At 18, I spent the summer helping to rebuild a Southern Irish ruin that was suddenly inherited by someone who, unfortunately, wasn’t me.
A band of us travelled over the sea, through the soldiers, and into the madness that was Ireland.
The tools had been stolen on the ferry and under the noses of the anti-terrorist forces amassed at the only place where the vehicles were unattended.
So our first task was to buy tools, and this meant going into a pub, passing into the back, through a barbershop, and on into the hardware section.
There I weighed a claw-hammer in consideration, but there was no price, so I asked the chap.
“How much is this hammer?”
“Oh, er, eight punts.” He said in an accent so thick, I reckoned that I had better check.
“So, eight punts? That it?”
“Oh, well, er, seven punts.” He stammered.
“Seven punts.” I confirmed.
“Right, then five punts and I cannot go any more below that.” He insisted.
“Five punts!” I said incredulously.
“Four – and that’s us finished and done!” he cried.
“Four. Four punts!” I laughed now.
“Ah, you are a hard man for the bargaining, that you are. Look, as you’re all buying a lot, you can have the hammer with God’s blessing”
“The hammer’s FREE?” I said, amazed at my bartering powers.
He shot me a glance, and for a second I thought he was going to pay me to take this hammer home.
We filled the vehicles with the tools after we’d drunk the health of all the village’s inhabitants, found the house, and set camp for the night.
After two long days toil, we declared a milestone had been reached, and a night in the local pub was in order. We washed in cold water, combed hair, brushed teeth, and donned our going out togs.
The Blue Anchor was along the shoreline. We found it easily enough in the red glow of the setting sun. I was surprised to find that everyone in this place was a salty old sea dog type. Every face was roughly hewn, and etched with laughter lines, sharp winds and icy rains. All except for one.
She was not just gorgeous in comparison to these gentlemen, she was just gorgeous. Voluptuous, a female form alright, all curves and wiggles. A jaw-dropper.
This vision of beauty served us The Drink all night. There was music made, but a good time was nearly spoiled when I came out of “the gents” (a lane outside with a wall against which you could pee and lean), and slipped a coin in the fruit machine. I pulled the handle, and it whirled to life, flashing lights, spinning wheels, lots of noise – and I won the 200 Punt jackpot! The coins rattled out! I jumped and celebrated – but I knew something was wrong as I looked about and everyone was standing straight and holding their hearts.
How was I to know that tune was their National Anthem?
To calm it all down, I bought everyone two rounds of The Drink (even though the pub was now officially closed). The policeman who had looked in earlier to check last orders were called, now appeared without his uniform jacket, and was drinking away happily at the bar.
And so it went. So many adventures and stories in such a short space of time. The madness of this part of the world will forever live with me. I have too many tales for this post, so to finish on a low note:-
On my last day, we walked to the pub for breakfast, and the Great Beauty was there as usual – as perfect a vision as ever.
“Good morning!” I said.
“Ah well” She said, rolling her eyes.
“What’s the matter? Are you not well?” I enquired.
“Ah, I’m not quite right this morning” she admitted.
“I’m sorry to hear that”
“Oh, it’s nothing a Good Fart won’t sort” she said as she walked away, rubbing her belly.