Day Two: further details of our return
Between 31 May and 3 June 2001,
This is a record of the trip.
Friday 1 June
In search of refreshment
We presume the first day of June dawned, because it seems to have done so by the time we emerged for breakfast, a little bemused by the bright light and the rising level of the alcoholometer.
It's Biddy Early, if you ask me
This place excels as a micro brewery, producing small quantities (on a commercial scale) of three main brews: Blonde Biddy - a continental-style lager, specially for Tommo, but actually quite drinkable; Black Biddy - as you would expect, a dark stout; and Red Biddy, a fine ale flavoured with Bog Myrtle instead of hops.
Believe it or believe it not, we looked round the brewing process (that took about 10 seconds), having watched an introductory video, as well as sampling all three brews. It was unanimously agreed that these beers are superb.
Lest anyone should think that Little Egypt is only about drinking, I need to point out that we go for culture as well (don't we Martin?). The story of Biddy Early is very moving, telling as it does of the mysterious curative powers of Biddy's bottle. The story goes that the bottle only had to be passed near an ailment to effect a cure.
Maintaining his rôle as Fireballs, only Dave Jukes could ask the tour guide if the bottle could help his "small ailment". With a wit worthy of the best of the Morris, said lady quipped back "It can't work miracles." Fireballs was suitably deflated. Other wits chipped in with "It's not Biddy's Bottle you need, it's a priest."
As we left the brewery, still aching with laughter at the Putting Down of Jukes, the weather was closing in a bit, with a keen wind from the north west, and rain in the air.
The same afternoon
Old Men and the Sea
The purpose of a manic drive across the Burren and out to the coast was to catch a ferry to the closest of the Aran Islands, Inisheer, there to pursue our terpsichorean art on one of most westerly parts of the western Gaeltacht. The ferry leaves from Doolin (still marked as Fisherstreet on some maps). Doolin is a beautifully understated coastal area. Rather than a village, it is a string of settlements leading down to a very small harbour, slightly protected from the rigours of the west wind.
Not protected enough, as it turned out, because the ferry was running late and the sea did a good impression of a backdrop for an Alastair Maclean novel. It was choppy.
There was much debate and toing and froing among those who wanted to, and those who didn't, and those who call for Huey on a regular basis and those who don't. In the end, a gallant band of hearty mariners decided to give it a go, and some stayed to sample the delights of Doolin in more detail. I was one of the latter, and I hope to be given soon a blow by blow account of the trip: so where is it Proffo?
Those of us who would not brave the foamy brine divided our time evenly between the craft shops, O'Connor's pub, the scenery, O'Connor's pub, the music shops, O'Connor's pub, the cliffs of Moher, and O'Connor's pub.
The cliffs of Moher? Now, they really are spectacular: as a natural spectacle, for the number of people who visit them, the size and cost of the car park, and the tattiness of the souvenirs.
See what I mean?
After this excursion, we drifted back to Doolin, found a post office, bought the "Clare Champion", and read about a bunch of English Morris Dancers due to visit the fair village of Feakle on Saturday night. Now - who could that be?
Then we made our dutiful way to the harbour, to greet the returning adventurers.
Miraculously, they had all survived, and were full of tales of derring-do, Mark's green face and the landlord's eyebrows: so where's the rest, Proffo?
By the time we were all reunited, the weather had improved, and we wended our weary way uphill for an evening of Guinness, song and dance, and gentle revelry, in O'Connors pub
An exciting evening
Good Evening, Mr President
We duly fed and watered at O'Connor's. The call went out to prepare for the dance, and by the time we were nearly ready, the evening sun was fully out, and all was set fair.
The dancing began with the now traditional "Ring of Bells", and proceeded with "Bluebells", "Vandals" and "Fires of August", and it was going well.
Now: I can't honestly remember during which dance it happened. We had been fairly successful at stopping the traffic, and had gathered a reasonable crowd of onlookers of all sorts, including locals, American tourists, continentals and the occasional refugee from England who "thought we'd got away from this sort of rubbish". Then, from above us on the hill, and below the register of the melodeons and side drum, came a distant rumble, like thunder on the Burren or Bangs on a bad morning-after. Neville's eyes lit up: he recognised the throaty roar of Harleys mingled with BMW hogs. And suddenly they were among us.
Large hairy men on large hairy motorcycles.
In helmets and originals.
Hello. Good evening. And welcome.
As they rested their trusty machines a little way up the road, news filtered quickly back, via John "I never miss a trick" Bangs, that they were going to dance with us.
We didn't want to offend our new admirers, but finding a dance that could be taught simply, without bloodshed, was going to be a bit difficult. Our newly-elected ambassador and chargé d'affaires, Mr Bangs, was left to cogitate, while the rest of us got down to more serious matters, like watching Jukes at work.
Right, you've seen that: now on with the story
After that (those) interlude(s), we danced a second set under Norries' watchful gaze. They were taking tips.
"Jenny Lind", "Getting Upstairs", even "Whiteladies Aston" didn't seem to dent their determination, nor did an impromptu Nicest Morris Bum competition, organised by the ladies-on-tour.
But the time could be put off no longer.
After careful tuition, our new friends were let loose on the Dorset (Six-hand) Reel, to the tune of "Aunty Mary". It was excellent.
And so, after much merry making, including New New and Tommo meeting someone they could head-butt in the kneecaps (photos to follow), we paused for a series of group photos (note the cross-dressing),
This took the form of some singing and music, and a demonstration of how a bodhran should really be played, that is, with a spanner until it (the bodhran) breaks. English pub musicians, please note.
And the rest is ...
actually a bit of a blur. At one point, Squire Neville was approached by the Norries'
President, who immediately relabelled Neville "President" of Little Egypt - don't tell Doods - and requested that we should be
discreet about whom exactly we should tell about this episode, in case it ruined reputations.
The evening wore on. Some wandered off to seek out Doolin's other pubs, some decided an early night was in order, and were back in Ennis by 12, others got back to Ennis but decided to brave the disco at May Kearney's.
No names, no pack drill, but it is rumoured that Messrs. Parry, Proffitt, Thompson and Newsome, along with the darlings of disco, the Flemings, all hit the floor in one way or another.
An appropriate end to a quite extraordinary day.