LUNCH WITH LANGAN
I’m not a big horse racing fan.
But I was invariably sent to cover big horse racing meetings for the “diary’ in the Evening Herald.
On one such occasion, I was sent to Galway Races.
I don’t like race meetings because everyone seems to be too busy, in too much of a hurry, whispering about tips, dashing from bookie to bookie for the best odds or pushing their way to the bar between races.
Anyway, Galway it was.
And, as ever, I sought out the famous and if I failed to find any famous people I sought out the almost famous and if that didn’t work, I sought out people I would make famous, if only for one edition of the Herald.
And then BINGO!
I got to meet Peter Langan, legendary co-owner of Langan’s Brasserie in London’s Mayfair.
This was the restaurant he owned with Michael Caine and in which, in late afternoon, he could occasionally be found asleep under a table.
Among those who ate there were Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger, Francis Bacon, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicholson and David Hockney.
Made for me.
And he likes a jar.
So we had a few lunchtime drinks, just he and I
And then we decided to eat.
We went to the, eh, food tent.
And we ate some of whatever it was they put in front of us.
It wouldn’t have earned an award from Dunlop remoulds let alone Michelin.
“Dessert might be better,” he slurred. We had wine with the meal too or maybe a meal with the wine.
“Bring us the dessert menu,” he commanded.
The waitress brought it.
Remember, this man ran a restaurant in London, had hired a Michelin starred chef for its kitchen and was about to order dessert.
“I’ll have the Black Forest Gateau,” he said, turning to me to add “You can’t go wrong with Black Forest Gateau.”
“It’s not defrosted yet,” the waitress said.
He closed his eyes in horror.
So we went to the bar.
Peter died aged just 47 in 1988.
Great company. Unassuming at least, when I was on the lash with him he was.
And we had a great day!
I PREDICT A RIOT
It was July 18, 1981.
The hunger strikes in the Maze Prison were causing tension, distress and mayhem.
By that date, six men including Bob by Sands had died.
And so there was bound to be nervousness about the march planned for Dublin that day.
It was to go from the city centre to the British Embassy in Ballsbridge, the one which replaced the embassy on Merrion Square burned down after the Bloody Sunday killings.
I was on the newsdesk for the Herald that day. And Liam Collins was the senior reporter covering the march.
This wasn’t the era of the internet. We had to plan and get our stories as early as we could.
So the first edition went off without much mention of the march.
We needed something for the later editions. No point in just saying it took place. We needed to know what happened.
At around midday, Liam ‘phoned in. They had only reached Nassau Street.
No trouble. A brick thrown at a British owned shop. That was the height of it.
I asked Liam what was going to happen.
“There’s going to be a riot,” he said. “Some of these are marching with baseball bats and pick axe handles. There will be trouble.”
I asked him if he was sure. He said he was.
I asked him if I should run a story saying there was a riot. He said we should.
And so he wrote a story about the riot which had erupted outside the British embassy in Ballsbridge only he wrote it and I sent it for printing a few hours before it actually happened. In fact, there’s a chance the paper came out of the printworks on Prince’s Street a few minutes before a pick axe handle was swung or a stone thrown in anger.
But we had the story. It was on our front page so when the rioters came back into the city centre, it was all there. When people out in the suburbs bought their papers at six o’clock, we had the details.
You have to take risks sometimes!
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE
There was a time I’d swear off the drink for the month.
Indeed, I occasionally had a dry January too.
And if I was feeling particularly holy (or smug) I’d stay off alcohol for the entire length of Lent.
Yes, I’ve done it. And as Pee Flynn said about being very wealthy and owning three houses: “It’s not easy, you should try it some time.”
I didn’t swear off the gargle this November because there was no real need. My health problems ensured that a couple of egg cups of wine was about my limit this year.
There are those who didn’t and maybe still don’t believe I can do a month teetotal.
For example, many years ago, I told some of my colleagues in the Indo, that I was going to “do November.”
They laughed. They didn’t believe I could. And so there was a wager.
Could have been as much as a fiver a man – and a fiver was about was about three pints back then.
I still went to the pub with them every day and had a cup of tea or a glass of water.
Fair enough, I admit occasionally counting their drinks and making little remarks like “That’s your fourth pint,” or “you told the same joke yesterday.”
When I say “occasionally” I mean all the time, to be honest.
Anyway, one day around the middle of the month, I went into the pub as usual.
The lads were there. And there was a sum of money on the counter.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s the bet,” they said.
“But, sure it’s only the middle of the month, a couple of weeks to go.”
“Look,” they said, “the bet’s off. Take the money. Have a drink. You win.”
I was delighted and ordered a pint.
“So. Why did you do that lads?” I asked smiling.
“We did it because you’re an even bigger pain in the arse sober than you are drunk.”
And I had to work with these guys.