The receptionist at the crappy Royal Hotel asks, and ow was da sty sir, everytin goo. And what I want to say is, No it was ferkinn crap but instead, being a part time gentleman, It was excellent thank you. No point in stirring up da ‘Troubles’ again.
We head off early’ish having noted a small ring fort just down the road near the village of Tullyhogue which we duly find and tramp up to via a very long winding bitumen pathway with interpretative sign boards along the way. Most of them describing how the O’Neills, whose Ring Fort it was, butchered anybody not named O’Neill. When they were done with that, they got bored and began arguing amongst themselves leading them to start butchering their own including their brothers and sisters. The few O’Neills left finished up having lie downs with sheep which is why anybody whose surname starts with an ‘O’, should be avoided. Tullyhogue means, and this depends on who has the bag of lollies, ‘Hill of Youth’ or ‘Mound of Young Warriors’. Take your pick.
It was a place where the O’Neills celebrated the arrival of a new king as he, the new king, had just run his brother through with a sword. The new king was proclaimed by a sub chief throwing a Golden Sandal over the head of the New King being carefully not to hit him. They all then went off, and had a lie down with their sheep. They talk about the ‘Troubles’ in Ireland in hushed tones, but its been going on for thousands of years starting back when Neolithic man bumped into Vikings who wanted Neolithic mans wife, daughters, goats and still. Neolithic man traded his wife and daughters but kept the goats and the still.
Now we turn to the medical report. Back when I was born, the mid-wife, bless her, pulled me out of the birth canal utilising my tiny years which she, the mid-wife, gave a tweak to, set them with Araldite, so they stuck out like dinner plates. Later during my very much delayed puberty, I knocked all my teeth out at age twelve on mate Kevin Torys bike axle, consequently leaving the teeth, my smile and part of my frisky personality, lying on the Dundas Road Inglewood bitumen. After this at some stage, I managed to swallow a Dyson miniature vacuum cleaner thus sucking my lips back in under my nose. Over the period of my second set of false teeth, I was still a teenager, a time when I listened to Thelonious Monk, studied Zen, wore desert boots and an Army great coat, I somehow managed to morph into an eccentric, weird, wobbly adult. But not a mature one. If you wonder why I am telling you all this, just bear with me. Its because looking in the mirror one morn a month or so ago, and I don’t do this often, there was this old bloke looking back at me. I did not know him, was it me? It was. So I wondered about getting a new ‘look’ and thought a new set of falsies would assist and perhaps a set that allowed me to bite ‘things’. The current pair, overlap by a country mile. So I go see Michael a nice middle aged Dentist who likes wearing T shirts. I explained to him about the mid-wife, the ears, Kevin Torys bike, Thelonious Monk, Zen, the sucked in look and that I need a make over. He cant do anything about the ears but yes, the teeth, sucked in look and bite he can. At this point he studies my profile carefully, then gets a short pencil out, a clean sheet of A4 paper and writes down some figures. I’m starting to feel a new man already as this bloke oozes confidence. Now, he says confidently, I can push your jaw out, give you some bite and get rid of that sucked in look. Having lived with the sucked in look and lack of bite for over forty years, I enthusiastically embrace him which spontaneously triggers him to jot down more figures on his A4 sheet. Can you give me George Clooney’s jaw line I say all full of the Bon Mots of life. He ponders a moment, then, No, but I can do Sammy Davis Junior. This Dentist Michael is a bit of a joker and I appreciate that and say Will I be able to sing Mister Bojangles. He jots more figures down and tells me that the New falsies, with bite, reduction of the sucked in look AND the Sammy Davis Junior jaw line, will cost you he stalls and thats not a good sign, then quickly 1,900 dollars. Done I say as I go home to practise Mister Bojangles and hope his dentistry does not include pigmentation of my mouth like Sammys.
Now you are wondering once again just where I am going with this twaddle. Well I got my new set of false teeth just two weeks before we set off for Ireland the teeth causing as promised, a change in my jaw line, I got the ability to bite through steak, Sue doesn’t need to cut up my food anymore and the sucked in lip look has partially gone. However, there are drawbacks which I have found as I travel. My speech tends to whistle, I say lots of ‘S’s even when the word I am saying does not have an ‘S’ in it. And, seeds especially get stuck under the bottom plate as the Sammy Davis Junior look required Michael the dentist, to re-arrange my gums, lips and jaw line thus creating a deep chasm under the plate where food lodges. Its not the height of etiquette to sit having a meal at a hotel, then having to hunt around with your tongue, the mouth and cheeks jumping around like you have several frogs in there, to remove bits and pieces of food that have decided to emigrate to the land of chasms between my gums and Michaels false teeth plates, where the territory is pink, moist and there are no free radicals. This movement of the tongue has to be carried out through subterfuge by placing a hand over the mouth as though you were going to cough. Thats method one. Method two is to lean over and pretend that you need to tie your shoelace. This is also convenient should you need to do other things like pick up that tasty bit of bacon you dropped. Well the ‘wash up’ to all that is that I have continuing sore gums under the bottom plate and Michael the joker, is in Oz. So theres nort I can do about it except whinge and apply a very expensive spray onto the gums. Now, having expressed all that, I feel much better and can get back to penning gems of wit and incisive biting comments about Ireland. If only the song Bojangles had more ‘S’s in it something along the lines of Sistes Sosansles.
My lovely bride Susan alongside me, is unaware of the weird way my mind works and thats a real blessing as we by-pass Coalisland population 5,700 where there are more shuttered shops and where the ‘Troubles’ came with shootings and bombings only twenty years ago. Into Dungannon where after some difficulty, it is Sunday morning, we find Bob & Bert’s Cafe. We parked up in Dungannon’s town square, well we assume it is as its rectangular, has no trees, theres a few plaques about, a parking area, thank you, and we gaze about for a Cafe, but nort to see. We see Bob & Bert’s but it looks closed. It wasn’t. So two oldish Gooses set off down a steep hill where at the bottom, way down there, we spot some signs of life and bright colours. Part way down, I decide to go back for the car as its a long way down and with the brides ‘dicky knee’ on the way back? Part way back up to get the car, the bride charging on down the hill, I see Bob Marley approaching. He is by now very black, thin, a bit stooped and has lost his colourful beanie. I ask for directions to a cafe avoiding saying ‘G’day Bob’ but instead, Morning Mate, can you tell me where I can find a cafe. He, Bob Marley looks thoroughly confused as though I’ve just stepped off Starship Enterprise and want to know where Chewbacca is. Then, Bobs medication kicks in and he points up the hill to where our car is parked and mutters with a bit of spittle, hup dere. Short and to the point and I like that. He eyes me off as though I’m a 44 gallon West Indies variety bongo drum and I decide to do my Basil Fawlty quickstep up the hill away from him. I go down the hill again in the car, pick up the bride, point out that I’ve met Bob Marley, I get one of ‘Those Looks’, and we go for a cuppa at Bob & Bert’s.
Suitably refreshed, we are onto a backroad, the R45 and its a lovely drive through more Irish countryside, green as green fields, rock walls, hedges and I think we are back in the ‘Real Ireland’ as the road speed signs are in KPH’r. We slow down in the pretty village of Caledon a seemingly nice town. Rose’s Cafe is open with happy Caledons outside chatting, I give then a wave, a toot, and we push on through Middelton and Monaghan the latter a bright colourful village with a happy cheerful house painter who must charge reduced rates.
Then onto the R162 and into Ballybay population 1,241 where we pause in the main street as we noticed a pub, The Gateway, was open. Its just past noon. Inside Megan is sweeping the floor and looking busy and was surprised to see customers. She’s single, about 30, plumpish but not overly and has the nicest smile. Jamie for Me and nothing for Her. We chat with Megan who has rellys in Oz and is tinkin abut goin der to fin an ubby. Da chaps ere r effin hoosless. We can only agree as my bride gives me a strange sideways look as though Megan can have hers. As we are hungry and Megan’s Gateway does not do food, she directs us up the hill a bit, ya cin cee it frum da fru door where theres ‘Liam Smyth & Sons Inn’ and where day cin do ya a tostee, am cheese, marto ya know. Megan doesnt mind that we depart as she works for both The Gateway and Liam Smyth & Sons Inn as Liam’s family own both pubs. Democracy at work. We decamp and find Liam Smyths fair packed with a boisterous line of fifteen men breasting the bar, giggling laffing and doing other men ‘ing’ things. The owners wife, a large jolly woman in her very late fifties is joking with the men who have just come from a church service up the road where they have said Ta Ta to a dear mate and shortly they have to take him to another place to be buried. He did not want to be buried in Ballybay. I don’t blame him. Theres only white bread for the toasties so we do. With ham, cheese and tomato. A forensic examination might just disagree with that but I’ve arrived at near 76, not dead, so I chomp in accompanied by a Coors Light, Her and Me. We are contented Chappies.
We bid farewell to the funeral cortege escorts breasting the bar and motor on hoping that our next o/niter at Shirley Arms Hotel Carrickmacross is better than the last. The wake back at Liam Smyth & Sons Inn promises to be a beauty.
At 3pm, the official book in time at Shirley Arms Hotel, we breast reception and book in for three nights. The Georgian frontage of the hotel does not provide an inkling of the beauty that lies behind. Its all very nice, tastefully furnished, a large bar in the old front building with behind a modern 21st century hotel over three floors. Restaurant, Bistro, adequate rooms and the wi-fi works in every nook and cranny. And the room rate per night is well less than that crappy Royal Hotel of last night. Susan is pleased and therefore I am pleased. And off we go exploring, hand in hand, its Sunday and theres lots of holiday makers about. Lots of narrow fronted 3 storey pubs line the main street most of them fairly dodgy looking premises with people outside smoking ciggies and e-ciggies. We pass by ‘B. Shevlins Inn’, ‘Boylans Bar’, ‘H. Hughes Bar’, ‘O. Gormans Wine Vault’ and ‘Cashells Bellview Inn’, but we only enter the looking classy ‘Fiddlers Elbow’ where its very nice having had a major makeover recently. As I did with my teeth.
Carrickmacross meaning, apparently, ‘Rock of the Wooded Plain’, has a population of 5,032 with many of the towns young ladies, employed at Shirleys Hotel. Its a bright cheerful village, cafes, large Supa-Value supamart and all the small shops you could want including Neary’s second hand bookshop down Parnell Street. Its a tad smelly and damp in there with books everywhere stacked one upon the other. And here, you can do a pub crawl and never return. The town is relatively famous for its Lace that dainty fretwork of cotton finely woven by hand over innumerable hours. Commenced by Nuns back in the early 19th century, they, the nuns and others, still practice the craft today. Princess Diana, Catherine and Meghan all had bits of Carricmacross Lace on their person when they got married. Poor Diana did not know that she was not only married to Charles, but a Polo Pony as well.
And now the ‘WHINGE REPORT’. When you travel anywhere, make sure you check the bank holidays, the school holidays, the weather and whether his holiness, no not Barnaby Joyce, but the Pope, is not coming to spend 36 holy hours in the city you are about to go to. WE, and I include my travelling companion the lovely Susan in this, have had a perfect storm of all the above which all tends to force up prices and for supplies of holy water, Guinness, to run low. Grr grr. By Cripes, I feel better now.
Ooroo from Pope Desmondo 😇 (PS Da Pope is a cumin ta Dublin dis veekend – yay – and we are going to Dublin. I must have missed his email. Now, where on earth are my Rosary Beads!!)