I had a visitor from out foreign over the weekend. An Irish person who lives abroad, home for his summer holiday.
I remember it well – packing up to come home for the annual summer break. Being almost sick with anticipation – usually it would have been the previous Christmas that you’d have been home, and you were keen to get back to a perceived sense of normality. Somewhere that you’d understand the language automatically and not have to concentrate to do the mental and literal translation.
Then after a fortnight at home you’d be chomping at the bit to return out foreign. Not because you weren’t having enjoying yourself at home, but more to do with the fact that only you is on holiday. Everyone else’s life is carrying on its regular routine and at its regular pace. People would be free to meet on a Saturday. Meanwhile Tuesday afternoons would have been preferable to you. You couldn’t really do a course or join a club, because few of them offer a two week membership. If you were lucky and the weather was tolerable you could lie out in the back garden with a coffee and a book, and a bag of carrots, with which to bribe the guinea pigs – trying to purchase their rodent love with vegetable treats.
And on the last night at home, you’d have a night out in the Big Smoke of Dublin.
You can fly to Amsterdam from Belfast, Cork and Dublin but for the sake of convenience and regularity Dublin is the most practical airport from which to travel. Unlike Belfast which is at the complete opposite end of the country; or Cork where the flight times are so early it is borderline abusive; Dublin has ten flights daily.
Which enables the big night out in the capital.
As I hauled myself to Dublin at the earliest possible stage in the last century, my adult friendships in Ireland are Dublin based. I have rose-tinted memories of the fun I used to have with my posse back then. I know that if I could take a time capsule to travel back twenty years, the fond memories of 2016, wouldn’t be so wonderful while I was living through them. People rarely seem to think ‘I am having a wonderful time at this period in my life.’ That recollection comes later when you have filtered out all the stresses and irritations.
As I had a visitor from that time, we were going to relive our glamourous youth and paint the town pink.
We started with dinner in a restaurant called ‘Madina’ on Mary Street. It is run by Pakistani people but they advertise themselves as an Indian restaurant however. Is that a marketing ploy? Great food at a very reasonable price.
Then onto Pantibar on Capel Street – the mothership of the marriage equality referendum last year. Fronted by legendary drag queen Panti, it is a glittering and neon-lit pub. It used to be called ‘GUBU’ when I lived in Dublin before – an acronym for ‘Grotesque, Unbelieveable, Bizarre, Unprecedented’ which was a phrase uttered by the completely corrupt former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, Charles Haughey to describe the apprehension of a double murderer in the home of the Irish Attorney General in 1982. A dry sherry, or two, was imbibed.
Then onto the ‘Front Lounge’ – another stalwart of the scene. This was less raucous than Pantibar and there was a hush over the crowd. I figured out why fairly quickly, the Brazil-Germany Olympic Final was on the big screen, and the gay Brazilian population was out in force. And they were watching. Intently. I was more mesmerised by the Stock Aitken and Waterman soundtrack playing in the background. To me ‘Mel and Kim’ are on a par with premier league footballers. I quelled that sacrilegious thought however, by scratching myself, spitting and burping ‘Good game, game of two halves’ before starting a bar brawl.
To finish the soiree we ended up in Ireland’s oldest gay bar – The George – which has been pumping its cheesy music since 1985. We didn’t go to the club part of the venue – it was late, we are old and didn’t fancy spending a tenner to be in the company of teenagers. Instead we went to the quieter bar – officially named ‘Bridie’s’ but known to everyone as ‘Jurassic Park’ because of the age profile of the clientele. I used to look at the place in horror twenty years ago, whereas now I was self-congratulatory for finding a table in a bar where the music was good, but not too loud.
A rebel until the last.
Feeling slightly delicate on Sunday, I came home immediately after rehearsal and watched the film ‘Weekend’ on Youtube. It’s a really beautiful, sad film about strangers meeting, spending a weekend together and then parting as one of them is emigrating to Oregon.
It didn’t mirror my own weekend but it was a fitting bookend to the Sunday.