The news came through in the same way that news like this often does – via rumour and hearsay. A friend of a friend’s workmate was “in there the other night and the barman said it’s closing in a week, getting turned into a hotel.”
I know now that I’ve let might have let stewardship of this blog go to my head – because I was far too quick to disregard this rumour when it had come through to me from Pintman №6. Too small for a hotel, I thought. I’d have heard it before now, I reasoned. But will and reason were forces not strong enough to detract from the truth of the issue – it eventually came through too many channels to be denied. The pub actually was closing. And it was closing soon. That Thursday to be precise. There was no way we were missing that.
There was just one problem, though – that curse of the drinking class, as Oscar would put it. Work. Not only was I due in the office on this particular day, but I was also already predisposed to a leaving doo that evening as well. Plans of being in the pub early were all but gone.
On the day itself, we had a number of different ears and eyes on the ground. Some would be dropping in on their lunch, or on their way through town elsewhere. Some were to be on the high stool shortly after it was permissible to clock out of their job. All reportage alluded to a bittersweet atmosphere and a brisk trade. Bits of information periodically trickled through as the day elapsed:
- None of the current staff would be retained.
- It was not bought for conversion to a hotel.
- It would remain a pub.
- It had been bought by the owners of The Kings Inn.
In time, this would all prove to be correct information but was all conjecture at this moment in time.
When at last I did get to turn the harp (turn the harp?) and make haste toward the pub, I had to battle my way to the further end of it, such was the swell of drinkers who had amassed to bid the place farewell. Wasting no time, I joined the three-deep bar and called for a pint which was dispatched with the usual skill and professionalism as would be expected in The Flowing Tide.
Joining Pintman №2, I find him cornered by a towering man. Pink in the face and as bald as a boiled egg, the man had the facial features of a baby and the slurred speech to go along with it. Pintman №2, the bigger admirer of general chaos out of the two of us, was delighted with this man’s company – joyous as he joked and equally so as he’d abruptly threaten us in a manner befitting Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. Personally, I couldn’t wait to escape the giant baby and it wasn’t difficult to do so in the end. The last I saw of him was an hour or two later as all six foot seven of him was being admonished by a comparatively diminutive barman for eating too much of another customer’s cake, which was being distributed around the adjoining table.
Thereafter, we had a changing of the guards – Pintman №2 departed and I was joined by Pintman №6. He and I managed to nab an actual seat and proceeded to reminisce about the pub over a few pints. We recalled the big days and nights we’d had there: Paddy’s Days, Christmas Eves, and En-route to a wedding-days amongst them. Toasted, too, were the not-so-big visits – nondescript afterwork drinks and umpteen instances of seeking space offering better shelter to wait out the bus than that constructed by CIE.
We took time to gaze upon the fittings and furnishings for the last time, also. The Abbey posters, the Smirnoff mirror, the painting of Sackville Street with the misproportioned Nelson’s Pillar, and the chalkboard advertising the WiFi password, (Neptune, a callback to the name given to the pub’s former downstairs venue). While we half-jokingly conspired to maybe bring home a keepsake of our own, we delighted in old staff and old regulars being invited in behind the bar to have their photo taken with the barmen fulfilling their final shift.
And as we took this all in, we decided that it would be too much to hang around until such a time that the lights were flashed, and the last shout was given. There was too much of a finality to that.
And walking out onto Abbey Street, we find a city that carries on. Taxi, bus and tram whirr by on schedule. Workmen go about their nightshift tasks. Passengers hurry for last buses. Late awesome light of a clear evening in July dies, unnoticed, in the sky above. And an institute below it, already clad in scaffolding, does likewise.
So, the pub did close. And the crowd that owns the Kings Inn did buy it. And, while we’re most certainly sad that the old guard have gone, we’re more than happy that the new owners didn’t overhaul the pub too drastically. A sensible renovation occurred over the rest of the summer and the pub reopened in October. Here’s to plenty more craic in The Flowing Tide