A Night at Oliverís and the chips
A night at Oliverís was our entertainment while staying at Ardara, Co Donegal. Actually we were staying at a small house on the coast not far from Ardara. Every night for a week we went to Oliver's to listen to the traditional music. It was on the main street near Nesbitt's Hotel. Oliver would play and his college bound daughter would join in on the violin. Both were quite good. Joining in were a number of people playing different instruments making the sessions a wonderful success.
Each night at 11:00 the bar tender would announce "Time" and people would rush up to buy several more pints if they hadn't already bought an extra one or two. The first few nights we didn't understand what was going on and we would leave and walk through the crisp night air to our car. Just outside the pub was a big chip wagon that took up half of the road. All day long traffic had to stop and wait to get around it. I know that would not be permitted in the town I live in and I wondered how it was allowed here. Even at 11:00 p.m. or there after, there were always a few people in line. As we walked further into the night on the way to the car we noticed the cars parked along the darker parks with the windows fogged up. We assumed this must be the passion pits of Ireland parking along the side of the road in little villages with the girlfriend. A few minutes of passion and the windows were entirely fogged. Each night we noticed several cars in this condition. We wondered about the promiscuity of these country villages. It wasn't long before we reached the car and traveled the few miles back to the cottage. The night was full of critters and one night we saw a big badger pushing its way down the deeply rutted dirt road. We slowed way down and came to halt when it suddenly stopped and glared at us. It waddled off the side of the road and disappeared into the darkness. It resembled a big dust mop but I wouldn't want to meet it in the dark.
On Friday night the moon was out and as we approached Oliver's we noticed a silver Bentley parked immediately in front of the door to Oliver's. It was a beautiful automobile and we wondered about it especially since it had northern Ireland plates with the word Belfast on the plate holder. As we entered we noted a special sound coming from the area where Oliver and his daughter were working their musical magic. Sitting in the middle of the area under a spot light that lit up only a small circle was a woman in a radiant white argyle sweater with glossy short black hair and glossy red lipstick. Surrounding her was the quiet shadows of the normal dim lights of the pub. She was mouthing the words sung by a man with longer gray hair playing a guitar. He looked very much like an older Glenn Campbell and the songs were Gaelic. He continued to sing throughout the night. At one point they took a break and I asked one of the regulars who the singer was. He said it was Peter from Belfast who comes through here on holiday and likes to sit in. He asked if I saw his car and I nodded. He said his wife is a singer too but usually doesn't sing here in the sessions. Needless to say it was an interesting night with me mentally generating more questions than it is healthy to ask. So I mulled the questions over, enjoying the imaginative creations of my mind in the privacy of the darkened room. My favorite was that he was an IRA operative hiding out in Donegal. In recent years a few of the IRA have been found and executed in Donegal. Parts of Donegal are fairly remote to the rest of Ireland. This night we bought a few extra pints just before closing time to continue listening to the music. At just after midnight we were getting sleepy and felt we should head back to the cottage.
On the street again the chip wagon was going strong with a line of five customers none of whom came from Oliverís. Suddenly we were overcome by a desire to consume a bag of chips. Standing in line I was chuckling to myself wanting to ask questions like "Do you come here often?" Eventually I made it to the front where questions within limits could be asked. I said I would like a bag of chips and the young woman asked me what I wanted with the chips, chicken, fish, a hamburger and a few other items one of which was pork rinds. Actually I was thinking Chinese food but held my thought and said just chips. Did I want vinegar, mustard or catsup with the chips, salted or not? A lot to consider after midnight. While she was busy deep frying the potatoes I told her I thought they did a good business for this time of night. "Oh!" she said, "these are the slack hours - come back at 4:00 am if you want to see a crowd." I asked where do they come from at that time in the morning. "Oh", she said "they would be getting home from the dances many miles away." Taking our chips we headed to our car promising to not eat any until we were in the car. Again we noted the loose morals of the Irish teenagers with the fogged up windows, on main street, no less. When I was a teenager we always parked away from the main roads and always cracked a window. Once inside the car we divided up the chips and within minutes we were discussing whether we should get another bag. They were so good. It was then that we noticed our windows were all steamed up. So the passion pits of Ireland were really just the effects of eating a bag of chips in an enclosed car on a cold night. The Irish were definitely passionate about their chips. We made up our mind to get two bags the next night and really fog up the windows and if we were really good the second bag might last us until we reached the cottage. We wondered if an American Tourist might pass by our car and wonder about the activities within.
The next night I asked how come they were so good. An older lady was working and said it was because they inject them with water before they freeze them to make them crunchy and just right after cooking them in the deep fat.
Several years later we stopped in Ardara in the afternoon. We finally found Oliver working in a pub down the street whom we recognized but Oliver's was no more. We asked if he still played music here in this pub and told him how much we had enjoyed his music at Oliver's. He said his wife worked the bar but she left him, the lease expired and his daughter was off to school and doing well. He said he wasn't playing any music presently, just tending bar for someone else.
A man walked in and Oliver struck up a conversation with him as an obvious friend. We finished our pint and said goodbye a bit sadder than we were when we entered and recognized Oliver. One last item - we were never able to find chips as good as those in Ardara even though we continued to sample them all over Ireland.
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