I have decided that as soon as I retire, or have a bestseller, whichever comes first, I am out of here and off to Ireland to live. I’ve seen the castle-like fortress that I fancy. It is a derelict Templars’ Church dating from 1187 and sits on the edge of small cliff overlooking the Irish Sea. Although it needs a little work; it has no doors, windows, running water, electricity, kitchen, bathroom, toilet, floorboards or roof, and unfortunately, there are all dead folks buried in the front lawn, it does have plenty of character and would just suit me as a bolthole from the madding crowd. (You can tell I have just been to visit Thomas Hardy’s house.) I can just imagine myself on up on the battlements of my private castle-ette spitting in ze general direction and pouring boiling oil down on any children’s book critics who come to visit.
While we were in St Davids in Southern Wales Jan and I both had plenty of practice at a medieval fair with original yew longbows, as you would have found at Agincourt or Crecy, so if any nobles, knights, peasants and librarians attack my castle in their multitudes, we could rain down on their number arrows from a great height, causing great anguish and misery and a gnashing of teeth.
My castle is located not that far from a small village with more pubs than houses and not that far from the other 10,999 pubs dotted across the Emerald Isle. And although there are no cinemas or shoe stores located nearby, it has other compensations. Other than the scenery, Jan can’t actually think of any – but I’m working on her.
Like all tourists arriving in Dublin, after we had been to see the statue of the hugely busted Molly Malone, the Tart with the Cart or the Trollop with the Scollops as the locals lovingly and cleverly call her, we went immediately to Temple Bar, a cobblestone street and site of more pubs per square inch that anywhere in the world, and what a great place it turned out to be too. Smoking has recently been banned in pubs so all the patrons spill out into the streets to puff away and socialise while doing that. The folks in the streets seemed to be having more fun than those inside, not that the others seem too upset by it.
We lined up to see the Book of Kells and the famous Long Room Library at Trinity College as well as several tourist traps, like the Guinness Brewery, where the tour of the old factory was underwhelming and the ‘free Guinness’ (included in the price of the crappy tour) was the worst tasting pint in all Ireland. And we did a have a good few to compare. It sort of reminded me of the Cadbury factory in Hobart. The idea sounds fantastic; the reality was a hot, dull, one-way passage herded past a load of big green machines that made a lot of noise and regurgitated out chocolates at one end like the chicken pie machine in Chicken Run. They gave you plenty of freebies but as it was so hot you either had to eat them there and then or watch them melt through your fingers. After half an hour, when you are dying of thirst, you are bored rigid, the air stinks of something sweet and fermenting and you still have another hour to go with no escape, chocolate turns very unappetising – and remember this is me talking here, a serious sweetaholic.
Anyway, back in Guinness, after watching a lot of black coloured water swirl about, climb seven scary staircases of industrial age ironwork to the crowded, glass walled Gravity Bar, 100s feet above Dublin, you would think you had earned a decent pint. Pity they didn’t think so as well. The view, however, was good.