The last few days have been a little crazy culminating in me sitting here with a bandaged ankle writing this latest post. We arrived in Dublin later than anticipated which meant that we didn’t have an awful lot of time to explore this bustling city. After withdrawing euros and organising my refund after having accidentally paid triple the amount for my ticket down to Shannon and back. It became a case of ‘spot the Irishman’ in Dublin as is the running joke in this multicultural capital.
We managed to find a tourist map and stumbled our way over to St Trinians which is a very old very prestigious University which just so happened to be right near the Temple bar district, another internationally renowned Dublin landmark. It’s basically a street lined with bars heavily populated by tourists. We made our way to The Temple Bar and didn’t expect a huge crowd just yet being only 3:30 in the afternoon and from the outside it looked rather quiet. But as soon as we opened those doors it was a very different story on the inside. The bar was packed with people all talking in an array of different accents. Miraculously we found a table with some very hard stools to sit on and Kathleen bought us a round of drinks so we sat and soaked up the atmosphere. Over the murmurs of the crowd we could hear the twanging of musical instruments as the band was preparing to play in the other room. The bar had a lovely old world charm about it, but with barely enough room to swing a cat due to the crowds we only stuck around long enough to finish our drinks before heading out again to find another bar.
About 50 metres down the road we came across a bar called Gogartys. It was very conspicuous as it was coloured yellow and was proudly adorned with flags from all over the world which basically said to us ALL NATIONALITIES WELCOMED HERE though touristy it had an unmistakable charm about it. And as we all entered it wasn’t full yet so we sat down right near the stage to find two musicians sitting to the side, one with a guitar and one brandishing a banjo. The establishment was huge with about 3 or 4 levels including a couple of bars and a fully fledged restaurant and hostel upstairs.
We sat down with our drinks in what turned out to be the best seats in the house and as the music started to play it united everybody in the room. A huge hens party entered and began dancing out the front. There were probably only 3 or 4 Irishmen in the entire place but it didn’t matter as the atmosphere was infectious and we were all soon singing along to the songs and tapping our feet on the floor.
We became affectionately known as the ‘Austrians’ up the front and they were even nice enough to play some of our requests. We would’ve happily stayed there all evening. It was Friday night and we were in Temple bar in Dublin in the best seats in the house it was great. Slightly drunk after a few rounds darkness began to fall which signalled that we would have to be on our way unfortunately. Regrettably we gave up our fabulous table and descended onto the streets where the rest of Dublin was just beginning to awaken.
Just as before we had a slightly stressful time purchasing our tickets back to Belfast. I looked on in dismay to find the familiar redheaded 12 year – old-looking boy behind the ticketing counter once again. After finding the hidden ATM or cashpoint as I should be calling it now we were all soon back on the bus back home (well Belfast had become like home) away from the music and busy streets we pulled out of Dublin in silence left to reflect on all that we had seen and heard during the day.
The following evening back in Belfast Kathleen and I were keen to go out for what would be Seans (Kathleen’s brother’s) last Saturday evening in Belfast. We begged him to let us know if he was going out as we had heard rumours in Shannon that the family were planning an evening with everybody.
So Kathleen and I waited around the apartment only to find out that Sean was already out with one of Kathleen’s uncles. Apparently that’s what Belfast men do, go out and get drunk and the women cook their dinner and wait for them to stumble in at all hours.
Sunday evening rolled around and we were determined to get out on the town with or without Sean. After much stress and what seemed like an ever-changing schedule we managed to get a group of us down to a local pub that just so happened to be the manliest pub in Belfast and much to my dismay full of older men. We walked in and scanned the room and couldn’t see a single girl in the bar. What we saw was a whole heap of TV screens screening all sorts of sport from around the globe and the communal cheers of men watching a Man united versus Newcastle match.
We sat at the table and after a few pints these youngish guys next to us turned and started talking to us and Kathleen’s cousin Seaneen. The more Belfast men drink the faster they talk, and the harder they are to understand. Apparently these guys were real assholes but we couldn’t catch half of what they were saying so we were just giggling the entire time.
After about 4 or 5 ciders we were breaking free of the pack, most of the older ones were either hanging back at the bar or heading home for dinner as it was a Tuesday night. Kathleen’s cousin Danielle had booked us seats at the cabaret (drag show) where Danielle’s friend was performing in the gay district in West Belfast. As we waited in the cold for the taxi to pull up Danielle took one look at my padded jacket and said ‘Where are you going with that jacket on – Alaska? Take that off you’re in Ireland now’ so not wanting to stand out I took it off and stood there shivering. I felt really sorry for the cab driver as by this stage we were really drunk – well Seaneen was. It was funny though as we hadn’t realised at the time. I remember grabbing the PA device in the car and yelling into it and the taxi driver just laughing and rolling his eyes as he pulled into a service station so Catherine could buy fags.
We pulled up to Union Street, which is what turned out to be one of only two gay bars in Belfast but I must say for a Sunday night it was really happening and would stand up to the bars in Oxford street.
Needless to say Seaneen was turned away, we tried to do the whole ‘We’re actually sober please let our friend in’ act. Blaming the size of her heels on her stumbling walk, but they were strict and turned her down. The bar was packed and we were expertly led to our little seats just off the stage. Apparently we were supposed to be up front but we were late. We had prior warning that we may be picked on by Danielle’s friend on stage.
The show was great and the banter with the audience was great too, if only we knew what they were saying! Again they were so quick and we were pretty sloshed but we knew what they were saying on stage was funny as everyone was roaring with laughter. They did a few solo performances including ‘Tuppence’ by Julie Andrews they handed out slices of bread to the audience members so we could peg them at her during the performance, but when they first handed it to me it was a few songs beforehand and I was really confused as to what I was meant to do with it. It was a bit like the time Michael handed me a cucumber as I was drunkenly escorted out to Sam’s car after Tiff’s party so unsure what to do with it I just ate it.
We chatted to a hopelessly gay friend of Danielle’s who greeted us all by kissing us on the lips which would’ve been much more uncomfortable if not for the alcoholic haze we were suspended in. Then an army guy on holidays from London and a few people at the bar who got excited when they heard our accent and proceeded to explain to us why they believe Belfast was shit.
After the show we were dragged to the second of the two gay bars in the gay district The Kremlin and the girls were showing no sign of letting up. They asked us what we were drinking and we replied ‘Water’ but all they could hear was ‘Beer’ or ‘Vodka’ Kathleen and I decided it was time for us to go so we awkwardly searched for the exit which perhaps because we were so drunk seemed impossible to find. When we finally found it I jokingly said to the bouncer ‘It took us forever to find the exit so I guess that’s a sign it’s time to go home’ He laughed and proud at my supposed wittiness I then asked ‘Where’s the chippy?’ right before missing a step and going over my foot right there in front of the bouncer. I was in so much pain but I couldn’t stop laughing. The bouncer examined my ankle and then I had to sit there in pain while they filled out an incident form. I was so embarrassed and in pain by this stage and the fact that I had to sit there and go over step by step what I just clumsily did made it so much worse! When I’m drunk I usually spend about 90 per cent of the time explaining why I’m not in fact drunk but right then I quite literally didn’t have a leg to stand on.
Kathleen helped me hobble around the corner to the chippy, and I sat in the gutter while she ordered food I must have looked really smashed. This drunk woman came up to me and started playing music on her phone for me and we started singing in the street before she was whisked away by her sober friend who had work in the morning. I awoke the next morning my ankle was twice the size but I wasn’t in a great deal of pain. What I did next was silly in hindsight, I decided it would be a good idea to just walk on it as if nothing had happened so we went into town and all was fine until we got back and I was in excruciating pain. I then rested it for a few days and on the advice of everyone I went into casualty to have it x-rayed properly. After waiting 2 hours instead of 5 which I was expecting the news was that I had chipped the bone in my ankle and that I should treat it like a sprain and walk on it, they gave me really strong pain killers which has made this possible but the real drama happened after I left the hospital.
I grabbed a taxi outside the hospital and as it pulled up to our apartment I realised I didn’t have enough money so I asked the cab driver to drop me at a cash machine so he took me to the local supermarket I hopped in and the ATM wouldn’t accept my card I tried to get money out and it wouldn’t let me. Starting to panic I got back into the taxi and explained that we needed to go elsewhere so we went to the service station and the same thing happened. I stood there trying to get a hold of Kathleen’s aunt on the phone in tears, they could barely understand me. They said that Kathleen should be back at the apartment so we drove to the apartment and of course she had left. By this stage the taxi driver was getting impatient with me and started taking my details so I could pay him later. Then Janet called back and I put the phone on to him, they weren’t home as it happened they were all at a funeral not far down the road so he was to drop me off there and get paid. I was so humiliated as the reason I had taken this trip was to prove to myself that I can look after myself, but after having injured myself and then not even being able to pay for my own taxi and having to ask for help when I was already feeling down was the final blow to my confidence.
Funnily enough when I arrived at the wake I was the only person crying which wouldn’t have looked so out-of-place except for that fact I wasn’t crying for the departed and no one had a clue who I was! What I imagined would be a few people standing around munching on sandwiches actually turned out to be a proper sit down three course meal which only added to the embarrassment not only for me, but for Kathleen’s family whom did not know the lady terribly well and were unaware of the formal nature of the wake afterwards, and when they found out I was veggie they went out of their way to make me a special meal. I really just wanted to be alone at that stage.I felt awful that people were going out of their way for me and I felt like a burden to everyone. I wanted to be home in familiar surroundings, around my old friends where I don’t have to stress about how to get by and work and so on. But I did this to challenge myself and to give up now before I’ve even started would be a terrible waste. So I chalked it up to a bad day and knew that I would look back on it and laugh. Laugh about that week in Belfast when I almost broke my ankle outside a gay bar, pissed in front of Kathleen and her cousin inside a disabled toilet and attended both an irish wedding and funeral all in the space of a week.