Ireland's West Coast

Ireland July 2-5 2007

Just got back from a very interesting trip across the Irish Sea courtesy of Mr. O'Leary of Ryanair. He clearly has a problem with the British Government and in particular its doubling of fuel tax in a previous budget of Mr Brown (Prime Minister to his friends). Therefore the meek and disarming Mr. O' L decides to make a political point by offering selected flights for 1p. (that's each way.....I mean, return for a penny would be ludicrous.) This included taxes which the kindly and even more meek Mr O' L agreed to foot himself. Many hours he spent writing out in his own fair hand, individual cheques to HM Govt GB Inc. All this when our publicity-shy pop stars were convening across the planet for Live Earth (insert own carbon footprint comment here).

Anyway, conscience in hand, I purchased a flight, having availed myself of the tuppence found down the side of the sofa. I decided on 2 places yet to be visited: Milan and the West of Ireland. The Italian sojourn will be in September.

As usual the fates came to visit me; a member of the caring profession decided his religious indoctrination took precedence over his moral and professional duty. (hypocritic oath?) and security was tight at airports everywhere. This increase in security has already inconvenienced me before, curtailing my usual scam at avoiding exhorbitant onboard drinks prices. Oh yes, the red wine-that-looks-like-ribena ruse. This is how terrorists succeed; they do not have to kill or injure, only to interrupt the norm.

The flight to Shannon Airport in County Clare takes less than an hour (only about 40 mins in the air). As Ryanair is a no-frills airline it relies on hidden extras to generate revenue. For instance, it has a policy of charging for baggage placed on the aircraft and drinks and food onboard. They also have bizarre sachets of vodka, which look like they should be used on chips rather than supplying flight-calming liquor.

We based our stay in the city of Limerick.

Facts about Limerick:

1. It rains a lot.

2. It has been unfairly given the nickname "stab city".

3. Pubs are as plentiful as the rain.

4. People are very friendly.

In one of the opening narratives in Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt mentions that it always rains in Limerick. During our stay, the veracity of this statement was rarely troubled. Of course, it had been raining in Liverpool on the journey to John Lennon Airport. Yes, the famous pakamac came to the rescue on many an occasion (more of which later).

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare.

This was a day trip from Limerick, taking over 2 hours by bus and costing about €19. The service is infrequent so we intended to catch the return bus some 7 hours later. The driver knew the score and advised us of an earlier bus. Two hours later we were ready to trundle back home. The problem with this spot is that there is little to do other than admire the spectacular view and battle the harsh winds. There is a fort on top of the cliffs and a tourist centre chiselled into the rockface to preserve aesthetic values, but it is hard to justify a long stay. We were fortunate that the rain did decide to stop for a bit but it is now no longer possible to reach the outer edge of the cliffs. It seems that a few troubled souls took the opportunity to end it all at a scenic place and so the public are barred. cattle and sea birds are exempt. This is a pity as it would be good to have an official path along the cliffs.

The cliffs are believed to be the deepest in Europe and the view is certainly spectacular as seen by the photos above. Arriving here on Independence Day, we found it to be invaded by hordes of American tourists whose clothes laid battle with their voices for victor of loudness. I utilised my puerile sense of humour by sending surreptitious bluetooth messages to their mobile phones, to the effect that their foreign diplomacy was a bit questionable. According to recent polls in the States, it appears they might actually agree now. Talk about waking up to smell the..........etc etc.

Of course, I will not hear a word against former Governor G. W. Bush. He believes in peace as much as.......well, listen to this if ya don' believe it, y'all.

Limerick Pubs

Blackstuff for the Boys


Jam session at Dolan's

By great planning and cunning (=luck) we stayed near the Dock Road, on which this bar is situated. Wherever I am I always seem to end up near the Red Light area! Did not see any night workers possibly due to the weather. It would take too long to describe the place. Its own website does it so much better. It is also visible on Google Earth. Suffice to say, there have been many major artists playing here. For instance Kasabian played Wembley recently and also were here. There are also free offerings of traditional Irish music in the bar most nights. The bar has something for everyone.

We even managed to get TV coverage of Wimbledon here. Yes, it will always remind me of Maria Sharapova’s exit. On this occasion I was sad to see her behind (schoolboy giggle).

The Whitehouse

This pub also has a poetic license

We came across a great Irish pub whilst sheltering from the rain (as recommended by the red jacketed city guides we met by the castle.). It is known as both Gleesons and The White House. A pint of Smithwicks was our reward. We noticed that at the front of the pub was a small curtained stage with a large spotty bow tie. An advert for a poetry reading caught the eye, so we made a mental note to visit upon our return from the Cliffs of Moher.

The weekly readings have been up and running since 2004 and are compered by the imcomparable Barney Sheehan. There is a blog by one of the prominent members, Dominic Taylor, who has also written songs based on Angela’s Ashes. There is a link to the My Space site from the blog. Hey, no one that has Sinead O’Connor as a friend can be too bad!

I was cajoled into scribbling a few lines myself, but did not expect to have to perform it. The other poets (note the subtle use of ‘other’, implying I am Ted Hughes) were well rehearsed and subjects ranged from harrowing accounts of drug addiction to whimsical memories of hurling matches. Next time I will have more time to prepare and so the results should be better. For the record, my offering was about the rain we encountered. The local inhabitants took it in good humour. There are probably some areas where this would be a bad idea. Anyway, as with the rest of the area, people were very friendly. This is a night to recommend.

Nancy Blake's

This was several pubs in one; a tardis of an inn. From the outside it seemed quite small but it had a sawdust-laden front area, a small dimly lit bar, an old style snug, and a busy outside area for the tobacco takers. One of the places to be at night.

The Wicked Chicken

Be Wicked

Easier to say before entering than after leaving. It was a rarity in that it had beers different to the usual suspects of Guinness, Beamish and Smithwicks. It had a good selection of German Erdinger brews.

I Don’t Like Mondays

One pub we drifted into was, I think, The Black Swan. It was a bit dark and scruffy. A group of well-oiled old characters frequented it. It as not so much that they propped up the bar, than that the bar propped them up. One member of ‘The Monday Club’ improvised an effective pinball impression on his way out. The barman had a large cut on his head caused by a night out when his drink was spiked.

Later in the week we were in another pub (sheltering from the rain you understand) when I spotted a charcoal drawing on the wall of ‘The Tuesday Club’ members and we wondered aloud if there were such clubs for each day of the week and if the same characters were in every one.

More later......... I am constructing bit by bit as I learn

" But I learn Mr. Fawlty, I learn!"

King John's Castle, Limerick