25 September 2009

To Marketing!

Ah, Arthur's Day. The greatest national holiday that never was.

Earlier in the week the Very Understanding Girlfriend surprised me by expressing interest in participating in the celebrations of the (erroneous) 250th anniversary of the birth of Ireland's favourite pint of plain. Throughout the city ticketed events were being held in numerous music venues with a rake of international and local musicians scheduled to perform, but the highlight of the day was to occur at 17:59 with the mass toast in pubs the length and breath of Ireland (not to mention New York, Lagos and Kuala Lumpur) "To Arthur", the founder of the brewery that bears his name.

This desire of hers to participate was surprising because a) neither of us are big drinkers, b) even when we do drink it is never, ever a pint of stout, and c) she is the most virulent anti-corporate person I know (and I know an awful lot of anti-capitalists). Thus shortly after 5pm we set off into town to Kehoe's on South Anne Street, along with around four to five hundred other folks who had the same idea. The pub was jammed, more crowded than I have ever seen it even on a night like New Year's Eve, and this was 5pm on a school night.

It took me 35 minutes to get served, with my pints arriving less than two minutes before the moment itself, the tv counted down and then 17:59 arrived and the pub actually went wild with the whole establishment standing on chairs and tables crying out in one voice, "To Arthur!", and that was nothing compared to the bellow that surged forth from the street below, where literally hundreds of people spilled out of the pub and on to the two adjoining streets.

The moment passed, but the night was just getting started.

We left Kehoe's as the cries of "To Arthur!" were rising up again, mingling with the shouts from Bruxelles and beyond, where similar sized groups of revelers had congregated, and we traveled across to Grogan's, where if anything the crowds were larger, merging with the inebriated patrons of Spy Bar and Dakota and occupying the crossroads of South William Street, Castle Market and Coppinger Row in one unending horde to the point that it was impossible to tell where one bar's drinkers ended and the next began.

And the night went on and the queue at the bar seemed never less than three deep, and the frazzled barstaff grew weak in the elbows pulling pint after endless pint of the black stuff with plaintive, desperate cries of "is anyone not looking for stout?" but stout was all that filled the glasses of the congregation, and the toasts never abated though descended into a cacophony of "To Martha!", "To Sparta!", "To Garda!" whenever a roof-mounted camera crew went by on the giant white lorries with electrified sides emblazoned with even more of the omnipresent advertisements reminding us of what exactly we were all celebrating.

And the night went on.

Aside from one uncomfortable instant where an old soak made a drunken lurch at The Very Understanding Girlfriend, and then took a swing at me with a shout of "It's Arthur's birthday, I don't care what happens to me, there are no consequences" (or mumbles to that effect), the night was amazingly good humoured. Despite the thousands of people on the streets openly defying the 'no public drinking' laws the garda presence was minimal to non-existent. As a friend commented, its the closest thing to Mardi Gras Dublin has ever experienced.

And of course at the heart of it all was an entirely manufactured event foisted on the good people of Ireland by a cynical multinational drinks company exploiting our national heritage and taking all subsequent profits overseas. Everybody knew this, and nobody cared. Even the folks drinking cans from the off-license were drinking Arthur's drink; everyone had bought into it, everyone knew they were being used, but nobody cared. There was no talk of the Recession, no talk of NAMA, no talk of Lisbon, no talk of doom and gloom at all. There was just drunken chat, and laughs, and cheers and toasts and lots and lots of pints.

Somewhere in the hollow moral vacuum of a chrome and leather filled room an ad exec is rubbing their blood-stained hands together in glee at the prospect of the bonus they are going to earn for thinking up this campaign, possibly the most successful in their agency's history. But surprisingly, for bringing the people of this city together in pure and unadulterated bacchanalian festivity for one single night in defiance of the darkness all around us, I do not begrudge them this unholy delight, as I join with thousands of my fellow mindless automatons and raise my pint glass high in the air and join in the atonal chanting of the masses:

"To Arthur!"

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At 8:44 pm, Anonymous steve said...

oh dave.

At 12:23 pm, Blogger Snag Breac said...

The suggestions on the news of making arthur's birthday a national holiday made me laugh out loud, given the large degree of problems with alcoholism, binge drinking etc that we have. very fitting.


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