All posts in December 2016

Fergus’s Tractor and the Christmas Geese

Come to Glasgow’s Celtic Connection Festival on Jan 20th – first time I’ve played there in years.

http://www.celticconnections.com/events/Pages/event.aspx?ev=d19ab5be-59e5-4789-90f7-a6a601314b39

Seamus Ennis Centre Naul, Fingle Co Dublin Sat Dec 4th last Gig this tour.

 

Fergus’s Tractor and the Christmas Geese.

It was Christmas 1988, I had flown from New York to London to do a photo session and talk over promo plans for my up and coming album “The Sky and The Ground” I stayed with Clare at her London flat in Holborn. We were now a couple and planned on our first Christmas together. Once the tasks were all wrapped up, the presents purchased and dispatched and the cards in the mail, we loaded up the Renault 5 with everything we could possibly fit in her, including a portable TV and more than ample food supplies. We knew that we would be staying in my family home on the Wexford Quay, an unoccupied three story house with all the furnishing and curtains intact, almost as if my parents still lived there, a ghost house I suppose, but with remnants still of Molly and Jem’s warmth and all the songs, laughter and love that had permeated it’s walls. There would be scant luxury, it had electricity and that was it, it would be a bit like camping. But we’d be fine, we were young lovers and the idea of basing ourselves in the large 2nd floor sitting room with windows looking out over the bay and a blazing fire in the hearth seemed both romantic and bohemian. So off we set for Fishguard Wales where we would board the ferry for Rosslare Harbour just eleven miles outside my home town of Wexford.

 

It takes about five hours to get to Fishguard and another four on the ferry, even though the latter is only a distance of thirty miles. So altogether it takes close to ten hours. Clare of course organized everything down to the tiniest detail, including bunks on the ferry and a meal in the restaurant, luxuries I had never bothered with before.

 

When we landed in Rosslare it was dark and the harbour appeared all the more Christmassy because of it. The multi layered Ferry glowed like a Christmas tree as we drove out of her belly into the bustle of home going travellers. We would drive out on to the main road past the multiple warning signs in German and English “WARNING –ACHTUNG- KEEP TO THE LEFT SIDE!!” It had been too common for Europeans to come out of there exhausted from the journey and drive on the wrong side of the road into an oncoming car in the two way traffic; being extra mislead by their left side steering wheels. Just a couple of miles beyond the harbour the road turns back towards the mainland, bypassing the once popular beach Village of Rosslare. Being in a festive mood and excited by Clare’s first visit to Wexford, I suggested that we deviate our plans for a moment and take the slip road into Rosslare Village.  It’s a place filled with very fond memories for me, a place that I looked forward to as a child all year long, when (provided my Parents could afford the splurge) we would rent a hut in Boyles field for the month of August. I guided Clare up over the hump back railway bridge down past the white washed Edwardian Summer homes, and up along the main street lined with Palm Trees, past a couple of elite hotels with rear access to the beach, that café on the corner where I would suck on a Brazil Orange and daydream to the Village’s only jukebox, usually preferring the B sides “Got a feeling” by the Mamas and Papas “See that Girl” by the Righteous Brothers; I wasn’t aware, at the time, that the Café was owned by Larry Kirwan’s no-nonsense Aunt.

It was dark now and everything was closed but for the Hotels and the Bars. I directed Clare up past the Golf course where we used to hunt for stray balls in the tall grass, golfers were glad to buy them back at sixpence each. And then, just when it seemed like the road was coming to a narrow end, I asked her to keep going around the curve to the right where the water softly ebbed up to the stony edge. I got out and swung open the farmers iron gate so that we could go a little deeper on into the pot holed gravel, I wanted to get us in a position where we could face the car towards the sound and view the lights of Wexford Town across the Bay. In the pitch black with the car engine turned off, the whole scene was reminiscent of a romantic movie; I was Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember bringing Clare to my secret cove on the beach. We had a little puff of the funny stuff to amplify our experience and put Pink Floyd on the stereo. Clare is from Brighton in England, a much bigger Town to mine, but nonetheless, a seaside Town, with many similarities, we pleasured in exploring our history while gazing at the dancing lights in the distance. After about half an hour I looked at my watch and thought of my family, “They might start wondering about us, maybe we better head in”

Clare turned on the engine, and began to back away from the water, we were not moving, she put her foot further down. We moved even less. Realising what was happening I asked her to stop and jumped out to take a look. The tide had come in a bit and even though our back wheels were on solid dry ground we were not gaining traction. It was then that I realized that Clare’s Renault was front wheel drive. I looked at the front and could see in the scant moonlight that we had been only been digging ourselves into a wet hole in the soft sand. I threw my jacket under one of the wheels in desperation, that tide was coming in! All it did was spit the jacket out. Our situation was quickly progressing from a curious problem to a possible catastrophe of major proportions; we could loose the fucking car! There were no phone booths around, we were a long walk from the nearest hotel, looking around in the pitch dark there was nothing except silent sand dunes and black clouds overhead; no mans land to Clare, but this was my country, I had been in Ireland’s butt fuck nowhere, before.

“let’s walk back a bit, I think I saw a little light deep in behind the bushes as we were driving in here”

 

Sure enough, with our eyes now adjusting to the dark, a small yellow light was visible over and above the dense bush. A little inroad became apparent, an entrance into some kind of yard. We followed it in, and before us an old white washed outhouse paralleled the road creating the familiar shape of what I knew to expect in traditional farmyards. Over to the right standing alone where it had been built in far more recent times was a small two-story house. The Woman of the house pulled the door open without hesitation.

“Really sorry to bother you” It was beginning to spit rain now and the wind was whipping up a bit too, I held the collar of my coat up around my eyes, Clare of course was not the overcoat type, she had on a nice little two piece jacket and skirt, she looked perished.

“We were down on the beach admiring the Town whe…” “FERGUS!!!”

 

“Yes Mammy” Came a male voice in prompt response.

 

“Get the tractor will ye? dere’s a nudder wan stuck in de sand!! “

We could hear someone rummaging around for something in the distance.

 

“C’mon in shur, Fergus’ll be here in a minute”

 

“Mammy do ye know where the Battery is?” Fergus, a twenty something fine big strapping chap comes rushing out from the back of the tiny house, with wellington boots up to his waistline, raincoat, and peak cap.

 

“It’s in the tractor already, shur I used it earlier when I was haulin up the straw”

 

An old man sat in a low chair by an open hearth fire, he looked bemused as he pulled away on his white clay pipe. We offered our names and I explained that Clare was English, but that I was a native of Wexford man. She suggested that Clare sit down by the fire while I go off with Fergus to find the car.

 

Outside, Fergus switched on an industrial strength lamp, it cut a bright beam through the blackness and revealed a mud covered red tractor with those typical massive wheels and an iron drivers seat with holes to let the weather through.

 

“Kin you hop on the tow bar dare, and hould de light out so I kin see what’s in front of me?”

 

I looked at where he wanted me to stand, and wasn’t sure it was possible. It was one of them metal yokes that stick out the back of a tractors with a knob on it for hauling trailers, or eejits like us that were stuck in the sand.

 

“Just hang on to me shoulders, and hould the lamp out”

 

I did the arithmetic in my head, one hand to hould on to his shoulder and one to hould the lamp, seemed to me like one hand too few houlding on to his shoulder! But up I got on the slippery bar, and before I could think about it, Fergus had the engine running and we were out the lane and bouncing along the beach towards our sinking car. Desperation is great leveler, I found the perseverance to stick myself to the round bar, a nearly impossible feat, and I was practically having a romance with Fergus with my left arm now wrapped ‘round his neck. It was hard to believe that just twenty minutes ago we had been sitting in our London car listening to Pink Floyd through a super hi fi stereo cooing at the view. Now here I was with the wind and rain blowing through my hair hanging on the back of a Tractor like a chariot, one arm around a strange man and providing his headlights by holding a very heavy lamp up above his head!

Fergus was well used to the routine, in no time he had the rope in under the car where it was secure, and that tractor effortlessly hauled the Renault 5 back to solid ground. I drove behind him back to the house, where Clare was now drinking tea by the fire looking absolutely puzzled by the old mans accent. I thanked them heartily and grabbed a couple of bottles of wine from the boot of the car, they seemed a bit confused about that, and I did wonder would they have preferred money, but was afraid they would be offended.

 

“Really sorry for interrupting your evening, thank you so much, you saved our lives”

 

“Ah shur you’re not the first couple dat got stuck down dare in de dark, people do be up to all kinds of tings down dare”

 

She seemed to be suggesting that we were there for a bit of rumpy pumpy?

 

We pulled out of the farmyard and up on to the main road laughing at our ordeal. We drove down past the hotels and the café and up on to the hump back railway bridge, we were at it’s precipice when Clare announced with a slap to her forehead.

 

“Shit, we have to go back, I just realized, I left my hand bag in the bloody chair”

 

“Are you fucking joking me?”

 

The laughter subsided as we did a U-ee and headed back past the Café, the Hotels and on to the old dirt road facing towards the once lovely view of Wexford town. Clare sat in the car as I fumbled my way in the dark towards the distant light. I sensed a strange presence, an odd animal sound was coming towards me, my inability to see it increased my alarm. I quickened my pace towards the house, disregarding my unsure footing, Honk!! Honk, honk, went the sound that drew me to look left. Coming in my direction with their necks stretched towards me in extreme enthusiasm was a gaggle of angry Geese, I increased my speed dramatically and ran at full pelt for the plain wooden door of the farmhouse. Fortunately Fergus’s Mother was expecting me and opened the door before I touched it. She went over and got the purse from the chair by the old man, who still sat in the same position by the fire smoking his clay pipe.

 

“Fergus!!! Dem Geese are after de man, don’t worry about dem, Fergus’ll send dem off”

 

Fergus came out and waved a backward hand at the Geese.

 

“Gi way outta dat”

 

They ran away, chasing there extended heads. Honk, honk, honk!!

 

I jumped back in the seat on the Renault with my heart still racing. Off we drove again, down past the golf club, the palm trees outside the hotels, the café, and over the hump back Railway Bridge, feeling  less enthusiastic now.

 

When we arrived in Town, I went into my Brother Paddy’s chipper, which was part of our family home, to say hello and get the keys. We told him the story, he raised his forehead and nodded a knowing giggle, I thought that he seemed to assume we had been up to no good?

 

After being in Wexford for a few days, we gave up telling the story, everyone was sure that we had gone to that dark quiet spot for a bit of nooky like all the other couples that got famously stranded there.

 

“Ah yeah, Fergus! ah shur everyone knows him, he’s pulled us all out, one time or anudder! And dem feckin Geese are like guard dogs shur”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your TV in the closet

I confess to have slipped of late, slipped into a kind of slothery called TV. It all began in earnest about six weeks ago with a suspicious sneeze. I began to analyze its source; did a mere dust mote travel to my sinuses? Or had I finally succumbed to the cold that Clare had harbored in her gurgling head? It had been going on for a couple of weeks, she had sneezed up every tissue in the house and was now well into the ample supply of toilet paper. I had washed my hands after every transaction that seemed remotely connected to Clare’s last action. At first she had been trying her utmost to take care – she knew I had a bunch of gigs coming up and didn’t want me to catch it – but once it got inside her body and began its mission of sabotage, clogging up her head with an ever increasing supply of wall paper paste and slithering down into her lungs where it settled in for the long haul, she lost the will to live and dropped all attempts to contain prospective damage caused by discharge.

Panic began to set in when I realized that fight was all but lost and the first symptoms began to show. I had two weeks to let it in, and then get it out again. They say that it takes a minimum of five days to go through its routine, but if you fight it, you can stall it before it begins those five days, and no matter how much you delay it, it’s eventually going down on your chest and you are going to splutter and cough for another ten bloody days….at best! I began to fortify for the battle. I got the steamer out, dripped a couple of drops of tea tree oil into the water, plugged it in by the armchair and began to watch TV while the oil began to do battle with the rogue bacteria in my respiratory tract. Needless to say, the bacteria won hands down, and within days I was doing multiple sneezes that were infused with deep and desperate submission, sometimes toppling across the room in a series of explosive fits. The infection was down on my chest and wanting me to cough. All singers know, what ever you do, don’t cough! Coughing can cause a blood vessel to blow in your vocal chords, and it can cause the membranes to swell, not only are our lungs not supplying the necessary air that we need to sing, but the mucous membranes that vibrate across the larynx are now damaged as well, and dysfunctional…”Don’t cough whatever you do!!” So I found myself retraining any attempt to do so. Soon I noticed the beginning of a deep – seated lung ache developing during these refusals, I was heading into new territory, I called the doctor. “Bronchitis” said he, and bejasus I took about 2 seconds to succumb to the suggestion of antibiotics. I was sick now for real, and rehearsing as well, driving up and down to the Church in Dublin. In between I was going to have to shut up, the TV addiction, then began in earnest.

Watching TV is about the only thing I can do when I’m steaming, my electric steamer ( a small device with a tiny element which heats the water and creates a steady flow of steam up through a soft plastic funnel) was broken, so I had to use a saucepan and a towel to funnel the steam into my mouth.

Will someone explain to me why TV is so bad between 7pm and 11? Why do the movies begin then? I’m talking about Irish TV and the UK, The BBC used to be one of the best TV stations in the world, making some incredible in-house productions, now it’s just reality shite from morning to night. “I’m (not) a Celebrity get me out of here (and make me famous)” and drivel like “Eastenders” I have tried to like it, my wife likes it and many of my friends do. I just peek in at it through a jaundiced eye to see if I can understand what people see in it. I always come out with the same conclusions, visually so ugly, the story line is ridiculous, they entire cast seems to have divorced and married each other at one point or another. Complete villainous crooks become really soft hearted and sweet, new children come in from afar as long lost relatives, and it’s really hard to keep track of who is related to whom. Even pretty women are made ugly by the clothes they wear and the way they talk. Actors leave to try and make it outside, so they write them out, then they fail (because everyone says, “that’s ye man from Eastenders”) and return, so they write them back in again.

Ah lads, ye can’t be serious about liking that yoke.

But why is it that during normal waking hours the programming is crap, and all the good stuff comes on when normal people go to bed? They occasionally do something good during that time, and it’s often extremely successful, so why do they want to make so much shite? It can’t be a great pleasure to write and record this stuff.

After being trapped to that steamer for long periods with bad TV, I get this strange aching in my head, not a proper headache, but a kind of dark cloud forms in my brain, and I yearn for silence and wisdom, I could die under that towel, just so that I can sing properly.

Now the cold is well gone, but the TV addiction has not gone with it. I find myself wanting to watch this thing that I grew to hate. A friend of mine in New York used to keep his TV in the closet, and only take it out for special programs, like the way we treat the electric carving knife, taken out for occasions like Christmas. Seems like a good idea, it certainly is of seldom use.

How many hours do you watch per day then lads?

Love Px

Pierce Turner photo of santa on 14th street 2015

That Petrol Emotion

East village photo 2

The mood was jubilant driving away from Coughlans of Cork on Thursday night. The gig had been sold out and extra stools had to be employed to make use of every nook and cranny, getting on stage was even a maneuver, getting off was even harder. The atmosphere was magic and I could’ve sung any song really, the more obscure the better, even the new comers seemed to know them.   When the audience sang, they sang out without hesitation, and when they laughed I had to wait for them to stop, and when it got deep, they dove down with me to feel what was there; magnificent people. So the mood was jubilant as beaming Mike and I drove delightedly away up the one-way Douglas Street in the opposite direction of the determined way for everyone else. Cars backed up to get away from our unfettered advance, as we breezed ahead to the nearest turn off heading down the hill towards the quay. After our usual quota of getting lost, our chronic lack of direction became overwhelmed by our unbridled enthusiasm, and we somehow got taken to the Waterford road by a series of one-way streets that seemed to have been designed to ferry the likes of us in the right direction, in spite of ourselves.

It was all going swimmingly as we pulled out on to the open road, with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” blasting out on the stereo. Mick, the sound man at Coughlans had told us we would encounter a garage pretty soon (we needed fuel) and we should keep an eye to the left. Sure as shit there she was coming up on left, bright clean lights shouting out “we are open”. I was ravenous, and went straight to the Indian gentleman behind the bullet proof glass to enquire about sandwiches. I could hear Mike humming away as he rammed the pump into his car and fiddled with the screen read out.

“Hi, how are ye? Do you by any chance have sandwiches?”

“Yes we do indeed”

He was a young friendly man with an strong Indian accent, but I could understand him clearly enough as his voice squeaked out through the tiny speaker below my side of the counter.

“Would you have tuna by any chance?”

“I have” he replied unhesitantly to my surprise.

“Could I have it on brown bread?’

I couldn’t believe my luck as he nodded in the affirmative.

“Great I’ll have a tuna sandwich on brown bread and a lucozade please oh and hold on” I shouted over to Mike as he delightedly gazed at the sky humming even louder now while allowing the nozzle to administer the much needed gasoline into his car’s receptacle.

“Mike! Would you like a sandwich and a coffee or something”

“Oh, just a coffee will be fine Pierce, with milk, thanks! ” Mike is not a needy type.

Off went the young teller, confidently around the floor of the fair size store, knowing exactly where everything was and returning in no time with all our needs in a white plastic bag. He added the cost of the petrol from pump number 2 to the bill, and I put a fifty euro note in the drawer which he had shoved in my direction. He calculated the change and pushed the drawer back to me with the bag of goodies and the coffee standing up in a carton along side the change. Mike was already in the car and as soon as I hopped in we took once more to the Waterford/Wexford dual carriageway, with gusto.

“This is very nice coffee I must say Pierce, and Hassy back at the bar gave me a gorgeous cup of coffee at the end of the night, wherever he got it from, I think they had a machine”

Mike had now progressed from humming to singing the words (almost) to Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” I was delighted that I had brought that box set along, as I prized open my sandwich packaging in the dark, and shoved it enthusiastically into my gob. Ugh, I thought

“What is this?”

“Eh?” said Mike

“I don’t know what the fuck is in this sandwich, but it’s not tuna”

Mike put some light on the subject, there it was, a ham salad sandwich in cold white bread, a sloppy rag type of white bread, the kind I really hate, with ham (which I don’t care for either) tomato (Bad in sandwiches unless eaten right away, they make the bread wet) a lot of mayonnaise and a bit of lettuce. Christ, did that guy understand anything that I said?

Mike became silent, he stopped humming, he caught my attention.

“Ugh , hmm, that’s a bit odd, she’s chugging” said he, with an uncharacteristic tone of fright.

“ I ope I didn’t put petrol in instead of diesel, cor blimey!”

“Well didn’t it say Diesel on the pump that you used Mike?” I ensued with the calmest voice I could muster, as the car began to lose pace.

“Well, I didn’t really look, the nozzles are supposed to be different sizes, I presumed it wouldn’t fit if it was wrong”

The car was now slowing down and Mike could see his life flashing before him, and in it he saw a green pump (which represents petrol) not a black one (diesel) he now had the presence of mind that he didn’t have back then, his heart sank visibly as he pulled into the shoulder. The car was now screaming out visual alarms on the dashboard “FATAL FLAW !!!”

We had been driving in the fog with low visibility, but now the rain began coming down too, beating heartily against the glass, as the winter wind of the Irish countryside howled around the car. Only five minutes before, we had been driving along in the lap of luxury with Bowie singing and the heater warming the cockles of our heart. Now we were pulled over by a tall wet stone wall in the dark, hazard lights flashing, music halted by the car itself “POWER ECONOMY!!” it now flashed. It dawned on us both that we may not be going home that night, it also dawned on us that we hadn’t the foggiest what to do. It was 1.30 on a Thursday night, everyone would be in bed. Cars and trucks flew past at such a pace, we could feel the car rock from the pressure of their wind.

“ 911!! Let’s call 911” said Mike

“A great idea” said I. But! Said I

“What can they do?”

“They can siphon it off”

“Can they? 30 Euro worth of petrol! ”

I imagined someone sucking a hose (the way thieves do to steal petrol) in the pissing rain with the wind blowing in four directions and trucks flying past so fast they were bending the grass, I was dubious to say the least, we might be doomed.

But Mike was right! After we were piggy backed on the phone from the police to their break down crew, through to their suggestion of someone else because they had to stay on duty, to another guy who was 40 minutes away , to someone else who was 20 minutes away, a big beautiful yellow van with flashing lights appeared in our rear view mirror, oh the brotherhood of man, hallelujah!!

This van, and this man, had everything. He insisted that we get the car way in off the road, he got his shoulder to it and just pushed us in, while I sat there like a twat. I got out as soon as it stopped and introduce myself. He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in.

“Mind yourself! this road is fierce, they come flying long here shur, ye could be kilt in a flash”

Then he opened up the back of his van, upon opening the door it automatically lit up like an operating theatre on wheels. On the floor in the middle of the very efficiently organized pumps and other gadgets was a big white tank with Gas Scavenger written on it. Sure as shit that was for sucking the rogue petrol out of the diesel engine. All I could think as I sat there – cold enough now – was Mike’s mistake must be common enough. After sucking all the petrol out, and some cajoling with the cylinders or something like that for about a half hour (not sure what they are called) we were repaired, and the Cork break down man sent us off flying towards home again. David Bowie was on “China Girl” now and Mike began to hum again.

“Isn’t that an Iggy Pop song?” I offered.

“Is it?”   mm     ♬   ♪     ♫   mmmmm

wonder what little surprises Limerick has in store for us on Monday night (dec 12) at 1 Pery Square?

Surrender to the present “now is heaven”

st-iberius-photo-o-head

St Iberius Wexford Dec 3rd 2016 with the Irish Ensemble: Mick Egan in the front, behind him Paula Cox, on my other side Garvan Gallagher, and up overhead on the organ, facing us Josh Johnston.

My legs were stretched out as far as they could possibly go landing smack bang before the heart of the blazing fire. It was comforting on my feet to feel the heat, and the stretch felt like I was pulling on a knotted rope, trying to get it untangled and straight. But it didn’t work! Something was tight in my gut and I couldn’t unravel it. I had been subconsciously aware of a discomfort before, but now it had gained a new priority of direct awareness, I began to ponder why? We are all aware that tension is insidiously dangerous, but sometimes it’s impossible to even recognize, at least I seem to have learned how to do that. Once these thoughts registered with myself it became time to launch an investigation.

“What was causing this?”

and

“What was it?”

I couldn’t fix it without figuring out what it was. The last book that I read since attending the school of Practical Philosophy in New York’s upper west side taught me to recognize the power of being present; not dwelling on the past or living for the future. It claimed that most of our depression and pain is derived from this manner of thinking. And that we think this way because of our ego; that voice in our head running a constant commentary is our ego. The idea is to notice that voice and shut it up as much as possible, by focusing on where I was then and what I was doing.

I could see clearly now that that was what was wrong with me! That knot inside my stomach was a knot of anticipation. I wasn’t present. I was only partially listening to Clare talking, only partially aware of my surroundings or where I was, no I was waiting for the gig on Saturday night, then I would let go, and give it a hundred per cent, then I would allow myself to be free and happy. How ridiculous it seems when it’s spelt out, but it’s the truth. Then I decided to try and do something about it, easier said than done.

In reading that book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle I had found myself facing the greatest challenge to everything that I had come to know. Eckhart presents a very solid case; he says that our ego is the cause of all our insecurities and tensions. That voice in our head says “what about me?” and we become insecure immediately because we think that we are not getting what we deserve. In my case on that evening it was saying “This is boring, this is not important, the important thing is tomorrow night, I just have to put up with this horrible time in between, prepare myself for tomorrow” On these occasions the book advises to surrender to the present, if you are always present at all times, all times will be important, not just the chosen moments. He says desert that voice, that ego, walk away from it , reject it. By Jasus that is like saying goodbye to yourself, of course it’s not really yourself, it’s just this bloody thing we develop with time, a companion for to entertain us when we are alone. The problem is; the more attention you give to it, the more attention it demands, starts off with “where’s my bottle?” as a baby, and grows into “I deserve better than this” It wants to talk to us when we are talking to someone else, it wants to talk to us when are working, distracts our attention when we are watching a movie, when we are trying to sleep, it never stops. I was aware of this before, but no-one had ever spelt it out so clearly. So now I am at war with the bugger, everything that I do, no matter how mundane, I focus on that thing only and try to shut out the commentary. I am definitely feeling steadier for it. But however, some things overwhelm me and the bugger slips in when my guard is low, like the other night!

So I dropped my weight into my feet and surrendered to where I was, tomorrow would look after itself, especially if I look after the present. I felt this calm come over me like pleasant pins and needles, I sank into the chair and smiled. I was stronger for not carrying that knot in my stomach and that weight on my shoulders.

So my lovelies, Surrender!!!! to the present, now is heaven. Love Pierce x