For me, going to the Guinness Storehouse tour in Dublin is something of a let-down. I find it unengaging and disjointed. Admittedly, I'm in the minority here. Trip Advisor reviewers rated it the 24th best of 218 attractions in Dublin. I've been 4 times (don't ask) and I keep trying to like it, but I just can't warm to it, unlike the tour at Kilmainham Jail, which ranked 4th on the Trip Advisor list.
And it's pricey. Buy the tickets online at the Guinness website for a small discount (better than nothing) and to avoid the hordes of tourists in line waiting to buy tickets. Don't worry, though, you'll meet them all again later inside.
The best part of the whole experience, with the possible exception of the Gravity Bar and its free pint, (if you can find a place to sit to drink it) is the small room tucked off to the side on one of the upper floors dedicated to Guinness advertisments.
I LOVE the vintage Guinness ads. I love their textual simplicity and repetition of characters like the Zookeeper and lobsters and the TOUCAN. I love the toucan. But how did Guinness come to chose a tropical bird with a big beak to be the mascot of a stout beer?
The short answer is no one knows for sure. But there are some broad clues.
The Guinness Toucan first appeared in 1935, and was the brainchild of artist John Gilroy, who worked for a London advertising agency. Said Gilroy in the London Times:
"The Guinness family did not want an advertising campaign that equated with beer. They thought it would be vulgar. They also wanted to stress the brew's strength and goodness. Somehow it led to animals."
For over 45 year the Toucan was an iconic symbol of Guinness. Around 1982, Guinness decided to retire the Toucan, and go in other directions. Personally, I miss him. Although as we've moved into the digital age, some Guinness advertising is still quite amusing:
"Why", my husband asks me -- not for the first time -- "Didn't you take up the whistle?"
He's surveying the quantity of goods scattered around our bedroom that I hope to cram into the waiting suitcase for my trip this evening to Dublin. I'm going to the Temple Bar TradFest, and no, it's not too many clothes that are evoking his dismay. Trad musicians don't tend to be fashion plates.
The main object of his concern is my gorgeous, built like a tank, 18" Mance Grady bodhrán. When I first purchased it from Mance, he respectfully suggested that a woman of my size -- a mere 5'2" -- might be better off with a smaller diameter drum. But nothing would do for me but the deep booming tones of the 18".
However Aer Lingus, in its airline wisdom, will not allow my baby to be brought as carry on luggage and forces me to check my lovely drum with the dirty laundry and toothpaste that inhabit the depths of the cargo hold.
I'm not typically a nervous flier, but exposing my prize possession to the tender mercies of the baggage handlers causes hives to form on my neck and I tend to drink too much on the flights on which my bodhrán accompanies me.
This isn't the first time my bodhrán has crossed the Atlantic. The last three years, it has come with me each May to the World Bodhrán Championships in Miltown, Co. Kerry. I wish it were eligible for Frequent Flier miles -- then eventually it would have a ticket for a seat right beside me, and I wouldn't have to drink that third bottle of red wine.
But I have worked out a system. Loosen the lugs as easy as they can go. The skin flops like Ethel Merman's upper arms. Cut two pieces of thick foam core to the drum's diameter. One goes on the drum head, the other on the inside of the drum by the skin. Put the drum back in it's case. Stuff all my socks and soft T-shirts and ladies' unmentionables inside the drum to pad it out to the edge of the rim and roll all my jeans and sweaters around it to try to cushion the inevitable game of Kick the Can that baggage handlers appear to delight in.
So far, so good. Each time it has arrived safely and tuned up beautifully, and I had a great time playing it in classes, workshops and pubs.
But this trip, the plane leaves in an hour and a half. (Thank you, Logan Airport, for the free wi-fi.) I've already check my suitcase (drum inside) and entrusted its welfare to Aer Lingus. My heart is racing and my palms are starting to sweat. Please please PLEASE be good to my baby.
I've ordered a 16" bodhrán from Mance. He's working on it even as we speak. That should satisfy the carry on requirements.
And bring down my blood pressure ...
Originally printed in February 2010, but the website it was on crashed and burned and is gone now.
Yes, my 16 inch drum is gorgeous (thank you, Mance) AND it fits in the overhead compartment.
A few years ago, some very good friends of mine told me that over the Christmas holidays they had gone to see a production of "Cinderella" in Dublin. I admit with some embarrassment now that I razzed them unmercifully. What on earth would two grown adults find to attract them to a children's show? Eventually there was no more fun to be had in teasing them, and the matter was dropped.
Then by chance, I happened upon an online article about the British phenomenon of the Panto. Once again it was proved to me that even though we share a language, we don't always mean the same thing when we speak it.
The Panto is a holiday tradition that dates back to the 15th and 16th century traditions of Commedia del Arte. There are stock characters, which include the Pantomime Dame (always played by a man), the Principle Boy (played by a young woman), and the Comic Animal (we had a mermaid).
It takes a children's story or folk tale, and adds enough adult innuendo so Mum and Dad can chuckle indulgently while the off colour humor sails safely over the heads of the children. The costumes are colourful, the sets elaborate and the special effects plentiful.
Audience participation is key, and very much encouraged by the performers, who consistently break the theatrical "Fourth Wall" to speak directly to the crowd. The villain is booed and hissed when he enters, the hero is warned ("He's behind you!") and when someone makes a declarative statement, the audience will respond ("Oh, yes it is!" or "Oh, no it isn't!"). It's a good thing the rotten tomato stall next door to the theatre was closed.
I happened by the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin a few days before their Christmas Panto closed this year. As you might expect at the end of a 3 month run, there were tickets to be had, and I invited my Dublin friends to accompany me that evening to "Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates".
With the coaching of my friends, I hissed the villain and warned the hero with the rest of crowd . I haven't had so much fun at the theatre in quite a while!
I'm really hoping I'll be in Dublin before next year's holiday Panto closes. I'm hooked. :)