Back in Ireland

  With Cillian Vallely and Fred Parcells at the 11th Street Bar last month in the East Village.

Got the fire going, the shed is falling down, but there was half a bag of coal in there, went out there in the dark last night with the flashlight, the moon was at a quarter and the sky was clear and northern, I picked the green sack up and poured the coal out of the cut off corner, even at half full, it’s heavy enough! My coal man is an ex priest, how the hell does a Priest get to be strong enough to throw these sacks around? When the bag is full, I have to take a deep breath and run at it- to lift it over the lip of my sheds door frame. He just throws it over his back effortlessly, and drops it gently by the back wall.
Now the fire is blazing, a rich red core with jagged amber flames curling up around the chimney path. My Sister Dolores was just here, as she warmed her arse by the fire she declared

“Oh that fire is gorgeous!”

Cork coming! Coughlans Dec 7th
Greenacres Wexford Dec 29th
The National Concert Hall Dublin, Jan 16th
England in between.

New Yawk New Yawk

The National Concert Hall 2015- back to that beautiful chandelier room with the incredible Steinway Piano on January 16th, 2018-ideal Christmas present, to wipe away the January blues-for you’s. Tickets on sale now at the NCH.

It’s a crazy morning in New York, I can feel the vibes in the air already. Walking in to a restaurant, I changed my mind half way through the door, when I noticed that the tiny place was full. Pulling back from the door, I backed into a woman who was right on my heels “Oh sorry” said I, she threw me an impatient look and was about to say something, but withdrew after the first syllable, a vague sound-but not a vague suggestion, the message was clear she considered telling me off-so what would she say? “Why didn’t you put your brake lights on?” Or “ You are a stoopid human being?” Anything is possible in New York.

I have always said that being here, is like living with a large dysfunctional family. This woman acted like a Sister who is sick to death of her Brother, I mean what stranger would think of telling off another person for changing their mind to enter a restaurant?

Once when I was at a very boring Tom Stoppard Play on Broadway, having not eaten since breakfast I picked up at Kit Kat in the foyer to give me some sustenance, sugar in other words. Clare and I sat in our tiny seats made for tiny people eighty years ago, way, way up in the Gods. Squeezed between strangers on both sides, winter anoraks underneath us, handbags in between, scarves, gloves and hats filling every cavity. It was claustrophobic and vertaphobic, and it was hot! Really hot! The Play was on its way and it was pretentious and strained-my eyelids became heavy “ Oh God I can’t go asleep here” I know, find the Kit Kat! There are so many pockets in that blasted Canadian Winter coat, will have to do this like an FBI spy, slippery and slowly I felt my way down the rough weatherproof exterior of my coat, feeling around almost every pocket before I found the right one. I pull the paper wrapper off it very carefully, so far so good, I’m now down to the silver, it makes a soft crackle. This play is excruciatingly quiet, I break off a finger, and let it melt in my mouth without chewing. All was going well, I think it’s ok to go for another finger, a little less gingerly this time. They are in a boat now with an oil lamp, it’s beautiful looking, but what the fuck are they talking about? I reach for a third piece, thinking nobody cares what I do…… SMACK!! A woman sitting a couple of seats away from me slaps me on the hand with her glove, like lighting, without even looking. What?? I mean, is she my Mother? I tried to get her attention to express my astonishment, but she didn’t seem to even give it a second thought. See what I mean?

So back to the Restaurant, after leaving I went around the block to another place that I like, but there was a line outside the door. So I just walked back to the scene of the crime to see if things had changed, sure enough it had, there was plenty of room. So I sat down, read the paper and had some Italian coffee with a Caprese sandwich, delicious.   As I finished my breakfast, I notice the woman across from me is nasty with the waiter. Pointing at her empty plate she snaps “ Just take it away!” dismissing him with the back of her hand. He brings her the check book and she starts foraging around in a small crumpled white envelope, she pulls up a five dollar bill and a few ones-with her coat off and seated I hadn’t recognized her-it was yer one who almost told me off for changing my mind at the door, while she was so close she could have run me down. The waiter brought back her check in the black plastic book. She opened and removed the three dollars and put them back in the envelope-picked up her Sunday Post-pushed it into her bag, and chinked a few quarters on the marble table top.  Yikes.

I leave for Ireland soon, might be good timing. I love you more than Mozzarella.

Dec 7th Coughlans Cork

Dec 29th Greenacres Wexford

January 16th The National Concert Hall (JFR)

These last two would make great Christmas presents don’t ye tink?

Pass the hat….NOT-back in New York

The first time that I came across a venue that didn’t pay its artists, was Sine over on St Marks Place. Shane, the owner, was an expert at socializing, at spreading his charisma. I had enough of a following to demand payment for a gig. But Shane had been building a name by getting all kinds of famous people to play in Sine for fun. Sinead O’Connor was hanging out there, and Jeff Buckley had been a regular. Shane came to one of my shows and said that I would be welcome to play at Sine any time. I (like most people) can only play so often in one area, if I want to maintain my drawing power. So playing at Sine for nothing meant risking my income for that period. But I also was drawn towards it, like a Lemming to the cliff. So I did it, Shane said it was most that he had ever seen in the passed hat, I Think it was around $280 (for Fred Parcels and I)-he also said that it was the most beer he had ever sold, they had to keep going to the Bodega on the corner. I couldn’t even get Shane to pay for Fred’s taxi from four blocks away, he used an amplifier, Fred wheeled it over on a trolly. Afterwards I wondered why I did it. I knew that the spirit of it was wrong. For young artists who can’t find anywhere to cut there teeth, this kind of thing is important. But for anyone who has done all that, and established a hard earned following, it’s insane. The only one who really benefitted from this was Shane! from a business point of view he deserved it. But, he started something horrible, for musicians, as far as I can see. Now, everywhere you look in Manhattan, there are places presenting free music, being played by high quality, mature musicians.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s (pre Sine) Venues paid musicians to do that, it might not be a whole lot if you weren’t a draw, but $300 or so was the common fee. Now they pay you a compliment by allowing you to play. I have volunteered to do one of these new places recently, for the same reason that I did the insane Sine gig, some kind of peer pressure. They said yes, sure, and offered me a gig next March 2018 !! It’s not even impromptu. Needless to say, I ain’t doing it, get stuffed!
Please remember when you are in the audience at one of these places, that what goes in the hat, is all the musician gets. I have seen great artists blowing the audience away, and watched people either putting nothing in the hat, or just one dollar! We are supposed to leave 20% tips now for being waited on in a restaurant. If musicians play for 40 minutes at the minimum wage, you should be putting $8 in the hat.
Thanks to initiatives like Sine, exploiting musicians has become so normal, we don’t even know it is happening.

Pierce Turner performances in the NY area.
Beal Bocht Riverdale Oct 14th – 8pm Tickets at The Beal Bocht site.
Staten Island Maritime Museum October 20th

Poems Stories Songs And Yokes That Fitteth Not Any Description

This paper was presented by Dr Irene Lucchitti of the University of Wollongong at the 2017 conference of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

  • Ireland’s rich literary heritage and cultural reputation have long been enhanced by the work of musicians such as Pierce Turner. For many decades Turner has pursued a musical career, producing a number of critically acclaimed albums supported by a lengthy, story-filled correspondence with his audience.  His work is musical, literary and performative and, in theme, performance and relationship with audience, shows clear links to the Irish oral tradition.
  • Turner’s engagement with music dates from his childhood days when he sang in the church choir and played in the Confraternity Brass and Reed Band of his native Wexford. The sacred music he encountered in these formative years, including Gregorian chant, remains a potent influence, as does the music of 17th century blind harpist and composer, Turlough O’Carolan, and that of Seán Ó Ríada, whose mid- 20th century work contributed to the successful revival of Irish traditional music. His tastes broadened in his teenage years to include all kinds of contemporary music. He enjoyed the music of contemporary Irish bands Emmet Spiceland and Tir Na Nog, as well as the music of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Who, among others that he encountered while working in his mother’s record store. Later influences would include jazz and techno, classical music and choral harmony.
  • Critics see him as a creator of music that is ‘complex and accessible’ and as a ‘consummate lyricist’. These skills coupled with his ability to tell a good story well have made him a writer’s writer – his literary fans include Val McDermid, Eoin Colfer, Billy Roche, Colum McCann, Joseph O’Connor, Kevin Barry and Liam Fay.  Screen writer and film director, Jim Sheridan, credits him with awakening him from a creative ennui and stimulating a renewed interest in things Irish, leading to the creation of My Left Foot.
  • His album ‘3 Minute World’ was voted one of the top 100 Irish albums of all time in nationwide polls and his song ‘Wicklow Hills’ as one of the top 25 Irish songs. His music has featured in several films and television shows and he has written scores for several movies, most recently ‘Emerald City’. He has been the recipient of many awards, including Hot Press Awards as Maverick of the Year and as Irish Solo Performer of the Year. The Irish Times described him as one of the most important artists of the last several decades. Career highlights include his performance of his “Yogi with a Broken Heart” on stage with avant-garde American composer, Philip Glass, at Carnegie Hall in 2010 and the Wexford celebration of the Mass he composed for Ireland’s The Gathering of 2013.
  • In addition to his music, he has also created a literary artefact that takes the form of a lengthy correspondence with his audience, his ‘Pierce’s Newsletters’ and his current blog, ‘Monday Morning Milk’. Although both sets of writing were produced episodically over many years, and although they function in part to publicise upcoming events, their subject matter, as well as the cohesion and balance one finds in them, endows them with a significant degree of artistic integrity. They contain material that is sometimes autobiographical, sometimes philosophical, often funny and occasionally sad. Whatever their subject, the pieces are always entertaining and written with great competence and style.
  • The two bodies of writing are held together by a variety of literary devices including a narrative structure that see-saws back and forth between Wexford and Manhattan, offering autobiographical tales and observations of life and culture in both places. Occasionally, for the sake of added colour and amusement, he might enhance a tale with a textual rendition of the distinct accents of each place.
  • A recurring cast of characters, including Turner’s wife, Clare, his parents, Jem and Mollie, even their cats, adds another layer of cohesion to the texts. Elton John is mentioned now and then, usually in regard to questions about the impact of fame on artistic independence. Philip Glass appears several times, as an artistic authority and as a touchstone of innovative creativity. David Bowie also makes several appearances in the text – as an elusive and unseen guest at some of Turner’s gigs and, after Bowie’s death, as a prompt to reflection on the question of mortality that colours Turner’s texts, lyrics and music.
  • His preoccupation with this theme often takes the form of urging his reader to slow down, to live deliberately, to stop racing headlong towards his tombstone.  His related concern with the transitory nature of life, of relationship and of community, also leaves its mark. As a Wexford man living in Manhattan, and as a philosopher, he also, naturally, concerns himself with the fluid nature of identity, be it Irish, American, or simply human. Ruminations on his craft also run through his texts: his ‘1,000%’ commitment to it, his ambition, his lack of ambition, his periods of creative indolence, the corrosive effects of fame, the measure of success, the contest between artistic ambition and financial reward, and the joys and perils of the performing life.
  • As he explores his themes and the various lives he lives – his Irish life, his American life, his creative life, his performing life, his busy life, his lazy life – we see that they are all lived in relationship and dialogue with his readers. As the letters proceed, he addresses them, his ‘sausages’, ‘his sausage pudding pies’, in ever funnier, ever more extravagant terms of endearment, sometimes apologising for not writing, sometimes reproaching them for not writing back, and often expressing his love and need of them. ‘I hope you are out there, you never write any more, you must be so busy, and here I am loving you more than sushi!’ he writes, and later, more earnestly perhaps, ’Without you, I am toast.’
  • His audience is relatively small but highly valued. It is, he says, the kind of audience that musicians crave. He sees his career as ‘a collaborative effort’ between himself and the audience, and believes that it is the receptivity of his audience that endows his music with whatever beauty it might have. His relationship with his audience is personal and often expressed humorously – ‘please come to the gig, I need your company,’ he writes on one occasion; ‘please say something, squawk or squeal, inspire me, humour me,’ he writes on another. But it is also heartfelt: the illness and death of a member of his audience, moves him very personally. He acknowledges her suffering and death in his newsletter, and responds to it artistically by composing a piece of music in her honour.
  • Most of all, the letters and blogs are held together by a highly idiosyncratic narrative voice. Often funny, self-deprecatory, casual and intimate, and often couched as letters from an old friend, they offer a portrait of Turner, his life, his people and his art that is built up layer by layer. There are numerous highly crafted pieces among them, some of which would not be out of place in an anthology of short stories. Several of his New York stories come to mind. First is a cunning piece announcing an upcoming gig at Joe’s Pub dressed up as a story about the little apple blossom tree that stands outside his apartment in Manhattan. Something of a coquette, her beauty matches that of Hopper’s ‘Lady in a Summer Dress’. She mesmerises, she soothes, she coos in his ear, allowing him to work, all the while eliciting the details of the gig. Another New York story, ‘Henry and Delores’, meditates on the mysteries of friendship, the pleasure in its arrival and the lingering mystery and sadness of its going.
  • Wexford stories of note include ‘My Father Was a Fireman’ which offers poignant reminiscences of childhood, of his parents, and of performing with the Brass and Reed Band. He remembers the Band’s involvement in all the religious celebrations of the year, their procession through the town and their audience, his first audience, made up of neighbours standing in their doorways, holding candles in the dusk, waiting for the Band to pass by. In another story, ‘Leaving on a Jet-Plane’, the title of which intimates something of the musical life he is seeking, he shares his own experience of emigration. A personal story and a familiar ‘Irish’ story at one and the same time, his story of the train trip from Fishguard is reminiscent of Muiris O Suilleabhain’s account of his departure from the Blaskets and from Dingle. But this story, this version of the Irish story of leaving, is filled with sounds – the percussive rhythm of the train on the tracks, the absence of female voices, the low murmuring of male voices, their sotto voce long confessional conjuring the requiem he will write one day. It is an account of emigration that could only have been written by a musician.
  • Interesting and significant though this writing is, Turner is best known for his music. His musical composition reflects the depth and breadth of his diverse musical experience and taste. He possesses a strong and beautiful voice that ‘drips emotion’, a voice that makes him sound, according to Joseph O’Connor, ‘like a choirboy on acid’. While his voice is the perfect vehicle for the expression of the sacred and the sublime, somehow it is also the perfect medium for the expression of the romantic, the forlorn, the silly and even for the carping venality of small town gossip.
  • His innovative approach to his craft is not confined to the elements of composition, but extends also to his creative use of performance space. He has performed in spaces both intimate and grand, in cathedrals, pubs and concert halls, in the parlours of private homes, in his own home on occasion, and in concerts delivered live online. Whatever his venue, whatever his medium, he creates an environment that is interactive and dialogic.
  • Although his music is instantly recognisable, there is no such thing as a typical Turner song, as a brief sample will illustrate. Wicklow Hills is an exuberant, energetic escape song. Life in a Day offers a gentle meditation on the little joys and moments of life in his town, his thoughtful meanderings turning him into a little Wexford Bloom. Musha God Help Her shows the downside of small town life, perfectly ventriloquising the small town gossip, its growing raucousness reflecting the gleeful crescendo of a scandal spreading. All Messed Up gives voice to the powerful emotional dislocation that follows the end of love. Equally at home covering St Thomas Aquinas’ Tantum Ergo and Nirvana’s Lithium, he is perhaps uniquely equipped to compose a song that seamlessly integrates elements of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side with a rousing rendition of the old hymn, Faith of Our Fathers.
  • He confides that he loves music and he loves entertaining people. His art is always dialogic. He is always aware of the other that he is addressing. He also loves language and uses it playfully, expressing his delight in word-craft with the mantra – why use two words when ten will do? These three aspects of his craft combine to create something unique. In combination, they reflect Turner’s identity as a latter-day shanachie, a modern-day story-teller, an heir to the Irish oral tradition.
  • Recognising this himself, he explains his place in the tradition in Colin Murnane’s film ‘the Song for the Year’. He points out that his parlour gigs, which seem so innovative today, are a very old idea. ‘Travelling musicians did it in the 17th and 18th centuries, and perhaps even earlier, he says.  ‘[…] songs and stories were all they had.  People would get up and sing a song in a room full of people who would appreciate it’. This, put simply, is what Turner continues to do today.
  • Lawrence Mackin, reviewer from The Irish Times, also implies a place in the tradition for Turner in his review of a gig he had attended, writing that ‘the set was exciting stuff with plenty of humour and skill and a real traditional feel, in that the audience wasn’t so much listening to a series of songs as being told a long story, with all the different elements interlinking along the way through song, spoken word and even the few odd shapes that Turner was throwing on stage’.
  • We also find many echoes or shadows of the old tradition in his writing – a philosophical response to weather perhaps, or a scene from nature motivating a reminiscence, a story about the old days and ways that imply comparison with life today, or autobiographical snippets interwoven through his performance – all customary elements of the oral traditions through which Ireland expressed herself for hundreds of years. Similarly, in his music, we hear echoes from down the ages – plainchant, sacred music, modern popular music, jazz, sometimes even in the same song.
  • It is however his relationship with his audience that is perhaps the surest marker of his place in the tradition. His dialogic performance in congenial, hospitable settings reflects the customary practices of the oral tradition. Acutely aware of the audience’s important role in his musical composition and performance, Turner nurtures a symbiotic relationship with his audience, and does so to great effect. Liam Fay once remarked that Turner’s grip on his audience is so tight he leaves fingerprints.
  • The endlessness of tradition and Turner’s place within it is fully declared in ‘The Song for the Year’, a song narrated by a bird who must each year create a unique song with which to woo a partner. The bird is a lover, a poet, a musician. He composes and performs with his very specific audience in mind. Only his audience can give it meaning.
  • Both timeless and ephemeral, the song is linked to tradition in purpose, word and melody. The song the bird is calling out is ‘an ancient song’; it is a gift to him ‘from memory’, from time immemorial. It is mystical – he opens his mouth ‘and a song comes out’. It comes from him and from beyond him. Its reach fills the earth. Although it is the urge to renew that drives the bird’s composition and performance, the elements of plainchant link it to the past and to tradition, while the sounds of the organ overlay it with a quasi-religious, philosophical layer. Behind the vocals, behind the main melody, we hear the sounds of a bird filled forest canopy. The song ends with plainchant intonation of the mantra to ‘sing your song’.
  • An expression of tradition incarnate, this is a mystical song that reflects the cycle of life. It is a hauntingly beautiful song. Its lovely harmonies and shifts between minor and major keys signal the bird’s shifts in emotions and offer a musical rendition of the tension between enacting tradition and achieving renewal, between the self that is called upon each spring to create a new song and the self that, in so doing, conforms to the age-old practices of its species. The bird’s forest home becomes a cathedral of the bush, a place where age-old customs are endlessly repeated and refreshed in performance, where the newest song is old and the oldest song is new.
  • But this is also a mystical song about the life of an artist, compelled always to create something new yet touched always by what has gone before. Like the bird, Turner calls out his unique songs, ancient and modern, his gift from memory, to woo his audience. In obedience to his own mantra, to ‘sing [your] song’, he opens his mouth and his dreams come out. His art, gifted to him by those who went before, is a gift to those who hear him and to those who will follow.

The Little Greek Basil Plant-Pierce Turner- Monday Morning Milk blog

The Little Greek Basil Plant.

 

Clare takes the Greek Basil plant out of the car and apologizes to it, it’s been scrunched in the back seat behind me from Brighton to Pembroke Bay. She waters it and baby talks the plant in its pot.

“I. ….sorry baby”

 

Then resigned.

 

“I want to go to bed early!”

 

We awakened this morning at 5 am – didn’t want to drive all that way and be late for the ferry like twice before. The last time it sat there on the other side of the gate just looking at us, like all stuff that we are punished for missing, it seemed to wag a self -righteous finger at us, sitting there, after a white knuckle ride, we had literally missed the boat. No, this time we would get there ahead of time, us and the Greek Basil plant. We would tare down the M4 and get there well before the check in time of 2;45 only stopping once for a coffee and cardboard sandwich to go.

 

The Ferry between Wales and Ireland has been a mainstay travel connection throughout my life, the Rosslare Port, twelve miles from Wexford Town, is our Airport in the South East. Waterford, forty mikes away has had an on-off romance with the metal birds, I did use it once to fly to Luton just north of London, but upon return from there the Pilot announced some dissatisfaction with the weather conditions, and threatened to land in Cork, nearly a hundred miles further away from our destination. This was with a clear summers day! Never bothered with Waterford Airport again.

 

At two o’clock the boarding began, they appear to have a haphazard system at Irish Ferries, the men and women who work there act like it’s not their normal job. I never feel sure that they are addressing me, and they use sign language a lot, a cupped hand with bending beckoning fingers, obviously means “come towards me” but when the face above it is deadpan and is looking absent mindedly to the left, you find yourself looking around to make sure that it’s not another car they are addressing. The women tend to work at the early stages, like checking your ticket, or beckoning you towards the check-in kiosk. We were there early, and chose to stand on the wrong line by proxy, with no signs or instructions of any kind, I wondered out loud about the dividing white lines with up side down faded numbers at their head in the distance.

 

“Which should we take, I wonder?”

 

“I would go over there behind that red SUV”

 

And so with absolutely no solid reasoning, I drove up behind the SUV with the silver spare tyre holder attached to its rear door, and the bicycles on the roof. It was somewhere in the middle, I would guess out of ten parking lanes, we might’ve been on lane five. So even if we chose wrongly, we should have been in the middle. I think Clare’s logic was based on the fact that we were right in front of the check in kiosk. Anyway, when the woman arrived in her peak cap, sharply pressed dark blue uniform and aluminous yellow waist coat, she casually beckoned the last row to our left, barely bending an index finger on her right arm which was hanging down by her side, where it would be resting if she was doing nothing at all. Off they went, the people who had arrived long after the Greek Basil plant and ourselves, and then the next line, and the next, until finally she arrived at the red SUV. All in all it would be about fifteen to twenty minutes before she go to us, still barely moving, but conceding a side ward step, and a glance in our direction. After we identified ourselves to the mature woman with a wry smile in the Kiosk.

 

“What’s your last name?”

 

“Turner”

 

“Clare?”

 

“Yes”

 

We both laughed as she stooped to see Clare in the passenger seat.

 

“You’re in here, we’ve got your information all prepared, off you go”

 

She handed me a boarding card and we drove through a roofed inspection area, this was the customs and excise area, a plump fifty year old man in a peak cap and the same aluminous vest, leaned down and smiled.

 

“Where are you from?”

 

“Ireland”

 

“Ok so”

And into the belly of the great beast we drove.

Here all the commands were imparted by men. A sturdy fella with a grey five O’clock shadow, seemed to be directing us towards him with a reluctant cupped fist. He looked like he was there by accident, like he happened to be in the pub having a pint between shifts in the Engine room, and someone said;

 

“You better go up above Tommy and tell them cars where to park when they board”

 

I looked at him and gestured

 

“Me?”

 

He gave a careless nod, and I followed my common sense to a lane, driving in a state of total ambiguity, thinking “If I am doing the right thing, it’s nothing short of a miracle”

An announcement came over the PA.

 

“Please turn off all the engines before going to the upper decks”

 

Noting that we were on Blue Deck 5 we stepped into an elevator with a merry red haired man and his female friend, he started talking to us in German.

 

“Ele-vaw-torr, das iss de elle-vaw –torr, no? tee hee”

 

I expected that he would break into fluent English soon, as most Germans in Ireland usually do, but no, he got more into his native tongue, and looked at us with the open faced assumption that we understood. Now the short heavy- set woman who accompanied him was joining in with the same joviality. I know a few words in German, but by Jasus, I wasn’t going to encourage them, they seemed to already assume we were German. We were starting to feel over whelmed when the lift halted at God knows what floor, we ran for it and left them giggling on their merry climb.

 

Up above, Clare laid down with her head on my back pack and fell asleep while I read the New York Times on my I Pad. Eventually I found a corner to lie down and fall asleep myself. It was a bit startling to see myself in the mirrored ceiling, I was a bit red from the heat wave we had experienced in England. When I awakened there was an elderly woman seated and facing me, she was blocking the only way out of my corner, I felt boxed in. She looked like like a friendly old Irish lady, she was smiling in a giving fashion. Wiping the sleep from my eyes I offered some confused pleasantry.

 

“Das iss shlavvin und %*#..??”

 

What! She’s German too? And she’s talking away to me like I am German. I just didn’t know what to say and tried to offer up a silent pleasantness as I squeezed out between her and the corner table. It was hard to even explain to Clare, who was annoyed that I woke her up.

 

Getting off the ship was the same as getting on, we were inexplicably last, the man beckoning us was equally ambivalent, his fat hand equally covert.

 

When we got out of the car up here on Davitt Road North, the Greek Basil Plant had it’s face scrunched up against my back seat where I had pushed it back to its furthest point, befitting my legs. I shushed the little plant up a bit and put it on the Kitchen table where Clare discovered it. I suppose the Ferry will be on its way back to Wales by now, I can still smell it’s taste of oil and salt water.

The next gig will be in New York, right now it’s October 14th at the Beal Bocht in Riverdale, and there will be a Staten Island gig (a first) don’t know the date yet, something in Manhattan of course also, Boston? Will be back in Ireland for Christmas. Coughlans of Cork on December 7th….Wexford Arts Centre Dec 23rd?

Who knows what else.

Send your love out like the seeds for a rose garden, the world needs those, to fight the pleather of weeds threatening to strangle our wisdom.

 

Love will protect us all, my lovely sausages. Pierce xxx

Irish Tour in Progress-Wexford Week finale this Saturday

                                          This photo taken in Cork on Thursday June 8th by Jens Uhl

The first gig of this Irish Leg, Cork! Started off as sweater, and became a cracker. Good sweat though, Otis Redding sweat, Bruce Springsteen sweat, that kinda ting, ye know what I mean? Because we were late the last time I played there, we set off extra early

this time. We were late the first time because we got lost, Cork is a maze of one way streets, and I have no faith in my sense of direction anyhow. I did a lot of studying on the google map, and almost understood where Coughlans was. But we got lost anyhow. It’s on Douglas Street.

 

“Excuse me do you know where Douglas Street is?”

 

“Douglas Street?” scratches his head with the shopping bag hanging from his thumb

 

“Ara Now, it should be around here somewhere, I mean Douglas Road South is over there”

 

“ok thanks very much”

 

Eventually after many’s the dodgy looking housing estates (dodgy because they appeared to be going nowhere) and narrow one way hills, we landed outside IMRO’s Venue of the year. It was a truly brilliant night. Especially inspired, and funny!!

 

Then I went to see my home county hurling team beat Irelands toughest opponent Kilkenny, up at the Wexford Park, I love hurling, and this was a killer match. This Saturday (June 17th – 8pm) we will finish a perfect Wexford week at the St Iberius Church on the Main Street.   The 200 year old organ is so sweet, in this great Church, with its back to the harbour, one time the sea went right up to its back wall. The acoustics are incredible, and this may be my last gig there as it is hard work to organize. So if you want to experience this porous musical gem with our guitars wrapped in that beautiful organ played by Josh Johnson, with the lovely Paula Cox on vocals and percussion, Garvan Gallagher on Bass, Mick Egan on acoustic and electric Guitar, and Myself on Grand Piano and acoustic guitar, get your tickets at the Wexford Arts Centre.

This same line – up will also be at Whelans with me on June 25th, It is years since the classic gigs at Whelans when people hung from the ceiling and sang like football fans. They are bringing back the old classic wooden tables, so I can slide along them like a lunatic. The Irish Times did a special offer for this event, running an ad every day for a week. They also compiled these quotes from Irish authors. Come outa the house, you’ve been in there long enough.

And as if that’s not enough, I will return to London’s Slaughtered Lamb On July 13th Angeala De Burca will join me on fiddle, this is always a blinder, and happens rarely enough, God knows. Tickets at wegottickets

I need you, honest I do.

Love Pierce xxx

 

 

The Pierce Turner Ensemble.

This Saturday June 17th St Iberius Church Wexford at 8pm-tix at the Wexford Arts Centre

 

Sunday June 25th Whelans Wexford St Dublin at 8pm tix at WAV and Ticketmaster.

 

With Angeala De Burca

Thursday July 13th The Slaughtered Lamb London at 8pm tix at wegottickets
Top Irish Authors say why they like Pierce Turner:

 

Joseph O’Connor; “Pierce Turner is a storyteller, soul man, poet, heartbreaker, with the voice of a choirboy high on rocket fuel. His songs sound like nobody else’s. A true and beautiful and utterly unique artist”

 

Kevin Barry; “For many a strange moon, Piece Turner has been creating some of the most indescribably odd and luminous and beautiful music anywhere – for the Old Weird Ireland, he is something close to a national treasure.”

 

Eoin Colfer; “Pierce Turner’s lyricism has had a huge influence on my writing. He is a one of a kind genius poet. I wish I had never heard him so I could listen for the first time. Pierce is the only songwriter I know who has made me laugh and cry during the same song”

 

Liam Fay; “Like his songs, Turner’s live shows are spellbinding: his grip on an audience is so tight he leaves fingerprints.”

 

Billy Roche : “Ray Davies meets Brian Wilson with a little pinch of James Joyce and you have it – the sublime taste of Turner!”

 

Pierce Turner Ensemble performing “Love Can’t Always Be Articulate” and more.

Coughlans Cork City June 8th – 8pm

St Iberius Church Wexford Sat June 17th at 8pm

Whelans Wexford St Dublin-June 25th 8pm

The Slaughtered Lamb London July 13th – 8pm

 

A Whelans review from The Irish Times;

“Clambering across tables little shimmies and clattering a smashing ashtray to the ground to the screams of adoration, Turner breaks sown the barrier between audience and performer and really gives himself in a way that makes him naked”

 

 

 

Yesterday I took the C train up to W96th Street

Pierce Turner Ensemble at Legends On Sunday April 23rd 5pm-at 6 W33rd St bet 6th and 7th Avenue.

“Yesterday I took the C train up to West 96th Street”

Pierce Turner (c)2017

As apathy and other forms of distraction take a hold on the majority of my already meagre size audience, I wonder if am I doomed to fade into oblivion with the usual trappings, babysitters and T.V addicts, fearful agoraphobiacs.

Still inspired and bursting with ideas, I try to convince myself that it doesn’t matter what size my audience is, just get on with it! something will give, somehow, some way, new freshly inspired lovers will find me and mingle with the still lively ones. Some of us have many more lives to live.

Yesterday I took the C train up to West 96th Street. My friend Jeff MacCulloch invited me to talk with his class of (I think he said 8th Graders?) kids seemingly around fourteen year olds. There was about 16 kids there, two thirds Girls, most of them were African American.
When I arrived at the School (in the nick of time at 2pm) the security guard pulled over the nearest kid and instructed him to bring me to Mr Mac’s class. Mr Mac? I was just about to correct her and say that it was Jeff MacCulloch when it dawned on me that Jeff was Mr Mac.

Jeff had primed his writing class for this event by having them study 2 of my songs “3 Minute World” and “Orange Colored Sun” He also had them read my short story “The Permist” – But I hadn’t really thought about what he had told me.

The event started with one of the young Ladies reading out a short Biography of who I am, and then the questions began. A lot of hands shot into the air, Jeff chose one, it took me a while to realize that I could pick too.

“In 3 Minute World, what did you mean when you said you were stuck in the shop suspended by a heartfelt song?”
I was flabbergasted! these Urban New York kids knew the lyrics to that song? Jeff wasn’t kidding. I mean, it is such a Wexford song. The question came from a cute impish black Girl with a massive head of hair pulled back and tightly tied with a blue velvet band. She had sparkling eyes and a mischievous smile.

“On Saturday evening when all my friends were strolling up and down the Main Street and my girlfriend was probably flirting with them, I felt trapped in the Record Shop listening to broken hearted love songs”

“were you in love with her?”

“It felt like love, I was definitely heart sick in her absence”
She kind of crumbled into a heap, covering her eyes with her fingers.

A young shy boy puts his hand up and Jeff pulls him out of the sea.

“When you say ‘Anywhere is happening better than this God Know’s and wherever you are is where I wanna be’ what’s that?”

Again – shocked at the notion that these black kids are asking me about such an extremely personal song, from what I would’ve thought to be a kind of alien culture – I delighted in digging up the meaning of those words from my memory bank.

” Let me see, I can’t really remember the words to this song” The tall black boy to my left hands me the lyric sheet that Jeff had printed out.
“Oh thank you”

“you’re welcome”

“OK, I’m kind of saying saying, even if I was on a rock out in the middle of a windy ocean, I’d be happy if she was there”

“Oh that’s soooooo sweet!!!!” the little black girl chuckled and all the girls melted into a romantic union of giggling. I was delighted with myself, it took 30 years offa me, my heart was flying, I was at one with these kids, there was no ageist wall between us, I was speaking their language and feeding off their liveliness. And what I was saying resonated with the world they inhabited.

The tall black boy to my left asked a question about “The Permist”

” Were you in love with that girl who danced with your finger?”

“No, but I was infatuated, she had me wrapped around her little finger, she was 19, I was 15 and a half. Girls are more mature than boys anyhow” The girls laughed out loud.

“In Orange Colored Sun, I thought of a warm sun down by the ocean, is that what you wanted us to think?” Asks the the tall friendly girl with the glasses and the headscarf.

I explained that both songs were based on the memory of my first girlfriend whom I realize now was only about fourteen, while I was barely sixteen. And that heat was very much the emotion I wanted to convey.
“I wake up every morning to the heat of your heartbeat, is a strong way of connecting that present (when I wrote the song) to the past, when I was with her in that orange colored sun”

“So are you married to her now?”

“No, but we are very good friends, ironically my wife re-connected us by finding her through Facebook” This brought the house down.

“It’s imperative for an artist to partner with people who are open minded to what we write about, my wife puts up with me writing about all kinds of personal things, I think that I’m disguising stuff, but she knows what I’m at. I lost contact with most of my peers when I emigrated to America, my wife understood the importance of me connecting with my first girlfriend again, we are all good friends now”

Thanks Jeff (Mr Mac) for this great day, and thanks you sweet young students of life, for your curiosity and interest. Maybe one day I will see you out in the audience, maybe I can grow old surrou
nded by the likes of you? and anyone else who feels the same.

The Permist

 

THE PERMIST   © Pierce Turner 2017

 

I remember when there was a hairdresser in my hometown of Wexford called Tony Myler, who gave gorgeous perms, he was known far and wide to be a terrific Permist. And he had an assistant called Kate whom he had taught his technique to, and Kate was nearly almost as good as him- and “nearly almost as good” was the standard in Ireland, at that time.

My Mother got wind of the fact that Kate was nearly almost as good, and booked her to come down to our house on a Monday night do a bit of perming on the side. She roped my three sisters into it too, so that she could get a job lot.

Kate arrived with her bag of curlers at quarter to seven just after the evening news. She went up into the sitting room and went at it hammer on tongs.   She permed the whole bloody lot of em! Anyone that was within reach, got permed.

I had nothing to do on a Monday night, and we had a boarder in our house from Cork who had nothing to do either. We decided to go upstairs and check out the goings on. We entered into that feminine terrain with great trepidation because of the smell of burning hair and sickly perm solution, but once we got inside there, the atmosphere was terrific.

The fire was blazing, they were all laughing and hooting and hollering, telling jokes, hopping around like Tele Tubbies with great big curlers in their hair, telling blue jokes. I was taken by surprise that my Mother was laughing at those jokes, I was not aware that my Mother had any knowledge of sex.

Kate had a friend with her called Joyce, and I couldn’t help but notice that she was a very attractive woman. Joyce started asking me questions-

I think she was confused because the guy next to me was from cork-

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from here”

“Where did you grow up then?”

“I grew up here?”

“And where do you live now?”

“I live here!”

 

After a while they left and the cork guy and myself sat there looking at my mother and my three sisters on the couch appraising the job that had been done. I thought that they looked a little bit like four Irish Jimi Hendrix’s,

but I think that they thought they looked more like four Irish Elizabeth Taylor’s.

Then the Cork guy said; “I couldn’t help but notice like, that that girl like, Joyce like, I think she fancied Pierce!”

I was mortified, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be looking at girls yet, at fifteen and a half – I had never talked to my mother about girls, but I noticed out of the corner of My eye that she seemed a little chuffed.

That Thursday I went to my first dance in the parish hall. I entered into that place with some trepidation too, because of the smell of all the different aftershaves and perfumes mingling with cigarette smoke, which curled up around the huge mirror ball that  had a big blue spotlight shining on it-sending little blue satellites all around the room.

Up on the stage in a blaze of lights, a live Band played an old soul classic.

I was in a state of awe, when out of nowhere came Joyce, she took me by the tip of my index finger and pulled me out onto the dance floor.

It’s not easy to dance like that I can tell you, eventually she let go of my finger, and we danced all night long.. and… I took her home, and… I kissed her..and I had very little experience kissing, but she was well used to it, she nearly choked me ! Of course she was nineteen. (I forgot to say that) That night I went home on the wings of a dove, a man in love, for the first time, I seemed to have a girlfriend.

The following Thursday I went back to the parish hall again, this time I entered with less trepidation, but as soon as I got in there, it was plain to see, everything was going to be very different.

Joyce was already up on the dance floor wrapped around another guy, I went around the other side to get a look at him, hiding behind people’s heads. She was wrapped around him so hard I couldn’t see who he was.

I went over to the other side of the hall to see from there, and still couldn’t.

Then I went back to the front, and hid behind someone so that she wouldn’t see me looking, finally I saw him, he was a sailor home from sea. I knew him too, he was a merchant seaman. Wexford is full of merchant seamen, they are very confident blokes who have been all over the world. They’re always goin on about how beautiful the women are in Guatemala, Yokohama and Panama. I knew he was never going to let go of her.

For the rest of the night I sat there downhearted, and the band played all these old romantic songs that I never cared about, but now I understood them, they were singing in a language that I had just learned.

I went home that night brokenhearted. The following day a mutual friend told me that she said I had been following her around all night long like a lapdog.

I was angry now and decided to get over her, you can do that kind of thing when you are fifteen. When time moves very slowly, when a day last for a month, and a month last for six months, when six months last for a year. You can get an awful lot done in no time at all. But I have to say this;

she did put me off Perms for the rest of my life.

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.