A man walks into a bar. Me. It’s 11 a.m. A.M.! What am I doing in a bar at the ungodly hour of 11 a.m. 11 p.m. is fine. 11 p.m. is normal but 11 a.m.! Okay, okay – it’s 11 a.m. and I walk into a bar – an Irish bar on Corso Italia in Sorrento on the scenic Amalfi coast. I’m here to watch the World Cup rugby quarter final between Ireland and the All Blacks. But the bar is empty! Except for a gentleman down the back. He looks Irish – grey hair and red face from the sun (like myself) I approach him and chance the old reliable Irish greeting: ‘How are ya doin’?’ ‘Not a bother, are you here for the match?’’I sure am’, I say, ‘but where the hell is everyone. I thought I’d have to beat my way into the bar.’ ‘Think we have the time wrong.’ And we did (Italy’s an hour ahead of Ireland) ‘Only an hour to kick-off’, he chuckles, ‘what’ll ya have?’ ‘What are YOU having?’ ‘A Peroni.’ I’m partial to the odd pint of Peroni so it’s Peronis all round and, oh dear, we’re into a round and the Angelus hasn’t even rung yet and I’m having visions of myself staggering along the streets of Sorrento up a challenging slope to my cliff-top hotel. Meanwhile we park ourselves in front of the big TV screen as Brent Pope and Co. blather on about rugby though it just might be Brexit considering the famous Saturday sitting of Westminster that’s in it.
His name is Kevin, from Navan. ‘Only an hour from Dublin’, I joke, quoting the once famous TV add. ‘Twenty minutes now’, Kevin informs me, he also tells me that he played a bit of rugby in his time not least against Kilkenny ‘who always beat us’. Kev and myself get on, the conversation flows as does the drink but not too flowingly? We’ve been around long enough to know the consequences of midday drinking. And now people are coming in. Green jerseys populate the bar, Irish voices order drinks and Kevin and myself are beginning to feel at home. At home with our ‘tribe.’ ‘What are our chances?’ I ask Kev who knows the names of all the players. Me, I know the names of all of the players some of the time, some of the names all of the time, but never all of the names all of the time (Abe Lincoln couldn’t have put it better) ‘Not great’, says Kev, ‘I only hope we’re not annihilated.’ By the time New Zealand are 10 points up, Kev and I have three pints down and WE’RE in danger of being annihilated! Another All Blacks try; the conversion splits the posts, outside the sun is splitting the stones, inside a pall of gloom descends on us ‘boys in green’, fearful of a white wash from the ‘boys in black.’ A sigh of despair ripples around the chock-a-block bar apart from some cheering and clapping from two young couples from New Zealand. Of all the bars in all the towns in all the world – they have to walk into ‘ours’! (Bogey couldn’t have put it better) The Irish try when it eventually comes is greeted with a tumultuous roar but by then the game was up; the game was up when the All Blacks went 10 points up. Now 4 pints of Peroni down, Kev and I consider drowning our sorrows with a few shots of Limoncello, remembering the ubiquitous Sorrento T-shirt slogan: ‘Keep Calm. Drink Limoncello.’ We don’t. We keep sensible, remembering our wives waiting patiently on the side lines, so to speak; and besides we have enough doom and gloom on our plate without having to face our irate spouses performing the House-wife’s Haka at our hotel doors!
Finally, it being Savour Kilkenny Weekend – a savoury fact: in Piazza Tasso, the main square of Sorrento, a restaurant called Pizzeria Aurora offers 50 varieties of pizza! That’s more, I reckon, than all the pizza ‘parlours’ put together in Kilkenny. My wife and I lunched there. And yes, they serve ‘50 shades’ of pizza! And the best part? There wasn’t an All Black supporter in sight. I need to talk to Kevin about that (the pizza place) in case he ever returns to Sorrento – ‘Return to Sorrento’, a favourite song of mine. And Pavarotti!