Dublin - the aftermath
11th to 21st July 1996
A little history
It all started at Christmas 1995, with Dave Gosnell and Tony Darkins sat for lunch at the oh-so-hard-named Pink and Lily near Great Hampden in Buckinghamshire. Dave dared to try their chilli con carne, whilst Tony had his usual lasagne. After copious quantities of Chiltern Beechwood Bitter and Guinness, someone made the daft suggestion of going to Ireland. Now it should be emphasised that in previous states of inebriation, visits to practically the whole of Europe had been suggested, but for some reason, this Irish (sic) idea stuck, and a mere six months later it all started taking shape...
Now somewhere on a network server far, far away - in Edge Hill, Merseyside to be precise - there was a rather familiar-named talker called Obscure Orchard. One of the talker's administrators, Andy Fiddaman, had created an on-line game within Obscure Orchard called the Acronym Room, where users tried to devise amusing and relevant expansions for common words. Somehow, the name Guinness got set as a word - which Dave, who just happened to be a user of the talker, expanded into Gorgious, Unless Imbiber Needs Nightcap, Entailing Swift Swallowing. Foolishly, Andy openly expressed his liking for that particular expansion of Guinness, revealing an equally clear liking for the beverage. Recruit number three...
Then somewhere in a research laboratory far, far away - at Portsmouth University to be precise - Dermot Glennon sat twiddling his thumbs in between sulking about loves lost and generally using the more recreational aspects of the internet far more than his supervisors liked. Now Dave had bumped into Dermot the previous November at a Monochrome meet in Southampton, and gathered he too had a liking for the output of St James Gate brewery, helped no doubt by being Irish by birth, so Dermot's thumb-twiddling was abruptly interrupted by an e-mail inviting him to join the happy party. Recruit number four. Oh plus five, six and seven, as three lasses from his home town of Warrington decided they too wanted to join in the fun...
So, on 11 July 1996, there was executed an exercise of such military precision that even Fieldmarshall Montgomery would have been impressed. Tony drove home to Cheddington, Bucks from a holiday in Devon, and caught the train into London Euston after a couple of hours kip. Dermot caught the train up from Portsmouth, whilst Dave came in from near Basingstoke. These three met up at Euston just in time for the train to Holyhead - though with enough time to have a few pints at the bar! Tony and Dermot were in fact waiting for Dave standing next to each other, but since neither had actually met each other, it was only when Dave arrived they realised who they all were.
Dermot, Dave and Tony then caught the evening train to Holyhead, met on the way by Dermot's three Warrington lasses. On a windswept station platform at Holyhead, they met up with Andy as planned - quite impressive as none of them had actually met him before, only seen what was admitted to be a not very life-like passport photo he had published on the world wide web. The complete party, which had met as planned with no hitches at all, proceeded to board the night ferry to Dublin, an exercise they were to regret for at least the next few days.
Exploring Dublin on 70 pints of Guinness
Yes, that night crossing. Not the best idea in retrospect, as we were absolutely knackered the following morning, after about two hours sleep over the previous day or more, for the sake of saving ten quid on the ferry price. This knackeredness had a major impact on the adventurousness of at least the first few days, and was arguably not entirely recovered from by the time of the return to Blighty over a week later.
It did work in our favour to some extent though, since we were let into the second hostel we tried at on the grounds of sympathy, and the MEC Tourist Hostel turned out to be our base for the rest of the week. One of the hostel wardens, Ivan, had an amazing capacity for turning up at the most inopportune moments, especially when wandering around the city - Dublin may be big, but it wasn't big enough to stop a street-side encounter with Ivan most days of the week. The hostel had its fair share of semi-resident nutters, but was, on the whole, clean and comfortable, though the beds left a bit to be desired when it came to having quiet nights' sleep - thankfully mid-week, the staff replaced the bedsprings on most of the bunks with wooden slats which made things better, but the first couple of nights were embarrassing in their noisiness, especially when overweight German girls entered the equation. We had to politely ignore the mushrooms growing in the gents washroom, though Andy was eyeing them up with a view to incorporation in one of his more, ahem, interesting culinary concoctions.
Heck, two paragraphs in and not a mention of Guinness yet?! Well we made sure we tried out all the pubs local to the hostel, eventually finding we liked this one called The Old Blue Lion. It seemed friendly enough, even if some of the regulars looked like sobriety was a long-lost physical state, and one politely ignored the Bobby Sands IRA hunger-strike posters plastering the walls behind the bar. Sunday afternoon was fun, with a lock-in - we're sure we could have left, but it might not have been diplomatic to do so. However when we told Ivan of our favourite haunt, his jaw hit the floor, telling us of the shootings and other unpleasant incidents that had happened there over the years. The next time we passed, there was a violent fight spilling out onto the street, so we judged discretion to be the better part of valour and decided we would go elsewhere in future.
After trying various other pubs, our favourite turned out to be a genuinely friendly one called The Dawson Lounge on the south side, which also just happened to be the smallest bar in Dublin, with perhaps the biggest landlord, one Ron Black. This was also the only pub we went to which practised the ancient art of putting a shamrock motif into the Guinness head. He claimed he did it for all his customers, not just to please the English tourists. Only in Ireland can the shamrock be done properly, since over in England the head is so runny it disappears in seconds. Somewhere, there is a wonderful picture of the party standing behind the bar, though Dermot's camera sadly went walkies during the journey home, so it's doubtful whether we will ever see this veritable masterpiece. Other pubs we liked included The Hairy Lemon, Major Tom's (an American style pub/club/diner, with an over-23's age limit which caught young whippersnapper Andy off-guard) and The White Horse, well known as a live venue.
Arguably, however, the best Guinness was served up at the Guinness brewery. Another Obscure Orchard administrator is Julian Osborne, who was hoping to join us for at least some of the time, but was unfortunately required elsewhere. He too is Irish, and his family still live in the Dublin area, with his father in particular working for Guinness. Through this connection, we were able to obtain a clutch of complimentary tickets to the brewery which each included vouchers for two glasses of Guinness. I'm sure we could have obtained more tickets than there were members of our party, since the girls on reception seemed really quite vague, though being honest upright members of society, we had one ticket each, entitling us to the usual amount of free drinks. The rest of the tour of the visitors centre (once the hop-store) was very interesting, it had to be said, with audio-visual presentations and bits of brewing equipment aplenty.
Now there's a concept! Ah, but seriously, despite apparently spending all day in the city's many hostelries, we did do a few things that were not alcoholic - in execution at least, if not inspiration... These included:-
- Ice-skating - though the rink looked more like a snowdrift in places and the skates themselves left a little to be desired;
- Ten-pin bowling - Andy being his usual fluky self, winning, needless to say;
- Bumper cars - indoors, upstairs, manic. Need we say more?
- Shaving - well Andy, anyway - with disposable Bic razors, which left his face looking like something off a Clive Barker film, and made the next activity a particularly painful experience...
- Swimming - well ever so briefly for most of us, in a salt-water open-air pool that bore more than a passing resemblance to a cryogenic tank, and left us quite unaroused by any passing young ladies for the rest of the day;
- Engaging in philosophical discussion - on many and various subjects from politics and religion, to wave-particle duality and the Big Bang.
- Taking the Dublin Hop-on Hop-off Tour bus - with a driver so hilarious that most people ended up hopping on, and staying on all the time!
- Being ever so cultural and visiting Trinity College - going to see the Book of Kells but seeing the queue instead, so instead trying to locate the spod room - sigh;
- Kebab eating - at the ubiquitous Abrakebabra stores. Most cities have chains of burger restaurants; only Dublin has an Abrakebabra on every corner...
- More healthy eating - indeed we cooked for ourselves several times, some of the end results looking more appetising than others, it would have to be admitted;
- Avoiding bomb-alert cordons - the Ulster Freedom Fighters managed to shut most of Dublin down for a day, just by saying there was a bomb somewhere in O'Connell Street. There was no bomb, but it resulted in about 6 million pounds worth of lost business, so I suppose was a success on economic terrorism grounds;
- Walking - not only from pub to pub, but also healthily vast distances in search of long lost relatives of Dermot.
Any regrets? We don't think so. Only that we couldn't have stayed longer and that the Guinness wasn't a bit cheaper. We'll pretty certainly be going back to Ireland again, and quite possibly Dublin, so the whole thing must have been a success. And of course we even learnt some Gaelic, slainte, though we're not quite sure what it means ;o)
A small selection of photographs from the camera that didn't get lost on the train on the way home...
- All four main co-conspirators outside their base for the week;
- A little advertising for something we had rather a lot of;
- The only sight really worth photographing from the Dublin Hop-on Hop-off Tour bus;
- Following in the footsteps of Gateway 2000, Dell, and other emigrees...
- Andy and Dermot wondering how to get into the Trinity College spod room;
- The token arty shot, just for good measure.
This account last modified on 4 March 2000 by David Gosnell on behalf of Andy Fiddaman, Tony Darkins, Dermot Glennon and himself.