has more to do with the seasons than matters of allegiance. Thankfully, I feel very welcome in both pubs, but in the Summer the seats outside Neactains get the sun. In Winter the Quays has an awning and exterior heating, so I gravitate there during these dark months.

I'm a funny one. Even though I’ve come to town to see people and have some craic, I discover that my socialising batteries are out of charge. I'm not past enjoying the craic.

Just today, this evening, I can’t access those social skills that create conversation.

After a mere half hour of talking, I head west over the bridge, stopping in the rain to absorb the wonder of roaring tumult that is February’s River Corrib. Then off to McGuire’s shop for a newspaper and into Monroe’s.

Ahhh, lovely. A table; a pint; a window onto Dominick Street. Watching the stoic walkers of Galway’s commute brace themselves in the face of a wet Atlantic wind, I spend a gloriously quiet hour.

Over the years I’ve found Monroe’s an excellent decompression centre, when after days of rural isolation I’m ready to see life all around me once again, but not quite able to take it on face to face. 

The smell of woodsmoke helps too, and their cheese and ham toasty has saved many a day.

Fortunately my anti-social mood won’t stop me from having a great time tonight. I’m feeling extremely happy and I'm not trying to keep anyone else happy.

Maybe tonight I just want my arse plumped on a barstool. 

Sometimes I deliberately aim for pubs where I know nobody, to sit and stare at the optics, to soak up the feeling of being there without having to contribute anything apart from cash.

Then again, it’s often on those nights, as a stranger in a strange bar, I find great personalities on the barstool next to me. Firm friendships have been formed while pure unadulterated nonsense was debated.

Maybe after the game I’ll head to Carroll’s, then up to Tonery’s bar in Bohermore and onto Fox’s, where Dalooney is playing tonight.

Stepping outside the door I’m blasted by sideways rain. 

Abandoning all thoughts save seeking refuge, I dive into the Blue Note. It’s only 6:30 so the place is dead quiet as I settle onto a barstool.

Blimey, haven’t been in here for years. Whatever happens tonight, my freedom feels perfect. Perfect to sit alone and feel calm. Perfect to wonder about the game.

John Terry is far from perfect. “There’ll be no fairytale ending!” he declared, as he announced a parting of the ways with Chelsea. 

Doubtless he’s a contemptible git who has misbehaved in all manner of ways off the pitch, but throughout his entire career the man has played through blood and pain, holding the line, scoring goals and leading the team as nobody else could.

With Stevie G, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville long gone, JT’s the last of his kind: a complete club man, lifelong and heartfelt. He announced he would not play for any team in England or Europe, so that’s he’d never be faced with the prospect of having to play against Chelsea. To this True Blue fan, that goes a long way.

Meanwhile in the Blue Note, the young ones at the end of the bar are chatting about the music playing.

“That’s kind of cool!” he whispers under his breath.
“Yeh, it’s something from the 70s.” she replies.

That’s Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’, I think to myself, smiling as I consider how both ABBA and The Ramones are also ‘something from the 70s.’

Born in the 60s, I suppose I’m something from the 70s too. What a great decade it was for music, even though those bouffant hairstyles and brown fashions were appalling.

Feeling suddenly rather old and slightly out of place, I sip my Jameson and reminisce about the afternoon this pub first opened.

Sitting outside with The Body, Blitz and Whispering Blue, we clinked bottles with the inimitable Cian Campbell, whose mighty personality injected success into the bar.

At first the Note served as stopover on the journey from an Tobar to the nightclubs of Salthill. Years later, drinking with Angel, Yoda, the Guru and myself, the smoking section of the Blue Note became our Brotherhood HQ, but the only Galway pub I ever felt was my Local was Taylor’s Bar. 

Oh Taylor’s. All these years later, it still feels like losing a friend.

Chelsea and Watford play out a miserable goalless draw, but down the back of Massimos there’s excellent craic to be found at Shed na Gaillimhe, the home of Galway’s Chelsea fans.

Then it’s time for ballast in the shape of curried chips from Costello’s and off for a nightcap in the Crane, where local ladies are dancing to the band, impromptu twirls and magnificent swirls: pure wonderful.

Considering I wasn’t in the mood, I’ve enjoyed a splendid night.

©Charlie Adley

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