All posts in March 2017

More stories from the house on the Quay

2 Commercial Quay- continued.

 

I looked out the window at the old black Anglia, silently parked on the quay by the tracks where the Boat train runs twice daily. It was a big old black thing that we had bought second hand for a hundred quid. It’s tall and long body gave it the appearance of a nineteen fifties hearse. I picked up my old acoustic guitar and started picking out notes to accompany my thoughts “maybe my Mother and Breda were right about Sputnik? Maybe it was some kind of tragedy?” I had no experience with real tragedy, and I suppose I had never really believed that he was our dog because of the way we inherited him.

 

He was not a housedog that’s for sure. No one kept tabs on his actions at all. He got up in the morning after sleeping on the landing in front of my Parents bedroom, ate his breakfast, usually bread covered in left over tea with milk and sugar, and went off for the day to do whatever he liked. I often met him in far off places just walking along like a stranger. One time he was with an older widowed woman who seemed to know him, she signaled to him that it he should wait for the traffic before crossing the street, he respected her advise and acted like he was hers. He did a double take when he saw me, and came running over, he wagged his tale profusely and circled me a couple of times, going all floppy with admiration and delighting in the surprise of us running into each other so far from home.   I gave him a bemused look and carried on, thinking he would follow, but he didn’t. As soon as he was finished bidding me good day, he went back to that woman, they continued on their way. Was he her dog too? I know that he used to visit his original owner – my Brother – occasionally too, just pop in for a wag and a saucer of tea. If I wanted him to mind the shop I had to grab him before he went out on his daily rounds, tell him to stay where he was. He was very obedient like that. I looked out the window one more time at the old black Anglia, I imagined him in the boot, it all happened so fast. But so slow is the evening upon approach, with that old black machine sat motionless awaiting someone with a key to finish a day of upheaval.

The Dublin Rosslare Boat Train travels so close to the main road; passing cars are often deceived into thinking that it is actually travelling on the road with them. Strangers are confused to find passengers sitting at a train window seemingly driving along side. The tracks follow along between the River Slaney and the road to the foot of the New Bridge where they cross over the road. It’s a very busy intersection from the Dublin Road, it was assumed that cars would know not proceed on to the Bridge at the sight of that mammoth machine cruising along in their path. But sometimes they couldn’t fathom the reality of the train’s route; was it not going to veer off? Was it really going to drive across the road! into their flank…….Yes!… BANG!!! Too late.I’m slightly ashamed to say here, that I did run for my camera on one of these occasions, my resulting photo made the front page of a National paper with full credit; the sight of a car crumpled beneath a train was pretty sensational. However there were people in there trapped! A woman standing next to me said that I should be ashamed, I was then! But I had been there….right there on the spot, wasn’t that my job as a photographer? Thankfully no one was seriously injured, that woman’s words did affect me though, the next time it happened (and there was a next time) I left the camera behind. Eventually they installed traffic lights at the bottom of the bridge, they went red when the train was coming, however they were the towns first traffic lights, and because they were only active if a train was coming, some unfortunates didn’t take them very seriously either, a costly misjudgment. Still no one was ever killed.

 

 

It was a tall shop counter, one that I could easily hide behind while seated on a low stool. I could be as busy as I chose to be. Rec-Pho was my brainwave, I had many, only my Mother could compete with me for brainwaves, I was her brainwave actually, and she displayed a keen desire to see her ideas through, so I tried to follow suit. Before Rec-Pho the shop was called Molly Roche, my Mother’s maiden name. She had already failed with a corner grocery shop, but quickly enough moved on to the Molly Roche idea. She had always been extremely proud of her Father, Jem Roche, who had been a successful heavyweight boxer, a Champion of Ireland who had fought and won against many world-class fighters. His biggest claim to fame was fighting against the Canadian Tommy Burns for the world heavyweight title. Burns was touring the world trying to get away from Jack Johnson, and stopped off in Dublin to fight her Father for a purse of twenty five hundred pounds, a phenomenal sum in
1905. Jem was beaten in the first round; I once read an article that suggested the loss was inevitable. His role in the fight was not just that of a boxer, he had the morale of that entire poverty stricken country on his back. Bets were placed at pubs and marts, not against him, but for which round he would murder the Canadian in. Dublin was besieged with visitors from all over the country just hoping to be near the hall where the fight was to be. Word got ‘round on the whereabouts of his hotel, and drunken enthusiasts gathered outside to show support. Unfortnately they lost track of their intake, and forgot to be mindful of Jems need to sleep, he shouted down at them to shut up from his hotel window.

 

“Aw is datyew Jem?”

“Yis it tiss, now for Gods go somewhere else and let me get some sleep”

 

“Aw look at him, it’s da wan and owndly He’s goin to give yer man some leashing tomorra I’m telling ye now ”

 
Apparently it went on for a long time, pushing Jem’s tolerance to the limit.

 

“If you don’t shut up and fuck off, I’m goin to come down there and knock your block off”

 

“Oh yeah, gettin all big headed now I see, well dares more den one of us down here young fella”

 

Ultimately it did come to blows, the article said, Jem had to get dressed and come down after them, th
eir belligerence continued, he had no choice but to knock the noise out of them, and crawl back to bed exhausted. The next night Tommy Burns had the edge on my Grandfather in many ways – besides his skill and stature – he also had a team around him who knew how to play every advantage. Jem was marched into the ring through the jam packed Theatre for an Eight O’ Clock fight, and left there to stew in the bright lights, waiting for almost an hour before his opponent arrived. Within a very short period a smattering of punters came pouring out of the Theatre in disarray, some held their tickets up high and offered them for sale. One was heard to claim that Roche was murdering Burns and he couldn’t watch it any more, it was a ruse to get their misspent money back. Perhaps because the fight had started an hour late their story was believable. Otherwise the outsiders would have been suspicious of the hasty exits, in fact they were leaving only minutes after it began, Burns had knocked Jem out in 59 seconds.
I never met Jem Roche, he was dead long before I was born. The way his story was presented to me, it didn’t feel like a tragic loss, it seems that the power of the man and his many achievements overcame all disappointment. He went on to manage the County Football Team through a record six All Ireland wins, a massive achievement by Irish standards, and to own his own Hotel in the heart of Town. So when my Mother had the brainstorm to call the shop
Molly Roche she was aware that the neighboring country people still held the name Roche in high esteem. If she sold something that they needed under that name they’d be interested. She knew a lot about them, her Father had come from Killurin a small farming Village outside Wexford Town. She knew that Farmers needed clothes to work in; they weren’t going to wear boiler suits; they weren’t factory workers, they were businessmen. They needed to do all the manual tasks of a Farmer, and also conduct meetings to buy and sell their wares. She knew that they wore suits, shirts and ties. So she stocked the shop up with large dark suits, outsize only, nothing flashy or easily stained. As usual, the most successful brainstorm was to come from the most natural place

2 Commercial Quay (Sputnik)


Tried to find an old photo from the shop, all I could find was this one which had been superimposed on the shot for Love Can’t Always be articulate-shop was cut out!  but this was taken at that time.

The lazy Saturday morning was split into pieces, by the rude screech of a breaking car over on the far lane of the Quay, the driver had done his utmost to stop in time but couldn’t, the two foolhardy victims lay motionless beneath his mud-covered bumper. My friend Ray and I had been standing outside the shop admiring the breadth of our view across the clear horizon, we could see way out beyond the black man at the end of the breakwater, so far out we pondered aloud the possibility that one distant inkling of sparkling sand near the centre, might be a part of the Welsh coast. To its left the silent forest of Raven Point boomed in the bright sun, it’s virgin sand sloping down to the shallow water at the tip of the peninsula.   We stood there in a perfect spell, with the heat of the sun warming our bones, absorbing the communal good humor of Saturday strollers, when our attention got snapped in half by the frightful sound of animal and machine, screeching for the lives of each other.

I shielded my face with an involuntary hand.

 

“Aw…….. Isn’t that your dog?”

 

“Yes!” I swallowed hard, knowing that for this public spectacle, I was not going to be an impartial observer; all that had been expected of me up till then, in my young life.

 

We made our way over to confirm the worst; Sputnik lay there with his eyes closed, still hot. He had been in some fierce scrapes before I thought; maybe he will survive this one as ably as the others? But Ray knew better. He pointed at the pool of warm water surrounding his body.

 

“That’s a sure sign! There’s not a scratch on him, but ye see…. their liver gets split. There’s no way of surviving that”

 

He pointed down with forensic detachment, but Ray knew these kinds of things, he was only two or three years older than me I believe, but he was a lot older than me by a different measurement than time. If information, confidence and facial hair had it’s own clock, we’d be a decade apart. He was a good man to have around in a spot like this.

 

“We better get him off the road” He advised.

 

I grabbed Sputniks back legs, he the front, and we ferried his taut body over towards the railway tracks where our old Anglia sat idle. I opened the unlocked boot and we gently swung him in there to await his final journey. As we walked back over the road, brushing the dust from our hands, I noticed the man who owned the other dog being more upset than I expected. He carried him off the road towards the shallow railway bank.

 

The driver of the car was beside himself with apologies, he looked like a farmer who was just popping into town for an errand from the country, I could tell by his mucky wellingtons and the tell tale suit; a Farmers uniform in Ireland at the time.

“I have an ould dog at home that’s not worth a curse, but sure I wouldn’t want anything happening to him either, I’m very sorry, the two of em just came outa nowhere”

 

It’s true, they had! Sputnik was very territorial, and his territory was everywhere. The other Dog must’ve been the same; maybe they even knew each other, wandering warriors looking for trespassers. Anyway they both laid eyes upon each other from opposing sides of the street and were so filled with rage that they lost all awareness of the fact that it was the busiest road in town. At the point where they met, with the intent of all out battle, there happened to be a big black car flying along at a healthy pace with no knowledge of their impending action. The dogs screeched, the car screeched and a heavy price was paid for the blindness of their rage. Two dogs that seemed to belong to no one had more going for them than you would think. That black dogs owner carried him off like a dead child. And when I went into the kitchen and announced nonchalantly that Sputnik was dead, my Mother and my Sister Breda went into a fit of loud keening.

 

“What’s wrong with the two of you” I chastised.

 

They looked at me with pale curiosity, shocked it seemed that I made so little of our loss.

 

“What happened to him?” my Sister sobbed, I had never noticed her notice him very much. Me Ma I could see, she had nursed him back from the brink of death when he had been in a battle near our house while out for one of his patrols of the Town. He wasn’t our dog; he was belonged to my Brother Seamus who lived all the way up in Fishers Rowe at the other end of Town. Instead of ferrying him back up to Seamus’s house, she took him in and bathed his wounds every day with hot water and Dettol; he was in bits! I had never seen such raw wounds, hadn’t thought that what lay beneath a dogs coat was similar to the carcass hanging in a Butcher shop. She nursed him for weeks, and gradually the raw red withdrew beneath his pale brown mane. I supposed (upon thinking now) that they had created a greater bond than I had given credit for. So I got it that my Mother had a special place for him, but Breda I hadn’t noticed caring about him too much, obviously there was a lot that I hadn’t noticed about Sputnik. I was fond enough of him myself; he was a clever mutt, and a great guard dog. I would leave him minding the shop when I was in the dark room. If I heard him barking I knew there was customer out there. I often went out there to find him baring his teeth; crouched in attack position, his back hair up, only the bravest customer or most desperate would hold position until I appeared.

 

“Don’t mind him…… Sputnik, Shut up or I’ll brain ye! ” He immediately obeyed and cowered behind the counter.

 

I had always assumed that his bark was worse than his bite, but knowing how fierce he could be in a dogfight, meant that he had a fair enough bite. He was gone now, they would have no reason to even see him again. I had acted like the man of the house and locked him away out of sight. I presumed that someone with more experience in this area would take him from the boot of the Anglia to where dogs get dumped when they are dead – probably where the surplus of newly born pups go – sinking in a stone filled sack. My parent’s generations were less sentimental about such things. Obviously some of that had rubbed off on me though. I had acted surprisingly mature, and calculating. However, I wasn’t going to finish the next part of the job, I‘d had enough maturity for one day.

 

While I was casually informing my Mother and Sister about Sputniks demise, Ray kept an eye on the Shop. When I returned, he was out on the footpath having a chat with a Girlfriend, leaving two friends of mine, who had come by for a Saturday chat, in the Shop. I told the lads about the dog and they gave it a couple of seconds attention, they were at that anti sentimental age, it wasn’t cool. So we turned the conversation to our favourite subject, music. Deccie walked around with an acoustic guitar strapped across his back, he would swing it around and start playing at the drop of a hat. He started to play a chord sequence that was familiar and beautiful, I recognized that it was the Beatles song “Something” he played a chord that I didn’t know how to play. I asked what it was, he hid the fret board so that I couldn’t see. It was a competitive place, Wexford. Dick asked for his favourite song, he would never own it, a lot of people did this, our record shop was like the Bank where they kept their favourite songs. They come in and made a request.

 

“Play that one by the Byrds that you have here”

 

“What from the EP?”

 

“Yeah, the single”

 

I put “8 Miles High” on the old Phillips Gramophone, it used to be our house player, but I claimed it for the shop. The house never got a replacement, but I put speakers in the kitchen and ran a long wire with a switch. They didn’t sound great, it was a long journey, but the Gramophone itself was high fidelity, it had a lot of punch. Ray had left his cigarettes on the counter and the lads thought it would be pleasurable to have a smoke while listening to the jangling guitars and harmonies of the Byrds at full volume. I cautioned restraint; Ray was a big man, in every way! He was a bit of a Hemingway character; he believed that it was honorable to have a boxing match over a disagreement. The two lads were his polar opposite, they were both scrawny musicians like myself, if they had any muscles it was just an adequate amount for ferrying their young skinny frames up and down the Main Street. They giggled as they offered each other a fag from the silver lined pack of Afton’s. I cautioned them again.

 

“Ray won’t like this, I’m tellin ye”

 

The two lads exaggeratedly pulled on the fags, creating a fog of nicotine around their bravado, giggling like schoolboys. Which of course they were! They were still attending the secondary School with two years to go before their leaving cert. I should’ve been in their class, but had left school the previous year. They weren’t real smokers yet, but Ray was. Ray was working as a lifeguard over in Ferrybank, so he had a few bob. He was also a fine painter and had sold some to the local café’s. It was a common summer sight to see him at his easel beside the lifeguard chair, fearlessly spreading great swaths of paint with an oil knife across a canvas; depicting his view of the Town and the River from the other side of the Bridge.

Unlike the two lads and myself, he lived in his swimming trunks while there, we thought hard of removing our suits as we gawped in awe at Johns painting skills, We seldom dipped into the river after we heard the Beatles. He was a sand devil browning in the sun, fearlessly diving off the rocks when he needed to cool down, drying off in the sun, a mans man! He was not going to take kindly to the lads smoking his cigarettes.

 

Youth has a funny effect on danger and time. Deccie and Dick seemed to think that they had all the time in the world to finish off the fags before Ray would return, and because danger wasn’t imminently present, they seemed to presume its non – existence. But danger was just outside on the Quay having a chat with his latest crush Mary Gilltrap, and I noticed with some alarm through the shop window, that their chat had come to a close. Ray was smiling when he came through the door, the chat must’ve went well, he was swinging his strong tanned arms playfully in unison. I hoped that his good humour might supersede what he was about to discover, but I knew he was a moody character and that he could switch from pleasantness to anger in a flash. The two lads had their backs turned and hadn’t seen him come in, they were chatting away, having a grown up moment with their ciggies burning away, picking the tobacco off their tongues. Ray did a quick double take; he looked at me, then at them, then down at the wooden counter where his cigarettes lay. Keeping the smile frozen on his face, he coolly went over to the two lads and took the cigarettes out of their mouths simultaneously, dropped them on the tiled floor and crushed em with the ball of his foot. He then picked up his cigarettes and matches off the counter and left. Deccie and Dick stood semi paralyzed with just their eyes following his movement, the Byrds sonorous harmonies, wilted into background noise as we stood there in silence.

 

Ray had shown us once again how much more he knew about the world, embarrassment was more powerful than violence. The two lads left the shop nervously smiling, they probably wouldn’t do that kind of thing again, and they weren’t going to admit that they felt a pinch of discomfort. Ray smarted up Charlotte Street after Mary, chuffed I imagine with himself that he had been so cool. I looked down under the counter where Sputnik used to sit and felt what I had withheld before; I hadn’t noticed his presence until he was gone. Like most of us, Sputnik’s stature had increased with his demise.

Flying back in the snow

Flying back in the snow!

 

We were flying over JFK in the snow, Dublin had been a hairy experience, sitting at the departure lounge with regular ding dongs and muffled PA announcements. “Flight mmmmm to New York is cancelled”

“Which one did they say?” Clare, looking as worried as everyone else.

“Fuck knows”

The lounge was looking pretty empty and those who were there; were scrambling to check the monitors to see what was going on. It turned out that most people from the canceled Air Lingus flight were transferred over to our Delta flight, and we took off pretty much on time, with me wondering why JFK was fit for us, but not for the other planes?

Now (seven hours later) I was getting the answer as we circled over Long Island, waiting for the one runway that was open to be cleared of snow. The Pilot had warned us that we only had enough fuel to hang around for fifteen minutes, and then we’d have to fly to Cincinnati! Fucking Cincinnati!!

“What was that song, by someone?”

“The Lights of Cincinnati, by Scott Walker, we used to do it in the Arrows, Dave Heenan sang it, Dave’s coming to the gig in the Harp, he’s retired now, stopped doing the cruises as a stand up”

 

“Well I’m afraid we have run out of time, so here is the plan that I have just received from the ground, we are to head for Dulles Airport in Washington DC, where we will put down and refuel. Once we have achieved that, it shouldn’t take any more twenty minutes, we will turn around and return to New York”

“ Jesus Christ, I was just about to run up there and tell him that was enough circling, I mean fifteen minutes worth of fuel”

 

Dulles, was dull, lots of anonymous jets sitting there with no logo’s, big tan coloured things, I wondered if they were Government, odd but not odd enough to be more than dull.

The Captain again, speaking in low frog range “We are just waiting for the oil truck to come and refuel us now, shouldn’t be too long, once they fill us up we’ll be out of here, about a half an hour or so I’d say” If he was any more relaxed he would stop.

On comes a female voice, full of outside world vigor.

“Hi my name is Madeline I am part of the Delta ground crew here in Dulles, while we are here, if there are any of you who would like to get off, please hold your hands up when I come round the Plane and I’ll do my best to sort you out”

Clare and I laughed, “Yeah right! Who’s going to just hop off the Plane here, I mean it’s not a fucking local bus”

Madeline, a tall young one with dark skin and a massive head of ragged energetic hair came through the cabin like a whirlwind, addressing those who were interested, and communicating with the ground through her mobile. To our astonishment a heap of people wanted to get off. So we sat there, with the cold fresh air coming in through the open cabin doors. A long queue of pale, over coated passengers formed along the isle with back packs and hand luggage, stacked up and waiting to get off.

Madeline; “ Those passengers who are getting off, your bags are now being taken off the plane, you can pick them up at the arrival hall, you may need to show your ticket tabs”

“What, Now we have to wait for their bags to get off” I felt like going up to Madeline and saying “couldn’t you have kept your mouth shut” we were getting cranky now.

Pilot; “ Well it turns out that the fuel guy was here, and just as he was about to fill us up, discovered that his tank was empty, so he’s gone back to get more fuel”

 

“Is he joking? I mean this wouldn’t happen on the Wexford Dublin Bus”

I decided to walk around, got talking to two flight attendants while looking through the open doors, one was a bald sixty something year old, he shared stories of insults that he received because of his age and lack of hair, one guy told him he looked like Kruschiev, another said, within earshot, is this old guy really working here? The Woman had put my guitar in the closet when I boarded.

“My husband plays guitar too, he has a six string and a twelve string”

“Great, everyone has more guitars than me, I really just use one”

“What’s a twelve string sound like?”

Before I could answer, she jumped in.

“It’s a very specialized sound, you can’t play songs on it, it’s just for expression”

This was a very unusual way to describe it in my book, but couldn’t be bothered arguing. Still he was a nice bloke, and puzzled by her description.

“Have you ever heard a Band called the Byrds?”

“Yes of course, and how kind of you to suppose I am too young to not know them”

“Well I always assume that everyone is too young to know these things, anyway the sound of their guitar is an electric twelve string”

“Oh, yes I know that sound”

 

The Captain; “Well the Fuel guy is back, this time with a tank full, and he is now filling us up, however; we have been on the ground for so long now in the snow, the wings have gotten iced up, so we need de-icing, as soon as all that is done, we will close up and fly back to JFK”

I crawled back to the seat, disheartened.

“Oh no” said Clare. “I’ve been through de-icing before, it takes fuckin ages”

Another hour passed, I went up to look out at the de-icing, there was a black man in blue over-alls washing the inside of one of the jet engines with a mop. I decided not to tell Clare ( a nervous flyer) about that.

We figured out that by the time we got off the Plane in New York we’d be travelling for over eighteen hours.

Eventually we got out of that big smelly hot thing, and just in time, it had run out of food and booze.

So after all that, you better be planning on coming to the Harp on March 12th! ! (if you are in NY that is?)

Of course I’ll still Xove you if you don’t.

Pierce Turner Ensemble (dignified pre ST Paddys Day) March 12th at The Harp (upstairs) 729 Third Avenue bet 45th and 46th-doors 5pm show at 6pm The Pierce Turner Ensemble with Fred Parcells and Andriette Redmann, Kath Green, John Rokosny (AKA Avon Faire-check out their debut album)

Only holds 60 call 212-818-0123-Food and booze served, with the lovely hosts; Bruce and Jim.

Irish Summer tour in the making; major announcement;

WHELANS !!!Dublin with the TABLES!!! For the first time in years at the top Indie club in Ireland-on Sunday June 25th at 8pm-this will be magic, tickets on sale imminently.

AND The Wexford St Iberius on Saturday June 17th – tix at the Wexford Arts Centre.

Also big news, BBC6 has been playing “Tantum Ergo” from Love cant Always Be Articulate” If you could drop a line of encouragement to this DJ I would really appreciate it. Stuart Maconie stuart.6music@bbc.co.uk

BBC – Music – Pierce Turner

The BBC artist page for Pierce Turner. Find the best clips, watch programmes, catch up on the news, and read the latest Pierce Turner interviews.

BBC.CO.UK