Good Friday booze binge is not what it used to be

I don’t think the pub closure registers much among pulsing youth these days

Back in the day, the closing of the pubs was an event you prepared for. Photograph: Thinkstock

Back in the day, the closing of the pubs was an event you prepared for. Photograph: Thinkstock


In 1990, a few months before we met, my husband came to Ireland, from London, with his red-haired Australian girlfriend to enjoy a long weekend of black stout and mild debauchery in Dublin.

It was his second visit to the country. His first had been in the 1960s when he, his graciously theatrical mother and her equally theatrical friend Peter came to see Micheál Mac Liammóir perform at the Gate and then to drive around the west of Ireland in an ancient Vauxhall Velox, staying in small rural B&Bs.

In his 30s, when he returned with his Antipodean companion for the weekend, my husband’s childhood memories of a car-sick vacation had been softened by the intervening decades. On the first trip, Peter, apparently moved to lyrical heights by dappled cows and soft rain, declaimed poetry at high volume out of the window to mildly astonished sheep, as the Vauxhall ambled, sped and careered along crooked byways.

My future mother-in-law was a truly appalling driver. I still remember being in the back of her car when she reversed at speed into London’s Leicester Square, the pedestrianised bit where the Japanese congregate with their cameras (doubtless we feature in many family albums in Osaka).

The 1960s holiday came to an abrupt end when Peter’s cat died and he decided he had to return to London immediately to oversee the funeral arrangements. I suppose it is possible, by some cosmic equation, that the cat saved the Vauxhall’s inhabitants, including the vomiting boy in the back, from driving into a tree while the adults flung poetic offerings at the hedgerows with incautious gusto.

No pint for my unmet husband

So, years later, my unmet husband disembarked in Dublin, looking forward to a pint. Only it was Good Friday, and all the pubs were closed, and he and his girlfriend ended up with a block of cheese and a cup of tea in a Drumcondra guest house in the shadow of the archbishop’s palace.

When I was a youthful gadabout, I explained to him after we met, the craic on Good Fridays revolved around weeping into Blue Nun bottles in loud flats and smoky bedsits. The closing of the pubs, I informed him, was an event you prepared for.

Maybe I’m being sentimental but I don’t think Good Friday pub closure registers much among pulsing youth these days. Maybe I’m moving in rarefied circles, but it seems to me there is a different, more harmonious and tranquil vibe among younger people now. This is only a personal observation, but I sense a less-panicked pursuit of gratification among our children than existed in my own generation, one that, when released from the confines of the convent or unleashed from Mammy’s apron strings, sizzled and spat like hogs on a stick.

Strange teas and tap water
Last Sunday night, a young friend of mine invited me to a poetry slam in the city centre. I threw the Brillo pad in the bin and went into town, found the cafe he had directed me to, wound my way down the steps to the basement and into a room where dozens of people, all probably younger than my raincoat, were drinking strange teas and tap water and listening to their contemporaries recite poetry.

The poems were brilliant; humorous, honest raps about isolation and happiness, sex and love, politics and nature. These witty, sharp, arresting examinations of how it is to live now were delivered to an attentive crowd, who showed their appreciation by gently clicking a rhythm with their fingers. Randomly chosen adjudicators in the audience nominated the evening’s three winners, who shared the modest prize money from a dish that was passed among the appreciative congregation. I felt like I had time- travelled to some folksy bar circa 1960.

“We have a winner,” the MC said, “even though there really are no winners. You are all amazing to do this, to stand here on this tiny stage and recite, but tonight one of you is getting a bag of chips and a taxi home.”

I left, stood outside for a while, watched the young poets and their supporters leave the cafe, and okay, it wasn’t Greenwich Village, but at least the rain was warm. Maybe, I thought, we won’t always need the ferocious purge of Good Fridays when Sundays can unfold like this.

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