INSIDE today you’ll find a very interesting and informative supplement on the Cathedral Quarter. And in there is a piece about the Duke of York – mention of which brought memories flooding back. And not good ones. It was perhaps five years ago and either a work going-away do or a birthday do, it matters little which. Squinter broke two golden rules that day, which in retrospect might have explained why things went to badly wrong. The first golden rule by which he lives his life is, never, under any circumstances, go into Belfast city centre. And by and large, he has managed to abide by it. The second is, never, under any circumstances, go to any place where there may be other journalists because if there’s a societal cohort more inordinately and undeservedly pleased with themselves than Belfast hacks, then Squinter has yet to hear of it.
So there he was. In the city centre. In a pub where journalists tend to gather. Out of his comfort zone, it’s fair to say. Thankfully there were no esteemed members of the Fourth Estate there that day that Squinter could see, apart from the Hannahstown Massive, but the place was still busy. Those familiar with the lay-out of the Duke of York will know that, on entry, the bar tapers away to the right, where there is a small flight of wooden steps leading to a lower level. And indeed it was to this very spot that Squinter’s party slowly and happily made their way.
After a bit of fussing and cajoling, seats were obtained, Squinter managing to get his hands on a small wooden stool which he placed on the floor forgetting that the wooden steps were to his rear. Just the one leg of the stool failed to find a mooring spot on the wooden floor, but when Squinter’s bulk descended it was enough to ensure that catastrophe ensued and arse duly went over tip.
Squinter didn’t only fall backwards, when his shoulders hit the floor he performed a complete 380-degree feet-over-head turn. It was a surreal experience, if the truth be told – out-of-body, in fact. For Squinter was not lying in the middle of the floor looking into the first shocked and then delighted drinkers looking down at him – he was somewhere up among the old wooden beams, looking down on it happening to someone else. For a blessed few seconds anyway.
We’ve all had our moments to forget in crowded bars. We’ve spilt our drink or, worse, spilt other people’s drink. We’ve said the wrong things or not said the right things. We’ve bet the wrong team or worn the wrong shirt. But these things happen to everyone and as you ineffectually wipe the beer from your friends’ laps with a soggy beermat and a phlegmy tissue, you know everyone else in the place is thinking, thank God that wasn’t me again.
But few people have done a full cowboy movie saloon bar stuntman somersault down a flight of steps in front of 50 complete strangers.
So as Squinter first raised himself into a sitting position, then got to his feet and picked up his treacherous stool, he scanned the sea of guffawing gobs, smiled wanly and thought himself (nearly) lucky that he hadn’t been in long enough to have a glass in his hand. And then he cheered up (almost) completely with the thought: it could have been worse – it could have been in the Roddy’s.