Sunday 3 June 2012

It All Began in Adam's Bar

We didn’t make it to the opening night of Adam’s Bar, Otto and I got as far as the door but the crowd was so big that we couldn’t get in. The first night of a bar is always a big thing and I think the beer was free that particular night. How many people went back the following night I wonder?  Not that we could afford to go along on the second night either but we did go as far as the door to look in. The two of us were on our uppers, no work and little money except what the dole gave us. We were both single, I lived alone in a dank old house with my dog and Otto lived rent-free in an old hostel. The same hostel was where we both hoped to work when the holiday season started in April or May. Adams looked like a beautiful old bar from the outside looking in, as if it hadn’t changed from the day of its original outfitting. Later I discovered it hadn’t and features such as the pine box shelving on the walls dated from its days as a linen shop. Large flagstones on the floor, a hallway leading back from an open doorway, the bar counter to the right and long ceiling to floor windows on the street front. So it looked like a bar worth a visit when we had the money….
The next weekend we went in for an early pint. There was vacant table inside the door, between the bar and the big window. We sat at the seat to get a full view behind the bar and of the room as a whole. Expectedly we waited. Word had reached us of Adam’s Madams; apparently, the bar was run by a clutch of beautiful women. Soon a tall beautiful black-haired woman came out through the doorway.
“Lads, what can I get for you?” she asked in a soft west Kerry accent.
“Two pints of Guinness please” I answered, getting the nod of approval from Otto.
We watched as our pints were poured. Neither of us needed to say anything, it was obvious we liked being there. The pints were handed over the small counter and we sat back, watching them settle. Soon through the doorway came another tall female, blonde hair tied back in a blue polka dot bandana, wearing shorts, tights and to top it all, she had a striking, beautiful face. In her hands were two plates of food, a third balanced on her lower arm. She asked the other woman where they were for.
By this stage in my life I’d been single for nearly a year. It was dragging on me a bit, the loneliness of living on my own, the dog and I got on well but I was beginning to miss the close female companionship, which I loved.  The pub was my social life which could be fun but limited and getting very boring. Moreover, work was sparse and money even sparser. The new arrival stood straight in my line of vision. I looked at her. She had all the things I find attractive in a female, tall, blonde, slim, striking face, good dresser. Unfortunately for me and I’m sure all other humans suffer likewise but you rarely find all you like in the one place, so when you do it’s a rarity indeed. However as I looked at her, or should I say stole a glimpse, a thought entered my head… “Why don’t I find her attractive?” the little voice the time my mind could engage itself again she was gone. Did I not find her attractive because I had nothing to attract her? More than likely…yes.

 The next time we visited was after a trip to the local cinema. Alison, an Australian visiting town was with us and we were showing her Adams.  This time the tall blonde was behind the bar, hair down in a full set of curls and wearing jeans with boots.  The three of us took a table on the far side; away from the bar counter and I went to get our drinks. At the bar three pints were ordered and I waited as she poured them. Watching her move, doing her job was intriguing. She had the whole place under control, dealing with orders, joking with others, all the while looking beautiful. Somehow my mind kicked in and this time I found her attractive, very attractive indeed. My sensible mind also whispered that she probably wouldn’t have the slightest interest in me. Why would she? Low earning, torn jeans and about to become homeless, not much to recommend me. When the pints were ready she placed them on the bar…
“That will be five five oh” she said, in a very direct tone.
“Is that the same as five pounds fifty?” I asked, smiling.
“Do you have to be so smart” was her quick retort, taking the money I held out.
The barrier had been broken, she was feisty and we’d sparked. A start like that could only get better and now she had a reason to remember me. Not a good reason but a reason nonetheless and it would be up to me to show her I wasn’t all that bad. This was one I would have to work on as there was no need for her to take the slightest interest in me, none whatsoever. Maybe a new friendship might start. Even that would be nice but could anything more ever happen between us?
About a week later at the local disco I saw her again towards the end of the night, at the far side of the bar area, sitting with friends. She had her back to me and as I approached her from the right she took a pull from her Malboro Light. Before she could exhale I’d tapped her on the shoulder.
“Hi” was the best I could come up with as she turned to see who it was.
“How are you?” she asked wafting the smoke away from my face with her hands.
“Good and you?” I continued with the great lines.
“Fine, thank you. But can I just say” she paused taking another pull “that men are out the window for me at the moment”
She blew out smoke again wafting it away from me. Straight in with the put down, feisty again.
“I only came to say hello before going home” I replied but smiling as she was the one who’d brought up the idea of a relationship and even if she was dismissing it at least the thought had entered her mind.   

She smiled at me, a wry one, giving me a very sceptical benefit of the doubt. Names were exchanged.  Lisa was my smoking, feisty new friend. We chatted for a few minutes more before she got up to leave. She spoke with that clear diction that always reminds me of how the nuns used to try make my sisters talk, very clearly and in easy to understand tones. As she rose to join her friends, Lisa even offered me a lift home, which I refused, I had after all only come over to say hello. A quick goodnight and off she went in lovely confident strides away from me. None of my friends had noticed but I walked back to them on cloud nine.
That same pattern was repeated over the next few weeks, some of them engineered by me, some of them purely accidental meetings. My job in the hostel had begun. It was badly paid and so I wasn’t out too often. Despite this we were becoming good friends, chatting and joking at ease whenever we’d meet, usually in Adam’s. Otto and I had become regulars of sorts; with the two of us working again we at least had some money to spend, not much but enough for a few pints once a week. We always went to Adams as it was a great bar plus it gave me a chance to see Lisa.  Some of my friends were encouraging me to ask her out but I didn’t think the time was right. Anyway, so I told myself, sometimes the anticipation of a relationship far outweighs the potential rejection plus I already knew that this was going to take a bit of time to get right. If we were going to get together it would have to be Lisa’s decision, after all she had told me that men were out the window hadn’t she?
At the beginning of June I had to leave the little house I was living in. The house was being taken back in favour of letting it to higher paying tourists, a common enough practice at the time. A good friend, Trevor, offered to take me in. The little chalet he called home wasn’t too far from the house I was leaving but still out of town. Around that time my father described me, somewhat disparagingly, as living an itinerant lifestyle. This might not have been exactly true but I was fairly broke as he implied and didn’t have any way of moving my possessions. Whilst talking to Lisa about it one night I blurted out the suggestion that as she had a car she might help. She surprisingly agreed and offered to call round that Saturday evening after her work. In a round about way I’d engineered a date, no commitments, in no way anything romantic but in my mind at least we were meeting on our own, away from Adam’s and friends.
That Saturday evening Lisa called round as planned and strode in looking gorgeous but obviously not very enamoured by the damp little home I was leaving. Her disapproving look said it all. What would she think of me now after seeing where I’d been living?  All afternoon I’d been packing and waiting, looking forward to spending time with her alone, excited but also surprisingly relaxed about it all. The house had far too many memories and maybe this move was for the best after all, it certainly was starting out ok. We worked together for a couple of hours, I had planned to do all the lifting but she proved to be well able to get stuck in, one of the attributes of a farmer’s daughter I later learned. She didn’t seem too enamoured by the chalet I was moving to either; I was going to have to work hard to impress that was for certain. Unfortunately I didn’t have much in my armoury. What had I to offer?  My bike, a small rented room in a chalet, a dog, my life in a few boxes and all the prospects of a part-time job.

Sunday was my day off and I spent it getting settled into the new home. My room wasn’t very big and I had managed to accumulate a bit of stuff over the years, mainly books and clothes. So much so that I couldn’t unpack most of the boxes, there wasn’t anywhere to put it. By the evening I needed to escape. The memories dredged up when leaving the old house, the small room I was now living in and the sight of packed boxes were making me feel a bit claustrophobic.  I went for a cycle round town to see who I might spot. Payday was Monday but I had £5.00 left from the last week, enough for a couple of pints if I met anyone. Tentative arrangements had been made to meet a friend in Adam’s if I was out. Not Lisa, we weren’t making those sorts of dates yet.
The back of the Garda Station was the usual place for leaving your bike in Dingle. As I left the station and headed up Dykegate Street I found a £5.00 note on the street. At least now if I did meet someone I could buy a round or two. Things were looking up. By the time I reached Main Street I still hadn’t passed anyone I knew or at least someone who I wanted to go drinking with. Adam’s was on the right towards the top of the street; I strolled up towards it, thinking maybe Lisa would be there. If I looked in and she saw me peering around the corner I’d look like a stalker or a sad sap at best, so I slowed the pace as I approached. A quick passing glance in would be fine, if seen I could wave. Then as the bar neared a sudden burst of courage overcame me and I strode in the door not knowing who I’d find or even say to anyone inside.
Lisa was sitting at the bar, Marlboro Light in one hand and a glass of tequila in the other, actually just placing it back on the bar, empty.  She was with a group of friends, some I knew. Fiona the owner was behind the bar. In typical Lisa style she was in the centre of the group laughing. She gave me a smile and a big wave when she spotted me through the crowd.  The barstools in Adams are tall with strong wooden backrests. Lisa was comfortably sitting into hers’ almost cuddled up with her knees drawn up against the top of the bar. When I walked over she leaned her head back against my shoulder and said hello. She was tipsy and happy to see me. Happier than usual...maybe it was the tequilas...but her forwardness relaxed me, made me very glad that I’d ventured out. Maybe after months of not knowing what to do or not knowing what she wanted from me, all was finally going to change.
After a couple of hours of drinking, laughing and of me not leaving her side the decision was made to go to the Hillgrove. The Hillgrove, the local nightclub, the place where love stories began and alcoholism got a kick-start. A big problem now was that I’d spent all my money. The ten pounds, even though enough to get me a couple hours of drinking, was gone and I wasn’t going to get in the door. The chances of getting anywhere with Lisa were fading fast. More to the point I was going to look a total no-hoper in her eyes if I couldn’t even afford to go dancing… My spirits dropped quickly as did my face. The entire group were going; Lisa was even packing her cigarettes ready for the walk over.
She looked at me...
“Ready?” she asked.
“Ah no” I remember barely getting the words out and then I stupidly said “I left my money at home.”  Why did I say that? Where did I get such a stupid line?
We looked each other straight in the eye. Lisa stood up, took my hand and slipped a ten-pound note into it. She must have just taken it off the bar to put in her pocket.
“You can give it back to me sometime” she said heading for the door, me following, my heart beating ten to the dozen, my head spinning and not just from the alcohol either.
 Her blonde curls bounced as she walked, her voice rising above the others as she laughed and joked with them. As we walked the short distance to the club I looked at the others around me.  All merry, none of them really knew me, maybe, I thought to myself, they know what I’m up-to and will put the run on me. At least Lisa was still there, smiling, seemingly happy to have me tag along.
The rest of the night at the club went along in a blur. We danced, we drank, we laughed and I wondered what the hell I was doing there. Other men were looking at Lisa, she looked great dancing along to all the tunes and I was just a drunk little fellow in torn jeans. Realistically what chance had I? After a while a slow set came on and we happened to be close to each other, possibly not a coincidence on my part. We embraced as we took to the floor. Not long into the dance we began to kiss, I couldn’t believe it, Lisa from Adam’s was kissing me. Me?  Her friends nearby starting clapping, one even patted me on the back.
“At long last” Fiona said to me...
They were all expecting this? They were happy with it? Why hadn’t somebody told me earlier?
Afterwards I walked her home, she had a little bedsit on Main Street close to Adams as it happened. When we got the door I made to head for my little chalet in the west but no, as Lisa put the key in the door she said those words I’ll never forget...”won’t you come in for a cuddle?”
We’ve lived together ever since. After that Sunday afternoon of unpacking I never went back to my little room in the chalet. The bedsit was abandoned the following Spring when the ceiling collapsed in on the bed when were away. We moved to a house out in the country. The bike was abandoned when I learned how to drive. Now after nearly seventeen years, four different houses, married and with two kids, we’re fast approaching middle age together. We’ve fought, laughed, cried, suffered but never stopped loving each other.
Can’t remember if I ever gave her back that tenner though…

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