We were barely off the ferry when my travelling companion pointed out an apparition of the mother of Jesus, and the other mother of Jesus. The mothers of Jesus.
This must be Craggy Island, he remarked.
You think? I said. You fuckin live here.
Oh, right, he muttered.
So, I said. How are we getting out to your place?
We’re meeting my sisters in the American Bar, he replied, a little too smugly for my liking, so I quietened him by poking him in the eye with a piece of dry stick.
Take that, you lying fuck, I snarled, but as it turned out, he was telling the truth, and in the great old island tradition, I had to buy him fourteen pints in atonement for doubting his word.
The Rockhopper’s sisters were every bit as as ravishing as I remembered them, leaning against the bar, swilling back pints of Guinness.
Well? they shouted in unison. Are ya goin to the Freak-Pointin’ competition?
Maybe we’ll have a pint first, I suggested.
Christ that’s a fuckin great idea, shrieked the two girls. And eight more for us as well, bartender!!
After another forty or fifty pints, the girls got a bit skittish and we started to draw strange looks from the clergy around us.
Better get out of here before they turn ugly, said Rockhopper.
Agreed, I said. Your sisters are getting a bit lively too.
They sure are, he said. And look over there at that old bishop. I think he’s going to eat that child’s …
Burger? I said.
Yeah, nodded Rockhopper.
So we ran outside and grabbed a donkey parked with its engine running.
Quick, I said. Take us to a sane pub.
A sane pub? laughed the Rockhopper. Here on Craggy Island? Are you mad?
All right, I said. Take us to another pub.
And so it was that we came to Joe Watty’s. Jesus, the place is looking a bit shook, I observed.
â€˜Tis, said the Rockhopper, but the beer is good, and it’s surprisingly spacious inside.
It was the height of the rush hour. Total gridlock.
Let’s get away from the pressures of this crazed modern world, whispered the Rockhopper, and without another word, pushed his way inside the little tavern.
Give us two pints, Sister, I begged the landlady.
The blessin’s of god on ya, my son, said the kindly old nun, before pulling two delicious creamy pints of black stuff.
This pub also turned out to be full of drunken clergy …
priest’s housekeepers …
… and hairy babies.
â€¦ of one kind or another.
Fuck it, we missed the Freak-pointing, I suddenly remembered.
Not to worry, said Rockhopper. We’ll go to the Duck-startling competition tomorrow.
A priest in a shiny jacket approached us. Why don’t ya go to the Lovely Girls Competition tonight, at the Hotel? I’ll be there, singing My Lovely Horse.
Hotel? we puzzled.
Óstán Árainn, he confirmed. It’s beside the Holy Stone.
Rockhopper stared at him for a long moment. Hotel? Holy Stone? Fuck! I don’t know what the old island is coming to.
I know, I said. And look. There’s your sister again, still swallowing pints.
Dammit, he said. You’re right. It’s the influence of all those nuns and priests. They used to be such lovely girls.
Lovely girls, I agreed, wistfully.
I approached a local Old-Grey-Fellow for guidance. He was muttering imprecations to himself as Gaeilge, and it struck me how difficult he was to follow. As you’ll know, if you’re a fan of Briain Ã“ NuallÃ¡in, good Irish is hard to understand, but the best Irish is completely incomprehensible.
Céard a cheapann tú? I implored of him
He regarded me calmly for a moment before answering.
Do you know what? he said.
What? I replied.
Isn’t it a bad sign that the ducks are in the nettles?
How wise this old fellow was.
I suppose we’ll have to go back next year. What do you think?
Sure beats the hell out of Bloomsday.