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Down South

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

My grandmother is from a small village in South Wexford with plenty of character. Whenever anyone tells me they are from this village, I immediately believe them. It is almost as though a certain archetype must be from this neck of the woods. Not that anyone else wouldn’t fit in. Just that these type of people radiate something different.

I spent far too much time in the pubs of this village when I was far too young. You have to believe me, I never drank a sip of anything, I just watched this world grow before me. The reason I never drank was because I saw one old man fall over on the path outside these pubs one evening. I thought to myself ‘I hope this never happens to me, as I haven’t a clue how to get home’.

I used to sit in the corner snug of these pubs with my fellow peers. By peers, I mean anyone within five years of my age. Although there was always an exception; a lone ten-year-old that was either someone’s cousin or a neglected child whose parent was at the bar.

The music in these bars was always dreadful for the first two hours of any evening. In many ways I think this was a mechanism for people to get to know each other, considering you definitely couldn’t dance. Eventually once the music got better, you could get up with the people you had just met. For us, we always started dancing when my uncle started to sing old rebel songs or covers of Donovan. Never did I imagine at seventeen to bond with my grandmother’s brother, who I had known my entire life, over our mutual appreciation for Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. One evening the DJ charged us €2 for any music requests, and I still paid it.

The toilets were crammed and the bar was almost as busy. My friends always had their eye on some fella that was moping around the place, regardless of who he was or where we were (even at many a funeral). One night our friend that had just came out opened a dating site and was greeted with several people in the same pub that were online. Gas how we thought we were stuck in history, but what seemed like an old pub was very up-to-date.

Every time I stood up to get another non-alcoholic beer I started talking to another person at the bar; distant cousins, old neighbours, people I met once when I was three. These people either couldn’t care less about a single thing, or were far too nosey. One asked me did I have something wrong with my hands; for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. He told me I had my hands in my pockets the entire night. Even I didn’t notice this, but it was because I was so cold. This pub probably hasn’t had central heating since it was erected in my great-great-grandfather’s time, or even rebuilt due to the damp when my mother was a child.

My cousin’s ex-husband struck up conversation then by asking me if I had any interests. I could barely hear him between the drunken karaoke and the shattering glass. I answered him none the less.

“Writing,” I responded. Simple and straight.

“Horses?” He threw back, obviously mishearing me.

It’s hard to imagine now a time where we were squashed together like sardines finding topics to talk about. Now I feel as though I’ve infinite things to talk about but nowhere to say them. Although the thing I miss most is the journey home; falling asleep in the back of the car to late night radio.

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