I was flipping through my iPhone notes yesterday and a flood of memories came back.
Here’s the thing: I have this habit of forgetting things that I think are really important, so I generally open up a note on my iPhone and jot names and places down with no context whatsoever. So then I forget about that (figures) and go on about my life. But I have way too many of them on my phone.
So on St. Patrick’s Day I somehow, only by the humour (I like the spelling, deal with it) of God, I ended up sitting in the middle of the Ryman auditorium listening to Irish music and meeting a bunch of people from Northern Ireland, which is making me ache to be back in the UK that much more. Also my awkwardness increases by about 500% when I meet someone from the UK, because I know I won’t shut up about it, so I generally say nothing, which ends up being more awkward. So that’s my life.
Anyway. I was sitting on the edge of my bed talking about this heartache and about Irish adventures to my friend Anna. The thing about a trip like the one I had is that if you don’t talk about it, you forget the intricacies and things that made it beautiful. I remembered the big picture, but the details were escaping me, and I never did write them down.
Flipping through my iPhone notes, I found a jumble of things I had written down in the excitement of the night:
Craig and Phil.
I stared at the words I had written down for a minute and tried to recollect the memory and this is the story that had to be told:
Meg and I had just woken up in the middle of Belfast on a Sunday morning after a night of drunken Irishmen singing us songs at our hostel at 4am, so we were a bit exhausted, but braved it anyway. Sunday mornings, nothing tends to be open much at all, so we wandered aimlessly around Belfast in the early morning hours.
Belfast really is charming. It is. But Meg, a Brit, and me, an American, knew nothing about it and had no one to explain the area to us much at all. We had come right after the unionist riots, so we were a little apprehensive about where to walk and what to explore - the day had slowly turned into an adventure: we did the Titanic Museum, walked the River Lagan, pretended to kiss the biggest statue of a fish I’ve seen in my life, and ran into the Coca-Cola truck. But come 2pm, we were pretty bored.
I was pretty determined to meet people, because that’s how I operate. I felt like the trip would have be much less successful and I couldn’t tell a single story about Ireland from an Irish person’s perspective. We walked into a visitor’s center and asked about the area around Belfast, and where we could catch a train pretty easily.
The man recommended the sea shores of Bangor.
Needless to say, Meg and I hopped on a train and took a 40 minute trip out to Bangor. What we didn’t take into account was the fact that the sun was going to set - we got into Bangor just as the sun went down, so our hopes of seeing the loveliness of the sea from the cliffs were about dead.
At this point in the trip, I was a little frustrated, but we decided to make the best of it. Embracing my awkwardness, I walked into a Boots (the UK’s version of something like a Walgreens) and went up to the register.
“Hey, uh. So, we’re looking for a place to eat around here,” I let stumble out of my mouth. “Do you guys have any recommendations?”
From the people that thought I needed help buying shampoo, I think they were a little bit amused that neither Meg or I were Irish, and there was an 18 or 19 year old kid named Luke that came to our rescue.
“TEDDY’S!” He blurted out, then looked at the two other workers. They grinned at him and the blonde looked at us: “I was just going to recommend that.”
Luke took the opportunity to tell me about how his school had just come back from a trip to Washington, D.C: “I want to move there, really. I like America, I really do.” I was just incredibly amazed at the kindness that the whole store had shown us at that point. “Here! I can walk out a bit with you and show you where it is.”
We got directions to Teddy’s and went in only to see the quietest, loveliest atmosphere. The lights were low, the music was light, and our waiter was the kindest. He took the time to tell us about the town, about the people, and in turn, we told him about how in the world we had ended up in the tiny little town of Bangor. The food was the best Meg and I had had in a while (we had been munching on hostel food for quite a bit), but we didn’t want to leave Bangor just yet. It was only about 8pm, and we had quite intentionally meant to stay for a bit. We asked the waiter if he had any recommendations (since it tended to work so well, really. If you go somewhere foreign, figure out what the locals like, because I guarantee it is the best), and he suggested Jenny Watts - the oldest pub in town.
The place was so lovely. I just knew that we had chosen the right place - the tables were sectioned off into intimate corners, where Meg and I could catch up on the happenings of the day over a quarter bottle of wine (they come bottled so perfectly small). There were a group of guys next to us that needless to say, we didn’t feel quite comfortable around, and gave us a hassle over a pound that they offered us. As we got up to go, they got up to go, and I made Meg sit back down. We let them leave and decided to take the opportunity to talk to the bar (pub?) tenders.
That night we met maybe the nicest people I have ever met in my life. We spent the next twenty-thirty minutes conversing with Craig and Phil about the area, about different musicians that had come out of the area (Two Door Cinema Club, Snow Patrol), about how they had ended up working at the pub. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of kindness, and the day that had begun as chaos had turned into one of the most memorable moments of craic that we had in the middle of Ireland.
I miss it. I miss it a lot. But it is little moments like finding notes on my iPhone that bring pieces of it back to me, and those are good moments.