It was my own fault. I’d ignored all the omens, poo-pooed all the warnings and cocked a deaf’un to to reason. Thus, gasping for a pint after a long, exhausting Thursday, I headed down to my local for a pint-or-eight. My local pub is one of a famous chain or Oirish Pubs, it was Thursday 24th September, they were ‘celebrating’ 250 years of the birth of Arthur Guinness, yet forgetting all that I held true to my heart, I entered the establishment for refreshment.
I have previously explained my position on Guinness and Paddy’s Day and it is a measure of a) how thirsty I was and b) the lack of any other decent bars in town that I broke all my own rules. “Happy Birthday Arthur” was yet another in a long line of promotions intended to get you into a pub and drinking gallons of vitamin G. Nothing wrong in that, you might say, but then you would be wrong. Most of us don’t need encouragement to drink a lot and you just know the types who enjoy this sort of thing, who would turn up at a party celebrating the power of dysentery if there was a chance of a free pint, and dress up accordingly. My worst fears were soon realised.
My first pint was served to me by a 6ft 3″ black Leprechaun. He came complete with a green, foam, top hat, green nylon all-in-one suit and elasticated ginger beard. I know this bloke. Nice enough fella, just finishing his studies at college and wants to join the Old Bill (I’m working on him). He was the only Leprechaun behind the jump, but I noticed some of the girls serving were dressed in emerald green crushed-velvet River Dance outfits. The early signs weren’t good. But fair enough, if the boss tells you to dress up like an idiot, you dress up like an idiot, right? WRONG. There was clearly dissent in the ranks. The natives were revolting, as I witnessed when I spotted two of the older barmaids, with faces liked slapped arses, wearing their regular black shirts and trousers. They’d told the boss to stick his idea. There was tension in the air.
Or at least there probably was but I couldn’t sense or hear a bleedin thing over the noise of the pissed youth of Blackheath and the PA system spewing-out Diddly Diddly ditties at a decibel level of somewhere near an eleven. The bar was busy, very busy, and very lively for 8 o’clock on a Thursday. Most of the punters had either started early or quickly, or both. I asked The Incumbent who was chugging away on her half of Guinness, whether we’d missed a public holiday cos this lot looked as if they’d been at it all day. She mouthed some words which I couldn’t here over the din and proceeded to attack a scratch card to see if she’d won another half pint (free scratchcard with every Guinness. As we’d ordered a pint-and-a-half I suggested we got a card-and-a-half but the Leprechaun was having none of it).
I went outside to the tranquility of the street to take a phone call. Superman was having a fag with The Joker. Oh Christ! There was a fancy dress night on too. My heart sank deep into my right-handed underpants. Why can’t these fuckers just turn up to a pub like anyone else? I told my mate on the phone not to bother coming to the pub, describing it as ‘Amateur Night in Disneyland’. Returning to the house of fun, I noticed The Incumbent was clearly non-plussed. In the few moments I’d been outside, she’d had an altercation with a drunk fat woman and , in a rare display of aggression, had given her a dig in the kidneys as the awful woman had backed into her for the sixth time. We made a tactical retreat to a quiet(er) corner of the bar.
From our vantage point, and having placated the Mrs, I cast my eye over the scene before me. it was only about 8.30 but it looked more like 12.30. The bar was jumping. The Pogues had now replaced The Batchelors (I believe) on the jukebox and groups of lads, pints held aloft, eyes shut, and heads tilted back to the ceiling were shouting the wrong words to the ‘Fairytale of New York‘. “The band of the in my seedy choir were ringing Galway day…” etc. Dotted among them I spotted Batwoman ( I assumed) dancing with Dangermouse in a rhythm only a superhero could master. Both of them out of time with the music and with each other. It took me a while to realise who the second of this couple was, as at first glance it looked like a girl in a white catsuit with a large white breast on her head. Then I realised she’d pushed her foam head back off her face so the mouse’s face was pointing straight up. It therefore wasn’t a huge nipple I had spotted, but a nose. Quite disappointing really.
More pints (and scratchcards) arrived, and took their inevitable toll. I made my way though the all singing-and-dancing hoards to the back to the pub and towards the loo. The aforementioned fat pissed bird was on the on her arse on the dance floor (it’s not really a dance floor, just a space in the crowd, but such was her size and her flailing dance-technique she’d managed to clear a few square yards) and shouting obscenities to passers by. I circumnavigated her and made for the gents (or the fir, as they’re known in Oirish bars). An odd conversation was taking place.
“Why you look like Spiderman?” asked the toilet man (you know him, he charges you a quid to wash your hands)
“What?” came the annoyed response, from Superman.
“Why you dressed like Spiderman, innit?”
“I’m not fucking Spiderman, I’m SUPERman”, his eyes were narrowing, he was clearly annoyed. Then he added, oddly, “I have got Spidey-sense” he used his two fingers pointing from his eyes in mock-super-vision.”but I’m fucking SUPERman”.
“You’re the third person tonight who thought I was spiderman” he whimpered, looking down at his kit rather sadly.
Luckily, being right handed, I was able to go quickly about my business and keep out of the discussion. Re-entering the bar I realised the band had turned up. One of the regular Thursday night bookings, and they’re bloody good. Five black lads and a white bloke. They play reggae. I squeezed through the revellers as the band kicked off with “You can get it if you really want”. The Leprachaun was arm-in-arm with Captain America singing a Jimmy Cliff number.
“C’mon, we’re leaving” I announced to the other half. “This has all gotten too weird for me.”
‘Think ‘I’m right in saying that what you had there was not in fact Arthur Guinness’ birthday but the 250th anniversary of the signing of the lease of the infamous Dublin brewery wherein the black stuff was produced in commercial capacities…
(well that’s what I was told by my Algerian Oirish pub landlord here in Paris over the same soundtrack that your ‘local’ had….Are you spotting a theme here?….)
He sounds a fascinating bloke. Did he also tell you how glasses are made?