Good Friday At The Dogs

It’s Good Friday today and yet again all the pubs in Ireland will be closed until just before lunchtime tomorrow. It’s been like this all my life, though I have drank porter in Irish pubs on this day in the past. Two years ago, I did so legally and I’m going to be supping legal pints in a licensed premises this evening as well. Alcohol will actually be available today on trains and at train station bars, but only for people who produce a valid train ticket as proof of travel that day. I’ve no idea why commuters are given this privilege, as travelling by train is the safest form of journey you could take. However, there’s another option available for connoisseurs of drink in four Irish cities today. For some reason, greyhound racing is also exempt from Good Friday restrictions, presumably because it makes the sport more interesting. The four lucky venues are Galway Greyhound Stadium, Limerick Greyhound Stadium, Curraheen Park, Cork, and Harold’s Cross, Dublin. For just under €40, you get a four-course meal, admission & a race programme. You also get a drinks service and someone to take your bets. I was there a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed it, though only two of my dogs won. Hopefully, Jesus can bring me better luck today

There are quite a few songs about horse racing, but you could count the number of songs about dog racing on one paw. Nevertheless, I found a few that have some connection to the sport, beginning with a tribute to a former stadium from a celebrated London-Irish band. White City was the second single to be released from The Pogues‘ Peace & Love album from 1989. The song is a poetic and nostalgic look at the White City Stadium in west London following its demolition in 1985. It had been opened in 1908 in time for that year’s Olympic games. It also hosted a match at the 1966 World Cup, but was primarily known as a greyhound stadium. In his tribute, Shane MacGowan watches a car park being built on the demolition site and looks at the rubble and ticket stubs left over from the thousands of punters that had bet on the dogs over the years. He thinks back to the pubs that are also gone and remembers that “the hare upon the wire has been burnt upon your pyre/Like the black dog that once raced out from trap two”. Half Man Half Biscuit name a song from their 1997 Voyage to the Bottom of the Road album after what sounds like a track announcement. HMHB are from Merseyside and Monmore is over a 100km away in Wolverhampton. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, which is the same reaction I have to the song

The three members of The Joy Formidable didn’t grow up too far away from Merseyside. The trio hail from North Wales and are now based in London. Greyhounds in the Slips was given away on the band’s website in 2009 and the title is a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V. In The Bard’s time, greyhounds were used for hunting and the slips were slip collars that could be let go in a second, allowing the dog to race toward its prey. So, the saying refers to someone who is eager to depart and that’s the meaning implied in the song. Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy grew up the son of a Church of Ireland bishop in Derry, Northern Ireland. Dog racing took place at the Brandywell, though I’m sure Hannon would have been more into cricket and the sport of kings. The Dogs & the Horses is from 1996’s breakthrough Casanova album and is most likely not about sport

Jarvis Cocker‘s Everybody Loves the Underdog is taken from the soundtrack of a 2001 film about football (Mike Bassett: England Manager), but its lyric seems to be more relevant to the dogs than the beautiful game. Jarvis is from Sheffield and I’m sure he would’ve mingled with the other common people at his local track. I also love the underdog except, of course, when money’s involved. Finally, for the day that’s in it is a tune called Jesus On a Greyhound by Kentucky songwriter Mark Fosson. Of course, this title track from Fosson’s 2007 has nothing to do with Jesus being a jockey. It refers to the Greyhound bus company and an encounter between the narrator and a fellow traveller who looks like the son of God. Happy Easter and be sure to drink responsibly on Good Friday

White City – The Pogues

Monmore, Hare’s Running – Half Man Half Biscuit

Greyhounds in the Slips – The Joy Formidable

The Dogs & the Horses – The Divine Comedy

Everybody Loves the Underdog – Jarvis Cocker

Jesus On a Greyhound – Mark Fossum