Tag Archives: guinness

‘It’s for You…’

Crisp and clear

Crisp and clear

A chilly, breeze blew across the cobblestones and the wedding group shivered, again. The photographer waved his hands wanting us to get closer and, when all was ready, he looked through the eyepiece and said out loud ‘Cheese.’
We grinned, smiled or whatever as the flash went off, briefly lighting the grey afternoon.
‘Don’t move,’ cried the photographer ‘another one, please.’ When he was finished we broke into small groups and stood about chatting about the ceremony while older weddinggoers, more familiar with such events, headed for the comfort and warmth of a car, and onto the hotel. It was a few weeks before Christmas and the day was crisp and clear, with the sun only a temporary, but welcome, presence.

We climbed into Tony’s car and we drove along the Coast Road, past Clontarf and a windswept and empty Dollymount Strand where the  last vestiges of the setting sun were reflected in the windows of the houses that looked upon Dublin Bay. And just beyond the beach, in the dark waters, the white horses were galloping ever closer.
At the hotel in Howth I stood in front of a big fire and warmed my hands. ‘Don’t hog it,’ cried Kate as she discreetly eased past me and bathed in the warm glow. She couldn’t hide her delight and cooed with pleasure. ‘I would love a hot whiskey, darling,’ she said and kissed me on the cheek.
‘You and the rest of them,’ I said and went to the bar.
I also bought drinks for Tony and Claire and went back and re-joined Kate who had now recovered and was ‘warm all over.’ That was great as I once again stood in front of the blazing coals. It was invigorating and soon I stepped away and let some other freezing souls enjoy the fire of Howth.

Fire of Howth

Fire of Howth

Bill, the groom, was my best friend and we had met on our first day in school. Growing up we played football for the same club; robbed orchards; mostly liked the same music; learned to drive within a few months of one another and later chased girls. It was the best of times, and I now wished him the best of luck in the new phase of his life that was just beginning. He and Caroline met at a barbecue two years ago, and he was now happily wearing a new wedding ring. And a smile wider than Dublin Bay.
I was delighted for the new couple and accepted a drink when Tony came back from the bar. It was early and the noise level was already beginning to rise. What would the night bring, I thought, and deep down an idea began to form? I tried to grab it but it was too quick for me, so I let it go and downed a mouthful of a creamy Guinness. ‘Cheers,’ I said to the other three, and ‘here’s to a great night.’

The conversation around the dining table was lively, as the eight of us had plenty of fun ribbing one another, something that we had done for years. That night it was particularly entertaining and helped along by mucho vino. They say that it loosens the tongue and Dave was on fine form telling jokes. ‘You dirty old man,’ laughed Kate when Dave told a particularly rude one. The time passed quickly and, with the speeches over, the dancing started. The DJ turned the music up and soon the floor was packed with giddy dancers.
Over the next hour or so I met and talked with friends and Bill’s cousin, Alex, who I had not seen for a long time. He had moved to Los Angeles and was doing very nicely in the music business and living near the beach. He invited me to ‘drop in’ anytime and I carefully put his business card away. And it was just after he joined the dancers that the idea came back, and this time I got a hold of it. I grinned, lost in thought, and then went off to find Kate, Tony and Claire. It was going to be a team effort but I knew that I would be singled out as the ringleader. I didn’t care, and for Bill, who had played pranks on me before, it was ‘pay-back time’.

I gathered the merry pranksters together and I laid out the plan.
‘You’re mad, he’ll never fall for it,’ said Kate, shaking her head.
But Claire loved it. ‘That’s a great idea, Joe, and crazy enough to work,’ she said and looked at Tony who was grinning his face off.
We spent another ten minutes going over the plan until we were happy. ‘Well, Claire, are you ready?’ I asked.
She took a last sip of wine, smacked her lips and nodded. ‘Let’s do it,’ she said and took up her position beside the public telephone at the end of the bar.
I spotted Bill dancing with an aunt, and I nodded for the game to begin.

Claire picked up the phone, dialled the front desk and asked for Bill. ‘I’m calling from California. Can you get him quickly, please, as this is costing me a fortune.’ She kept a straight face and her American accent was acceptable, especially as it was dulled in all the background noise.
Tony and I watched as a staff member came up the stairs and was pointed over to Bill. He leaned close to hear what she was saying and then he was off down the stairs two at a time. We let him get to the bottom before we made our way to the small landing, and waited.
Behind us, Claire now playing the part of Bill’s old, Californian flame, Debbie, waited as the receptionist handed over the phone.
‘Hello,’ he said and Claire answered with a big, friendly ‘Hi, there, Bill, what a surprise, eh?’
I could see him hold the phone close to his ear, concentrating on the words coming ‘all the way from America’. He was relaxed and crossed one foot over the other and talked with ‘Debbie’. Tony tapped me on the back and whispered, ‘He’s going to kill you.’ I nodded as Bill kept talking. I could just hear him say ‘…how did you find out?’ when Claire put the phone down. She was laughing hard and had to wipe the tears from her eyes.
‘Hello, hello, hello…’said Bill as the line went dead. He shook his head, handed the phone back and turned around. Then he stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked up. It was like a scene from a movie when he saw us and we couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
‘I’ll kill ya, Joe,’ he cried and scampered up the stairs.
He didn’t, thankfully, and The Night of the Caller has not been forgotten. And as time moves on I am very much aware that somebody out there has my number, and is just waiting to ‘make that call’.

'It's for You...'

‘It’s for You…’

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Filed under Dublin, Humour, Ireland, short stories

Flann’s Your Only Man!

The craic house

The craic house

Well, it’s that time again, thankfully, and fans of the great wordsmith will be gathering once more to celebrate his wit and wisdom in The Palace Bar. It’s the perfect place for such an occasion and this year the day has pushed back to Easter Monday – April 2nd – but that will not in any way dampen the fun. It’s a great day where fans read, recite and sing from his extensive canon of words and a lively time is had by all. I have been to a few such days and I can only say that it’s one of the best and most friendly ways to spend an afternoon, or later as I vaguely remember. You know what I mean. So, if you are in town, why not drop in and enjoy the craic – see you there. Slainte.

I think The Third Policeman should see this....

I think The Third Policeman should see this….

 

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Filed under Art, Dublin, flann o'brien, Humour

St Anne’s Park – There is much to see and do

The Guinness family have played an important role in many aspects of Dublin life, and their influence on the development of St Anne’s Park was considerable and lasting. For almost a hundred years they were innovators in garden layout, and the park is one of the last great demesnes in Ireland.

The Red Stables

The Red Stables

The brothers Benjamin Lee and Arthur Jnr took up residence in Thornhill (as it was then known) in 1835, but demolished the old house and built a new house  called St Anne’s. It was named after a holy well on the property, and Benjamin and his new wife, Elizabeth, lived there from 1837. But it was their son, Lord Ardilaun, and his wife Olivia who extended the property and built many of the unique features, including the follies, the Red Stables and various walks, that attract visitors.

Clock Tower

Clock Tower

At its height St Anne’s consisted of 500 hundred acres. When Lady Ardilaun died the property passed to her nephew Bishop Plunkett. He sold it in 1939 to Dublin Corporation for £55,000 and retained Sybil Hill and about 30 acres of parkland – now St Paul’s College. In 1943 the old house, The Mansion, was damaged by fire, and eventually demolished in 1968. In the meantime, over 200 acres were developed for housing, leaving the remainder of the property, as we know it today, with its extensive sporting and recreational facilities.

Tree Walk

Tree Walk

Lord Ardilaun was fascinated by Italian/Roman history and many of the follies reflect this. Among them you can find a Roman Tower, a Herculanean House and a Pompeiian Temple. Others include the beautiful Clock Tower, the Shell House, the Rustic Grotto and the Hermit’s Cave. And there are walks along tree-lined avenues: the long, main avenue planted by Lord Ardilaun with holm oak and the beautiful Chestnut Walk.

One of the most popular features is the Rose Garden. This was opened in 1975 and since 1981 has been a centre for International Rose Trials. Following on from this the Rose Festival (held in July) has become a rose-lover’s favourite.

The vivid Red Stables that Lord Ardilaun built now house a craft centre and the Tir na nOg restaurant. A market is held in the courtyard each weekend, but weather permitting, the stalls will be set-up outside on the grass. Check it out, as there is plenty to do.

Glorious Rose Garden

Glorious Rose Garden

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

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The Bloomsday Boys

Writing short stories is fun, but deciding which ones to included in my collection was very difficult. They are all important, each having been created at different times and for different reasons. Some of them I wrote quickly, while others took much longer. This was not necessarily to do with the length of the story, but just how it came into being. There is no hard and fast rule as to how you force the issue and get a story completed, because if you do so, I find, that it’s like dragging a horse to water rather than gently leading him. The phrase ‘less is more’ seems to suggest a good way to do your work.

So, after much toing and froing, I made my selection and they take their place in The Bloomsday Boys, which is now available as an ebook on Kindle. Click the image below for preview.

The Bloomsday Boys

The Bloomsday Boys

As good luck and timing would have it, I finished the book just before Bloomsday and the title story was read outside Sweny’s Pharmacy on the ‘big day’ by Shane Egan – and he did a mighty fine job.  The video below shows him in full flow, and some interesting pictures inside Sweny’s and of Bloomsday revellers dressed in appropriate, Joycean attire!

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MylesDay – it’s your only man!

Hello there,

It’s an odd thing but Myles na gCopaleen (Flann O’Brien) the great comic genius passed away on April 1st, 1966. I’m sure that if he had a choice as to which day of the year to ‘leave the stage’ then April’s Fool Day would be just about perfect.  Ah, what timing!

The Palace Bar

The Palace Bar

This year was the third annual celebration of his passing, and appropriately enough for such literary royalty, it was  held in The Palace Bar, Fleet Street, Dublin. The place was packed long before proceedings were due to begin, and the buzz of excitement was palpable. Many pints (‘A pint of plain is your only man!’) were drunk in a pub that the great man was familiar with, and much laughter and lively repartee filled the air. It was a great success with over twenty acts partaking in reading and performing works by Myles, some of which were truly hilarious. For those familiar with the works it was great fun, and for Myles’s virgins food for thought and ‘someone to find out about’.

Flann the Man & Joycer

Flann the Man & Joycer

I had the pleasure of meeting and taking a photograph of Myles and James Joyce, honestly, and they are both looking well – must have something to do with the consumption of Guinness and all the little molecules in it! Check out more about the event at the official website: MylesDay

Slainte – ’til next year!

 

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Dublin – Walking With Words 1

What is the world’s tallest sculpture?

Well you might be surprised to know that it is The Monument of Light (better known as The Spire) on O’Connell Street, Dublin. It’s just one little gem of information that I found when I was researching my e-book ‘Dublin – Walking With Words’ which will be available in May/June!

Walking With Words - front cover

Trinity College – front entrance

The guide covers Dublin, and in it you meet many of its most famous sons and daughters and hear what the city meant to them – in their own Words. It takes you on a stroll through its history where you meet James Joyce, WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, Elizabeth Bowen, Phil Lynott, Molly Malone and many others. You will find out where they lived and worked, and how the city influenced them in their artistic endeavors. Whether it was in the Georgian heartland of Merrion Square, along the Grand Canal, Trinity College or some favourite watering-hole, all these places have a story to tell, and with photographs and maps they are brought to life.

The guide is divided into five sections, each one taking about fifty minutes to complete – depending, of course, on how long you may decide to linger in some friendly pub or restaurant and enjoy the atmosphere!

So, if you have a little time in Dublin and wish to ‘get to know the place’ better than some of the locals, then put on your comfortable shoes and ‘Walk the Walk’.  (Check out the video below for a preview of your ‘Walk‘. I am very thankful to Derek Gleeson for his kind permission to use his composition as a soundtrack.)

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