Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dromoland Castle Encounters

I spent the weekend at Dromoland Castle attending my nephew's wedding. Notwithstanding the fact that it will be forever tainted with the slime of George Bush (a brief resident last year), it is the best Irish hotel I have stayed in. The grounds are extensive and varied, the food is first class (especially the breakfasts), the decor is the usual castle chic (nooks and open fires, narrow corridors, bewildering signs inviting you to get lost), the rooms are well appointed, the facilities are first rate (swimming-pool, golf, tennis, terrorise the pheasants etc.) but, while all of these things matter, what most impressed me was the sustained excellence of the service from the moment we approached the hotel. It managed to be both friendly and efficient - without a hint of that unctuousness that you often find in five-star hotels. The staff were allowed to let their personalities show and even engage in some mild badinage.

The wedding was all very well. I was however deeply alarmed to find myself sitting next to this genteel old lady who turned out to be BK - a fondly remembered object of my adolescent lust. More than forty years ago she was a Junoesque figure around Collins Tennis Club. She was an excellent player with a particularly strong forehand. She was however disadvantaged by being the possessor of a prodigously large bosom which rendered her less mobile than was ideal. Also, she favoured extremely short dresses. This gave her adolescent admirers (lined behind the court) frequent glimpses of her generous rump, barely covered by her struggling knickers. Forty years on there were few hints of these wonders. Egypt and Greece goodbye and goodbye Rome.

The breakfast room on Sunday morning contained a few interesting faces. The disgraced Judge Curtin was there bold as brass. He was with an oppressed-looking middle-aged woman. They exchanged not a word as he ate like a man devoted to his appetites. Also there, in splendid isolation, was Tom McGurk - RTE jack of all trades. I assume he had been covering the Munster/Castres match in Limerick. Were RTE paying we ask?