Tag Archives: Roddy Doyle

A Man Walked Into A Bar And Went “Aaaagh”………….Two Pints by Roddy Doyle

That post title is taken from my favourite drunken joke as a student (that would imply I had a favourite sober joke as student – I didn’t – I did virtually all my studying and philosophising and learning in pubs!). The joke went:

“A Man Walked Into A Bar……………………………….. 

He went “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh”

………………………It was an Iron Bar!”

No matter how often I heard it I was guaranteed to collapse into a paroxysm of giggling – even today it makes me giggle, not because I find the joke funny (oh…… go on then I admit it……30 years later I STILL LOVE that joke!), but because the memory of laughing till I ached in pubs is well…funny! (Trust me – you had to be there!)

IMG_1933Pubs have always seemed to me places where some of the ‘normal’ rules don’t apply – talk shite at work and you’ll get the oddest looks…… talk shite in a pub, and if it’s real high quality shite, before you know it complete strangers will join in and start talking shite too! There’s also a sanctuary of a kind in pubs – it’s a place where you will find everything from the crudest of thoughts said aloud quite simply, to the simplest of thoughts said aloud quite crudely! It’s not quite ‘anything goes’, for even in pubs there are limits, but broadly a pub is a place where allowances are made, bonds are formed and the world is put to rights – or probably more accurately the world has the piss taken out of it!

So as a pub lover, I was intrigued to see how Roddy Doyle’s books “Two Pints” and the unpredictably named follow up “Two More Pints” would come over to me, a man who is, in my own tiny mind at least, a connoisseur of the humble public house and a skilled exponent in the art of over-a-pint-philosophy while under the affluence of incohol!

And I loved them – in fact, and I say this sober, they are works of IMG_1934feckin genius! Both books involve simply two men who sit at the bar and talk – all you get is the dialogue between the two of them. You never get to know their names or the connection between them and yet it gives you a wonderful insight into the world we live in, how people think, the way we can ‘bounce off’ one another and the fact that if you give most of us a chance, no matter what the topic, we’ve probably got an opinion, or even better a theory about it!!!! The conversations link often to events that happened in Ireland and in the world and they are set out in date order between the 24th of May 2011 and the 25th of June 2014. On the way their conversations take in among others, the World Cup and the eating habits of Luis Suarez, Colonel Gaddafi, the Pope, tests for cancer, the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson from Man Utd, the banking crisis, chemical weapons, Seamus Heaney and the names that David Beckham gives his kids! Each and every one is hilarious, and for all the shite the two of them talk, you read it and find yourself often saying out loud “You’re right there lad!”. Here’s a small soupcon………..

 – See the Trogg died

– I saw tha’ yeah. Reg Presley

– With a name like tha’ he was never goin’ to be a plumber was he?

– It wasn’t his real name

– Was it not?

– No. His real one was Reg Ball.

– You were a bit of a fan, were yeh?

– I was, yeah. I was only a kid when Wild Thing’ came ou’

– It made your heart sing

– That’s the one. One of me brothers had the record an’ he left it behind when he got married, so it was always in the house

– Great song

– Brilliant song. Still.

– Could you get away with it now?

– Wha’?

– Callin’ a woman a wild thing

– I don’t see why not. I called my missus exactly tha’ this morning after the news.

– An’ she was grand with it?

– Fuckin’ delighted. I put me arms around her, I was a bit emotional, like. An’ I sang it to her.

– Nice

– In the kitchen

– An tell us – without invading your privacy. Did it develop into a bit of a Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange moment? On the table.

– Not exactly no. But she put an extra dollop of jam into me porridge

– For fuck sake

– Blackcurrant.

– Nice.

And that is in a sense the genius of this book. It captures the way our talk in pubs shifts randomly from one topic to the next, it captures the certainty that alcohol gives to even the daftest of ideas and opinions, it captures the fact that every time somebody starts a conversation with you in a pub there’s that part of you at the back of your brain going “Is he taking the piss?” (because it’s a 50-50 chance he will be!), and it captures the fact that it is often genuinely hilarious! But the trick to getting pub talk right for me is to understand that most of the time, in the midst of all that verbal diarrhoea, there’s a warmth and a humanity, even between the most utterly inebriated of strangers, and above all to spot that, just every so often, there’s a genuine nugget where someone really does say something that’s worth listening to.

I read the first of these books in a pub to mark St. Patrick’s Day – and it was bloody hopeless – even though that book is only 80 odd pages I kept getting interrupted every 5 minutes by people asking “What’s the book about mate?”  and on answering I lost it to them for god knows how long before it came back to me! At the end of St Patrick’s Day I had intended to write a blog post on it while pissed – alas I only managed to achieve the latter part of that ambition! Which leaves me to be even more impressed with that Roddy Doyle as I like to think he wrote these books about the pub IN the pub! So not only can that man write, but he must be bloody awesome at holding his ale as well!

Book Info

“Two Pints” by Roddy Doyle and “Two More Pints” by Roddy Doyle were both published by Jonathan Cape. I WON both my copies in a giveaway on Cathy’s blog at 746Books Cathy had offered the books as part of Reading Ireland Month, the “Beggorathon”, which she hosted along with Niall at The Fluff Is Raging – it was a great way to find out more about Irish books, film and music and also gave me the excuse to lose myself in Seamus Heaney accompanied by the odd Arthur Guinness or six! So my thanks to Cathy for the books – they were great to read and as an added bonus they gave me excuses for being in a pub when I should have been elsewhere (you can never have too many of those sorts of excuses really!)

Book Rating (for info on my book rating scale click here)






The Incredible Lightness Of Being……….A Paperback!

I’ve just finished reading the first two books of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 – the story is absolutely wonderful and I loved it – but reading it in hardback was bloody hard work at times. I find reading hardback versions so awkward – I struggle to find a way to hold them comfortably for any length of time and end up shuffling about as if I’ve got St Vitus Dance! (I reckon anybody who grew up in Glasgow heard “St Vitus Dance” referred to every day – any time we moved when sitting in a chair or lying on the carpet at home the phrase “Have you got St Vitus Dance?” came out!). If you’re interested, Saint Vitus is considered to be the patron saint of dancers, apparently, with the eponym given as homage to the manic dancing that historically took place in front of his statue during the feast of Saint Vitus in Germanic and Latvian cultures. Colloquially it became the name given for Sydenham’s Chorea disease – I think that’s how it entered Glaswegian parlance rather than the Germanic dancing route! Then again, we Glaswegians have been known to indulge in the odd bit of manic dancing!!!!! (usually on Saturday nights when the pubs near closing time!)

Anyway I digress. Back to the Hardback.

I just find it awkward to hold – it always feels too heavy to hold in one hand and if I hold it in two then my ability to drink tea or coffee and read at the same time is seriously impaired. Pathetic as it sounds I get a sore arm holding up a hardback book (and I know that makes me sound like a real wimp but I can’t help it!). In addition, I always think hardback books are meant to be read sitting up straight, at a desk for example. When I read fiction I want to lounge and sprawl about – doing that with a hardback doesn’t work too well! Mind you they have their advantages – they are more durable and so look better with age (I like that – I’m going to think of myself as a “hardback” from now on!!!). They also look more imposing to me when I see them on my shelves at home – and I like the “image” of them. As a child who was reliant on the library for a supply of reading material, the hardback book had real “status” to my mind – I thought of them as the preserve of the rich, the successful and the intellectuals – though where I got this notion from I’m not sure as rich, successful, intellectuals were rather conspicuous by their absence where I grew up! And yet that impression of the hardback as the preserve of the rich and clever is still with me to some extent even today – and even though I know it’s really nonsense!!

For all the difficulty I have in getting comfortable with a hardback book, I still buy them from time to time but as I look at them on my shelves they pretty much fall into a few categories for me.

Firstly there are those that I tend to buy by authors I love, when I can’t wait for the latest novel to appear in paperback. Consequently there are more hardbacks than paperbacks by Ian Rankin (what’s not to love about the Rebus stories), Ian Banks more recent stuff, and some books by the likes of Roddy Doyle, Louis de Bernieres, Sebastian Faulks, Peter Carey ( I hated the feel of “Parrot and Olivier In America”, couldn’t get comfortable reading it at all and yet I loved that book) and of course Murakami.

Then there are those I pick up in charity shops – they are mainly biographies, and a fair proportion of these are sports related, especially football. I’ve no idea why I buy those in hardback but I do – perhaps it lends physical substance to some of the more ‘limited’ substance and formulaic writing I encounter on the pages of countless footballers’ biographies – maybe sub-consciously my view of the intellectual status of the hardback lends credence to some of the less-than-intellectual subject matter! (of course all things Eric Cantona are exempt from this mild criticism!)

Third come poetry books – I not only buy these in hardback but they are the only genre I actually PREFER to read in hardback – mainly because they are small enough to be solid and also feel comfortable! The durability is the key here. My early days “poor student” poetry books are in a right old state!

Finally, as I look around there are a few hardbacks that I’m pretty sure came when I was a member of a “Book Club” years ago. They’d send you a form to order what you fancied but it would also include the “Editors Choice”. You were supposed to send back to them within so many days if you DIDN’T want the “Editors Choice”  I was hopeless at that and so ended up with several hardback books that I’d not otherwise have chosen. How else can I explain the presence on my shelves of things like the Craig Thomas “thriller” (and I use that word advisedly) “All The Grey Cats”, The Shorter Illustrated History Of The World (aaaaagh!), and John Gribbin’s “In Search Of The Edge Of Time” (read it all the way through and had absolutely no idea what it was on about!)

So while I like the status and the look of the hardback, it’s the paperback I love most. I’m one of those who’ll be eternally grateful to Penguin for their introduction of paperbacks to our shores back in the 1930’s.

Mind you there are other uses and advantages in the hardback book. As Alfred Hitchcock said “‘The paperback is very interesting but I find it will never replace the hardcover book – it makes a very poor doorstop!” and perhaps even more thoughtfully Robert Clark pointed out “Always buy pornographic books in hardback –  they’re easier to hold with one hand!” And on that note…………………………………!