The drunken Irish – oh how we love to be the wobbliest and loudest. How we love the idea that one Paddy can pack away more pints than a small community in Belgium. We are so entrenched in the idea that it is our inalienable right to be sozzled, that we sometimes lose sight of why we want to get so drunk. Why is the natural sober state of an Irish person so repugnant that we constantly want to be tipsy, drunk or semi paralytic? It is only in the last 250 years that we have become such vessels for intoxication, but that is next weeks’ blog, and I have someone very special to blame for that one…and it’s not just the beer companies.
In work just Sunday I was presented with two walking, talking, stumbling examples of this. Again, just to clarify for new readers, I run a busy Irish pub in Bondi. One of my bartenders called me around midday and informed me that a patron was extremely drunk and needed to go home. I made my way to the bar and they pointed out the culprit to me – he was sitting with two girls at a high table in the beer garden. I made my way over and picked up a few glasses and started chatting.
“How’s your day going folks?”
The two young girls smiled and said grand. I took a look at the guy and his eyes were bloodshot and rolling. He was slithering around on top of the chair, struggling to keep his hand on his glass.
“Shuckka saw a song bird da other day” he started singing to me
“shuckka serra…ha ha dad a da…Oasis isn’t it…you look like whassisname Liam Gallagher hey..”
The girls laughed and I found it impossible not to join them. He started to sing an incoherent version of “Songbird” by Oasis. He then settled a little and tried to sit down again. He spoke with a strong Derry accent and started to tell us more unprompted.
“I mish home. I mish all my frens, all da boys hey. I mish Doney Livet…see wee Doney when he does his little dance hey…all the girls starh laughin but I love it hey…I’ll show ya hey…”
He got up to dance a little but nearly toppled over the table so I sorta shove/push/placed him back onto his chair. Now before I go on I must clarify one thing. In Australia, it is illegal for a bartender to serve an intoxicated person. There are big fines involved. It is also illegal to allow a drunken person to remain on your premises. Again, big fines apply. There is a slow realisation that it is not like Ireland where you are fed full of the jungle juice till you can take no more.
So as my flaming drunk new friend continued to tell me about how he missed his friends and in particular, the dancing habits of one wee Doney Livet, I proceeded to tell him that he had drunk enough and needed to be on his way. He was a little confused at first, but as it dawned on him that I was asking him to leave, he signalled for some of his friends to come over from a different table. I explained nice and simply to them that their friend was drunk as the proverbial, to which they agreed. They didn’t agree that he should be asked to leave though.
“Where are you from hey?” one asked me
“Dublin, man, northside Dublin” I replied
“Well my Grandad is from Sherriff Street hey…so we’re all from the same spot you know. See my friend here is alright, I’ll look after him…don’t worry about it. Sure we’re all Irish hey”
I explained again to him that it didn’t matter what nationality we were, that he had to go. In fairness the Derry boys were not looking for hassle and they clapped their drunken friend out of the pub and I’m sure he staggered home to bed. As I turned to walk away another barman came up to me and pointed out the other rancid drunk Irishman I was meant to throw out. He was standing about five yards the other direction, with two guys and a girl, resembling some kind of Mr. Softmint flapping around on a marshmallow floor. As I sided up to him to inform him that he was more than a little inebriated and no longer would he be served alcohol in our establishment, he regarded me with astonished, perplexed confusion.
“Ha, sure of course I’m drunk, sure amen’t I Irish ya gobshite!” he told me.. “sure aren’t you Irish yourself?”
“I am” I told him
“Well, sure you know yourself so…now don’t be annoying me while I’m drinking…I’m causing no harm to anyone”
“Where I am from and whether you are causing any trouble has nothing to do with it…if you are drunk then you have to leave. Plain and simple”
“How many security guards do you have on Side Show Bob?” he asked, subtly referencing my curly fro
“Well I don’t fancy your chances of getting me out of here” he answered, slugging back his drink and laughing to his friends.
“I don’t either, but the cops won’t mind arresting another drunken paddy. Hang on a sec while I call them.”
With that he downed his drink and stormed out the door shouting all manner of obscenities and insults. His friends pleaded not to call them and I didn’t. He had the look of an illegal about him alright and the vague threat of an arrest made him shit his pants.
Rereading this I look at myself having come full circle. I used to be that messer break dancing on tables, streaking through pubs, wobbling and arguing, singing and acting the bollix. I took it as my God given Irish right to be able to be drunk as all hell and not be accountable for it. I would once have said that being Irish then you’d have to know yourself. It was something I assumed is part of our identity. Being drunk and messy is something I assumed is part of what makes us undeniably Irish. But let me tell you dear reader, that it is a very recent phenomenon this drunken Paddy. I for one am sick of the label. I don’t want to be throwing out the drunken paddies, I want us to throw out the idea that we are all born to be drunken Paddies. We deserve better than being known as the drunks of the world.