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“Have you ever been to Ireland?”

One of the highlights of my beery way of life is that you get invited to talk about beer in places you would probably otherwise never get to. It doesn’t matter whether they’re glamorous or ordinary or something or nothing in between – you just don’t know where you might get some bits of gold.

So last weekend was the Southport Food and Drink Festival and a beer tasting and reading in front of sixty people, one of the biggest crowds I’ve performed in front of – if you can really describe reading some bits out of my book and talking a bit about beer, and drinking some, as performing. Food festival crowds are always big because people are out, their minds are open, they’ll give it a go.

The highlight of the evening was after I read a passage from Three Sheets about my trip to Galway, the story of Billy and Declan and the animal-loving Guinness drinker with no arms. “The story about the armless drinker in Galway is worth the price of the book alone,” said the Express in a review which is now proudly splashed across the back of the Three Sheets paperback, and which shows the Express can get it right every now and again.

The story of the animal lover with no arms, and the circumstances under which I heard it, is quite a long passage, and I like to think of it as the most concise possible definition of the Craic (it’s about a thousand words long), all humour and zaniness and impromptu music and bars falling silent for solo vocalists, save for the constant hiss of Guinness taps.
The Crane Bar, haunt of the animal lover with no arms

The story got a round of applause all of its own, which has never happened before. It was my finale, so I opened up the floor to questions, and the first one was from a guy near the front, seventyish, who put up his hand and asked, “Have you ever been to Ireland?”

Well, what do you say? The other 59 people in the room were in hysterics, which at least showed they’d been listening. Eventually I managed to say “Yes I have. I have witnesses,” pointing to the rest of the room.

Afterwards, realising his faux pas, he came up to explain. “I didn’t realise you’d actually written the book!” He said. “I thought you were reading someone else’s.” That’s right, I wanted to say, I’m just a bloke off the street who wandered in (after travelling half way across the country), but I found a really interesting book by this other bloke so I thought I’d just read some bits out to you.

I got invited back to Southport to do my thing at the Comedy Festival later in the year. I hope he’s there. I can see a double act in the offing.

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