My youngest, Liv, has started Taekwon-do in Gort Boxing Club. This means that between drop-off and pick-up I spend a couple of hours in a town that is more or less asleep, and certainly pitch dark and freezing cold out in the street. What to do? There’s only so many things you can balance in your arms from Lidl or Aldi when you’ve forgotten your reusable carrier bags, no matter what this week’s specials are.
This evening I decided to try one of the pubs in Gort. I figured there’d be something to sketch there, and maybe something interesting would happen. I was a little hesitant – it’s never great to walk into a silent pub alone when all the heads turn and stare for a minute – but I decided it was better than the alternative (sitting in a very boring car), so I went in and ordered half a pint of Guinness and started sketching.
Two attractive Brazilian women came in with a tall and handsome Irish guy. He was affectionate with one of them, so I assumed she was his special lady friend. They ordered drinks and sat down. After a few minutes the handsome guy disappeared for a minute, and another man who’d been sitting at the bar sauntered over to the ladies, introduced himself and was invited to join them. I hoped this might lead to an interesting interchange when the first guy got back, but no one seemed to mind at all. Another guy joined them and soon their quiet chat became a mass of jokes and chortles, double entendres and innuendo, and I realised nothing of interest to me was going to go down.
Then an older man spotted me. Not only was I alone and therefore a target…but I was drawing, to boot. He sat down beside me, not bothering to wait to be invited.
“Can I buy you a Guinness?” he said.
“No thank you,” I said.
There ensued one of the most one-way conversations I’ve heard in rather a while. First, as he got up to get himself a pint, he – wait for it – patted me on the head. I told myself to give him a chance, he’d provide entertainment yet. Back he came, shoved my open bag out of the way and settled down (“aaahh, my back…that’s a grand bag you have there, all your bits and pieces in it”) and off he went.
Here’s what he said. Just imagine “mmm” and “really?” “yes” and “no” and you have my side of the conversation:
“Can I buy you a drink? Ah why not? Am I bothering you? Am I disturbing you? Are you drawing? Are you painting? Why won’t you look at me? Will you draw me? What do you mean you’re looking ahead of you? Are you drawing the pub? The pub itself? Huh? Wouldn’t you love to draw me? Will you not have a pint? Driving? A coffee then? Am I disturbing you? Because if I am, I can go. Am I bothering you? Am I disturbing your drawing? Okay, I can talk less. Can I have your phone number? Are you from around here? Are you married? Will you not draw me? Why won’t you draw me?”
I said yes, I would draw him, if he kept perfectly still. In fairness to him, he didn’t move a muscle.
“That’s a grand job…I look twenty years younger, instead of just an old bog farmer…that’s what I am, a bog farmer…thirty years younger. I look great, don’t you think I look very handsome? I’m going to haunt you from your sketchbook forever. I’m going to haunt you. [lowered voice] I’d like to put you in my sketchbook” – at this point I was tempted to ask brightly if he was also a sketcher, but thought better of it – “I’ll be forever in your sketchbook, isn’t that something? One day you’ll be famous because of this sketch. In a hundred years’ time. A hundred years! Pity you’re married. You’re a very nice girl. I’m only having the craic. You know that, don’t you? Only a bit of craic.”
I assured him that I don’t at all mind chatting with people while I sketch, that I always chat while I sketch, and that it’s a big part of the enjoyment. I didn’t tell him that he would be in my blog: neither did I feel guilty, because if you’re going to get into a woman’s space in such a big way then you have to suck up whatever the consequences might be. He went on.
“Ten out of ten, that’s what I’m going to give you. Ten out of ten.”
I was finished, it was time to get Liv, and I got up to leave. He tried one last time to buy me a drink – a coke this time – and in fact had become quite respectful by the end, in his own way.
It’s actually great that there’s always one.