Glasses of porter and omelettes

Jan 31st, 2007 | By | Category: Ireland

College days are a distant memory, but one memory remains of a Munsterman who had a fondness for transporting us from Churchtown up to Lamb Doyle’s pub at the edge of the Dublin mountains. It seemed an odd thing to do, there were numerous pubs within easy walking distance for someone looking for refreshment after a day at the books.

Lamb Doyle’s, I was told, was bona fide. It was an odd way of talking about a pub, I thought. Only recently did I discover that “bona fide” meant something altogether different from simple good faith. Scholars of James Joyce would have fully understood why the Munsterman drove up from Churchtown

“In Ireland until very recently the public houses and ordinary drinking places closed nightly, by law, at hours varying between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. The ordinary hapless drinker was then required to go home, if his home was easily attainable. But the law took account of the unhappy wanderer far from home at the dread hour, and certain establishments were licensed to cater to genuine travellers—bona fide travellers—for extended periods after closing time. Such houses were known as bona fide houses, and were highly regarded by the drinking fraternity, who were readily transformed into bona fide travellers, since the stipulation of the law, drawn up in days of pedestrian or horse-borne transportation, was that a bona fide traveller was anyone who at closing time had put a distance of at least five miles between himself and the spot where he had slept the previous night. In the sizeable city of Dublin, well furnished with public and private transportation, it became no trick at all for respectable citizens to drink at night in suburban pubs five miles on more from the beds in which they had spent the previous night and would also spend the ensuing night, when the charms of bonafide drinking palled”.

Brendan O Hehir & John M. Dillon, “A Classical Lexicon for Finnegan’s Wake”

As Dublin has crept outwards Lamb Doyle’s has been absorbed into the edge of suburbia. I stopped at a shop nearby yesterday, a little place that still has a rustic feel about it. It was a mark of how much times and places have changed that the Financial Times was on sale beside the Evening Herald.

I needed milk and eggs and in a moment of extravagance gathered up a copy of the FT. Starting to make an omelette when I got home, I opened the egg box; large brown eggs sat invitingly, five of them. Where was my sixth egg?

Someone had obviously gone into the shop, opened the top egg box and slipped my egg into their pocket. It was cause for laughing aloud; in a land of Financial Times readers and luxury apartments, characters from Joyce live on.

If the person who ate part of my tea could respond, mightn’t he say, “Sure mister, didn’t I take the egg in good faith?”

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