Last night, my friend Emma and I went to Finnegan’s. We usually play squash, but Em had toppled over snowboarding in Ski Dubai and damaged both her wrists (our friendship is anchored by mutual premature midlife crises).
Outside of The Cyclone, Finnegan’s is possibly the sleaziest pub in town: viscous fog of cigarette smoke, women of ill-repute, men of worse repute. There is always at least one beer marinated hound slumped on the bar, serenading his pint with a medley of Irish classics and weeping bitter tears for Ireland down his dishdash. Well, it IS an Irish pub. Even though most of the clientele are locals, they really get into the Irish spirit – heck, they don’t limit themselves to just the one.
On the plus side, Finnegan’s is just across Interchange 5 and boasts three underused pool tables. The peanuts are an instant boost to the immune system. And there is an entertainingly appalling band, fronted by a singer who wears trousers so tight she has a front bottom (affectionately known as ‘Camel Toe’).
Although I blend chameleon-like into Finnegan’s, my friend . . . well, Em looked a little out of place. Em is slender and delicate with flawless skin. Apologies for the clichéd description; normally I would be the first to point out that skin is never ‘flawless’ after the age of nineteen. But trust me when I say that there were times Em materialised out of a cloud of smoke and if the woman had been carrying a harp I would have opened my mind and seriously re-evaluated religion.
Although Finnegan’s was bustling, we were the only women in the place apart from Camel Toe and a waitress. Due to a miscommunication with the barman, we had a pint glass full to the top with dirham coins for the pool tables. However, there were none free. We charmed a pair of be-dishdashed men into giving up their pool table by hinting we might be prostitutes.
While Em and I played, the group of blokes mentally grasped our bottoms and chatted us up. Every time one of us took our turn, they chorused: “I think YOU’LL win,” and winked lasciviously. One of them winked so slowly, the manoeuvre took a full ten seconds from the initial eyelid twitch through full corneal coverage and back. They really were a winsome couple and we were almost disappointed when their prostitutes turned up.
Camel Toe finished flaying ‘Love Me Tender’ and came around brandishing sheets of paper and pencils.
“Pub quiz!” she chirped. I don’t know about Em, but I was desperately trying to keep my eyes fixed on her face. I’m sure Camel Toe thought I was very intense.
“It’s free,” she said over our polite rebuttals. “I’ll leave these with you just in case,” – her sudden movement as she gave me the paper seriously tested my resolve not to look at her crotch – “there are great prizes.”
I assumed that meant a garden hoe without the handle, rather than an all-expenses paid weekend for two in the Bahamas.
Two pool games and one tussle over the third prize Finnegan’s T-shirt later, Camel Toe announced: “And the winners are . . . THE BIRDS!”
Well, I hadn’t seen that coming. I mean, one of the four categories had been ‘Geography’ – not my strong point as you know. Mind you, even I know what the capital of Spain is (well now I do, although at the time Em and I had to flip a coin between Barcelona and Juventus).
“Come up here . . . THE BIRDS!”
I gave Em a push in the direction of the stage, but she hauled me up after her. I was mortified.
“What’s your name?” asked Camel Toe and stuck a mic in my gob.
“Er, Niamh,” I muttered.
“You look pretty surprised to be here. How surprised are you, on a scale of 1 to 10?”
“Er, twenty.” That was me again. Then all of a sudden it hit me: the microphone, the captive audience (albeit only half of them conscious), the snore of the crowd, the smell of the greasepaint (or it might have been Camel Toe’s deodorant).
“So, will we be seeing you back here again?” Camel Toe said, the last words trailing away as I grabbed the mike.
“DEFINITELY!” I beamed, waving at the cheering fans. “I think this place is GREAT! I LOVE it here! FINNEGAN’S ROCKS!”
Camel Toe tugged the microphone, but I had my teeth embedded in it.
“You have won-” she managed, before I got the mike back again.
“We’ll DEFINITELY be back here next Tuesday, won’t we Em?”
Emma’s reply was lost in the acoustic screech as I grimly wrestled Camel Toe for possession of the microphone.
“Get off-” she panted, but my grasping fingers had good purchase.
“You can have your microphone back now, PAHAHAHA!” I roared.
Camel Toe – with what I felt was unnecessary aggression – snatched the microphone and held it out of my reach. I swiped at it.
“Can I?” I pointed, but she shook her head firmly.
We won a bottle of Smirnoff’s vodka and a hair set, blow dry, manicure and pedicure at Juan’s Salon. When we checked our quiz form, it appeared Camel Toe had erased some of our answers and pencilled in the correct ones. Turns out the capital of Spain is Madrid – who’d have known? Hey, she only amended four of our answers – we conclusively outplayed the Arab clientele in the Popular Music section.
At the end of the evening, going through the hotel lobby:
Em pointed. It was Juan’s Salon! A faded poster with curling corners featured pouting models with bubble perms and shoulder pads.
Shame our winning voucher was only valid for two days