There are three pubs in Inistioge which, as it happens, is just one more than the number of churches. On the face of it, it seems that there must be a pretty virtuous community there. After all in your average Irish town the pubs outnumber the churches by about a million to one.

If you sink a Guinness in 20 minutes you can, in theory, complete a pub crawl of the village in an hour. But that´s not likely to happen. Even if you set out to meet this particular challenge the chances are that you will be waylaid in the pub where you start out. The locals are sociable and curious and they are excellent company. It is more than likely that you will be sharing something of your life story or get dragged into politics, or sport, or brexit or whatever.

Inistioge was unknown to me until a few months ago and so, if it is still unknown to you, let me say that it is a little village in County Kilkenny. It sits on the bank of the River Nore which runs through medieval city of Kilkenny some distance upstream. We spent a week there in a rented cottage and got the feel of the village very quickly. Travelling from New Ross you cross the river over a very fine ten arch bridge built back in 1763. The villagers are very proud of Inistioge. Last year the village won some award or other that means it is the tidiest, nicest village in Europe and very possibly in the whole world.

So what of the three pubs? They are called The Otter, The Woodstock Arms and O´Donnell´s. I must confess that The Otter is the one I know least. I would walk by the pub on my way to and from the river and invariably be asked by whoever was smoking outside whether I had been successful. Interestingly, a real life otter seems to be a well known local celebrity. A lady we met in O´Donnell´s who hails from Zimbabwe but now lives in the village, told Pippa and me that the otter is pretty huge, certainly a lot bigger than her dog, and that when she came across it unexpectedly it had scared her shitless! Somebody else pointed out the otter had a proclivity for crawling out of the river and snacking on takeaways. Apparently the last time he saw it it had its head in a kebab box!

I would have to say that O´Donnell´s is my favourite of the three pubs. During our briefing by the lady who rented out the cottage we were told that, unlike The Otter and The Woodstock Arms, this was the only pub that did not do food. It was more of “a drinker´s pub.” More importantly O´Donnell´s is where fishing licences are sold and so I found myself there within approximately 5 nanoseconds of discovering this.

The barman there is Johnny O´Donnell. He welcomed me with a handshake and asked me for my name. When he duly delivered my pint of Guinness I saw that name was written in the foam head. In the interest of anthropological research I wanted to know if he could pull off this particular trick on a consistent basis and was therefore duty bound to order a large number of pints during the course of the week in order to examine each for consistency of lettering size and style. My daughter Pippa joined me on several occasions and was similarly honoured when her own pints of the black stuff arrived with her name printed in the foam. For the record, having examined a significant sample of his craftsmanship, I can attest to high standard of liquid calligraphy of Mr Johnny O´Donnell.

In O´Donnell´s we met several village “natives” and several blow-ins like the lady from Zimbabwe and another woman called Sinead who settled in the village with her husband and two daughters after 15 years living in Paris. She is an artist and her American-born husband is a carpenter who made a cedar canoe and wants to become a fly fisherman. I didn´t have a chance to do anything beyond shaking hands with him but he sounds like a very fine human being. Maybe one day if I get back to Inistioge we will meet up properly and wet a line, or paddle around in his canoe, or simply prop up the bar at O´Donnell´s and admire the way Johnny has etched our names in the creamy heads of our pints.