A Cycle on the Celtic Fringe … Part 51
It is just possible that they know what they are doing. The girls in the restaurant I mean. There are a good number of people in for breakfast which doesn’t surprise me at all. It seems a good value hotel. And you can’t beat it for the full Irish welcome.
Unless you want to be served breakfast and the two girls have taken against you.
They are both remarkably pretty. And they both are giving the appearance of being remarkably busy while finding time to do things at their own pace. I’m sure they’re playing a game I used to play in my bar tending days. A game you could call “getting society’s revenge”. I worked in The Tudor Bar of Huddersfield’s George Hotel. Being a town centre pub it drew in a busy lunch-time trade from all walks. A group of counsellors came in three days a week and made everyone else aware of their importance by blocking the bar and shouting conversations in the manner only perfected by fat Yorkshire tossers.
“Planning permission? Oh I think not.”
“Another half Roger?”
“Well, I’ve reached a convenient depth.”
“How about you Rodney? Barman. Seven halves of IPA.”
“I’ve never voted for it in my life”.
“Not a lot of point if you ask me.”
“What about that new place. Have you tried that.”
“I said seven halves barman.”
“I’m not sure that he isn’t ignoring me.”
The game can only be played by the discerning and the put upon. The purpose is to make sure anyone with a redeeming feature is served and made happy before you even notice the self-important twerps holding court and holding forth. In the Tudor Bar there would be seven of them. And that meant seven different conversations as they all waited for a convenient pause to say their piece. There was no continuity or natural flow. Just a succession of monologues delivered with as much gravitas as being shaped like a conference pear (huge arse and no shoulders) and having more beer inside than you can cope with. The loudest was called Furness and the squirtiest was called Cock.
We took it in turns to see how many other drinkers we could serve while they waited. These girls were playing the same game and I am delighted to say that they found me a table (for five) within a minute of my arrival in the dining room. They then made a party of five loud English know-alls wait nearly twenty minutes because there was no table big enough to accommodate them. Ahead of them was an impatient little man who made the mistake of letting everybody near him know that he was not only in a hurry, but that he was far too important to be made to wait. He didn’t say it in so many words but he may as well have done.
It was get your own back day in the kitchens of Roscommon.
I’m pointed towards the fruit and yoghurt. The prunes and apricots are a welcome treat. The yoghurt is tangy and creamy and altogether exceptional. I don’t know if Gleeson’s have a dairy but if they don’t they know someone who keeps a very good one.
By the time I finish this, the group of five are being squeezed onto a table for four and the little man with the lifts in his shoes is tutting and toe-tapping and looking first at his watch and then at his phone and then at his watch again. I smile across to let him know that his efforts to gain attention have not been completely over-looked but I fail to use my sympathetic smile and I’m afraid he may have interpreted it as containing more than an element of schadenfreude.
I was encouraged to help myself to other treats but I had my mind set on the “house special breakfast”. I played a wait and see game on whether I’d have room enough for some extras afterwards. It was a rare treat. I may have become predictable in my breakfast orders and I was trying as hard as I could to avoid the big breakfast every morning. The fact was that I simply couldn’t.
And it was fabulous. A huge portion of perfectly cooked viands balanced with beans and eggs and mushrooms. There were white and black puddings which gave me a taste challenge. I preferred the white but it was close. The very best part was the bread. The whole balance of a British or Irish cooked breakfast is wrong. By all the rules of good eating the fried breakfast is a terrible meal. All the rules except a sense of feasting, a sense of treating and an abundance of taste and texture. If the ingredients are inferior, it isn’t worth eating. If the sausage and the bacon are of the best, it is a treat worth travelling for. Somerset Maugham’s famous advice rings true. “To to eat well in England, you should have breakfast three times a day.” The same holds true across the Irish Sea.
The little man finally gets seated in a corner where he is quietly ignored. He has made a big effort; ironed jeans with creases, colourful shirt outside his trousers, public school accent, bright red face. He was my age and I was very glad I wasn’t him. The girls had chosen their victim well. The great skill in playing this game is that no-one should be absolutely sure you are playing it. If they were, then these girls were brilliant. His pomposity had been both pricked and exposed but he was reeled in before he reached apoplexy.
I mop up the juices with chunks of sourdough. No, it isn’t sour-dough. It’s brown soda bread. It is delicious. I reckon the full Irish is even less healthy than the full English but the puddings, the potato scones and the soda breads make it a winner by a couple of lengths.
I spin out the whole experience for as long as I can. The rain is falling steadily and I’ve got a bag of clothes I’ve washed and dried overnight. I don’t want to drench them straight away. But there’s no putting off the departure. The young man who booked me in was as friendly a fellow as I had met on the island. I was hoping to meet him again on leaving so I could say thank you. I met his brother instead.
“Pleased to meet you Simon. I’m Eamon. I’m the son. Did you meet the folks? Well, you were staying in their old bedroom. Nice room isn’t it. Oh, me brother – the red head. Oh, we all call him the ginger ninja. Is it far you’re going? Now, that’s fantastic.”
All of this is delivered in an even broader accent than his brother. So strong that he made Stephen Roche sound like Peter Bowles.
“We went to Lone on the bikes once when we were younger, and you know, when you are younger you are supposed to be fitter.” At this point he lights the first of several cigarettes. “D’ye know where Lone is?”
A slight inflection before the l told me that he meant Athlone. “We got there, and that’s only twenty miles. But, on the way back we had to call Connolly to come and pick us up in the car. It was too much for us.”
He checks my tyres and brakes and generally admires and ensures everything is as it should be. I’m sure a good ostler would have done the same for my horse in the old days.
On his third cigarette he adds, “Oh no, I’m cutting down. Just ten a day and then in four months I’ll make it nine a day.
“Well, fair play to ye.”
“What do you do if it starts to rain again?”
“Oh well, fair play to ye.”
And so, weighted down by the biggest breakfast yet, and full of admiration for the friendliness of the good people, I leave Roscommon. I’d come in on a main road. I left on the smallest road I could find.