Sunday 18 August 2019

Zozimus by Liam Collins

Backed into a corner of Doheny & Nesbitt's the other night, Zozimus looked down the bar and reflected on the fact that despite premature reports of its demise the good Irish pub is still thriving.

Christmas was in the air, and you could sense that business was beginning to take second place to catching up with friends and getting into the solstice spirit on the eve of the shortest day of the year.

Our old friend Ivan Yates, recently home from traversing North America, came striding through the throng, eager to explain the Trump phenomenon which he had seen first hand on his travels. Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, was having a pint with friends - and the following morning turned up on the Newstalk breakfast show and later on RTE's Today With Sean O'Rourke.

That's politicians for you - they can have a few pints at night and be up at the crack of dawn to go on radio shows when mere mortals are still in bed.

Scattered around the bar at various times was Tom Parlon of the Construction Industry Federation, Blair Horan, late of the public service union, Paul Cooke, late of Sunday Business Post and various other familiar and non-familiar faces.

The one-time U2 manager Paul McGuinness, who lives around the corner, was having a few pints with pals and all around was a sort of jollity that wasn't just Christmas, but Dublin at its best.

Earlier, over a superb dish of kidneys (Zozimus is partial to offal but doesn't get it at home) Barry Canny, owner of Peploe's, talked about how the Luas excavations are impacting on business and we arranged to have a pint some time early in the New Year to put the world to rights.

Some people might find it sad that there are those who define their lives by pubs, but for some of us walking into a good bar is finding a place of solace, to sit quietly and read the paper, or a place for roistering with friends, telling stories, reflecting on life and meeting contacts.

Probably the first pub I came to know was The Blue Light in Barnacullia on the side of the Three Rock Mountain, where as a teenager I drank red lemonade while mitching from school on a Friday afternoon. When called to account for my absence I told Brother Tallon that I was seeing my psychiatrist - and after that I was able to take off for the mountains every Friday afternoon, no questions asked.

I had a first pint in Fitzharris's in Ringsend, now long gone. I worked behind the bar in The Ennell in Austin Friar Street, Mullingar and learned a lot about life. I drank in Canton Casey's further up the street when nobody else did.

In Longford I made great friends in Eamon Farrell's pub and Peter Clarke's in Dublin Street and when I got to Dublin I discovered the 'newspaper' pubs, The Oval, Higgins', The Bachelor, The Horse & Tram, Mulligan's.

The death of Gillian Bowler last week reminded me of nights in Scruffy Murphy's and every time I pass O'Donoghue's in Merrion Row I think of Dessie Hynes, one of life's gentlemen.

In O'Dwyer's of Kilmacud, Eamon Huff, who's been a barman there for most of his life, is due to retire in the next few weeks.

This is a time of year when people hand out accolades. Mine goes to the good Irish pub, they don't have to be heritage pubs like Kehoe's or The Long Hall, but that helps.

My favourites are places where you don't get drowned out by television, where there is no Wi-Fi and you can have a couple of pints and enjoy good company, or even your own company if that's what is required.

Sunday Independent

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