Filed under "Travel Stories"
|The Cashel Dancers- Rowan Gillespie|
The Husband (hereafter "TH") and I were enjoying a meal in a restaurant in Derry/Londonderry one evening, about halfway into our trip. This was our first night in Northern Ireland, having been to Dublin many times and once before around the Republic of Ireland's coast. We were pretty exhausted by that time, as we usually are due to TH's "climb every mountain" approach to travel itineraries, and I felt a little weary as the Irish trad band started up in the adjoining bar.
I was two pints in and needed to visit the loo, so I headed toward the back through the bar area to get to the toilets. As I passed the bar, I couldn't help but overhear a short snippet of conversation between the only two men listening to the band.
It went something like this:
"Can you imagine? What if someone came into their country and acted like that? What do you think he deserves?" a muscular, bald man wearing a white t-shirt said, slurring his words a bit. He was hovering over his mate who was seated at the bar. The guy was pretty beefy - he had no discernible neck.
"I'd thrash 'em," said his companion with a shake of his fist.
"Exactly. He had no call to act that way. Who does he think he is?"
Needless-to-say, I walked right past these two gentlemen and continued to my destination, glad I wasn't the stupid tourist who had angered the locals. All of Ireland was crawling with American tourists this trip, and I couldn't help but wonder if it wasn't one of my compatriots who had angered the two men. I cringed at the thought. American tourists don't have the best reputation in Europe (as Europeans are always eager to remind me), but the Irish seemed to cut us a bit more slack and even, dare-I-say-it, like us. I hated to think we were wearing our welcome thin, here, too. Damn - there's always someone to spoil the party.
On my way back to our table, I stopped momentarily to listen to the band, and noticed that the two men had gone. After the song ended, I started back to rejoin TH. We were seated in the front window of the restaurant, right next to the door, and TH's back was to me as I approached our table.
As I sat down, he looked at me, wide-eyed, with a funny expression on his face.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Um, I think we'd better go back to the B&B."
"Okay. Are you all right?"
"Yeah, but I think I almost got my ass kicked."
I just raised an eyebrow at this. I mean, my husband is not the type to get into brawls. Ever. "What happened?"
"These two guys came through to the front door, and the first guy stops at the table and shouts something at me. I think he was shouting in Irish."
"What the hell? Are you serious?"
"Yeah, then he storms out the door. Then, his friend opens the door to leave, but turns to me first and says: 'Are you Brendan O'Connell?' I shook my head and said, 'No,' and he said: 'Good. You're lucky,' and then he stormed out the door, too."
"Holy shit. That really happened?"
"Yeah, what the f*ck?" TH shook his head in disbelief.
"Wait, was one of the guys bald and real solid, with no-neck?"
"Yeah, you saw them?"
"They were at the bar talking about clobbering a stupid tourist."
"Oh shit. Who the hell is Brendan O'Connell? It sounds Irish. Do I even look Irish?" Then TH starts laughing.
Sizing up my six-foot-two, olive-skinned husband, with his Roman nose inherited from Italian ancestors, who had not one drop of Irish blood in his body, I shook my head 'no.' "I don't even think you could pass for Irish-American. Who knows what that was all about."
We laughed it off and eventually returned to the B&B. Even after that incident, I can't say I felt truly threatened. It was bizarre, yes, and random, but not really frightening. Maybe I'm naive, but I feel safer walking around European cities than US cities - even cities with recent histories of violence, such as Derry. Plus, we're not unseasoned travelers - we do our research and try not to act like idiots.
In any case, after we returned home, I looked up the name "Brendan O'Connell." Turns out there is a football player by the name, who played for several English teams. Maybe they were making a joke? They were at least a little drunk, so maybe after a few pints TH might somehow resemble this football player - who knows?
All I know is - Brendan O'Connell, whoever he is, had better be on his p's and q's in Derry.
Anyone else step into a strange or sticky situation while traveling?