No matter which country I travel to, I am comforted by the fact that Paddy or his family have got there first. The main reason for this is that Irish bars feckin rock! I find it loathsome that the golden arches of Ronald McWanker and his piss-burgers are everywhere but, seeing the Guiness sign in a foreign country is quite frankly, rather soothing.
I'm not quite as keen on the naming conventions for said hostelries - the bizarre mix between local language and Irish can be, at times, positively comical - take a bow 'Gunther Murphys' (Munich) for example - almost like two pissed language trains crashing head on.
It's a feeling of homeliness that is generated by the staff - if you know the rules of the game. DO NOT ask for an Irish Coffee when the barman is rushed of his feet - this will result in large mutterings of 'feckin twat - feckin thinks he's Bing feckin Crosby'. Do ask for pints, and make it clear which beer you would like "can I have a pint please?" - " a pint of what? - feckin water". There is also a directness which is based on logic but underlined with attitude - "Can I have a small pint of lager please?" - "We only have one size pint fer fecks sake!".
Being Welsh by origin, I have a natural affinity with the Irish and can understand the language quite easily. By this, I don't mean Gaelic, I mean the version of English they use. For example (and I'll spell this as it's spoken) - "So, yer man is a feckin idjut" - yes, I concur, said chappie is jolly silly.
Generally, Irish bars are very good places to watch sports - football, rugby and the other sports. Except, for some reason, in Italy. I assume this is the exception that proves the rule. Cue The Old Stove, (Florence) and the pub that was named after her. Watching an important game of football, an FA Cup tie, the aforementioned fat slapper decided to change the channel 5 minutes before the end of the game. To.......basketball. What the fuck? Not even to a basketball game but to the preliminary bullshit beforehand. Now I'm not an expert but, Italy won the World Cup in football, in basketball they have won precisely fuck all. Why change the channel? Because Rosie O Barrell (roll me in flour and look for the wet patch if you want a shag) had decided it would be so - lard arse!
However, a few pints later and I am back to thinking there is something about the Irish that I love. Happy hour - drinks half price. Cool, what time does it start? "Never feckin finishes - now what d'ya want ya bollucks?". You know it's closing time when either the beer runs out or.....well, that's about it really.
Smoking ban? I believe it's active in Ireland but in Bruxelles, it's kind of inactive. No smoking says the sign - as the barman takes another puff on his cigarette. "Is there a no-smoking area?" asks the toffee nosed Eurocrat "Sure there is" replies the barman "it's outside the feckin door - as much free air as you want - now feck off".
Coming up this weekend is Paddy's Day (officially, St Patricks Day) - simplistically, this entails every Irish person in the world getting pissed simultaeneously. I'm not sure what it does for world peace but it certainly means some of the world pissed. To facillitate the celebrations, the rugby organisers of the six nations have kindly arranged that Scotland will play France in Paris on the day. I don't know exactly what will ensue but I can guarantee that Paris will be one big party on Saturday. I don't really care much about rugby but I will be rooting for the Irish in Italy, drinking with the Irish who couldn't find their way to Italy and I hope Ireland, Scotland and Wales all win (it's a Celtic thing ;-)
So, raise your glasses, of guiness preferably but anything alcoholic will do and Sláinte - another step toward World Peesed.