All posts in January 2017

A Day without speaking

                              I always wanted a toilet in the kitchen

Six days before my gig in Glasgow last week I came to the realisation that my voice was not ticketyboo (English term for not right) I had gotten through the Christmas bronchitis by a hairs breath, with a lot of cautious behavior; ie. Not much drinking and as little talking as possible, talking is the worst thing for our voices, no, actually whispering is even worse. But that was behind me then, and I should’ve been handily on the mend. I googled my new symptoms to see if I could fish out a clue, and came away with the conclusion that I might have laryngitis? Apparently it was going around, my Sister in Law said that her grandchild Emily even had it, aged six! This Town has been a bag of bugs this Winter, everyone says it’s not cold enough. No morning frost on the grass to kill the germs. There was only one immediate cure; stop talking. On Saturday night I broke the news to Clare, I wasn’t going to talk the next day at all. I thought she’d be happy, but she kind of groaned, probably because it seemed so nutty, or perhaps because it would make Sunday even more like SUNDAY. But I was adamant, I had to get my voice back to speed, it was so depressing to sing like this. I had tried doing this before and didn’t go through with it, this time I would prepare. Before I went to bed I put my notebook and a pen on the bedside table.

 

Clare awakened early the next morning and in an effort to let me lie in, slipped quietly out to read in the sitting room. It musta been eleven when I opened my eyes. I could hear Clare talking to Albert.

 

“I saw you looking at that big ginger pussycat Albert, is that why you’ve been asking to go out a lot? I think it is! I bet your jealous, that poor pussy was minding his own business”

 

This moment of lying there listening gave me time to remember before I forgot, that I was not to speak. I reached out for the book and pen, Clare heard me stir and peeped in around the door. By then I had already written my first words in the book (my first day of silence, since I had learned to make sound btw!)

 

“Saw the ginger cat, he was afraid of Albert” I drew a cats face with whiskers next to it.

 

Clare’s face lit up with amusement, I had scored big time. Not only did it make the silence funny, I was also on her favourite subject; animals! I had not mentioned seeing that big ginger cat until now, and she was amused that Albert was guarding the premises. Clare mimicked Albert’s expression by raising her shoulders up around her ears and pushing her nose forward mocking a threat.

 

“He’s all ssshhzzzz” she said as she made the face.

 

“Minding the Garden….I know, he thinks that’s his job”

 

It dawned on me that writing down stuff, could be funny.

 

I wrote another note in book and tapped on its hard cover to get Clare’s attention.

 

“What’s for breakfast?”

 

“Are you taking the piss now” she teased. I realized now that I could ask for things on paper easier than by mouth.

 

“I’m going to pop over to Pettit’s mall to get the Sunday Papes, do you want anything while I’m there?”

 

I scribbled hastily;

“Can you get me three cooked sausages and some B&W Pudding”

 

Clare turned the book towards her and wrote down “No” I wrote down “Cunt!” and the two of us fell around laughing. I grabbed the book and wrote down.

“Tomatoes”

Once again she was looking the other way, so I clapped my hands. Clare took the book and wrote down.

 

“I am going to TK Max to get a T Shirt and can go to Pettits after!”

 

“For fucks sake, that will take ages” I wrote

 

“ I wont be that long, I know exactly what I want, I’ll be in and out” she said with her mouth.

 

“Good” I wrote down.

 

She picked up Albert and put him on the bed next to me, he started kneading the silk eiderdown (the house is full of antiques) he was purring profusely and seemed to enjoying this silent communication. After all he uses this method successfully all the time, to great effect actually now that I think about it. If he wants to eat and I’m ignoring him, he will start scratching the good sofa. He gets what he wants by using signals; if he wants to go out he’ll sit quietly by the door and just stare at me. Because I know he can’t speak, I’m often on the look out for what he’s up to. Clare didn’t exactly get to this level with me though. I often had to bang the table or tip her on the shoulder so that she would see my notes. Sometimes I just let things go, they weren’t worth the trouble. Of course then there are no arguments, no corrections or disagreements, just vital stuff in Pigeon English. I have the book right before me now, another advantage, there is a record of what you say! (good or bad??) In the book there are things like.

“will need Pounds for S-land”

“Wallet? Spose I couldn’t find the bloody passport wallet, men can never find anything.

“Do I need a Scottish long distance number to call Glasgow-in Glasgow?” I am stupid about this kind of thing. The answer is yes btw.

The next morning I published my new Monday Morning Milk on time, I had the whole of Sunday to write non stop. As usual very few people responded, but I know you are out there reading this, every where I go people casually mention something they’ve read in here, just recently a friend from Australia said so. Who has time to respond?

My voice was much cleaner the next day, I could see that it paid off. It wasn’t perfect, but a lot better. Through the rest of the week I still tried to use it sparingly. I hardly spoke a word on the way to Dublin for the Glasgow flight. As soon as I got there a Taxi came for us (Mike Raftery and myself) and whisked us to the Glasgow Concert Hall. The place was hopping with a beehive of activity, the vibe of the Celtic Connections Festival was omni. The young lady at the front table gave us our badges and meal vouchers, and took us to the exhibition hall where the Scottish quartet were waiting to rehearse by a prepared electric piano. I spoke aloud for the first time in ages (I had to for Jasus sake) explaining that I would not be singing out, just enough to guide them through. They were extremely sweet and assured me that they were sympathetic. I almost forgot that I was in Scotland, I looked at these four lovely women with their gracious smiles, and remembered to forget the rest. I gave them each their book of music, and we began to play, it was perfect, they were superb! What a relief.

The show in the Tron Theatre was completely sold out, and a lot of people even flew over from Ireland. My niece Jennifer and her husband Diran came up from Cobham. It was comforting to see them all in the front. The time had come to unleash my voice now, hopefully it would be alright, no more taking care. The string quartet had not really heard me sing the songs properly, so it all unfolded before their eyes in the same way as it did to any new comers in the audience, which made for an extra magical atmosphere. The voice held up well, considering I could barely talk six days earlier, all because I didn’t talk at all, five days ago.

 

Not talking was different, funny things happen, you should give it a go.

love (to hear from you) Pierce xx

 

I will be at The fabulous Seamus Ennis Centre Naul Fingal Co Dublin Saturday Feb 4th –last date this tour.

Is that an E or a G? (More American exploits with Turner and Kirwan of Wexford)

                 The Tron Theatre Glasgow Friday January 20th, 2017-The Celtic Connections Festival

Communication was a major problem for me when I came to America first – especially on the phone. My friend and roommate Bob Schwenk from Bay Ridge always found it hilarious when he witnessed my desperate attempts to communicate my name over the wire.

“Pee-ersss TuRRneR” Trying so hard to emphasize the consonants that my tongue was in a knot.

Irish people tend not to open their mouths too much when they speak. And where I come from it’s almost a badge of honour to be seen withholding your clarity during conversation. It’s important to be ordinary. And trying to communicate is fancy!

“A rale Wexford accent ain’t supposed to be clay-er”

So I brought some of that stuff to America with me. No one could understand a word that I said at first. It seems to me that I got so used to no-one understanding what I was saying, I began to misunderstand what people were saying to me. There were numerous incidents where I misread what was being said; to such a ludicrous extent that the sayer appeared to suspect derision. Usually I wouldn’t cop on until they were gone beyond apologetic reach. As I said, I believe that I was so nervous of being misunderstood, that I began to try too hard, causing me to elaborate on a simple statement. Small things; like a guy came up to me after a loud Major Thinkers gig in a crowded venue in the East Village called the UK Club – after you play a gig it’s not that uncommon for people to approach you about joining the band – saying things like “that drummer is not right for you guys, I’m much better man!” or, “Yo , do you need a roadie?” On the night in question a bloke came up to me and said   “Do you have a lightman?”

“No, actually we don’t! Do you do lights?”

“What????” With a look that suggested I was being a smart ass.

When he left, Hammy, the Major Thinkers drummer fell around laughing.

“I think he just wanted a light for his cigarette”

He had disappeared into the crowd by then. I mean, we really did need a lightman! But that wasn’t the worst one. By far the biggest mishap occurred at an Irish wedding in the Bronx. The groom was a big ‘Turner and Kirwan of Wexford’ fan and managed to talk his partner into having us play at the reception. The only thing smart about his choice was that we were not expensive by wedding band standards. Wedding bands are expensive for a good reason, they know all the reception rituals, they can play everything from the top 50 to evergreens, including standards from a host of different cultures. It’s a business, and they expect to be paid extremely well. A good wedding band could charge somewhere in the vicinity of three thousand dollars. I think we charged about three hundred. I believe he gave us a bonus of two hundred, we were so pleased, he wondered out loud if we were hard up?

“Ah no, but just the same, you’re a decent skin and we really appreciate it!”

I suppose we knew that we were doing it for too little and had hoped he would do the right thing. We left a lot to supposition. It was some kind of a bare bones function hall, nothing too fancy. We brought our own Shure sound system and set it up in the corner near the entrance. We were a two man band in the truest sense, in that we were really loud and made the sound of a full ensemble. People were known to stand outside and say “how many musicians are in that band, do you think?” Usually the answer was three or four. Larry played bass drum and guitar while singing, and I played clavinet (electric piano) mini-Moog and hi-hat while singing. The drum and hi-hat were mike’d and the guitar and piano were over-driven, it could be a helluva roar.

So there we were in the corner setting up. I had to tune the piano almost every night. The clavinet has actual strings inside it on an iron frame with pick-ups. The beauty of this was that I could make it feed back into my fender tube amp, giving it that Jimi Hendrix effect. But when it was moved around and thrown in and out of a van, the strings would shift and slip out of tune. Each string had a screw at the end of it that I would turn with a short fat screwdriver. So there I was with the piano plugged into a strobe tuner tweaking away on the strings, getting them up to pitch, it was tedious and slow.

We had arrived at this bizarre line-up a couple of years previous while we were doing a summer residence down in Cape Cod. The owner of the place had seen us playing at one of his other places in Lowell Massachusetts and thought that we might be interesting to have on before the main attraction at his club on the beachfront. The place in Lowell was a two hundred capacity folk rock club where bands did residencies for a month at a time playing mostly covers. We were kind of folky at the time and sang Simon and Garfunkel stuff mixed with Cat Stevens etc. I can’t say if we drew the crowd or if it was just a popular place, but I know that it went well and there was a lot of young girls there. I remember once, during a break, kissing some young one at a table and seeing Larry at the far end of the room kissing another. The accents were going over big time with the locals! We must have done well enough there if he offered us the Cape Cod gig. We were absolutely elevated, getting a gig at the Cape during the summer was sort of big time for a cover band, not to mention three months work with bed and board included. We had put our originals on the back burner for now, until we found our feet.

His club at the Cape turned out to be a very different scene than we expected. The headlining band was typical of what most of the clubs down there were presenting. A top notch cover band from Boston, they could re-produce Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” to perfection – the singer had a range like Robert Plant, the guitarist thought he was Jimmy Page and had learned every single note down to minute detail, even having the double neck guitar with twelve strings on one for the opening section. The keyboard player had a massive A.R.P Synth with a patch bay and numerous wave controllers, just like Keith Emerson. Naturally he could reproduce “Lucky Man” by ELP and the recorder part in “Stairway to Heaven”.

They were loud and powerful with a full light show and a stadium size sound system. We were the mis-match of the century. And the owner didn’t beat around the bush about telling us that he had made a mistake giving us the gig. Everyday we began playing at 3 p.m. to a few stragglers at the bar and a slowly filling room. He hoped that we would draw people in at that time, allowing him to start making money before the main attraction. This would also guarantee them a full house when they began, which would make them look good too. Unfortunately the crowd didn’t know what to make of us with our little folky sound. We turned the Irish charm up to Disney level, but even that didn’t seem to work. The main band liked us though and was beginning to feel sorry for us, we told them that we were afraid we might get sacked.

One day when we were preparing to play, the drummer told us that he had an idea that might up our sound a couple of notches. He explained that our sound was too small and if we were going to compete in this environment we would need more oomph! He had some old spare drums that we could have if we like. He suggested one of us could play Bass Drum and the other Hi-Hat! Without further ado (and without rehearsal) he put the Bass drum in front of Larry’s right foot and the Hi-hat under my left. Off we went. Some songs we decided were better with, and some without. Clearly the idea had potential. It was exciting, and God forbid, maybe even had some originality. The next day we bought two drum stools and tied our new additions to the legs to stop them running away as we beat the living daylights out of them. Then we put microphones on them. Now we started to get louder. I started overdriving the piano and Larry got a fuzz box for his Ovation. Because of this we managed to hold on to the gig for the rest of the summer, not cos we were blowing them away, more because we were such good triers. By the time we reached that wedding in the Bronx we were creating such a roar that we sounded like Mott The Hoople. One audience member in Boston’s Inman’s Square Men’s Club heckled. “Turn down for Christ’s sake, you sound like a Boeing jet!” I suggested he go down the road and find a James Taylor imitator. Jon Moss, the Boston Globe critic, gave us a rave for the same gig. Apparently he arrived late, we were ripping into the climactic instrumental of “Travelling People” our most “Boeing Jet” moment, he had never heard two people sound like that. He gave us a critic’s choice the next time we played there.

The guests were starting to arrive at the reception; I recognized a certain style about them and even knew some of them from seeing them at other people’s gigs when we were out on the tare. I had a very bad habit in those days of pre-supposing what the audience would think of us before we’d even started. I decided that they were a straight looking Irish and Irish American crowd. And whether it was real or imagined I cannot say, but I believed that they were aghast upon realizing that we, were the band. There they were in their Sunday best, while Larry and I were in denim jeans and T-shirts with shoulder length hair. I imagined them negatively confiding.

“Please tell me they’re not the band?”

The tension was building up in me now, my shoulders were up around my ears when this very straight looking older bloke came over to me and pointed at me.

“Is that a he or a she?”

This drove the fume that had been building up inside me to take complete control of my mind.

“Would you like me to take my prick out and show it to you?” I snapped.

Well that soon shut him up. He was absolutely astonished and walked away shaking his head from side to side looking dazed. Larry turned to me and said.

“What did you think he said?”

“You heard him! He pointed at me and said is that a he or a she?”

“No, I think he was pointing at the piano and said, is that an E or a G?”

I looked out into the once empty room, now filling up with guests arriving from church. Mulling over what Larry just said, it felt more and more like it was plausible that I had heard wrong. At first I had jumped to my defense in the heat of the moment.

“Gimme a break, why would he ask me what note I was playing?”

But then I thought about that guy’s demeanor

“He was a little bit harmless looking to be leashing out insults”

I kept tuning the piano.

“In fact, he coulda been a silly Billy type with a miniscule knowledge of music, trying to show off and be all pally with the band – is that an E or a G? -He was smiling after all! And my reply was; do you want me to take my prick out and show it to you? JESUS CHRIST!! He must think I’m a really nasty bastard to respond like that to such an innocent, albeit, stupid question”

Larry said that we should start soon everyone was in. Thinking it would be best to start off easy, we gently tested the water with Tom Paxton’s “The last thing on my mind” This crowd was up for it, they immediately hit the dance floor. I saw yer man going past doing some kind of a foxtrot, he was moving fast. I tried to get his attention while projecting the most congenial smile I could muster from my drum stool. But he seemed afraid to look at me. While we were playing he went by several times with many different partners, he obviously liked to dance.  And even though I am aware that I was displaying some paranoid tendencies, I still could swear he was retelling the story every time I saw him, nodding his head in my direction and exclaiming something to his dance partner with an astonished open-mouthed delivery, which was met with an even more open mouthed, gaping, response of disbelief.

I never did get to apologise to him, and even if the opportunity had arisen, I wasn’t sure what I would say. It seemed almost better to pretend it didn’t happen, and with time I had almost convinced myself that it was an exaggeration. But Larry was there, and he confirms that it happened all right. Whatever ideas the guests might have had about us being unsuitable when they arrived, were certainly confirmed.

I wrote this song many years later for my Beggars Banquet album “the Sky and the Ground” I was inspired by that time in Massachusetts and New Hampshire when we drove around in a beat up old Dodge Polara that we bought for three hundred dollars. The song is about the futility sometimes of trying to communicate a belief or a line of poetry. We especially experienced it while writing a song, I might feel sure that a line works and Larry might feel not. There is no point in arguing, my belief was based on my experience not his. Eventually it would be ok for me to sing it, but maybe not Larry. These things are so subjective, and are contrived by our past personal experiences.

You can never put yourself in my brain

And feel what it felt like in a Dodge Polara

Speeding down a New Hampshire highway

Leaving on a Jet Plane (Turner and Kirwan of Wexford)

It was a cold lonely feeling, to get dropped off on a rainy Monday in January at the tall wall of Rosslare Harbour by my Sister Bernie, and her Husband Dave. It was good of them to take us there, but we had already said goodbye to everyone and now we just wanted to pursue our dreams and forget the lament of leaving. We would like to have just slipped away while they were parking the car, but of course we wouldn’t. And so we waved goodbye from the lofty gangplank, my heart in my boots, and seeing in my Sister’s brave smile -the childhood that made me what I was – our deep closeness and passion as a family – yet another tare in the umbilical chord, a step further away from the womb.   Once we got inside the brightly lit Boat, the sadness began to ebb and soon enough we were making jokes and yapping to strangers- eating our sandwiches. We are animals after all, and after we are pulled away from our loved ones, we soon look around for the nearest comfort.

It’s only a short distance from Rosslare in the South East of Ireland to Fishguard Wales, thirty miles or so! But it took us three hours to do it. Shuffling between the Boat to the train on that cold damp Welsh night, the official wooden buildings looked more like sheds. It brought to mind Death Camp Movies from the Second World War. The night train smelled of tiredness and second hand Guinness.   Compartments were lit with low wattage light bulbs, giving it all a soft amberness. There was a hissing noise coming from under the seat, I reached down close to see if it was producing any heat. Unfortunately the heat was just being turned on as we entered; too bad, because that meant adding “cold” to all the above descriptions. This one element, made the difference between quaintness and depravation.

It was a harrowing six – hour train journey from Fishguard to London. I tried to sleep, but the padded seating was hard and covered with coarse material. All I could do was listen to the chugging of the train, a repetitive glitch, like a needle stuck on vinyl. A pleasant murmuring of men talking in Irish accents sprinkled with London-ese hummed like a haunting wind over the percussion of the tracks, there was an air of resignation in their manner, the fun was over, their fate was sealed, back to work, back to being alone with the lonely. Cigarettes were generously shared, and it was a comfort for me to hear them comforting each other. Most of them were married men heading back to England, after Christmas, where they worked to support their Families. They, in part, were the reason that I was going to America not the U.K.- All my life I had seen the sadness of their departure at the Railway Station in Wexford. Just as I would find myself drifting off, a smokers cough would jolt me back. There was a noticeable absence of female voices, where were the sopranos? Where was that brightness? The murmuring droned on, it sounded like a long Catholic Confessional, a requiem I would one day write.

We stopped over in London for a few days with two platonic Wexford women that we knew, we fancied em alright, but knew we shouldn’t, or maybe that they wouldn’t.   Jackie Hayden from Polydor Records in Dublin had arranged a meeting for us with an English A & R man from the same label. He sat us down in his small office and listened to our demo tape over a cup of tea. One particular song struck his fancy “A star shone over Belfast” which sounded a bit like the Bee Gees from their baroque period. He seemed to think we had some real potential. We were delighted, and came to the ludicrous conclusion that if he liked it, they would surely love it in America. Packing up our tapes, we thanked him and bade him adieu.

The next day we were on our way to Heathrow where we hopped on a plane bound for New York. There was great excitement on the way across. We had taken sleeping pills at our Doctors recommendation, however we were too excited to sleep, so they seemed to have a reverse effect, making us very lively. Larry had been to America before, so I made him re-tell stories about that experience all over again. I wrung every nuance out of his descriptions and we conjectured liberally on the brand new world laid before us, two young lads in their early twenties

As we were circling over JFK in the January snow, the pilot addressed us in his in his American twang.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to New York, we expect to land within the next fifteen minutes or so. At minus five degrees Fahrenheit it certainly is cold down there, so I hope you get home to your warm beds all safe and sound, as soon as possible, thank you for flying with us. And hope to see you again”

 

Larry turned to me surreptitiously.

 

“Do you know where we’re going to stay?”

 

“Ha?…… I thought you knew where we were going to stay!”

 

“No, I don’t know where we’re staying” he shrugged

 

“But I don’t know where, do I?” Panic was creeping in now.

 

And so began a relationship based on supposition that was to last for many years.

 

Our cheap, but precious guitars came off the carousel miraculously in one piece. It never even crossed our minds that they should be in travel cases. Our cases were made from some kind of thick cardboard with a faux black leather finish, held together by white nylon saddle stitching. The instruments were typical of what young fellas played in Ireland at that time. Close in visual resemblance to a Gibson, but beyond that there was nothing similar. The strings were so far out from the fret board it was almost impossible to play bar chords, so most of us didn’t. The sound was crude and hollow. Very few musicians in Ireland could afford professional instruments. By ratio of the average wage, the prices were ludicrous. A fender Stratocaster cost around six hundred pounds and a married man’s weekly wage was averaging twenty-one pounds at the time.   I had bought a Hohner Organ when I was seventeen on hire purchase from the local Furniture store. It cost six hundred pounds and I was still paying for it a year after it died. Organs were even more expensive than guitars, I should have been buying the sexy Vox Continental with its reverse couloured keys, I had seen my favourite English and American Bands playing them on T.V. But that was more like eleven hundred pounds, and I didn’t even know a shop that had it in stock. Even though I was a professional musician, I couldn’t afford a professional instrument and it wasn’t rare to see imitation Fenders and Vox’s being used by talented musicians.

 

Once we got our guitars and half empty suitcases, we took them through customs. Big serious looking men, with crew cuts and holstered guns. I was shaking with fear, never having seen a real gun before. They weren’t too friendly either and gave us a long hard look, before stamping the passports. We had business visas, which allowed us to work, but not to earn money. Jackie Hayden from Polydor Ireland had written us a letter saying we were going to America to scout for him or something ambiguous like that. We had to show them our four hundred saved dollars, declaring them as our living expenses.

 

There was so much to take in at the arrival hall, I found myself unconsciously stopping, to look around, Larry had to come back for me and jolt me to awareness, reminding me that this was New York and it was not good to be seen looking awestruck.

 

We found a bank of public telephones, and I pulled a crumpled piece of paper from my under stuffed wallet. Dave Heenan had been the lead singer in y last Band “The Arrows” and had given me his number in case I should ever come to New York. Perhaps Larry and I had been hatching our plans at the time, I don’t know, but I kept his number safely and Larry knew that I had it. I presume it was supposed by him, tacitly, that we would stay with Dave on our first night. Thankfully Dave was full of “wows” and “are you kidding me?…. no problem!”

 

“Of course you can stay with us tonight! Renee it’s Pierce from the Arrows, he’s at the airport with his friend Larry” I could hear Renee giving a hospitable wow in the background, Dave returned to firmly confide his directions.

 

“Go straight out to the Taxi rank and tell him to take you to Washington Square in Manhattan, tell him to take the Tunnel and that you’ll give him no more than twenee dollars! Act like you know what you’re talking about, or those scumbags will rip you off, don’t forget , through the Tunnel and no more than twenee dollars”

 

It was like Calcutta outside, chaotic traffic, Policemen whistling angrily at cars as frantically loaded suitcases and scrambled to leave. We went over to the long line of yellow cabs. I explained in my thick Wexford accent to the first driver at the head of the Queue.

“We’re goin to Washin-tin Square in Min-hattin, I’ll give you twenty dollars, and ye haff te go tru de Tunnel dough”

“ Are you kiddin me buddy?” he snapped. I found myself in retreat, I wasn’t counting on an argument with a New York Taxi driver the minute I got off the Plane. He was a short stocky bloke wearing an old greasy army jacket which seemed to be stuffed with several layers bursting underneath. His small head sat on top with a peak cap pulled over his wild black curly hair. He talked from the corner of his mouth and the words seemed to fall out rather than travel direct.

“Hey Dommy, kim-ay” He beckoned with a cupped hand.

“Tell Dese guys how it woyks, they want to gimme twenee dollas for the ride to Manhattan”

“It’s whateva is on the Meedah Buddy” Tommy wearily replied.

“Well we can’t gi ye enny more dan twenty dollars” I mumbled.

They looked at each other in astonishment. You could tell that this was a familiar battle for them, yet we seemed to be presenting a new slant on the idea. I later found out that some Airport Taxis had been caught driving Japanese customers all over the place and charging them two hundred dollars off the meter. So now they all got tarred with the same brush. However, in retrospect, I think these guys were actually on the level, or forced to be, by Dave’s preventative instructions.

He beckons another driver who is now showing an interest.

“Yo Sandy c’mere! Listen to dese Guy’sss,….gwan kid, tell him what ye sayin!”

Sandy appeared to be about six foot four, and appraising us suspiciously, was clearly not in the mood for us little hippy foreigners.

“well I wuss just explainin to him, dat we want to go tru the Tunnel and dat we’ll pay twenty dollars” I said, reluctantly following the command.

Sandy spat out.

“Waddaye tawkin about? It makes NO DIFFERENCE BUDDY!!!!! Dru the Dunnel or over the bridge, I’m tellin ye, da money is on da meeddaa!!!

 

We were now causing a bit of a scene, people were waiting behind us on the queue, several Taxi drivers had come forward to voice their annoyance. Larry and I decided we might need to confer, we pulled off to one side.

“Jasus, I don’t know? They all seem very annoyed don’t they. Maybe we better give in”

Larry had been thinking the same thing.

“Ok Den” I relented to our cabbie, now looking at us like we were a case study, quizzically cocking his head from side, incredulously inviting agreement from the rest of the motley crew.

“Can we put our stuff in da boot den?”

“Excuse me?”

“Would it be ok if we trow or stuff in da boot?”

“I don’t know what yer talkin bout Buddy”

I put my hand on the back of the cab and said.

“Can we put our stuff in here?”

“Oh, oh, in the Trunk? Sure”

He reached inside the cab and popped it open. We slid in on the well – worn leather seat.

“Em…what’s this I was goin ta say? Don’t forget to go tru the Tunnel dough…please”

 

Glasgow next Friday at the Celtic Connections Festival, The Tron Theatre 8pm  – I’m really looking forward to it, hope you are too.  Love Pierce xx

More adventures of that poor little car

This is Not the Renault 5, an Austin I think from the 50’s or 60’s?

I’m not complaining or anything, maybe the amount of odd things that have happened to me concerning cars are just par for the course after several years of involvement with the four rubbered buggers. However the following is one of the more bizarre events that could happen to anyone through absolutely no fault of their own.

It all happened on a cold wet December night, we were fast asleep up on the third floor of our friend Dot Boswell’s house in London. I had played a gig the night before at a club called Ocean in Hackney. I find it hard to sleep after gigs, so when the moment comes, it’s nice if there are no disturbances, if the delicate balance is scuppered and a thought slips in, it doesn’t take long for one thought to couple with another, and before I can scream stop! to myself, there will be a football field of thoughts running amok in my head. Often this happens because of something relatively minor. A small sound, or a rogue ray of light will do it, so a gunshot would be more than enough I’m sure you can imagine.

I do know what a gunshot sounds like. I played in Northern Ireland as a teenager and witnessed a violent stand off between the police and protesting Catholics, quickly discovering my sprinting talents, when a smoking canister landed near my feet. I also remember kissing a Belfast girl when a bomb went off in the distance, the ground rumbled with manmade thunder. Another time – as I sat in a New York taxi on the corner of 12th Street and 1st Avenue – two guys started shooting at each other across the street behind me, it still seems imagined, I don’t recall even mentioning it to the taxi driver, the light changed, we moved on. So when I awakened in London to the sound of multiple rounds being squeezed out in rapid succession, I leapt out of that bed like a trained marine, taking cover behind the wall as I sneaked a look through the window for the source of my alarm.

I could hear the crunch of shattered glass and people shouting, what could it be? A shoot out between the police and who? It couldn’t be the IRA, that was all over, this was the 90s! There was something different about the sound, it wasn’t the same kind of pop that I had heard from past gunshot sounds (listen to me, I sound like a seasoned veteran) these eruptions were bigger and differed in volume, five or six in consecutive, then after a moment’s silence, a far bigger bang. All that breaking glass made it sound like there was a specific target that was being mercilessly hammered, I had to get a better look. I looked over at Clare, she was fast asleep under the covers without a care in the world, there didn’t seem to be any movement downstairs either, Dot and twelve-year old Jack were slumbering away. Lights began to reflect on the ceiling, the way they swirled suggested the police or an ambulance. My guitar was nearby in its travel case “not a bad idea, they say those cases are so strong that you could drop them from the top of a six story building, might it be bulletproof?” My curiosity was now superseding all rationale (See? This is how bravery comes to be, mindless curiosity!) I turned the case upside down so that the big part was at the top and peaked around the edge using it as a shield. Down to the left, blocking off the street was a parked fire engine with its yellow emergency lights oscillating frantically. The sight of a friendly authority gave me the courage to seek out the source of the commotion.

There it was down below in the middle of the road, a massive crater stretching across its full width and at the centre, a water eruption jetting with great power towards the sky, it had effortlessly ripped its way through the multiple layers of dirt, stones and tar that had been withholding it for many years beneath the ground, all those layers were now been dispersed every which way and not in a benign fashion, but with titanic force! Loud explosions were followed by the sound of damage being inflicted on their haphazard victims. Innocent by-standing cars parked over night along the perimeter were being mercilessly hammered with large stones travelling at frightening velocity. But one car in particular was getting the brunt of it all, bouncing on its springs, recoiling from each wounding blow, the roof dented, only barely hanging on. It was our poor little defenceless Renault 5. I hurriedly took the car keys off the side table, threw on a pair of trousers and shoes, ran down the stairs grabbing Dot’s PVC raincoat from her hallstand, put the heavy Georgian door on its latch, and ran to the edge of the danger. I stood there with my hood up grimacing from the downpour and helplessly watching the poor little Renault, I had to save it, there was still time, it was rescue-able surely! We were driving back to Ireland in the morning, I had to save it. The fire brigade!!! I ran up to it at the top of the street. Inside of the dark cabin, a fireman peered down towards me with a retired expression, he steadily lowered the window. I knew he was trying to calm me with his demeanour, and he partly did, but I still attempted to make him feel the urgency of what I was experiencing, regardless of his outgoing futility.

“Hello! That car over there getting most of the pounding, that grey Renault, is mine, can I get in there and drive it out of there, do you think?”

“Oh, sorry to hear that, no I’m afraid I can’t allow you to go near it, it’s a burst water main, very dangerous, we have had fatalities with these situations before”

The other fire men sitting behind him dressed in theit full gear, seemed curious about my dilemma and maybe my half Irish, half American accent. It seems to become more American when I am in a neutral country like England, not sure which way to go, it can choose either direction, sometimes in the middle of a sentence.

“Really!! But we are driving to Ireland in the morning” I pleaded; now almost talking to myself.

“We really can’t do anything until Thames Water arrives I’m afraid”

He was polite but firm. They seemed almost bored with this trivia, it looked like they would be sitting there all night with their arms folded, one face peering from behind him seemed incredulous, I supposed it was for my willingness to brave the flying rocks, in order to save a car.

I turned to face the scene in disbelief; the damage was increasing with every passing moment. The front windscreen was now battered in, the mirrors were smashed and the water was pouring in through the back window, this mains burst seemed intent on putting all its might into destroying Clare’s precious Renault 5, the first car she had ever bought brand new, it was her baby she said. She loved that car.

The next morning I broke the news to Clare, we looked out the window at the devastation, she took it well, considering, the spectacle of it all blew the setback out of the water – so to speak. Jack ran to get his camera and photographed the car from every angle. We were surprised that the engine started, but the stench inside was horrendous, it smelled like the bottom of the Thames. At that point the car was about ten years old, so the insurance company scoffed at the idea of mending it. We, however were still intent on fixing it up and driving to Ireland, after a few phone calls we found a place in Wembley, a long way from Dot’s house in Primrose Hill. We covered the side windows with plastic and tape and drove there without a windscreen. Other drivers looked down their noses at us as we shivered along, lowly beggars driving in a battered tin can. The seats were soaked in water, so we covered them with black garbage bags, there was one saving grace, the radio worked! so we listened to music at least as we brazened our way through the heavy London traffic.

Once we got the windows fixed we packed her up and headed off on the five hour journey to the Irish ferry in Fishguard, Wales.

I suppose we got used to the smell, but we had very uncomfortable sweaty bottoms from the garbage bags, I began to feel like a fish, humidity was everywhere. That cute little car, Clare’s baby, was now a holy show. There was no shortage of comical comments in Wexford when we got there “Were you in a shoot out?” “I’d like to see the other car!”

That poor car, just wasn’t meant to go to Wexford.

Love Pierce xxx

Please say something, squawk or squeal, inspire me, humour me.

Glasgow Tron Theatre January 20th as part of the Celtic Connections Festival.

The Seamus Ennis Centre Naul Co Dublin Feb 4th (last gig this tour)