McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy

Other than a few cracked ribs, I came out on the other end of this book with one anecdote about traveling: sometimes, it’s good just to get creatively lost. A sense of purpose occasionally has its place when travelling, but for the most part, it’s seriously overrated.

McCarthy chronicles his journey through his native Ireland, where he spent a bit of his early life, and his early education from the Christian Brothers who used “the carrot and stick method of education, but without the carrot.

He flies to Cork, then hires a car to drive around, “a bog-standard repmobile with up-to-the-minute-features” and a radio he can’t work. Sometime later in the journey he gets a tyre burst, which he struggles to change because he hasn’t changed a wheel for about 15 years.

As he enjoys the simple manly pleasure of changing the wheel, he doesn’t notice the cows that have come closer to watch, with their “misty, mad, glued-up eyes and their vile dribly lips, oozing mucus.” He is unsettled as they watch him work and his concentration is all shot. Apparently, there are around 12 cow-related deaths every year.

This was one heck of a book, a kind of a self-titled travel book really. I fell out of my seat laughing while reading some of the passages and descriptions even though I’d never been to Ireland where the shops are named after saints, St. Peter, St. Mark, presumably to “Indicate divine endorsement.”

Born to an English father (of Irish descent) and an Irish mother, McCarthy explores Ireland through a hilarious travel story, and his failed attempt at reconnecting with his roots (and his relatives).

He shares the “rules of travel” all throughout the book, beginning with rule no. 8: Never Pass A Bar That Has Your Name On It.

Other rules include no. 7: Never Eat in a Restaurant with Laminated Menus, and no. 17: Never Try and Score Dope from Hassidic Jews While Under the Impression They’re Rastafarians.


Five stars from me!



I felt a wave of fresh grief when I learnt that Pete McCarthy died in 2004. I only learnt this as I tried to look for more of his books online. May his soul rest in peace.

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