The Shebeen

We were on a boat. Somewhere. As soon as things get nautical, I’m instantly lost. I’m pretty sure it
was the River Shannon. I think I got a breakfast roll from a shop in Tír na nÓg at one point? On a
voyage through the heart of The Emerald Isle, you pass through these pockets of wildness that us
land lubbers would never suspect existed. If you want milk, you have to wrestle a cow and the
nights are so dark, you can see the buckle on Orion’s belt with the naked eye. Once you’re on the
river sailing through nature, you find that your spirit begins to detox and you start to ask the big
questions like
“Where the hell are we lads?”
On my last evening, we arrived late at a marina three nautical miles south west of the middle of
nowhere. We were starving from being pirates all day and we were down to our last three biscuits,
two bananas and one beer. Our maths weren’t quite up to turning that into a meal for four but one of
the lads seemed to have a good idea what county we were in and thought the closest pub was a
helicopter ride away. Our only option was to go to “the shebeen”. It turns out a shebeen is an illegal
Irish speak-easy run out of someone’s house where they “gift” you booze and in return you “gift”
them money. I’d never heard of such a thing. The tax man would lose his mind if he knew.
Without knocking, we walked straight into a random house from 1956. There was a distinguished
gent lying on a recliner chair, drinking gin from a wine glass, listening to Irish country in the dark.
“Where the hell are we lads?” I whispered. Our surprised host turned the lights on and we noticed
the menagerie of dead animals on the wall like we’d walked into a Hitchcock horror film. There was
a fruit bowl full of Pub Crisps with a promotion on the bags for the 2002 World Cup.
“Seriously, where the hell are we?”
We were welcomed in like long lost cousins (only he was actually happy to see us). A kitchen island
separated the living room from the kitchen and we sat ourselves down while our host went around
to the three taps set up on the other side. There was spirit optics screwed into all the cupboard
doors. The lads ordered Guinness. I can’t abide the black stuff so to distract from my inadequacies
as an Irish man, I jokingly asked about the red wine selection.
As I sipped my 2016 Argentinian Malbec while having a staring match with a stuffed fox, I couldn’t
help but dwell on how my joke about the wine selection had fallen flat so when the lads ordered
another round, I decided to double down and asked for a cheese board.
As I sampled the melange of six different cheeses and various chutneys and crackers while feeling
sorry for a dead badger nailed to the wall, I reflected that I’d never been more charmed and
disorientated in my life. Where the hell was I? I considered asking for caviar but at that point, I’d
lost all confidence that I wouldn’t end up choking down fish eggs. At the end, you just give the gent
what you feel is fair. Obviously, we gave him every penny we had.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend this shebeen. I think it’s on the River Shannon. I’m pretty sure it’s
just past Tír na nÓg.