Closing Down Durty Nellie’s

Our last night in Ireland.  It’s not that I want to leave.  But I want to be home.  And these two things are in different places.   So home, here I come.

I am usually a bit depressed when I am leaving Ireland.  So much so that when I prepare to come here I have a bit of a heavy heart before I leave home because I know Iwill  have to leave Ireland.  Because I can not stay.    But with family waiting at home and missing me, and the events of tonight to cheer me, I have no heaviness at all.

I don’t drink alcohol.  No reason other than I do not like the taste of alcohol.   So going to a pub is something I look forward to for eating and the experience of being in a pub.   I did hear a few songs the other night on Inis Mor.  But tonight was Durty Nellie’s.

And it was good.

I’ve been there before for a cuppa tea.  And tonight I only drank diet coke.  But I did have cheesecake.   So don’t think I didn’t live it up a little.

So many of us claim to be Irish.  We want to be Irish.  We love the ideal of being Irish and all that comes with it.  The legends. the battles, the history, the love affair with independence.  We love the idea of the story tellers and the music.  Loving it and wanting to be Irish, is not the same as being here and being the Irish.

The pub was quiet when we arrived.  We arrived too early for the music so we waited for over an hour.  It was a wait that paid off well.   Very well indeed.

AC/UT knew where to sit for the music.  Finally after 10 p.m. people started drifting in.  Who was the singer?  Who was going to charm us?  I kept looking.  One man sat at the piano and I got a bit excited when he opened it.  He must play and sing.  No….  EVERYONE was a singer.

One skinny guy came to our table before the music started and heralded us with jokes and stories.  He was very pleasant and UT unwittingly played straight man perfectly.  This made us a friend for the rest of the night.

When the piano keys started to sing, so did the room.

It was one of the best Irish experiences I have lived.  After the first couple of songs I realized “this can not end”.  It can not.  Everyone was a part of the room.  The room did not hold a stranger.

There were three brothers, a lady who I think was the wife of one of the brothers, three other men who were ‘mates’ all of their lives, and numerous other singers.  And they were singers.  And entertainers.   The music was loud, they pulled us in and we hung on.  No one wanted to leave.

One of the men leaned in and asked me if Chloe (the young lady) sings.  I told him no, but she plays classical piano.  But she would not play.  I asked for him, but she did not play.  The man eventually got up and went around to sit next to Chloe.  He asked her about music.  He asked her what music she liked.  The singers in the pub would sing anything you asked, if they could.  UT asked about “The Fields of Athenry” and none of them knew all of the words, but the piano man started playing, UT started singing, and another man kept feeding words to him.  UT was one of the singers now.

Chloe meanwhile was not singing much.  But the group of singers tried their best to draw her out and include her.  She was having fun.  But not singing.  At one point I got a piece of paper and wrote “When I return to Ireland I will play at Durty Nellie’s”  I made her sign it.  The man, Jim, who had been talking with her signed it and I dated it.  He said to show it to her ‘daddy’.

The music in the pub was made more musical with the laughter.   This was life. Life of Ireland.  The kind of Ireland that everyone wants to be part of.  Jim the singer and I traded comments most of the night.  We kept taking pictures and video.  There were about three of them who did not want their pictures taken.  They actually covered one anothers faces with their hands or turned each other around if a camera was flashing.  Jim told us they were not comfortable with the videos, especially when they heard they had been put on Youtube.  I promised him I wouldn’t do that, but asked if I could show them to family.  He said yes.  They gave us so  much that I won’t break that promise in return.

The piano man played, and whoever loved that song, or wanted to sing it, just started singing.  Some people did solos, but the soloist would pull us all in with a chorus or a routine they had created to go with the song.  I told Jim this was an incredible night and he said he hoped so.   He said something about the videos again.  I told him that people will leave there thinking about the songs and music and experience they gave, and think about them, the singers.  And the night.  For ever.

I am sure these singers and pub goers see faces come and go to never see them again.  But all of those faces who come and go, if they had a night like we had, they are taking those singers faces and music back to their own worlds to relive the life of that night.

I watched these people sing and dance and laugh.  I watched them hand each other Guinness or beer or water or whiskey.  They knew who would sing and who would join in.   This may sound bizarre, but I felt close to them all while they sang.  It was as if we were all friends this night.   But I knew this night would end, and I would leave wishing they were my friends.

I promised I wouldn’t post them singing, which is a shame for all of you.  But two of them did pose for me:

Unfortunately this is not a good look for them.  They knew they would look like a “butt head” and when I showed Jim the picture it only confirmed it.

This is at the beginning of the night.

That’s diet coke.  And something else.

Facebook pose.

I really wish I could show you the pictures and videos of the life of this night.  It may have been a typical night for a group of friends who gather every Tuesday night.    But it wasn’t typical for me.

And sitting right there next to me, singing away, was David.  And since he was one of the singers, and I made a promise not to post videos of the singers, I have to include him in that promise.  But he sang, I sang, we sang together.

It was after midnight when a few of them said “last song, last song”.  They started singing “The Island”.  And I sang along.  I had been singing along all night for anything I was familiar with.  I can’t sing  a song on my own to save my soul.  But I can sing along.  I know “The Island” pretty well so I was hanging in there.  I noticed the lady sitting across from me pointing at me, and then they all were and nodding their heads at me.  I knew the song, and this pleased them.   And this, made me very happy.

My head is full of music.  My Ireland tank is full.  My heart is on fire to go home to the USA and my family.  There’s a grand baby waiting there for me, and one who looks like she will wait on my return before making her appearance.

Life is good.

And I am grateful.