Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arriving at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, yesterday. Right: Ryan Tubridy points out the sights to the queen from the Gravity Bar. Maxwells
Prince Philip admiring the freshly poured pint of Guinness as the queen turns to continue the tour. Maxwells PRINCE Philip was wearing the wistful expression of a Dickensian child with its frozen face pressed against a snowy window.
He was looking longingly at the lovely, carefully crafted work of art sitting on the counter in front of him.
He couldn't take his eyes off the creamy pint of stout settling slowly in the pint glass.
And it was that Holy Grail of tipples, the Perfect Pint, poured by Guinness master brewer Fergal Murray.
And in a big circle around him, a whole roomful of native sons and daughters were silently doing a Mrs Doyle.
"Go on, go on, go on," everyone silently mouthed.
Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh -- who is fond of an occasional beer -- just couldn't tear himself away from the gorgeous, churning, black and white gargle.
The queen had already moved off to look at the bird's-eye view of Dublin from the lofty Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse. But still he hovered. It was clear he was tempted. But a quick look out through the panoramic windows was sufficient to make it sadly clear to him that the sun was not even remotely near the yardarm. It was only 10.50am after all. And perhaps he was under starter's orders from Herself not to succumb to the lure of a pint of porter, no matter how yummy it looked.
And so, with a final yearning glance, Philip turned away and joined his wife over by the window.
What a damned waste of a jolly good pint.
The Guinness Storehouse was the first port of call for the royal couple on day two of their trip.
In just over a decade it's become Ireland's biggest tourist attraction for overseas visitors, but the queen's stop here was also a nod to the huge influence of the Anglo-Irish Guinness family on the city since the 18th Century, using the titles of Iveagh, Ardilaun and Moyne.
It's impossible to stroll around An Lar without passing a Guinness landmark -- few Dubs would be aware that St Stephen's Green was laid out and given to the city by Sir Arthur Edward Guinness in 1880.
And the place was spick and span for the visit; as the media bus pulled up at the venue, staff member Catherine Keegan, dressed elegantly in black dress and high heels, was busily hoovering the red carpet.
Up in the Gravity Bar, the 50-plus guests were placed in 'pods', or small, separate groups which would be introduced to the royal couple by a 'pod leader'.
The first group was a mainly political one, and contained Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton and Overseas Aid Minister Jan O'Sullivan as well as Dublin Lord Mayor Gerry Breen and his wife Maeve. And then there was a tourism pod; a Diageo pod; a group containing recipients of the Arthur Guinness Fund for social entrepreneurs; and last, but most certainly not least, a pod of Dubs which included Fergus Finlay of Barnardos, historian Pat Liddy and Brother Kevin Crowley of the Capuchin day centre for the homeless.
Behind the bar in the centre of the roundy room, Cork-born Fergal Murray checked that everything was in place. He's having quite a hectic time of it, as last week he nipped down to Moneygall to check that the pint in Ollie Hayes' bar was up to scratch for Barack Obama.
The crowd got a quick briefing.
"Today's meant to be really relaxing," they were told. "This is a bit of downtime for them."
Which, of course, made everyone nervous, so when the lift opened a few minutes later and out popped the queen and Prince Philip, there was a round of applause and then silence. The pair swiftly made their way past the political pod, although the queen did stop and have a quick chat, and then they took their time talking to the rest.
The queen -- in a turquoise and white dress and coat of Swiss wool, cotton and flecked tweed with matching turquoise buttons and hat, with black handbag, gloves and shoes -- made her way through the groups at a leisurely pace.
She has a direct stare which she fixes on whoever she's chatting to -- and soon the level of chatter began to rise.
At the end of the line, a wound-up Ryan Tubridy waited to bring the pair on a tour of the sights out through the windows.
But first they had to inspect the Perfect Pint. Fergal took them through the sacred ritual, explaining it was a visual treat as well as a drink.
Philip was intrigued. "You're selling it to me," he declared.
"There's a lot of science going on," he added, eyes glued to the settling pint.
However, he also remarked that "it was a lot of drama to make a drink", which shows the prince still has some way to go to connecting with his inner Dub.
Fergal pushed the pint towards the queen, who promptly took a small step back, and edged away towards the window, leaving a forlorn Philip in her royal wake.
But he eventually joined Ryan and the queen as he took them around the windows and pointed out the various images.
"Where's Croke Park?" asked Philip, his mind obviously on the big gig of the afternoon.
The queen didn't say much -- but then she'd little chance of getting a word in as Ryan gabbled to beat the band.
It was Philip who did most of the talking -- he was particularly intrigued when Guinness archivist Eibhlin Roche explained how Arthur Guinness signed a lease for 9,000 years.
"What sort of a mug would sign a lease for 9,000 years?" he asked, the picture of incredulity.
Twenty-five minutes later, about the time it takes to sink a pint, the royal couple left, without a single drop taken.
Ryan Tubridy -- no doubt heading for a New Year's honour such as Knight of the Geansai -- looked like a man in need of a steadier.
"You find yourself chatting and chatting," he said breathlessly. "It goes so fast".
One hopes the queen thought so, too.
The guests were mostly impressed with her (apart from a non-committal Leo, who merely reckoned, "She seemed to be very nice").
"She asked us all what we did and seemed very interested. And she looks amazing," said Mary Nally from Failte Isteach.
"She seems to have the art of getting through everyone while taking her time," said John Murphy who runs a company helping the long-term unemployed.
It was all very relaxing. But it would've been even more fun if Prince Philip had taken a big swally of that lovely pint.