Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Remembering Yer Man’s on St. Patrick’s Day
To some it's a day to wear green and to adorn yourself with shamrocks.
To others it's a day of parades and saying things like "Top o' the morning".
But to most of us, it's a day to enjoy a pint of beer or a sip of whiskey with good friends – gathering in a place to laugh and have a good crack – perhaps singing the old Irish songs.
To me it's all of these things – but more so a time to remember fantastic friendships from the past – and miss some fantastic friends of the present.
It wasn't until living in London, Ontario that I truly partook in St. Patrick's Day festivities.
At the time – in the late 1980's and early '90's – I found my circle of friends to be of various descents from the British Isles. From London and Wales, Glasgow, Dublin, and Belfast.
All great friends. Never an ugly word between them.
One of this circle opened an Irish Pub in town. It was called "Yer Man's" – and as Irish a pub in Canada you would find. It was there I learned to drink – and even pour – a proper pint Guinness. A meticulous endeavor requiring patience and a steady hand. Complete with a shamrock drawn in the frothy head.
And it was there that I learned that I actually preferred Harp – a lighter lager – to Guinness. I still have a pint whenever I come across a place that serves it – regardless of the reason.
My fantasy is to one day to always have a keg of Harp in stock and on tap behind my own little bar. Perhaps if my book is successful … some day.
The pub was a grand place indeed – run by Jimmy King. All of our friends gathered there. And the nights were full of telling jokes (or having a crack) – playing darts and playing pool.
We would gather there every night after work – and every weekend after a round of golf. Jimmy and his staff made us feel like the place was ours. It was the place where as you walked in the door, a pint of your favorite was already drawn for you and sitting on the bar – waiting for you. And the whole room would say "Hey Fred!" as you walked in.
I don't even get that at home.
Some of the best nights of my life were spent at Yer Man's – sipping a pint and cracking jokes with my mates. Yes, I said "mates" – because at Yer Man's – you felt Irish.
There was Kevin Powers – a Welshman who owned Power Printing – about the nicest guy you could ever meet – and funnier than anything one you will see on television.
And Hughie Edwards – a pipefitter from London, England - nearing retirement at the time – who took me aside when my Father passed away and told me "If you ever need a Da to talk to boy, come see me …".
The kindest words ever said to me through that trying time.
And Bobby Hill – another English Londoner who owned a tool and die shop in town – as good a guy as you'll meet – with a stutter that we all impersonated to give him a hard time.
We would golf most weekend mornings, riding to the course in Bob's van – and once the round was over – off to Yer Man's we would go – to spend the afternoon – which often turned into evenings.
On St. Patrick's Day each year – Yer Man's would pack to the brim. An Irish band would come in and play the standards – and each of us always had a space reserved for us at the bar. The whole place would be signing – the pints would be sloshing, and the jokes would be cracking wise.
I really loved that place. And Annie King was like an Aunt to me. Jimmy like a cousin.
One day a very pretty girl came in to apply for a job behind the bar. Patsy was probably the most beautiful girl I ever saw. In the end, Patsy and Jimmy married – but in the path leading up to that event, I did not know this, and I did my feeble best to win her affection.
When I did find out about the two of them, I felt like a real idiot.
I was really embarrassed.
I stopped going to Yer Man's – which was a mistake on my part. No one there thought any the less of me.
But when I feel embarrassed – my rationale goes out the window.
As the days turned into years – I stopped going to Yer Man's. But years later, I heard they had moved to a new location.
I stopped by one night – after work – thinking it would be just like the old days.
But the new location was much darker.
And the new crowd was full of unfamiliar faces.
There was no Kevin or Bobby or Hewy. I didn't know anybody.
But Patsy was there – running the place by herself that night. And when I came in – only one voice this time said "Hey Fred!" – and it was Patsy.
She introduced me to the new bunch of regulars as a "very important patron of the past". And she made me feel special on that visit.
She drew me a pint of Harp without my even asking. And she gave it to me on the house. And I sat on the end of the bar while Patsy filled me in on all that had happened with she and Jimmy since I last saw them.
I tried to talk to some of the new regulars – but I couldn't seem to spark much interest in conversation. I got up and played a game of pool by myself – expecting someone to drop a quarter on the table to challenge me – but no takers presented themselves.
So I sat and drank another pint of Harp, and thought to myself about how true it is that while time may heal many wounds – time also stands still for no one.
Or no place.
Not even Yer Man's.
I miss Yer Man's and the days of old with all my mates. And I wonder how they are. Are they even still alive.
Ashamed in myself for not even keeping touch after nearly twenty years have elapsed since seeing them last.
And fifteen years since my last visit to Yer Man's that one night.
It hits me hardest every St. Patrick's Day, how much I loved that old place – and that old gang of friends.
It's hard to explain sometimes.
But Yer Man's was one of the most important places in my journey through life.
I hope this St. Patrick's Day – that you are enjoying the people in your life.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.