Sunday 19 November 2017

I'm not drunk - it was the compost!

The inestimable Harriet Leander...

As I head into the city I wonder if tonight’s the right night for my Organic Galway Ramble No. 3,256. I call them Organic not because my nights out are righteous or wholesome in any New Age way, but solely because I have no plans; made no arrangements.

I’m going to let Galway lead me.
That’s the way this city likes it.

PJ McDonagh’s represents so much more than my traditional starting point: it’s an essential component of any Galway ramble. 

However weak or pathetic you feel as you enter, you’ll be raring to go after the light crispy batter, piping hot flaky fresh white fish and incredible chips.

Dammit, even the vinegar tastes special as I eat staring at Biddy Ward’s pocket and poem once again.

Now that's better. 
All of a sudden your scribbler has a thirst.

Over two Jamies enjoyed outside the Quays, conversation with a pair of local characters leaps seamlessly from the Atlas Mountains to the moons of Jupiter. 

From there it’s a happy road of reminiscence to Apollo 8, to Borman, Lovell and Anders, the first men to see the dark side of the moon, whose mission filled my 8 year-old mind with inspiration and wonder.

Don't tend to like tigh Neactain at night, but I open the door to take a look and am presented by a sea of backs, a wave of noise and body heat. 

No thanks. 
Not got the energy for that. 
Tonight I want a gentle ramble, not a social scrum down

Now I wander down to the docks, to stare at the millpond that is the Atlantic on this rare calm November evening. Each step I take sends a shooting pain down my left leg. 

Sciatica on the way methinks, as I am an idiot who has yet again proved correct Einstein's definition of stupidity: do the same thing and expect a different result. 

This time last year I put my back out sorting the garden compost, and today I did it again.

As I said: idiot.

Standing right at the end of the docks, I’m caught between the artificial and natural worlds. To my right, under blinding electric spotlights, a pair of tyrannosauric JCBs are loading vast heaps of gravel onto a ship.


On my left, down in the darkness afforded by the sea wall, a heron stands in the middle of the stream. I watch him watching the water, waiting for his dinner to rise out of the inky shallows. Giant dumper trucks shovelling stone and muck and wild animals trying to hunt.

Just another night in Galway City.

Looking over to Nimmos pier I recall standing right at the end of it, dressed in my finery like a latterday French Lieutenant’s Woman, experiencing the Millennium New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

Fresh back from failure in America, I needed to be apart from it all and a part of it too. I heard the cheers from Eyre Square, and saw fireworks showering the skies above County Clare across the bay.


Dock One Seafood Bar has been several pubs, but for years has been drifting towards becoming a restaurant. It was Padraig's for dodgy dawns after mad bad craziness in Taylor's bar and losing the will to live in Le Graal. Then it was Sheridan’s, with fine dining upstairs, and as I take a look at the current menu outside, I mumble 

“B’god, that's fancy!”

Whilst in this neck of the waterside it’s impossible not to give thanks to Harriet Leander. Her tenure at Nimmos helped drag Galway’s gastronomy out of the Dark Ages of tinned sweetcorn and white pan, into the modern world of classic cuisine: fresh food, locally sourced, served with simple brilliance.  

The ingredients of Harriet’s Nimmos were a bar, two restaurants, 78 great characters, 43 eccentrics and a sprinkling of weirdos. Pure Galway in its transience, the place shone brightly for a few years, became a way of life to me, and then it was gone.

Thankfully that was after I'd been served a glass of red by a brunette, who then joined me on the other side of the bar. I cooked her dinner and later, Reader, I married her.

Walking into Dock One I’m greeted by the barman’s warm handshake and powerful smile. Aha! So this is where himself of the Quays disappeared to. A second ago I was wondering why, in a city crammed with great pubs, I'm going to a restaurant for a drink. 

Now I'm glad to be here, but the cool November air has hit my manparts, so I head to the Gents.

Unfortunately my gammy leg is forcing me to walk with that studied concentration usually associated with very pissed people trying to look sober. 

Unable to move in a straight line, I zig-zaggy stumble past a table of three ladies eating dinner, appearing to go out of my way to bang my hip against a stray barstool.

They laugh and mutter about it being early to be “that bad!”

I resist the temptation to explain I’m not that drunk, it’s the compost you see, deciding that would sound so obscure it might just confirm their suspicions.

Secretly I wish I was that drunk, as that'd make me a really cheap date.

Time to head off west now, where I feel less of a visitor. Even after a quarter century I'm still thrilled by the sight and feel of the River Corrib rushing under Wolfe Tone bridge, vibrating the walkway as it hastens Connemara's rain into the Atlantic.

Thank you universe, for providing such a calm and benign evening for me to hop and limp around my dry windless city.

Monroe's and the Crane bar beckon…
©Charlie Adley

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