Beaumont pint would make Arthur turn in his grave

Wed, Aug 12, 2009, 01:00

AGAINST THE ODDS: A flying visit to the Beaumont House pub makes Vinny appreciate the delights of his local boozer, Foley's

THE RUSTY Raleigh racer chugging up Skelly’s Lane on Friday afternoon had seen better days; as had the portly figure perched on the saddle. Although the incline was gentle, and the south-westerly breeze moderate, Vinny Fitzpatrick was puffing hard.

He could feel his t-shirt sticking to his lower back and was conscious of a little chaffing in his upper thighs – thankfully he had remembered to slip a small tin of Vaseline into his back pack; it would come in useful later.

Vinny was on his way to the Beaumont Convalescent Home to make one of his all too infrequent visits to his maiden aunt, Annie, who, he felt, had been a resident so long in what was the old family home of Arthur Guinness, she now must have shares.

Annie was his late mother, Bridie’s, sister. She was nearly 80 and, while she had had a stroke some years back which had left her paralysed down one side and slightly affected her speech, her mind was as sharp as a tack.

As they sucked wine gums in the TV room, where Annie firmly held the remote control in her good hand and made acerbic remarks about her fellow “inmates”, Vinny brought her up to speed with Angie’s pregnancy, and how twins were due in early December.

“I was hoping, if one was a girl, that we might call her Annie after you,” said Vinny.

Annie rocked back and forward in her chair with glee. “Oh Vincent, I’d be delighted,” she said.

“Please God, I can hang on until then. I reckon I’m 6 to 4 to make Christmas,” she added with a wheezy laugh.

Vinny always enjoyed dropping in to see Annie and chided himself for not doing it more often.

He assured her he would be back in a few weeks, not months, planted a kiss on her steely-grey shock of hair, and placed another bag of wine gums in her good hand as he left.

Hitting the Beaumont Road, Vinny felt a thirst coming on. He was about 20 minutes and three miles from Foley’s, which was too long to wait.

Looking to his right, he spied the Beaumont House, which was adorned with a giant portrait of Arthur Guinness.

He looked at his watch, and felt he could allow himself an hour.

“Just the two will do,” he thought.

After taking care to lock his bike – he was, after all, on the northside – he entered the bar in anticipation.

The last time he had been in this pub was when it was known as The Rendezvous many years back.

Inside, it was eerily quiet for a late Friday afternoon. Foley’s would be a lot busier, he thought.

He ordered a pint, noted with mild disquiet how little change he got from a fiver, and parked himself at a corner of the bar where he could see the telly.

There were ads on, one of which he’d seen before. It was for “Arthur’s Day” to mark the 250th anniversary of the signing of the 9,000-year lease at the St James’ Gate Brewery by Arthur Guinness.

The day picked out by the Guinness marketing people was Thursday, September 24th when, at precisely 17.59pm, the intention was for Guinness drinkers everywhere to raise a glass of the black stuff and toast the memory of the great man.

As Vinny sipped the modest pint on offer at the Beaumont House, he knew where he wouldn’t be on September 24th. Looking around him, he felt a little let down by his surroundings.

This pub was next door to where Arthur Guinness lived for almost 40 years. Indeed, it was Guinness who had given the parish of Beaumont its name after the fine views of the Dublin Mountains from his home next door.

This pub should be a living monument to Ireland’s most historic figure, crammed with Guinness photos, memorabilia, dark nooks and crannies, and, most especially, a pint to die for.

But it was a soulless, dreary place, bereft of atmosphere and home of a decidedly ordinary and quite expensive pint. It failed to reach Vinny’s expectations given its historical background.

“Foley’s knocks spots off this place,” he thought to himself before trying to catch the barman’s attention for a refill.

Given that there were only a handful or bodies in the bar, he couldn’t understand why the barman kept busying himself behind the counter, studiously avoiding eye contact.

Feeling his blood rise, he coughed loudly and said pointedly: “A pint please.”

The barman grunted before shuffling towards the taps.

“He makes ‘Dial-A-Smile’ in Foley’s look like Bartender of the Year,” thought Vinny.

The second pint was as unremarkable as the first and Vinny had made up his mind to take himself, and his bike, elsewhere, his mood not helped by being charged €1 for a standard bag of crisps, not like the pub-sized specials he was used to.

He looked at his digital watch. It was getting on for five. He’d be home by half past. Time for a wash, bite to eat and then off to Foley’s to meet the lads and watch the golf.

He picked up an early evening paper that had been left on the counter and paused for a moment, scratched his fleshy chin as he did.

There was something about the date on the newspaper that was bugging him but he couldn’t think what.

It was August the 7th, what was special about that? He looked at his watch again, just as it ticked over to 4:56.

Suddenly, it all hit him in a blinding flash.

For the next 60 seconds it would be 4.56, on the seventh day of the eighth month of the ninth year. Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.

It was a sequence of time-related numbers, time that would never be repeated, a moment he could not let pass.

“Here’s to 4.56 on this day,” he said aloud, raising his glass.

The barman looked up.

“You’re not supposed to do that until next month. And the anniversary is at a minute to six, not whatever time it is now,” he said.

Vinny paused for a bit, waited until his watch ticked over to 4.57pm, before slowly easing himself off his barstool. It was, he felt, time to move on.

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