“No, no, Chica, don’t worry, go back to bed, no need to drive me to the bus stop at 6am. It’s only a bit of drizzle”.
Drizzle my drenched arse. In my sleep-deprived state, I seriously miscalculated the wetness of the precipitation… The day started rather well. Soaked to my underwear (50% of it, I had spare jocks in my mini-rucksack). It was a fun first half hour at Dublin airport, holding my jeans under the hand dryer (which could aptly be renamed the hand-and-cacks dryer, it worked a treat, albeit slowly).
The airport was its usual mix of stressed parents with small children, business travelers affecting the bored-business-traveler look and casting the odd disdainful glance at the stressed parents with small children, Republic of Ireland supporters full of optimism (bless them) starting a long day of getting full of pints as well as optimism (there has to be a correlation, it couldn’t possibly be the team’s performance that instills that level of enthusiasm in the army in green), and ladies who spent too long deciding on their travel outfit and left too little time for the travel itself.
After a few minutes spent looking at the massively overpriced cameras in the duty-and-sense-free area (I can’t blame them, the ground rent must be one of the most expensive in Dublin, so they pass on the cost to the coerced-into-buying-out-of-boredom consumerist flock), I settled in a relatively quiet spot to watch some Netflix (the very good Meyerowitz Stories – thanks Pensioner!) next to some abandoned pints.
And following a forgettable flight (30 minutes, not even enough time to reach full cruising altitude, more of a quick climb and descent – that’s why at the end of its 30-year career, they used to have the old Jaguar livery 737-200 on this route, the one that had holes in the hull, and was not certified to fly above 25,000 ft – this is a true story), I was swiftly coming out of John Lennon (the obstetrician was very gentle).
Back to Liverpool, the city that accepted to have me for an action-packed year, back in 1992 (with not a single instance of shameful venereal diseases, contrarily to the rumours spread by Mr Smith, that lying hound!)
It was a very pleasant walk past familiar landmarks, and scenes of slightly faded grandeur, to the first meeting point: Rigby’s.
Talking about faded grandeur, the crew seemed uncharacteristically subdued. I was beginning to wonder if the staged photographs of alcohol-fuelled musical madness posted on the social media the previous night had actually not been staged at all. How could they? Without me?!!!
Mr Smith wasn’t even able to raise his trademark middle finger. The poor thing, he just couldn’t lift it up…
Still, it was great to meet for the first time in person Smithski and P3dro, who were not part of the previous night’s libations, and who were actually able to string a few sentences together (when they were not eagerly sucking on their nicotine-vaping devices – one of which, Pedro’s I think, produces a slightly fascinating overheating car engine scent, or else it was one of the three stooges whose clothes still smelled of overheating trombone).
After literally a couple of pints (except for the still-in-recovery-mode Jaybroek who had just the one…) we headed to the very popular Mowgli, a very busy curry restaurant in Liverpool, judging by the total lack of unoccupied tables; usually a good sign.
The food was superb, and plentiful, and the gang began to perk up a bit. Our host Scott had joined us at that stage, and he seemed surprisingly devoid of resentment towards the bunch of hooligans who had the night before turned his grand house into a 1920s prohibition-era shebeen.
By the time we left Mowgli, we were all fit for a nap.
But instead we opted for a bit of culture (thanks P3dro for keeping it highbrow!). Off we headed to the Anglican behemoth, which is almost as much of a Liverpool landmark as Mr Smith’s nose.
Both the cathedral and the Smith brothers are imposing structures!
But for the three of them the rule is the same: you can look, but you cannot touch.
Touristic interlude: the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral (don’t run away, normal service of middle-aged men talking pish and downing pints will resume shortly)
But all that culture made the gang rather thirsty. After the religion, it was decided that it was now time for the relaxation. And not too early either. Some among us were beginning to lose hope…
Finally it was within sight. The Holy Grail. The light at the end of the tunnel. The place where I spent a sizable portion of my tutor’s wages back in 1992: Ye Cracke (the place where the craic is mighty).
It was seriously warm in the War Room though, and no amount of Thin Lizzy or the Pogues could counteract the fact that we were still processing our Mowgly tiffin box (at times able to burp reminders of each individual divider in the said tiffin). So warm that at times we almost lost Insto. Thankfully, the lengthy discussion on the average size of a wren’s tail brought him back to the land of the wide awake.
But all too soon, we decided to leave the comfort of the snug, unable as we were to resist the pull of culture (the other cathedral, at the other end of
Insto Hope street).
It was time to leave Ye Cracke in the careful care of its regulars.
But before heading for another dose of religious contemplation, we thought it might be apt to make the most of Mr Smith’s absence to take an unspoiled shot of uber-80s cool for our difficult second album (What’s the craic in Ye Cracke).
Now, the Catholic cathedral, more commonly known locally as the Paddy’s Wigwam, is quite some architectural feat. At the end of the 1950s, religion was still strong, Liverpool had a large Catholic population (predominantly Irish immigrants and their numerous descendants) and the coffers of the Vatican were not yet depleted by the settlements to victim of sex abuse by all-powerful and seemingly untouchable priests (and nuns too).
Rome was keen to finance a project that would rival the dark red monolith at the other end of the street (surprisingly called Hope street, when Mine-is-bigger-than-yours Street would be a lot more appropriate).
The building in itself is rather striking.
And has miracle properties. Within a few seconds of climbing the sacred steps, Mr Smith had already regained the use of his rude fingers!
Inside, it looks a bit like when U2 had a circular stage in the middle of the stadiums they played, to enter a state of heightened communion with the tens of thousands of suckers who had paid large amounts of money to see them prance about live.
But in a more religious context (hard to compete with U2, who are quite keen to promote Jesus any chance they get). And the groupies where there. All three of them!
After that second serving of religion, it was definitely time for more libation.
Off to the Belvedere we went. And things took a turn for the worse. People began to get silly. I mean, who drinks gin and tonic out of fish bowls on a stem, with little bits of watermelon floating about? Watermelon, in Liverpool? It’s a bit like mango in Athlone or quinoa in Kilbarrack. It shouts “it’s not going to last!” But it was fun while it lasted. Especially as it was Insto’s round. Pity I didn’t hit him with an XO Cognac, for the added comedic effect… It’s all in the timing you see…
Then things started getting a little bit blurred.
I know that we attempted the Phil, but that it was way too packed and that in the autumn of our pub-goers lives, the number one criteria for the choice of a watering hole is the availability of seats. We did get a chance to use its listed urinals though. And I found in Smithski a brother in arms, who just like me does not venture into town without a pre-established itinerary of McDonald’s, public parks with thick bushes or other places where a tactical wee can be achieved. For it is a tough life, that of the owner of a micro-bladder (I have Dun Laoghaire and its surroundings very carefully mapped, Brother Smithski, you can come for the March replay with total peace of mind, and bladder!)
I know that we went to another pub (the Grapes?) and we continued talking pish with gay abandon, while Smithski was busy missing his next train(s) home.
Then it was time to head for the train station. We first lost Smithski, his 0.5 ton of 35 mm photographic equipment and his rapidly filling up bladder.
A quick walk down that street whose name I never remember (even back in 1992) with restaurants overflowing with people (not back in 1992) and it was time to say our goodbyes to P3dro too, not before he got us back on the right track, and correct platform, or else we could still be stuck in Grimsby as I type…
On the train, Insto gave us a masterclass in power-snoozing. He set his sleepy-dozy inner timer to 20 minutes, and off he was gone. A true professional!
I honoured his wish not too be photographed in a slumber and drooling. Others on the same carriage were less scrupulous…
Then we got to New Brighton! And a mere 10 minute walk from the station (ok, twelve minutes, I had to do a Smithski on the way) was Kath & Scott’s Palazzo, that they were generous (and mad!) enough to put at our disposal for the weekend. What hosts! Trusting enough to let Mr Smith, and his gang of reprobates met on the internet, to stay for the night.
I was so grateful to be given the downstairs Servants’ Suite, the one with the double bed (my favourite sleeping position is the Star Fish) and more importantly its own toilet within a few meters stagger, while the rest of the crew were sleeping in the upper quarters (several of them).
We may not have been the most energetic company, middle-aged and tired, and possibly more-pissed-than-we-realised as we were.
There were even a couple of gaps in the conversation. Some weighty silences. Something that would have never happened if Pensioner had not been busy giving away his daughter that very weekend.
But we perked up. We rallied. I finally got to taste the legendary Leith Heavy. And several other of the Master Brewer’s creations.
And we had a nice meal of assorted cheeses (the Spanish one destroyed with a pickaxe by Mr Smith), cold meats, houmous and Scotch eggs, thanks to Kath and Scott.
A wonderful meal. That in our state of absolute exhaustion felt like it may be the last…
By midnight, every single participant was out cold, snoring away in a comfy bed.
What a bunch of middle-aged hell raisers!