I was really glad to be invited over for the conference. For multiple reasons.
One was to have a holiday with Dolores. I’ve been gadding around the world like a gadding gadfly this year. Except not with Dolores. Lots of US trips on my own, Newark and Asia with the kids, but nothing with Dolores.
She’s one of my favoured travelling companions. Experienced, neither panicky nor moany, well organised. Good company, too. Not forgetting that she stops me going too crazy. After the Red Harvest moment in Hong Kong, I realise the importance of that, if I want to reach 70.
I’m in no rush to rise. Dolores wakes me with a cup of tea. Not thrown over me, you sick bastards. Placed on my bedside table. True sign of love, a cup of tea delivered as you wake. (Unless you have servants, obviously. I mean someone doing it voluntarily, not as part of their job.)
Munching on my breakfast sarnie – cheese and ham, if you’re interested – I fiddle a little on my flip-flop. There’s a message from John just after 10:
“Morning! Brian wanted to check that you're OK for getting to Rascals.”
I reassure him I’m just on my way. Once I’ve finished munching and looking at annoying shit on the internet.
Jumping in a Joe a little later, I notice that the address I have for Rascal’s HQ, where the conference is taking place, is rather vague. No street number, just Tyrconnell Road, Inchicore. The taxi driver hasn’t heard of Rascals.
“It’s a brewery.” I tell him. “Though it hasn’t been in the location long.”
As we’re on our way to Tyrconnell Road the buildings start looking familiar. I know where we are: St James’s Gate. Just over a year ago I was inside the gates. Inside the archive, even. But that’s a story I can’t tell yet.
“It’s close to the Luas station.” I tell my driver, remembering the map I printed but forgot to bring with me. “In an industrial estate.”
We wander off down a side road and along an Industrial estate. No sign of a Rascals sign. My driver decides to ask a young bloke stood outside his house.
“It’s back that way. You go down there to the right.” He says pointing steadfastly left. Luckily my driver gets the idea. It’s left then right. Sure enough, there’s a small sign saying “Rascals” that we drove past without noticing earlier.
I’m barely through the door when Brian comes up. He looks relieved. And gives me a can top that’s my passport to free beer at the bar. Which Is where I head as soon as I’ve dropped off my bag and coat.
I catch the last 20 minutes or so of the talk by Philip Woodnutt of the Wicklow Hop Company. Who, rather confusingly is discussing yeast, not hops. Quite interesting, the bits that I catch.
In the short interval before I’m on, I take the opportunity to grab myself another ping of Black IPA. I wouldn’t want my throat to get dry while I’m talking.
Brian has a timer app on a tablet. He sets it to an hour and it starts counting down. Timing shouldn’t be a problem I’ve given this talk a few times before. 45 minutes of me yapping then 15 minutes of questions. Should be a doddle.
As usual, I break off into unrelated tangents every now and again. But I allow for that in my timing. I do run a little over. It’s 46 minutes in when I pull up the final slide asking for questions.
Work done, it’s time for fun. Which means shovelling down beer and chatting, in this case. I bump into several people, like Oblivious, whom I only know from the internet. Nice to finally meet them.
I head upstairs for Christina Wade’s talk about brewing in medieval Ireland. It’s dead interesting and teaches me a lot. I hadn’t realised how widespread domestic brewing was. I’d only seen information about it in the 19th century when, unlike in England, it had pretty much died out.
I chat with a nice American gentleman as I guzzle down my pizza. It’s more international here than I had expected.
Once all the formal business is completed at 5 PM, I set out the books I’m hoping to flog and wait for some punters. I manage to shift half of them, which isn’t too bad. Just as well I get rid of some, otherwise there wouldn’t be room in my bag for all the roasting joints I intend taking back with me.
I look for Dolores’s burner phone which she brought over so I could give her a call to let her know when I’d be returning to the hotel. After a frantic search though my bag, I realise that I’ve either left in the hotel or lost it. I do hope it isn’t the latter. Dolores would be very cross.
A taxi has me back just after 7 PM.
“Where have you been, Ronald? If I’d had to wait any longer I’d have gone to Wetherspoons by myself. I’m getting thirsty.”
“I’m not that late.”
“You said you’d be back by six.”
“Try to be back by six, I think I said.”
“Right. Always some excuse. Let’s get going then.”
Dolores rushes me straight out. Must be pining for some cask Bitter.
The weather hasn’t been great today. Mostly raining. The only variation being the intensity.
“Who would have expected rain in Dublin?”
“Very funny, Ronald.”
As we walk Wetherspoons-ward, the rain gets heavier. Too heavy to be really comfortable.
“Shall we nip in here for a quick pint, Dolores?” I say outside the Vat House.
“You can get some Guinness. I know you always like to try some while you’re in Ireland.”
We nestle up at the bar. “Two halves of Guinness, please. And a double Powers, no ice.”
Dolores gives me a look. Which I’d sort of been expecting.
“How much did that cost?” Dolores asks, grabbing hold of the receipt. “14 euros! What a waste of money.”
“That’s why I had the bottle of whiskey in the hotel.”
Dolores continues to scowl all the way through our drinks.
“That’s weird measure for spirits.” I observe hoping to distract Dolores from my alcoholism. “On the optics: 35.5 ml. That must be a converted Imperial measure.”
Dolores has a calculator on her phone.
“I’m guessing a quarter gill. Divide 568 by 16.” I’d do it in my head, but I’ve been drinking since 11 AM.
“You’re right - 35.5.”
When we’re almost done, she has a quick look outside. The rain has subsided enough for it to be safe for us to venture further.
The Silver Penny is bustling when we arrive. Luckily some people are just leaving and we quickly grab their table. I don’t bother asking Dolores what she wants. I know already. A pint of nice Bitter. I get a Jaipur for myself.
“How much was it?” Dolores asks when I return with the beers.
“Almost 7 euros. The robbing bastards.” That’s about the same price as a pint everywhere else.
Two girlies – who look about 14 – at the next table have two pitchers each of something weird looking. Which they’re drinking through a straw. They haven’t even finished their pitchers when a waitress brings over two bottles of Desperados that they must have ordered on the Wetherspoons app. She asks to see their id. Fair enough I suppose, given how young they look. Except the waitress herself only looks about 12.
Dolores fetches the next round. “The barman didn’t understand what I meant when I asked for Jaipur. But he did only look about sixteen. He asked another barman who showed him what it was. Though he only looked around 17.”
When I go for a slash I realise just how huge this place is. It takes me around 10 minutes to get there and back.
We don’t stay out too long. I want to be back in time for Match of the Day. Thankfully, it’s almost completely stopped raining when we leave. Almost.
As I watch the footie, I finish off my whiskey and work my way through the beers I bought yesterday. Dolores puts in earplugs and sleeps. I join her in slumber when the football, beer and whiskey are all done.
Vat House Bar
2 Anglesea St,
The Silver Penny - JD Wetherspoon
12a Abbey Street Lower,
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