Seeking: lost youth

06Aug11

All those months ago, when Rebecca first mooted the idea of my coming over to Dublin to house-sit, it all felt like a wondrous opportunity to relive my footloose and gay younger years. In the event, of course, it’s been nothing like my youth.

Reasons why not:

Smoking ban. Time was when I (and every one of my companions) would grind through a packet of 20 without having to leave our seats for any other purpose than getting another round in. ‘Only one reason’ has a simple explanation, and it doesn’t involve adult nappies. It’s maffs, innit. I drank Guinness in those days – still do – so it was ergonomically feasible, nay sensible, to combine a trip to the bar with a nip down to the jax. Order the pint with a jerk of the head towards the lavs, to indicate that I’d be away on important business for a couple of minutes and that s/he could take their time and craft the perfect pint without thinking I’d done a runner. (Thus, technically, count it with me, only one reason to leave seat.) Four hours in that atmosphere and even my eyeballs smelled of gaspers. Now after four hours – and no longer indulging in The Terbacker meself – I just smell a bit beery and lived-in.

The library, part I. I’m actually going there. What in the name of God did I do when I was an undergrad ‘studying’ English? ‘Studying’ is a very, very generous term for whatever the hell I was doing. It didn’t seem to involve library time, whatever it was.

The library, part II. It’s all different! Trinity has expanded its library massively, and while bits of it are still as shabby as they were on my irregular appearances, the rest is amazing. There’s a bit now that overlooks the cricket pitches through a run of oak trees. The windows are floor to ceiling, and it feels as if one wall is made of leaves. Glorious. There was a sudden downpour this morning and watching the rain on the leaves and windows was like music for the eyes. I know that makes no sense, but it’s the closest I can get.

Hangovers (see ‘Smoking Ban’). I don’t smoke 500 fags in one sitting. I eat properly. I’m far, far fitter. I drink less. In fact, think I’ve always struggled to remain coherent after four pints in one session, even in my salad days, so that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the frequency with which four pints are consumed, usually on an empty stomach, and the vast quantity of accompanying cigarettes. I remember a friend and I in the mid 1990s congratulating ourselves that we’d managed one day in the working week without going to the pub. We actually thought that was something to be proud of. Bless.

What hasn’t changed:

Guinness. It still doesn’t give me hangovers if it’s served from clean lines in a pub with a fast turnover of the black stuff. A couple of months ago in London I decided that the severity of Guinness hangovers marked the passing of the years and decreased metabolic capacity of my liver. I thought I’d have to give up drinking stout because I couldn’t cope any more. Balls. It was just a shit pub. (Two shit pubs, actually – I don’t give up that easy.) I’ve been drinking Guinness three nights in a row and I have not a trace of hangover. (NB, for anyone’s ref, pubs where I was drinking: Slattery’s in Rathmines, Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street, Bowes on Fleet Street – all renowned for the quality of their pints)

McCambridge’s bread: God, it’s delicious. Butter and honey, fresh or toasted. Or cheese. Or tomatoes. Or both. Ballymaloe relish.

Simon’s Place: At the end of the George Street arcade. Those cinnamon buns. Perhaps the most enjoyable treat that €2.20 can buy.

Head Cases in Ranelagh: The finest haircut in Dublin, by John Flanagan, achieved in less than 15 minutes and always, ALWAYS looks great, even three months later. How does he do that?

My mates: They’re all still around, and they’re all still brilliant.

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