Sunday Mass (praying for a miracle)

Groggy start to the week, Dan. Up about 4 hours after you. The local festivities are more exhausting than your stroll in the countryside.

We started our Sunday listening to Mass on the radio. We had no choice. Uncle John has it on “level 11″ on the transistor dial in his granny flat. The hymn singers being broadcast from a church in County Waterford were particularly atrocious today. And the Lord be with you too ….

Then we headed into Tubber for the traditional roast dinner slap-up at Murphy’s Hotel. Sustenance (and a lager refresher) was needed. It was going to be a long day. We chatted with Jackie Dougan at the bar; the retired blind barber. Well – he’s not 100% blind, but he wears extra dark glasses like Roy Orbison and gets helped across the main road. This didn’t affect his popular hairdressing trade for the old men of the parish. Most had very little hair to trim, and Jackie just made a noise with the scissors behind their heads. Never needed to sweep up. The old folk only went in for the chatter. Jackie is/was the local correspondent for the Sligo Champion, so he knows all the scandal.

Next a quick visit to Jamesons old folks’ residential home to catch up with a few old-timers who have fallen by the wayside since previous memorable drinkfests. Sadly most were like sedated zombies. That’s why I’d never do hard drugs. You miss all the fun of drinking yourself into a sleepy stupor. The Jamesons residents just go from lucid to dozing, slurring buffoons 30 minutes after the pill trolley comes round. They miss all the best bit in the middle of controlled alcohol-poisoning. We left a horrendously loud TV room showing the build-up to the replayed Hurling Final on “level 11+1″ when all our former bar-room colleagues were asleep. What an atmosphere they created.

A quick jaunt back down the Ballina Road got us safely into Quinn’s Bar in the village, right on time for the big match from Croke Park being shown on large dual flat screens. Our brave Connacht representatives, Galway, sank without trace again – dejavoodoo – but it didn’t stop the partying. The match became The Henry Shefflin Show, yet again. For the uninitiated, he’s arguably Kilkenny’s and Ireland’s greatest-ever hurler. A magician. The rapid scoring and complicated points system in hurling makes for entertaining viewing. At many times during an enthralling first half, lots of the local sheep farmers hadn’t got a clue what the real score was – or even which team was winning. Loud arguments often break out as the better mathematicians demonstrate their adding up skills. Don’t even ask about playing 501 darts in the South Sligo pub league. Numerical take-aways are very troublesome. The Dead Pigeon pub has applied for an extension to its darts scoreboard. There just isn’t enough room for the complicated sums, combined with piss-poor throwing. Getting a treble twenty can be headline news in the Champion’s sports pages.

With all hope lost late on, a Galway defender lashed out with his hurley stick and nearly took the head off Sir Henry, and got red-carded. ‘Black’ Paki O’Hara disagreed with the ref’s correct decision and exclaimed that “you wouldn’t even get thrown out of the night-club in Charlestown for that assault”. Another wag retorted with, “Yeah – but you wouldn’t get served in the kebab shop after if you did it to Fryer Fran from Iran”. The only sober man in the pub, barman Liam Quinn on Lucozade, observed that the Galway thug “couldn’t knock a fart out of a snipe”.

The hurling ended just in time for the first tee-offs in Chicago. After a few more one’s for the road (and complimentary sausages and uncertain bits of chicken), I decided to head for the sanctuary of my own settee. No-one really expected the Miracle of Medinah to unfold over the next five hours. Probably the best live TV sports action ever, especially if you pressed the red button and listened to the US commentators slipping nooses around their necks. My newly-bought week’s supply of lager in my private cooler cabinet is now all but depleted. Might have to volunteer to do the big shop at Tesco’s in Swineford early this week.

The late-night transatlantic celebrations determine that the closing ceremony of the Killybacward Drinking Olympics will have to be postponed for at least 24 hours. Hair of the dogs will be called for this evening, I’m sure (to be sure). No worries though. We are not saddened. Crippled Maurice Mahon has asked if there could be a paraplegic Olympian contest throughout the coming week as we await upcoming diary events. Next weekend it’s the 18th birthday bash for Tullymoy’s only punk-cum-rapper, Crowin’ Eoin – son of Bernie who himself cannot even speak an understandable word of English due to the effects of drinking Guinness like it’s Evian water. Our local celebrity DJ, Harry the Horse-Box, will be at the turntables, most likely in one of his drag queen outfits. Crowin’s Eoin will bang out a few ditties with his new band, The Crowbags – and Bernie has promised to make a speech on the mike. This should be the highlight.

Must go, and do some work. Funds getting low. Enjoy your stroll. Proud of you – but watch your wallet with a lad from Tallaght on your tail.


The Ryder (Ploughing) Cup

Danny – Loved your uploaded photo of a fig. Exciting stuff.

USA 2, Europe 1. Early score flash from Medinah – but the Irish or is it British pairing are going along nicely. Let’s just call Rory a catholic Ulsterman.

It was good to hear you’d met a Mayo native from Crossmolina. This town features in a rare edition travelogue which I self-published about 8 years ago. The tale involves a Neary reunion night, and the saga of getting two bachelor Neary uncles now resident in Brinscall up on the northern English moors to venture back to their Irish roots in dear old Tullinaglug for the first time in 70 years. I got my Whittle-le-Woods-born non-stop talking mother to accompany said bachelors. Anyway, as we passed through Crossmolina on the way back from a day out on Achill Island, my mother just had to comment how Crossmolina “sounds just like semolina” – which it doesn’t, not at all – especially if you appreciate how Mayo folk pronounce Crossmoli-eye-na.

Today is Friday. Pension day. As expected, this gave a much-needed injection of cash into the flagging local economy struggling to keep pace with the spirits of the Drinking Olympics. The smell of agri-diesel was prominent outside the village Post Office as the rusty old New Holland tractors vied for space as Not-so-dozy Josie dished out the readies – as early as 10.30am. Then it was off to Quinn’s Bar down the street; a short drive with plenty of hidden parking by the old cattle market sheds. You don’t want to be driving too far on pension day, even with a local garda station only manned for two hours per week due to cutbacks. It’s a free-for-all on the single tracks, especially when ‘deaf’ OAP Touch-up Tommy is let loose on his unroadworthy farming machine on a Friday.

During a lull in the enthralling conversation in Quinn’s about overnight deaths in the parish (courtesy of Midwest Radio’s popular show – Deaths on the Hour), I asked our lovable busy barmaid, ‘Feck Me Pink’ Fanny, if she could recall Dr Danny, son of Paddy, who used to live over the bridge. She nodded. I told her that this madman was trekking along a long trail across northern Spain. “Some sort of pilgrim’s way”, I ventured. She replied, “Oh, I know him. He’s the priest, isn’t he. Oh yes. I know Danny very well.” This confused me. Are you a lapsed reverend?

I tried to explain that you were a GP, as far as I know. Well – feck me pink, she says – it’s all the same. “The laying of hands on vulnerable women. Tryin’ to cure ‘em”.

Ryder Cup update. 2-2 at half-time on Day 1 of three. That’s Irish. Good auld Rory, the Irishman. If Europe lose, he’s British.

Gearoid, I read your comments out loud to my fellow  “Peregrinos” in the Refugio last night and every last one of them was in stitches.

Just got a tweet from Barry. It reads – “Man U two down at home at HT. Just managed to fart in Sralex’s face as the second Spurs goal went in. He kept on chewing.” I should add that I think that Barry was watching an English soccer game on TV – but you never know with football-daft Barry, the parish’s only other Blackburn Rovers fanatic.

Last night I was torn between major sports events being shown on Irish telly. Sky had live coverage from the Ryder Cup, but RTE2 had condensed highlights of the All-Ireland Ploughing Championships which concluded after three days of exciting, er …. ploughing. It was a no-brainer really. Ploughing doesn’t really translate into a TV event. Personally, I’ve never really appreciated the attraction of watching various combinations of man, beast and machine cutting endless straight lines into a big field. It’s very popular over here though. Con O’Connell & Pak Durkin left at 3AM on Wed to get a good fieldside view – and 200,000 others joined them over the three days of fierce competition. It rained heavily for most of the contest. They must have the biggest and best beer tent in the world to keep 60,000 farmers entertained between showers.

Anyhow – Sue made some home-made soup for Maurice Mahon today. He suffered the worst injury so far of the Killybacside Drinking Olympics. He fell off his prosthetic leg after a particularly arduous work-out on Monday evening, and now he’s housebound and confined to a wheelchair. He lives on the Convent Road, so it was a good excuse to volunteer to deliver the soup and call at the Cock to watch the cross-channel soccer on teletext. I met three tinkers from Swineford. A bit smelly, but nice all the same. We officially cannot call them a word that rhymes with clackers any more. Very un-PC. They are our friends from the travelling community. They had just been delivering a German Shepherd puppy to old Dessie who lives in the mobile home just down the road from the pub, among the trailer trash and cider bottles left behind by the Under-16 Olympic team. The travelers must have felt at home; they were in good spirits after a good deal (of spitting?). Apparently Dessie agreed to buy the puppy whilst comatose at the Swineford Agricultural Show a few weeks back. The tinkers always honour their word.

Over in the far corner, excitedly watching his beloved Leeds United on teletext and twittering away, was my favourite Ulsterman affectionately known as The Joker. He’s a (amateur) comedian; a sort of cross between Frank Carson and Gerry Adams, accent-wise. A laugh a minute. Non-stop gags. He didn’t let me get a word in as he told me the latest soccer gossip, so I had an extra pint. The Joker had trials with Blackburn Rovers when he was 15, way back in the late 1960’s. A promising football career was not to be when The Troubles of his hometown prevented the Blackburn officials from getting the contract signature of The Joker’s parents, who had moved to “address unknown” leaving a bomb crater behind. Then, in the outdoor smoking room, The Joker tells me a great tale about an ex-Derby & Leeds player and a friend of his. The Joker knows everybody. He says that he’s a distant relation through marriage of Rory McIlroy, and this turned out to be true when I checked out his Family Tree. So, The Joker says that when Leeds were interested in (this anonymous footballer we shall call) Seth about a dozen years ago, he was on £4,000 a week at Derby. His agent told him to demand £12,500 if mega-rich Leeds wanted him. At the meeting with Chairman Ridsdale at Elland Road, Seth was told that his agent must sit outside the boardroom. Ridsdale tells Seth that Leeds are going places, and Seth is part of the big plans. He offers Seth what he thinks is a fair deal for him to quit Derby. £25,000 grand big ones per week. Seth spat out his coffee. “Okay”, says Ridsdale, “£32,000 a week but that’s our final offer.”

As The Joker says – how did Leeds end up in such a financial mess? 

All-Ireland Inquest

Dear Danny,

Went to the Roaring Cock yesterday lunchtime for a pint and the post-All-Ireland inquest discussions. I overheard this bar-room conversation between two locals:
“What time did you leave on Sunday?”
“I dunno. I woke up in Charlestown, early hours Monday. Why – what time did you leave?”
“I dunno.”
“So – did I see you on Sunday?”
“I think so.”
The Irish really know how to celebrate big sporting events.

Gearoid, Ha ha, brilliant ! I was really sad to hear The Green and Red had been beaten again; I thought they might have done it this time around. I’m sure mighty craic was had whatever. Did you watch it in the Cock ? I was wondering if the Killybacside gang were for Mayo or Donegal.

Danny, as you should know – Mayo & Sligo are in the Connacht province, and even though Mayo “bet” Sligo in the Connacht final, healthy local tradition says that you support your neighbours – even after defeat. I know it’s the opposite in Lancashire. Could you ever support Burnley in the FA Cup Final if they beat Blackburn Rovers in the semi!! Then again, this FA cup final could only ever be played on Fantasy Island.

Donegal play in the Ulster Championship. They are close neighbours but they’re separated by a small strip of Leitrim. We were glad that the GAA final involved two teams from the West for a change, but the Green & Red flags were flying in our parish on Sunday. My great-grandmother was a Mayo lady, so I cheered them on too. I was first in the Roaring Cock on Sunday morning (before the bar officially opened), escaping early from yet another midday funeral mass. I even beat old Hughie O’Gara to the bar, and he is a permanent fixture on the bar stool by the turf fire. I took my car home when I was only 1 or 2 jars over the limit, and vowed to return if Mayo got off to a good start. They didn’t. Two goals down in no time. Game over – barring a miracle. So I got sozzled at home, channel-hopping between Premier League soccer, GAA & Formula One.

I think Mayo’s failure just contributed to excess partying in the Cock for no good reason at all. Many say they cannot remember the second half – or the next few hours – or the closed door session after midnight, etc. Where do they get the stamina? Years of practice, I suppose.

Gearoid, I am so happy. I slept ! I went out for dinner with the Dublin/Nottingham girls and had a few beers before I leave Pamplona; I put the earplugs in to drown out the phantom snorer and was dead to the world. Today’s another day. I woke at 6.00am today pleasantly surprised to have slept so well. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that ”Foghorn Leghorn” had kept half the dorm awake again. In the spirit of the Camino, I gave a spare pair of earplugs to an Australian pilgrim who looked like she was more in need than I was.

Early start for me too, today, Danny. Got to research some Dubliners called Costello, a typically Irish surname – but they turn out to have been the Costa family originally from Lucca in Tuscany 200 years ago, and then they started to appreciate their Italian heritage in the 20th century and they start calling themselves Castello after further emigration around the world. Irish genealogy is never straightforward, especially as many Irish folk “adopt” forenames in adulthood which were never mentioned on their baptism records. I have Irish three aunts; my dad’s sisters. They were always known to me in Lancashire as Maureen, Eileen & Doreen. It turns out that they were born as Mary, Attracta & Joan ….. and even Hughie O’Gara (Cock fixture & fitting) was never christened as Hugh or anything like!

Danny, as you’ll appreciate, drink-driving around our parish involves keeping your vehicle in the two well-worn ruts in the single track lanes separated by the green strip of overgrown grass which has sprung up from the ancient tarmac last laid decades ago. It is impossible to leave the road, but meeting a fellow drink-driver coming the other way is a difficult challenge. And if the approaching fellow traveler is perched upon a rusty old red (unlicensed) tractor, then take evasive action. My shiny new motor now has the scars of one of these encounters.

But a bump or two on the family car is like a badge of honour around here – as is the 12 months driving ban for those heroes daft enough to venture into town after a few pints in the village “shops”. Liver complaints are unheard of – but bowel cancer seems to be the price you pay in old age for a lifetime of living off nothing more than Guinness soup. The recommended local medicine for bowel cancer is more Guinness, so that’s alright then.

By the way – Happy Arthur’s Day! Will you find a pint of the black stuff beyond Pamplona – if you dare venture off today.

Arthur’s Day is a great Irish invention which now ensures that the 12 month wait for Paddy’s Day is halved. It’s always better to have a reason to get totally “locked” as the Dubs say. But with Arthur’s Day falling midway between the GAA Football Final and the All-Ireland Hurling replay this year, there won’t be much turf cut this week ……

Which reminds me – a great headline in the Western People this week, as follows:No sun, no silage, no turf, no Sam – a Bad Year for Mayo.

Up Galway, in the replayed hurling final. Might venture out for a drink.

Gearoid , that cracked me up. You should write a book. Oh I forgot , you already have! Did you see the news? Rioting in Pamplona by Spanish austerity protesters.

The Spanish are mid-table rioters as far as I can see on the TV news. Be thankful you’re not passing through Athens. The Greeks really know how to trash the place.

Meanwhile, in parallel to your long trek, the 9-Day West of Ireland Drinking Olympics reached midway on Arthur’s Day. I gave up work early and ventured into the main stadium (aka The Roaring Cock) at about 4pm to check on progress. After patiently waiting for landlord Con’s middle daughter, Mae O (from Sligo), to set me up the perfect pint of Guinness, I jokingly asked whether I was too early for the Happy Hour free black stuff which I knew officially commenced at precisely 17:59. Hughie O’Gara in his familiar corner piped up that in Charlestown they had free drinks for two hours. Now Hughie has an odd Sligo accent which combined with the effects of a mild stroke makes him speak in a strange Dalek-like tongue. To me, it sounded like Hughie said that our Mayo neighbours were offering “free drinks for chihuahuas” – so as my pint settled right on cue, I was able to raise my glass to the regulars and exclaim (as per the Guinness TV ad) –
Hughie didn’t get it. He just said, “I’m not kidding ye. Two hours.”
The session had been re-invigorated. Mae O gave everyone a free pint ahead of time as we giggled like kids and saluted our hero – “TWARTA!”

Next up, Matt The Truth explained that a new word had been invented locally. He told us that the definition of the word is – “to fall into a drunken stupor whilst watching your sporting heroes not unexpectedly let you down yet again in the biggest match of the season.” He advised that this word is DEJAVOODOO.

And then we saw the story in the Irish Independent newspaper on the bar top, wherein a Hong Kong business tycoon is offering $50 million to any man who will “woo his lesbian daughter”. This headline gave ample scope for a prolonged debate about different folk’s interpretation of the art of wooing, especially if the lady prefers to bat for the other side. As you might expect, the conversation degenerated and made young Mae O blush, and cannot be repeated here. Pious Peter was cringing, and said with his lisp, “Now, that’s what I call wooed [rude]” – so I retorted with “as the Chinese millionaire said to his spread-eagled dyke of a daughter.”

My drinking companion, innocent 89 year-old bachelor ‘uncle’ John asked his usual question when female homosexuality is raised. “What do lesbians actually do?” he enquired. Matt The Truth gave him a subtle clue when he said that there’s two lesbians who live on his lane, and they grow a lot of courgettes. John was baffled and advised us that he prefers cabbage.

Sore knees are nothing. My guts are starting to ache this week. Is it the porter, the side-splitting craic, or both?

Keep going Dan. You’ve progressed about 1.5 inches along the Camino map on my 12″ screen.

camino de santiago

Where’s he heading?