"Dear Mother, Dear Mother, the church is cold,
But the ale house is healthy and pleasant and warm"
- William Blake
I was sat in Greyfriars last weekend, watching rugby in the late afternoon. The place was getting busier and the low din of conversation was beginning to buzz. Sat near me were two couples: one, a brightly dressed bi-sexual couple (one male, one female) and the other, a 60-year-old couple from Yorkshire, dressed in Sunday bests, washing down their Sunday roasts with pints of ale.
Mildly intoxicated with their first drinks and the knowledge that it was Saturday, the two couples had exchanged pleasantries and casual greetings, but little more - when I overheard the two women discussing the younger man’s naked form and his sexual tendencies. The Rugby commentary faded into the background. The older lady, the most drunk of them all - a large, energetic woman, dressed in pearls and high heels - had begun letting out long, sporadic screeches of laughter and talking enthusiastically about her own sexual interests, oblivious to the amused and disgusted stares of everyone around her.
The older Yorkshireman had remained silent and disinterested throughout, his gaze transfixed on the screen (that I now was only watching to conceal my new interest). He wore an old brown suit and had obviously hardened to his wife’s outbursts over the years. He seemed patient, but not liberal. So when his wife suddenly blurted out “and this one’s a gay”, the older man’s concentration broke and re-situated itself coldly in the direction of the younger man - I thought the whole thing might turn nasty and everyone would go home upset or shouting, or both…
The older couple were the type who would only talk to other English couples abroad (and by ‘only’ I mean do nothing else besides) - the type who would complain endlessly about the hostesses on the flight and then wake everyone up at the hotel with their wild cries of theatrical, drunken copulation which, the lady was eager to point out, “usually took place on a table”…
The husband nodded his approval. His eyes, long since receded into the depths of apathy, were an enticing contradiction compared with the occasional smile that emerged out of the corner of his lips, betraying his buxom, hidden passions.
When I looked around, the four of them had pulled their tables together and the conversation and laughter were in full flow. The old man extended his nonjudgemental lack of concern (punctured by the odd upwards glance of recognition and intrigue) to the younger couple’s confusing 'arrangement'. Whiskies went flying, laughter pervaded and the gossip was endless: sexual anecdotes, tattoos, Edif Piaf, gynaecologists, ferrets and lemurs and god knows what else were the baffling and wondrous subjects discussed with the same spirit of carefree joviality and ludicrous zeal that had somehow brought these disparate souls together, as one, on a cold Saturday afternoon in a warm English pub.
(Ireland 30 - 21 France)