Sunday, 14 October 2018


With the closure of the Westwood Hotel I feel I’m saying goodbye to an old friend. It was for years the place for a toastie and pint of Guinness when I’d an hour to kill; an emergency peeper stop on the way back from town; the bar where I took my students for a celebratory pint after the last lesson of my Craft of Writing Course; the place where I meet friends flying in from abroad.

Whether they landed at Dublin, Knock or Shannon, they have all found their way to the Westwood, and from there after hugs and welcome pints, I lead them back to my gaff.

If you’ve not been a regular customer you don’t have the right to feel regret at the folding of a business, but emotions don’t follow the rules. Even though it’s been 15 years since I stepped into the place, I was truly sad to see that Jordan’s in Ballina had also closed.

As I drove past last week my heart sank to see the boarded buildings in the terrace looking drab, deflated and dilapidated. It might have been closed for some time.

Back at the turn of the millennium I used to enjoy going in there while waiting for the bus from Galway to arrive. There was an intangible quality about the place that I loved. I felt as if I’d been immersed in a Virtual Reality version of Reeling In The Years.

Deep red carpet, wooden bar stools and a long well-polished brass hand rail that leads the eye to the far end of the bar where, clustered around a comforting coal fire, the daily gathering of The Brethren of the Bar is in full swing.

Pure Irish culture, ancient and alive.

Arriving deliberately an hour before the bus, I’d plant my arse on a barstool, order a Jamie, approach the Observer crossword and sigh with contentment, as the bar’s entertained by the old fellas’ banter.

Evidently they’ve enjoyed a fine day. Pleasantly oiled and well humoured, they are ripping the proverbial out of each other with the cruel sharpness of men who have drunk together for years.

The young brunette barmaid hums happily as she keeps herself busy, well able to handle her regulars.

“I love you Aoife!” exhales Tall Rakey-Thin, as she hands him his ‘pointa spesh.’

“I’m glad somebody does!” she replies, leaving himself with a gaping three tooth smile, mumbling “Ahh, but I do! I do, I really do I do do...”
as his mouth sinks towards his beer.

Chunky Beetroot-Faced Flat-Hat turns to his mates.

“Here’s one! Here’s one, I tellya! Tink of a number. Go on!”

“Oh, hmm, yesh, I have one.”

“Double it!”

“Ohhhh, jusht a second now. Hmm. Okay.”

“Now, times it boy, boy, boy shix!”

“Ohhh jeeze Mikey, what’re ye feckin’ at?”

“Just do it man. For feck’s sake, it’s not dat hard izzit? And now, now add ten, divoide boy two, and take away the cofff coffff wheeze coff oh feckin’ Jayzus Mary and Jo Jo Jo cofff coffff wheeeeeze take away shix, and you have da nomber ye firsht tort of!”

His toothly-challenged friend disagrees.

“No. No, I don’t. I have terteen, and I shtarted wid sheven!”

“No you don’t!”

“Yes oy do, ye old bollox!”

“Well, ye got it wrong den, dincha? Can ye not add and shubtract? I feckin’ said double it and add 22!”

“Ye never shed nuttin’ like dat, not a bit of it, oh no, not a bit of it!”

“Ah well, try it again!”

“I will not. ‘Tis borin’ and you have it wrong anywayze. So now, c’mere, I have one for you now. Listen to dis one. Hey, Aoife, c’mere and lissen to dis one! Now, if it takes me a week to walk a fortnight, how long will I walk in a day?”

“Eh? What da cofff cof wheeze cof what da fock was that?”

“Oh, maybe I got him wrong, now, lemme tink, ah now yes yes yes let me see now, maybe what I meant was it’s a fortnight to walk a week?”

“I love you Aoife!”

“Like I said, thanks, I’m glad someone does!”

“I do! I love you Aoife.”

“Thanks, and by the way, my name’s Deirdre!”

With that the barmaid turns away and bites her lip to stop her laughter as behind her this revelation brings forth an eruption of uproarious hilarity from all, followed by some reassuring backslapping, and then, from somewhere deep inside the giggling manly huddle, there emerge words that make me wonder if this whole thing is not some kind of set up.

“Ahh, a bit of auld craic, ’tis all ye want! A drop o’liquid, and a bit of auld craic!”

Did he really say that? Had I just been entertained by an improvising installation of actors, employed by Discover Ireland to show tourists drinking near bus stations a little local life?

This quintessentially Irish collection of words felt simultaneously a cliché and powerful, because it was one, and as such, here in Jordan’s bar in Ballina, it was enhanced by authenticity.

Years later I’m able to enjoy all over again remembering those archetypal words that so many imitate and jest of, yet nobody really expects to hear.

Ireland is a much poorer place for the loss of these hotels and bars. The Brethren of Bars are now mostly dead and buried, their lifestyle, as my late father used to say, destroyed by progress.

That night, as I rose from my barstool and put on my coat, I nodded towards them, wished them well and left them to their lives.

Outside the rain had stopped, the clouds were gone.
Autumn’s cold air grasped my lungs.
Stars shone from a moonless sky.
The bus was in.

©Charlie Adley

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