We talked about ourselves; how we'd each arrived in this particular part of Spain and where we'd come from. I have only been to Ireland once but in telling her about my trip there, memories came flooding back about that particular crazy week - and I have to write it down to record it for posterity.
Some names and particulars have been changed to protect the innocent. (Or if not for that reason, to avoid charges of fraud!) Otherwise, this story is true.
In a year around the mid-1990s (nice and vague) I found myself single - nay, footloose and fancy-free - and by the summer of unsaid year, had enrolled on a writing course in Scotland, where I met someone who was a freelance journalist. The writing course was very enjoyable and a jolly good time was had by nearly all who went on it. We had fantastic weather but rather a lot of midges, as I recall. But that's all another story.
The journalist and I got on rather well - so much so that not long afterwards, he invited me to join him on a holiday in Ireland. But there was a catch. He was going there to report on the Mullingar Bachelor Competition - an international annual competition for descendants of Irish families from all over the world with the proviso the competitors were male and single (hence: Bachelor...) - and had promised the competition organisers that he could get an important person from a British Sunday Newspaper to be one of the judges. The catch was that I had to be that important person - well, pretend to be - in order to spend the week with him at the expense of the Competition Organisers...
...as I write, I feel the guilt I have been carrying all these years beginning to well up and I'm not absolutely sure I can carry on... but then it is rather a good little story so ...
I agreed. I was supposed to be a professional photographer, employed by The (unmentioned) Sunday Newspaper but on arriving at Dublin airport, realised I'd forgotten my camera. Which was probably a good thing as it would have fooled no one. Better no camera than the one I had at the time. If you're pretending to be a photographer that is.
I had a great time for much of the week with the two other judges (who didn't appear to have high credentials either as far as I could tell) interviewing and watching grown men (from places as far away as New York, Johannesburg, Edinburgh and London as well as plenty from Ireland) doing various tasks, including cooking, meeting children and riding horses for which they received marks. The culmination of the competition was on the Friday night where all were required to do a 'turn' on stage to demonstrate their singing, dancing and performing 'skills'. The audience participated in the judging on this occasion, which was rather helpful as for some reason, I'd accepted one too many alcoholic beverages from my generous hosts and after a short while, each rather awful turn seemed to merge into another. I vaguely remember my favourite bachelor - from Johannesburg - prancing around the stage with a feather boa and singing "Falling in Love Again" in a very poor impression of Marlene Dietrich. It's not an edifying memory, poor lad, and neither the other judges nor the audience were much impressed. He rode a horse well though.
In the end, things got a little chaotic.
One of the bachelors - from New York - won the audience vote. He performed a raunchy number - I forget what - but it was definitely raunchy and rather too raunchy for one of the other judges. She was extremely offended by his stage performance and she would not shift from her decision that HE WOULD NOT WIN - despite the fact that on paper, he had the most votes overall. At this point, it got messy.
As judges, we should have been ready with the results as soon as the competition was over. But the jury was out. The judges would not pronounce who the victor was. The judges didn't agree. The judges were arguing. At least one of the judges felt she had principles; the other felt that fairness was the most important. I'm not sure what the third judge thought - (perhaps we two were so principled and fair-minded that he didn't get chance to say) - I don't remember too well.
After a while - with the world waiting agog, my friend tried to find out what was happening - remember, he was a journalist and they like to know the whole story. And so I talked to the press. I told the press that the other judge wanted to award the prize to someone who should not get it. I said I didn't like it. We considered the headline:
'Judges fix winner in International Bachelor Competition'
It could have been rather a good story. However, we then stopped and considered a possible alternative headline:
'Judge Imposter in International Bachelor Competition'
SO, I admit I went along with the other judge(s). In the end, the Scot won. It was obviously his rendition of "Donald, Where's Yer Troosers" that did it. For the gist of the song, spend a very brief moment with the YouTube link below - not too long - promise you won't listen to all of it.
And that is my little treasured Irish memory.
Good craic? You tell me!