A quiz with Graham Norton or boating with porpoises

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The evening became most exciting whenever one of the questions took on a religious theme as this provided our famous neighbour, the host of the Pub Quiz, with an opportunity to pit the wits of the two members of the clergy who were sat with their teams to the front – Protestant one side, Catholic the other. They were each required to put up their hand if they knew the answer to the question be it the name of the shortest of the four gospels or the number of chapters to be found in the New Testament.

The evening took on such a consistency that looking back the following day it was difficult to recall who had won.

It is no great secret that the famous neighbour is Graham Norton and this was the third year running he has hosted the Ahakista Pub Quiz and the second time we have attended. Calling it a pub quiz does not quite do the occasion justice. There were more than three hundred contestants squeezed round small tables in a large marquee on the flat land to the back of Arundel’s Pub. Each table was tastefully decorated with a pineapple and a note with suggested uses.

Facilities had been laid on including posh loos from Cork although walking past it was difficult to explain the picture of David Niven on the wall in the ladies. I never made it to the gents and am still trying to guess what pictures they had on the wall in there.

Our host was resplendent in a sky blue jacket and a mysteriously bandaged finger. The colour of the jacket was the nearest thing to blue sky that we have had over the weekend. There was a steady queue of eager contestants to have their photo taken with him and as someone said the following day – he never had a smile off his face.

The quiz started at about 8.30 and went on for about three hours. We were disadvantaged from the start in being over twenty and coming from Birkenhead, although it was reassuring when our host confessed that even he could not remember the name of the winner of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Needless to say we did not win the competition – we did not even come in the top three but then we also failed to make into the bottom three. We were just somewhere in the middle.

We celebrated by losing our pineapple in The Tin Pub.

The following day was a grey limpid day with the sun trying to find its way out from behind a thin veil of cloud. We took out the boat late in the afternoon to go fishing for mackerel more in hope than any great expectation.

We spent a fruitless 45 minutes drifting off the point near Owen Island and did not even manage to get a snagged line. This was despite the bright new feathers I had rigged that morning. The only excitement was a visit from a seal and the brief glimpse of a fin through the water a few hundred yards away.

There was little wind and I had heard that mackerel had been caught off Carberry Island so we decided to motor out there to see if we could get some better luck the other side of the bay.

Halfway across we saw another fin break the surface of the water a few hundred yards in front of the boat. It broke again as we got closer and then the whole animal hauled itself out of the water and suddenly we were slowly motoring through a school of about twenty porpoises (or maybe they were dolphins – there was some debate over the issue). They were a dark blue black on top with pale underbellies and a clearly defined snout. We slowed to a dead crawl and could see them barrelling under the boat and then breaking through the water in front of us. One of them smacked its snout in the water just next to the boat as if it was telling us to move away. And then as suddenly as we had found ourselves amongst them they were gone and we were back by ourselves in the middle of the bay with a weak sun trying to break through the thin veil of grey cloud above us.

Ten minutes later we were amongst them again and they stayed with the boat for three or for minutes before moving up down the bay.

We stopped the boat there for a while and tried fishing again but still with no luck.

As a final throw at it we motored back to Owen Island and threw in the lines for the final time that afternoon. The sea was calm now with there being almost no wind. Almost immediately all calm was shattered as mackerel were caught on two lines and the third line tangled around the second and having caught just the four fish over the previous week we suddenly had six good sized ones in the green bucket. The lines went in again and after fifteen minutes we had another dozen mackerel.

We took them back to shore and I gutted them down on the slipway. We gave some of them away and we ate four of them that evening.

I cooked them in a hot oven with a splash of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. They weren’t too big and the small fillets pulled away easily from the bones. They were very good and I was left to thinking what had been more exciting the three hours of the quiz night with Graham Norton or the five minutes or so spent in the company of school of porpoises (or dolphins) out in the bay. I suppose there is no real answer to that except to say Ahakista is probably the only place in the world you might experience both things in the space of twenty four hours.

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