When you get to a certain vintage only a select number of years in your life jump out in technicolor. For most of us that last year of school is one that is permanently scorched in our brains. A long, slow march to the inevitable examination of our Leaving Cert subjects.
In our school there was a ritual of marking this march with an immortal mathematical equation.
Eternal VAK = X + Y
Where X was the number of Weeks left and Y was the number of days remaining until eventually and excruciatingly slowly we reached the perfect equation of
Eternal VAK = 0 + 0
Everywhere in our school you would see the DaVinci symbols of Eternal VAK etched somewhere. An ancient, Eternal VAK = 2 + 6, on a Desk, toilet door, football goalpost or even the Chapel knee rests. As the utopian day approached you became less and less sure what year’s Leaving Certs had marked the symbols. A secret handshake from one set of students to the next perhaps.
Of course, the secret message within the code was that Eternal VAK marked not the start of an Eternal Vacation but rather the end. The real business of life was just beginning.
The next year that is permanently marked in my mind is the Year 2000. At that stage of living I was a couple of years into my working life, and in fairness it was as close to a vacation year as I can remember. Work was good but not hugely taxing and I spent most of the year single so perhaps that’s another reason why I remember it so well. Copper Face Jacks might well have been the reason I found myself single but sure we’ll put back on the rose tinted glasses for the purposes of this tale.
One of the threads of Dublin single life weaving its way through time, from then to now has been Copper Face Jacks. I picked up the Irish Times today only to find that the venerable institution of Coppers is up for sale. For some reason this saddened me a little.
I was a Coppers Junkie in 2000. Thursday Evening work drinks? Coppers. Champions League Match in Myo’s? Coppers. A holiday in Gran Canaria? Sure is it even a proper holiday if you didn’t get a taxi from Coppers direct to the runway?
And that’s just the week days.
That Spring was all about the expanded Six Nations tournament and introducing our Welsh and Scottish brethren to the wonder of Ireland’s finest Discoteque. This was a mere aperitif though, because the summer was all about the delights of Croke Park and Copper Face Jacks. Like Jack Daniels and Coke an irresistible combination. Galway got to the Football final that year. A replayed final to boot. Maroon jerseys and porter stained Levis were all the rage that summer in my social circle.
Lest today’s generation of Dubliners forget – back in the day – Coppers was a guilty pleasure to the genteel folk of the city, south of the Liffey especially. Irish Times readers living in Rathgar wouldn’t keenly admit to being frequent frequenters in the cold light of day. But rest assured many were.
I was reading today that Coppers has an asking price of 40 million yoyos. I thought to myself, If it has, the price is built on the solid foundations of a generation and a half of country folk. A modern day gift of rural Ireland to the capital city. Heaven forbid the GAA ever sell Croke Park, the government of the day might well need to give country people an additional tax credit to visit the city.
Out of all that year 2000 hedonism one of my favorite night’s came out of the blue. Denis Irwin’s testimonial dinner in the Burlington – if memory serves me. There were a group of us from college and school dotted around the city working. One of the guys worked for a company that had bought a table for the dinner. Now normally, filling a table to see a legend of Irish soccer would not be problem then or now.
However it was on a Monday night. At 11am on the morning of the testimonial dinner the call went round that there was a table full of free food and champagne going a begging. By the end of lunch 5 of us had Tuxedos rented from some outlet on Baggot Street.
The Dinner itself was a rather staid affair, Paddy Kielty was the MC. He did his best but sure when you ask Jack Charlton to describe Denis Irwin and he says ‘ Sure he was a boring old shite’ – you know your gonna be earning your corn for the evening.
After a few hours of this craic and once all the free wine and champers had evaporated we slipped off to Coppers at about 11:30 pm. Monday Nights are the reason Coppers has a 40 million euro price tag. It is one of the only 7 night a week – guaranteed crowd – joints in the city. True then and apparently true now.
We were regular faces in Coppers and I seem to recollect the bouncers thinking we were pulling the piss out of them in our testimonial dinner, evening attire.
If we were feeling guilty about leaving Mr Irwin’s shindig a bit early our minds were put at ease when on arrival we found that half the Manchester United squad were in-situ ahead of us. By midnight the place was on fire.
Back then, the bar upstairs was long and the service quick so we deposited ourselves at one corner. We could see the Manchester United crowd and assorted Irish professionals down the other end.
We got it into our heads to add Teddy Sheringham into our round. So we kept lashing pints down to him at the other end of the bar. He kept looking up cluelessly at us but probably was used to this type of dimwitry. Eventually though he honoured us by coming over to bum a cigerette and stayed just long enough to smoke it.
” What’s it like to score in a Champions League Final Teddy”
His eyes drifted from us and up along the now crowded bar, smiled the smile of the knowing, before turning and walking back to a gaggle of Monday night princesses.
A perfect answer to a perfect night.