Little signs of home make all the difference

In her column The Good Life, this week Gemma is back behind the bar but not in MacSeains of Cornafean in an Irish Bar in Brussels!

Thankfully I am over my homesickness. It still hits me sometimes, when I see stories of nights out I am missing, family events, or even just waving goodbye at a screen after a call. But these little bursts no longer stop me in my tracks and instead remind me that I have a lot to go home to. I have always been a great one for looking out for signs. In Limerick, on my walks into college, I used to notice the name Cavanagh on the manholes during my first months. This would make me think of Cavan and I would want to go home to my family. Daft I know, but little things like these triggered me.

Here in Brussels it was no different. On my first day in my new job, a Guinness sign outside the pub down the road intrigued me. ‘St James’ Gate, Dublin’ it read, underneath the golden harp. Literally every day I looked at it, and it was so nice to see something familiar.

After much debate, I decided to go into the pub and ask if they were looking for staff. I enjoy the craic of bar work and I haven’t come across too many Irish people out here yet. I made my way down and left in my CV and went on my way, hoping it wouldn’t be one of those cases where you never hear a peep about it again.

Sure enough, the manager emailed me to come in for an interview. I was delighted. In I went and was greeted by two people from Dublin and Tyrone.

Happy with my experience so far, I was taken on. My first shift was three hours when I was shown the run of the place.

The Belgian beers are completely lost on me (and there are several), cocktails I had never even heard of were on the menu, the shelves behind the bar are home to over 60 whiskeys and every gin has a different garnishing. I won’t lie, after that shift, I felt a little overwhelmed but everybody was extremely helpful and patient.

So that brings me to this weekend, which was spent entirely behind the bar. Friday night was shaky, metaphorically and literally. I managed to trip over a ledge, which I didn’t know was there and spill sparkling water on one of my customers. I smashed a glass, I couldn’t for the life of me remember which table was which and I had a face as thick as a plank when I was asked for anything other than Carlsberg or Guinness. You feel like a pain (which is not the case) asking questions all the time and not being able to do anything for yourself. These feelings are horrible but I know they are normal and everybody goes through it. It kills me to ask for help, but I am getting better.

Although I sit writing this thoroughly exhausted. I really enjoyed this weekend. I had coffee with a neighbour (another leaguer here in Brussels) whom I didn’t know before moving. I met new colleagues and customers from all over Ireland and the world but, most importantly, I got back behind the bar. It felt so familiar and it was such a nice feeling. As the weekend progressed, I learned more and more and found myself getting better each night.

So no, I am not among the lakes of Cavan. When I look up now from pulling my pints I see a sign for ‘The Wild Geese, Brussels'. However after meeting so many people from home at work, with my Lyons tea bags sitting on the shelf at work, the weather finally cooling down a little bit and Tayto’s galore thanks to my parents who visited last weekend, Brussels is starting to feel a little bit more like home.


One for Sorrow, Two for Joy