It’s Christmastime; there’s no need to be afraid. At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade. And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy.
And have an evening out in Limerick.
Plans had been made. I was meeting a friend in The Red Hen on Patrick Street for post Christmas beverages. The time to meet was 9 pm. I set off from home at 8.10 – plenty of time to walk to town, and hence work off some of the effects of the Licorice Allsorts I had been devouring all day. (The Licorice was a nervous reaction to my driving lesson without Attila earlier in the afternoon.)
I strolled up the road, without a care. This is my town. I know this place. Sure I didn’t need to travel the route most travelled. I could take a shortcut.
After thirty minutes wandering around the suburb of Mayorstone, I started to feel somewhat alarmed. I knew where I was, didn’t I? Where was Shelbourne Park though? That was the destination my shortcut was meant to take me. Right?
Wrong. Even after checking the map on my phone I seemed to be traversing the dimly lit side roads of the sleepy suburb without any end in sight. The streets all looked the same – with the same semi-detached houses. Eventually I followed a man about one hundred metres in front of me, hoping he was not going home. Unknown to him, he took me to a main road, much further from town than the point I started my ‘short cut’. Not to worry. I knew where I was now – no more side-roads for me.
I half-walked, half-ran to The Red Hen, arriving only ten minutes late, with a healthy sheen of sweat on my manly forehead. My friend awaited me.
It was very sophisticated, and thankfully not too crowded. The night before was the big night out. The pubs are all closed on Christmas day, so on the 26th it appears like the population has been suffering a desperate drought. That means hordes of thirsty punters. To avoid them I went to see the latest Jennifer Aniston comedy in the cinema. ‘Office Christmas Party’ is a not a deep film. But when our Jen – in her evil character mode – punishes a naughty six year old who has stolen her complimentary airport bun, by telling her that her mother was not going to return for her, well I admit, I laughed like a drain.
Tonight was more pleasant. Decent music, affable crowd, fast service, pleasant atmosphere.
After a few sociables we decided to report to Limerick’s local/only molly house (this is a nineteenth century term for gay bar). It has the unfortunately evocative name ‘Strokers’. Who thought up that name? The previous owner – apparently it was called that long before it became a gay bar. I’ve been there before – usually once a year – this time of year in fact. It’s located in a quiet part of town with little passing traffic. You sort of feel like you are going on an adventure by going. It’s a fairly typical bar – jukebox, dancefloor, tables and chairs. Little evidence that the name is inspired by the activity within. We arrived to find the windows darkened and the doors locked. The music was pumping, we could hear the crowds within laughing. We knocked on the door. There was no answer. After a few minutes pounding the door, we turned on our heels in a huff and flounced back to a straight bar that we knew would be open.
That bar was called Nancy Blakes (or simply Nancies to those of us from Limerick). This bar (along with its hyper butch name) is a Limerick institution – it has been a hot spot for as long as I can remember. Attracting an eclectic mix of people of all ages and fashions, it’s a safe bet for a good night out.
We stood out the back watching the clientele. I kept my eyes focused on people of around my age – there was a good chance I’d run into old schoolfriends and I didn’t want to be caught unawares. I wanted to be ready to fake recognition if some random person from years gone by approached me and asked me how I was doing after all these years.
Sadly there were no such encounters. It was fun to watch the women in their high, high heels and the men with their scarred eyebrows – now that they were respectably middle aged they were dressed conservatively, but the hairless strip on their eyebrow told a story of a wild youth, where once they had a piercing.
We stayed for a drink, checked our watches, realised we had be up early in the morning and left.
You can’t be out after midnight – you could turn into a pumpkin.