The subversive joy of day-drinking can be one of life’s giddiest pleasures

I had a long to-do list to get through that day and not one item on that list mentioned pints in a roadside beer garden with a bunch of strangers

I didn’t mean to go day-drinking. I had other plans. There was a long to-do list to get through and not one item on that list mentioned pints in a roadside beer garden with a bunch of strangers who might yet become friends, a sentiment Yeats never apparently wrote despite what you might read on a Dublin Marathon medal.

I don’t think anyone plans day-drinking escapades or at least I’m sure the best day-drinking adventures happen by accident. Olivia Rodrigo has a song on her new album Guts called Bad Idea Right? which is about hooking up with an ex. “I only see him as a friend, I just tripped and fell into his bed,” she insists. Yeah, right Olivia. But I do have some sympathy with the singer. That’s kind of what happened to me last Saturday afternoon. I just tripped and fell into the Old Royal Oak pub in Kilmainham, which looks more like a house than a pub sporting as it does two variations of pebble-dash on the exterior. What a legendary boozer to accidentally fall into. “There’s pebble-dash in the jacks,” my friend Gerry happily reported when he’d returned from where he’d gone to “drain the potatoes”.

The subversive joy of day-drinking can, in the right conditions, be one of life’s giddiest pleasures. Taken too far, by which I mean taken from day into night especially when you are in your 50s, can have catastrophic results and lead to serious hangxiety. But day-drinking in the Old Royal Oak pub on Kilmainham Lane, a tiny old-school hostelry which feels like the kind of secret drinking den you might come across in rural Ireland despite being within a short walk of the Liffey, takes such an occasion to another level.

Gerry and I took a plastic chair each beside a box full of free books outside the pub and immediately fell into easy chat with Betsabe from Mexico and Adam from Arklow, two of the youngsters in the beer garden. They were on a first date having met on the apps. The apps, they said, can be desperate altogether but today the apps were working out just fine. They’d been for coffee, to a museum and then for a stroll around Inchicore. Now they’d tripped and fallen into the Old Royal Oak. We chatted to the first daters and when Betsabe was in the bathroom suggested a pub to Adam with great pizza nearby where the date might be prolonged.


If I’ve learned one thing from watching the Barbie movie four times, it’s that everybody’s job can be summed up in one word

Soon everyone had been introduced. Sid (short for Siddhartha) from Kolkata in India had moved to Ireland a week ago. Mary (a local) and Martin (from Limerick) were a long established couple and Big, who arrived by bike, was a ringer for Carrie’s love interest in Sex and The City. “Sex and the wha’?” Big harrumphed when we pointed this out.

If I’ve learned one thing from watching the Barbie movie four times, it’s that everybody’s job can be summed up in one word. In Barbie, a running gag is that Ken’s job is “beach”. As a baker my friend Gerry’s job is, obviously: Bread. (Breadman Walking, find him on the Instagram and thank me later). Adam’s job turned out to be Pharma. Betsabe’s job was Engineering. Sid’s job was Money. I didn’t find out what Martin does and was too scared to ask Big who was slightly gruff, deeply cynical and delightfully mysterious.

From talking to Mary, a chatty, brainy, glamazon in her late 50s who had nine children, 17 grandchildren and carries the loss of a husband and son, she could be anything she liked but she’d excel at: Housing or Property. She had a lengthy chat with Sid about his rental prospects and with Gerry about whether he lived in Dolphin’s Barn or Rialto or going even more granular into whether his gaff was in Lower or Upper Rialto. She knew exactly which parts of Dublin 8 now had serious notions, or as she put it, which bits were more “oody doody” than the other areas. In Mary’s magical lexicon “oody doody” is gentrified. “Oody doody” is high fallutin’. Oody doody is now my new favourite phrase.

We spent a couple of happy hours bantering, drinking and laughing but apart from asking Adam for his details on Instagram so I could send him the commemorative photo I’d taken of him and Betsabe, we didn’t swap numbers which was probably for the best. (Yeats would have been rightly appalled by my habit of setting up WhatsApp groups with stranger friends I’ve only just met.) The next day I found Adam on Instagram and asked how the date went. The news was good. They’d had pizza in the pub we recommended and were now spending Sunday together watching movies in his house.

Some people will say that you need good weather for day-drinking. An extensive cocktail list. Comfortable outdoor furniture. Jazz. I prefer plastic chairs in a light drizzle with quality randomers who all clearly understand the assignment. It was all blissfully far from oody doody which is how I like my day-drinking escapades. I hope one day you get the chance to accidentally fall into the Old Royal Oak in Kilmainham where the staff are kind and the punters know they are in on one of the best-kept secrets in town. I worry I’ll never get in there again now after mentioning the place in such a public forum but it was too good not to share. I’ll be back sometime soon for a rejuvenating day-drinking sesh. That is, if I’m let.