Duff ‘n’ Puffin – A Faroese Diary

Right, now back safely from the unique Irish World Cup football experience that is the Faroe Islands away fixture – and fully recovered. A bleak spot – but a great place if you love tranquility, wet weather and/or bird-watching. I’ve been asked what was it like – apparently some of you haven’t been yet, so here goes.

Amongst the fog, mist and drizzle – the briefest glimpse of guillemots, artic terns, kittiwakes and puffins that we all experienced, made the whole trip a truly forgettable experience. However, there was just the briefest opportunity – for some of the younger and fitter lads prepared to tackle some formidable physical obstacles and take the concept of bird-watching to it’s ultimate lengths – to appreciate a few rare shags.

Although the majority of shags, unlike many cormorants, do not normally wander far in winter from their breeding haunts, in (what passes as) the summer a small number make prolonged stays in sheltered costal areas – and are, by nature, very inquisitive. Due to limited contact to (Irish) man, they can occasionally be too trusting and naive – and subsequently suffer the consequences of such exposure. More of that later.

About 30 of us from the London Supporters Club arrived on the Sunday for the Wednesday fixture, a foolish decision in a country where the biggest village, Torshavn (meaning Thor’s Harbour, it’s proud boast “the smallest Capital in the World”) has 4 pubs – and two of them were sh**e.

Six of us (me, Jack, Paddy, Finbar, Eugene & Sean) were staying in a B&B about 0.614 of a mile (OK, a kilometre) above the town. I don’t know why I said that, everywhere was above the town, it’s a fairly hilly place. After dropping our bags, a sluish under the arms, a few swigs of the duty free and we were ready for anything. Strolling down to the centre(!) we met one of the locals, walking up the hill, with his tracksuit and his puffin’. (I mean he was smoking a cigarette)

He promptly said; “Hallo, ma nime is Nemus – I am a FIFA rufferree – I own a pravite drinkin’ cluub uup the hull – due you want to joan me for a drunk in ma pravite drinkin’ cluub?” (It’s difficult to convey the Faroese accent in print – so I’ll now stop). It sounded a load of old bollix – but it turned out to be true. He WAS an international referee – and he DID own a private drinking club! They’ve only had legal drinking in the Faroes since 1992 (but their certainly trying to make up for it) – before that it was all sheebeens and dodgy private members dens like this one, called MiMir.We went in to an unmarked residential house – and upstairs there was 20 punters swilling pints (at £3 each) in what was – for all appearances – a regular pub. They were good as gold to us – free pints, free shooters with unusual names “my Irish friend, you must have another “trawlerman” – I insist” – and even got – what we all agreed was the best* fish and chips we’d ever tasted – delivered to the club, in a taxi. *well, we were starving.Monday was a trip on a cargo boat to another island you could see across the bay – Nylsoy – population 270. (I don’t know why I mentioned it’s name – I never knew the name of the one we were staying on – but I did hear it referred to by someone as Craggy Island). One pub on Nylsoy – which was closed. Met the local Danish teacher, Terry and he very decently phoned the old biddy who ran the pub – and got it opened up for us. A grim spot.

Garvan Hickey

Paddy Allen & Sean Keenaghan

Monday night was a good few pints – the time being equally split between Manhattan, Cafe Natur and MiMir. A good time was had by all. Beer’s £4.50 in the big city. The locals are all really great and very welcoming. Big strapping, bearded blondes in Wellington boots and smelling of fish – the blokes were slightly taller. They all speak good English (as did some of us) and made us very welcome. They do love their gargle – and everyone got suitably twisted. Tried to walk home – in bright sunshine – at 1am but couldn’t make it. Flagged down a car for directions – and they insisted on driving us home – which was a great gesture. (The fact Jack was already sitting in the back of the car and nodding off when they made this decision, probably contributed to it).

Tuesday – mooched about the town, various walking tours, fishing trips, boat rides on offer – I’ve no time to go in to all that – I’ll only make you jealous. Had Puffin for lunch, what’s it taste like? – the standard answer is that it’s like Albatross – but not as fishy. They had Pilot Whale on the menu as well – but you can’t have everything. Spend the evening (and most of the afternoon) in one or other of the two pubs – more strong drink, some great old singsongs, ending up in the night club the opened especially for us. Met the couple who drove us home the previous night – and they did genuinely seem to be OK about it. However, we couldn’t find them at the end of the night so we had to pick someone else.

Matchday – and it was foggy, misty and pissistent rain. Up until then it had all been pretty OK – a bit breezy, a little drizzle now and again but literally 24 hour daylight – but this weather now closed the airport all day. Unfortunately 500 Irish fans on charter flights were either stuck in Dublin Airport or diverted to Norway. I’m not sure where they would have all gone if they’d turned up – it’s a real shame. However, it DID mean it was easier for us to get to the bar – so it wasn’t a complete disaster. Met some locals who’d travelled 2 hours on ferries from other islands to go to the match – that’s dedication for you. So, the 300+ rugged Paddies that had actually made it to the islands, trudged up another mountain towards the open plan, windswept hill-top stadium (it makes Brighton’s Withdean look like the Bernabau).

The game is probably best described by someone who saw it on TV – I spent most of the match standing sideways – in line with the raindrops. A satisfactory, workmanlike (I never know what that REALLY means) performance – as good a job as anyone’s done over there. (except Scotland).

Back in to the village – the usual pub crawl to say goodbye to all our new found friends – ending up in the nightclub – as did the Irish team. They were supposed to be flying out at midnight after the game but as they were delayed they seemed to take the opportunity to have their impromptu end-of-season party. All great guys – chatting to everyone, posing for photos – even shaking hands with Paddy and Sean with their shirts off (P&S’s shirts that is). Another 4am finish and this time actually had to walk home. Bummer.

A four hour delay on our return trip on the Thursday made the hole weak. It was a great trip – would I do it again? Yes, but a little shorter next time. Eugene got some fantastic photographs on the www.awaythelads.com website which will give you some flavour of the trip – check it out.

Photographs supplied courtesy of away with the lads dot com

Garvan Hickey

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