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

“Steven’s Preparing To leave” PT 2

                      My Father is the last one on the right, front row

“Steven’s Preparing To Leave” Part 2 (Tom in the morning) © Pierce Turner 2017

 

The seagulls began the new day with their usual tiffing over slop from the Dutch coal boats , they were my pre alarm. I was well used to their baying, they appeared to have little or no effect, other than to introduce the day, and prepare my ears for the official wake up call.

 

“Pee-arce!! It’s twenty a past eight”

 

I dreaded leaving my cosy bed for the cold linoleum floor. Ten minutes later my Mother called again, this time closer and softer over the rattling of delph on its way to the sitting room for Toms breakfast.

 

 

“PIERCE, this is my LAST time calling you mind” Her strong sinuous voice travelled like an arrow even when she was restrained, she was now only one floor away by the sitting room, the nearer she got, the more trouble I was in.

 

“That shop needs opening!!”

 

This one carried a warning tone with it. I opened the shop at nine, regardless of the fact that there were no customers until ten at the earliest. Sometimes the Band would have gigs hours away, and I wouldn’t get to bed until seven or so, it didn’t matter, I was expected to open the Record shop on time. My Mother didn’t fool around with this kind of stuff, her Father had been an entrepreneur, owning a Hotel and Bar on the South Main Street, apparently he was undisciplined about how he ran it, way too soft hearted with staff and the customers. The result was a well – loved man that ran his business into the ground because of unpaid credit, flexible time keeping and a one way till – the wrong way!

 

I never knew what was best to start with, once the pajamas were removed, the preferred thing would be to somehow put all my clothes on at once, but failing that impossibility, I usually went for the socks and underpants first, with the phrase “balls naked” always horrifying in the imagination; it was best to expel that image first. The under shirt, the shirt and the jumper will have stayed dressed within themselves on the chair, they would go on next with arms stretched high to avoid tearing. Shivering then with crocodile skin, the trousers and shoes got fitted while skipping towards the door in an effort to get away from that God forsaken ice box as quick as possible. Down that stairs I’d bolt two to three steps at a time, swinging around the bannisters, to the smell of heat and tea in the comfort of the brightly lit kitchen

 

My Mother was in the back Kitchen having brought the house to life.

 

“Good mornING” she exaggerated, glancing sideways with a glint of sarcasm”

 

“Ga MorNING”

 

I cut a large wedge off the Kelly’s Loaf and covered it with creamery butter, sat at the table with a cup of tea from the massive pot drawing on the Jubilee, a fair size wedge of sharp Wexford cheddar often sat in the centre of the table and the combination of a chunk of it sat upon the bread , washed down with the scalding hot tea was a very pleasing combination. My brother Paddy sat across from me having the same breakfast, we had little to say as we sat there in a pleasant enough daydream listening to the radio from the back kitchen. Normally we would have been out the night before playing in the Travellers, a semi professional band that we were in, but the gig had been cancelled because someone died at the Hall, so we were fresher than usual, he after his date, me after a good nights sleep. My Sister’s Breda and Bernie rushed around in their black cardigans and skirts putting on make-up in readiness for their shop assistance job at Healy and Collins, – one of Wexford’s large female clothing establishments. – And chatting about last nights dance. My Mother turned to me for assistance, being the youngest and in family employment.

 

“I’d say the heart is going crossway in Tom up there waiting for more tea, you might bring him a fresh pot Pierce will you?”

 

Tom sat at the good dining room table by the window, someone had pulled the lace curtains across so that he could have the view of the harbour, it wasn’t too sunny, a typical limbo day, not raining, not shining, but there was a Saturday bustle on the Quay, and looking down upon it from the second floor through the bay window entertained away the weather’s shortcomings. From there it felt like you could almost touch the cranes unloading coal while the Sailors shouted directives in Dutch, Tom was mesmerized. It was certainly not a dull view while eating breakfast. The Cat seemed to have taken to him too; she sat patiently by his feet watching what he watched. He had opted for boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast, the cat was partial to boiled eggs and was hoping that Tom would read her mind and accommodate that pleasure, she was an expert at exerting pressure with inaction; she’d put Mahatma Gandhi to shame.

 

“Morning Tom, I’ve brought you a fresh pot of tea” He turned stiffly in my direction.

 

“Good man, thank you kindly”

 

He seemed quieter than the night before, maybe he wasn’t a morning person?

 

“Are you ok for everything now?”

 

“Yes”

 

(What? no “young man” or “good Sir.” Hmm!)

 

I took the empty teapot back to the kitchen where my Mother was voicing a complaint to me Da as he sat at the table eating his late Saturday breakfast, reading the Irish Independent.
“Well there was no mention of it last night, and none this morning either”

 

He crackled the paper and looked up from under his ill-fitting glasses – gripped to his head above his ears. He was studying form! He backed the horses on Saturday, was probably figuring out how to back three or four horses on a four shilling bet, a frugal weekend extravagance. He would often run me up to the bookie office with the ticket, a very complex cross plot, if the first horse won, the winnings would go on the second, if that horse won it would all go on to the third, and so on, the chances of them all co-operating with each other were slim. I don’t recall any big winnings. It really didn’t matter. He was working off whispered tips from his mates. The whole experience of it, win or lose, fed into their conversation during the post-Mass Sunday pint.

 

“Is that so? I mean to say, do he know the arrangement?” He said half annoyed.

 

“Yes he does, I told him when I showed him the room”

My Mother made a point of speaking properly, and my Father pointedly refused to, he was a Wexford man, an ordinary one, it was important to speak like that.

 

He crackled the paper again, tightened his cheeks and squinted out the kitchen window to the hall as if to send his appraisal all the way up to the sitting room. He didn’t like having strangers in his house; he had come from a quiet unadventurous family on the outskirts of Town, the polar opposite to my Mothers industries roots down here in the heart of the action. But he was protective of her dreams and schemes; no one was going to make a fool of her either.

 

Tom’s soft footsteps were heard descending the stairs at a steady deliberate pace, my Mother rose on her toes and leaned over to look towards the sound. There was never a dull moment with my Mother, I had thought she was so enamored with Tom, now all of that was history, his charming company, his beautiful strong but sensitive touch on the piano, his apparent classiness had all become fading speculation. Our lodger’s final review would be determined by his next move. My Father still held the paper like he was reading it, but was now in a state of readiness as he scrutinized the dark hall, still squinting. The main front door had been hooked open so that the sun could brighten the hall through the secondary glass doors. But the backlight made it only harder to see who was coming in or going out. He folded the paper as he walked, quickly turning the doorknob and dipped under the coalhole to the bottom of the stairs. He let himself be known with a perfunctory giggle as he smiled at Tom who was about to land on the ground floor.

 

“Ha-teh , g’morning to ye I say” At times like this my Father sounded like a highway man from Robin Hood with his antiquated terminology

 

“aye, up and at em for the hard day ahead, ha?”

 

Tom curtsied with a raised hat.

“Oh yes indeed, you must be the man of the house, thank you so much for your hospitality. Please give my gratitude to your good lady”

 

“Oh definitely, I’m sure she’ll be delighted, Gob a man, shur, I dare say you’ll be back this way again”

 

Tom’s grandeur of action and speech was starting to affect me Da now too. He was opening his mouth more and broadening his words to their proper width: agAIN instead of the more Wexford, ag-IN.

 

“If I am, I will certainly make sure to avail of your wonderful hospitality once more”

 

Steadily walking towards the street he was now pressing down the handle of the glass door with one hand while he gripped his small leather suitcase with the other. My Father close behind with his glasses in one hand and paper under his arm.

 

“What’s this I was goING to say boss, are you okay about the tally?”

 

My mother and I were now standing with the kitchen door open, mouths agape, wondering how me Da was going to deal with this one, knowing that he was uncomfortable with language at the best of time, now he was talking to a master of the tongue, how long would he beat around the bush for?

 

“The tally? Yes everything should be in order I believe”

 

“Well, the Missus, that’s Mrs. Turner, siz dere’s some class of arrears to be settled”

 

Now me Da had abandoned the nervous giggle, aware that there was some urgency, yer man was nearly out the door!

 

“Oh of course, would you like my address so that you can forward me an invoice?”

 

“What’s this I was go-ing to say, it’d be nearly as easy to fix it up now, I suppose, ye know yerself. As they say, a bird in the hand is as good as two in the bush”

 

‘”Pardon me?”

 

“will! The gineral policy as far I know, is to pay up before ye leave the primises like, ye know what I mean to say?”

 

He had gone around the bush now and was on the other side, had stopped smiling and was making it clear that this was no nonsense. Suddenly Tom seemed aware that me Da, in spite of his humility and verbal insecurity was relentless in pursuit of seeing things right. Me Da was a man of his word and usually left others to their own devices, but he wasn’t too keen on injustice, or bullshitters. Although he wasn’t easily goaded into violence, it was clear that he would be a formidable foe.

 

“Oh of course, dearie me, I am so sorry for the misunderstanding, what is the damage then Sir?”

 

‘As far as I know it’s twenty one shillins all togedder”

 

Tom put down the case and pulled two notes and a shilling coin from his pocket, the exact amount had been in the ready there. He counted it into my Fathers hand, shoving the crumpled money into his pocket my Father offered his hand.

 

“Thanks very much so boss, sure safe travels, wherever you’re off to”

Once that unpleasantness was put to one side, me Da’s soft side surfaced, he pushed his hands through his tussled Saturday hair and held his elbow high for a moment while he appeared to empathise, wondering perhaps about Tom’s destination.

 

“Yes indeed”said Tom

 

“Wherever I’m off to?”

 

I still wasn’t sure where he was going, his accent was not from around our area, his case was so small it suggested expediency; I had so many questions for him, but we had been so overwhelmed with the pleasure of his inquisitiveness, our curiosity had been blanked into resignation. Now we would never know, and although annoyed that he tried to skip out without paying, it seemed wrong to think of him as bad, I had a feeling that I would be a fool for his ilk for the rest of my life. And that life needed him.

Steven’s Preparing To leave

Steven’s Preparing To Leave” (Had to cut this into 2 parts) Part 1

 

Why beat around the bush, when you can go right through it? Of course if you go around it, there would be less damage to it, and if you go through it you get to the other side quicker. My father Jem, had a habit of taking a long time to get to the point, especially if the point was unpleasant. He was a strong physical presence, tall with broad shoulders, never violent, but when someone picked his pocket at a hurling match in Dublin he just turned around and decked him with one punch. So it wasn’t cowardice that made him beat around the bush, it was more like civility, lack of verbal confidence and the desire to make his point without doing too much damage to someone else’s.

 

My Mother put our three-story house on the quay to every commercial use she could muster. If there was a major event in town – like a hurling match up in the park – that drew a rash of visitors, she would fill the ground floor shop with long forms and tables, put a big sign outside “Tea and Sandwiches served all day” borrow some massive tea pots, bribe my Sisters and brothers to become waiters with the promise of pocket money. We were the crew, it was instilled in us that we should be capable of taking part in assisting with any task, I don’t remember ever minding, we were integrated and excited. That evening we would all marvel at the money lying on the kitchen table as we separated the coins from the notes. Inevitably she would reward the house with something afterwards, pebble dashing the front e or fitting new weatherproof windows facing the windy river Slaney. I often crossed that river for a walk if the day was pleasant, taking in the lunchtime music from the BBC on my tiny transistor Radio. Our house was the first home in view when crossing the bridge back into Town; it surprised me to find pride at the sight of scaffolding erected in the front for renovations, it hadn’t dawned on me that it was necessary or registered that I cared. But it was another lesson in the power of action. Life around my Mother was exciting.

 

Because the house had five bedrooms she managed to make two of them available for paying guests. One room had three single beds and the other a double. When we had full time residence like the three girls from the telephone exchange, payment was never an issue. But when we had one nighters for bed and Breakfast: the business was lacking an orderly system of imbursement. If someone did stay, had slept in the bed and consumed their breakfast, but still managed to avoid the subject of payment, the responsibility fell to my Father at the eleventh hour to exact the twenty-one shillings from them before they were gone, with neither hide nor tail of them to be seen again. There was no such as thing an ID card at the time, and even in hotels you were not required to give proof of identification. I always wondered where these people came from and where they were going. How did they happen upon our little B&B sign swinging and creaking on the windy Quay?

 

One dispensable Friday night I reclined in the cozy Kitchen , hands dug deep into my pockets like I was searching for something, when the doorbell buzzed. My Mother looked up from under glasses at the clock and wondered out loud who that could be at twenty minutes to ten?

“Pierce, you might go answer that will ye”

 

She was in the middle of crocheting a large Swan, which she had planned on hardening with sugar water to make it stand up, turning it into a fruit bowl. The idea fascinated me and I pondered the craziness of it as I ran up the dark hallway, flicking the light before answering the door to the silhouette of a rain soaked stranger. He shielded his face from the wind as he held on to his hat, straining to be heard over the howling wind off the River.

 

“Pardon me for calling at such a late hour, I just happened to be passing when I noticed the sign overhead”

 

With the other hand holding a small leather suitcase he nodded in the direction of our overhead B&B sign.

“Are there any vacancies in the house tonight? He grimaced through a pleading smile.

 

He was wearing a green oil coat that had an extra flap on the back covering his shoulders, the kind that you could only buy in select Men’s Boutiques frequented by the upper class, separating them by garment from the rest of us. He removed his leather hat to reveal an orderly quiff pushed back in the way of a man who was secure with his own fashion. And although he was wet from the rain, he appeared like he had not been subjected to it.

 

“ Oh come in and I’ll ask for you, horrible night isn’t it?”

 

‘Oh gosh it’s fierce” He stamped his feet on the mat and shook his hands as if to rid them of excess rain.

 

I ran down to the kitchen, remembering to dip by the coalhole where the ceiling lowered. My Mother sat up more alert and ready for action. I spoke in a low voice, but loud enough for him to hear me.

 

“Mammy, there’s a man out there and he wants to know, do we have a room for the night”

 

I believe she could sense from the way I said it that I was imparting a tacit signal that he was no scallywag. She put down the Swan and smarted out to the hall like a woman on a mission, there was no need for her to dip at the coalhole. Once she got a look at him, her tone of voice altered to suit his upper class appearance.

 

“Oh heloooo, she smiled reservedly through pursed lips, God that’s a dreadful night isn’t it, can I help you?” Her expression negated any real doubt, she knew what he wanted and he was going to be welcome.

 

“Good evening Madam, a thousand apologies for arriving at your door so late on this horrid evening, I wondered if you had any accommodation available at all”

 

“Well we hadn’t planned on any one arriving tonight, and there are no reservations, but we couldn’t possibly turn you away in this weather, sure come inside for a cup of tea while we arrange the room”

 

He followed her down the hall as she effortlessly cruised under the coalhole dip, I could hear his head ram into the ceiling from the kitchen where I was putting the kettle on, a loud dull thud, I awaited the reaction, he may have been too aggrieved to speak? I knew how painful it was, having experienced it upon reaching that altitude myself initially. Because the floor came up at that point while the ceiling sloped down, collision had the effect of pushing your head back and down all at once, creating skeletal damage to accompany the lump at the crest of the head, as well as humiliation, even without a witness! He had all of the aforementioned and the later to deal with in front of my Mother maybe you could add anger to that too – for not being warned until afterwards.

 

“Oh that BLOODY ceiling, I always forget to warn people, are you alight?”

 

“Oh gosh Mam if I was to get a shilling for every time I hit my head in a Georgian Household”

 

I was very impressed that he gave our old house the dignity of a period in architecture. Granted the most comfortable armchair in the warmth of the Kitchen, he sat there unconsciously rubbing his head and neck. After laying the table, I made him a sandwich with Wexford Cheddar and Kelly’s white loaf to go along with the tea, the Irish always have to have something with the Tea, unlike our Brothers and Sisters across the Sea. He talked about the heat that our Jubilee cooker produced and waxed lyrically on the crocheted Swan, he bent over and looked at it on the chair almost afraid to touch, in case he might stain the pure white yarn.

 

“Gosh it’s remarkable, the work of a true artist, there is no doubt about it”

 

I had been listening to The White Album by the Beatles on the turntable, telling him that I was in a Band and had a gig the next night, he jumped to the conclusion that Paul McCartney was me singing “Martha My Dear” it was a while before he gave me the conversational space to disappoint him, and myself.

 

After the sandwich had been washed down by strong black tea my Mother – having made up his room – invited him to the sitting room on the second floor where the fire was lighting and the T.V available if he liked. This was the fanciest and largest room in the house; generally we kept our guests to this room. His eyes lit up when he saw the upright piano sitting there open and ready to play.

 

“Oh gosh you have a Piano too Mrs Turner” We had learned each others names now, he insisted that we call him Tom.

 

“Oh God yes, the house is full of musicuans, and my Son Pierce never leaves it alone, breaking strings too, mind you” She threw me pretended annoyance.

 

“ Are you musical your self?”

 

“Oh I live for music Mrs Turner, it’s one of life’s great pleasures, would you mind terribly if I played something?”

 

“Oh Lord no, we would be delighted”

 

He put his strong weathered hands on the keys and played a beautiful familiar melody, a semi classical piece with all the required Tchaikovskian flourishes, he had a gentle romantic touch and we found ourselves glued to the seats enchanted by the pleasure of hearing a stranger caress our old Piano.

 

My Mother, held her hand on her breast.and pined breathlessly.

 

“Soo deep is the Night, uh, I declare to God… NOW I !(pause)… Have ALL-ways loved that melody, HOW on Gods earth do THEY do it? “

 

When she spoke, it was highly expressive and impassioned almost like she was singing, emphasizing a point by raising the volume on certain words or letters, with a fluid musical cadence, rising up and down from chest to falsetto. For a moment she almost seemed disappointed with herself as she let the beauty of it sink in.  It was so ingrained in me that she was a Mother – being the youngest of her seven children – It surprised me to see her lapse into a romantic daydream like a young girl in love. She had always said that there was nothing like a mans touch on the Piano “so gentle and strong”

 

 

We moved over to the blazing fire to watch the Late Late Show, my Mother sat in her armchair leaving him the sofa.. He asked a lot of questions, and my Mother being not the slightest bit secretive, replied with disarming honesty, an endearing quality she may have employed unconsciously to encourage rapport. He was happy to take in all the family truths and was quick to remember names and descriptions; this allowed him to refer to freshly produced names like a long held friend. My Mother insisted that we have another cup of tea, with cream crackers this time (a Friday night treat) and as I was descending the stairs to make it, I overheard her leaping to the Piano to sing her newest composition “When hawthorn Blooms” When I returned with the tea and the crackers, he had progressed to a new level of comfort, his arms spread across the sofa, legs outstretched with feet crossed, goading my Mother about her enormous talents and humility. Her lips were even more pursed now than before and she was flushed with delight at this wondrous turn out to an ordinary evening. She relished nothing more than company of good manners and conversation; in fact it’s all she really asked for. She didn’t drink alcohol and didn’t smoke. Taking away those two vices left her with a lot of room for crafts, composing, conversation and her newest hobby, landscape painting, which she did from magazine photos, using a frayed matchstick instead of a brush. If she didn’t know how to do something, she would teach herself from a tutorial book, if she wanted to do anything she just did it. Tom – a compelling mystery – could see this in her and knew her like only a well-travelled man could. She was trapped in a small Town marriage and possibly that was the only thing that separated her from being a celebrated woman of the world? He knew the correct questions to pose in order to release her hidden ambitions. She even surprised me with the plans that she harboured. I never knew she was planning on booking the Cinema Palace for a concert of her songs to be performed by a Welsh Choir? Tom wasn’t even remotely surprised, and if it was only a plan in its infancy when she brought it up, his encouragement had brought it a great deal closer to the planning stage. Knowing my Mother she could be at the writing pad finalising the arrangements the next day. For someone like her a little encouragement was never wasted. She thrived on his charm and encouragement. If he was around her for a year she would be running the country. They continued to chat until the TV played the National Anthem behind footage of our glorious land; they even discussed those hackneyed images with enthusiasm. I loved to see my Mother like this, and was content to just observe it all with an amused eye. But I wondered about Tom, where was he from? What did he do, why was he here on a Friday night, was he married, if he was, where were his never mentioned family? I found myself staring at him, studying him. He sat upright in the sofa from his slouched comfort, planting his hands on his knees with a conclusive gesture.

 

“Well now I must thank you for a wonderful evening Mrs Turner”

 

“Oh NOT AT ALL Tom, thank YOU”

 

He stood up and took a glance out the tall windows past the lace curtains.

 

“Gosh the river is looking angry tonight”

 

My Mother stood behind him on her toes, peaking out absent-mindedly.

 

“That’s the Spring tide, sometimes it blows the woodenworks up and comes RIGHT across the ROAD, very RAREly now, but just the same it CAN happen” The silver tipped waves of the Slaney slammed angrily against the Bridge. The moon managed to reach them between the passage of bleak clouds

 

“Isuppose it depends on the wind Missus Turner, does it?”

 

“Oh God yes, sometimes it’s as calm as a pond out there. Would you believe, in all the time we’ve lived here, it ONLY came in the front door ONCE! And I NEver want to see it again I can tell you, but there are people who live MUCH further away from the River that get flooded ALL the time, it goes RIGHt up to their mantelpiece! RIGHT UP!”

 

‘Flooding does fierce damage, you need very good insurance Mrs Turner”

 

“INSURANCE! A lot use that’ll do Tom I needn’t tell you, it doesn’t matter what we apply for in this house, our insurance man finds SOME REASON why we’re not covered” Now she pursed her lips in annoyance at the thought.

 

Talking the round faced alarm clock off the mantelpiece she began winding it up.

 

“Do you need a shout in the morning Tom?”

 

She called across the room.

 

“ Ah nine o‘clock will be grand Missus Turner” he reached for the door handle and took one more admiring glance around the room.

 

“Once again, thank you for a very entertaining evening. God bless”

 

“Good night now and God bless”

 

After he closed the door, she took her rosary beads out of her handbag and knelt down at the armchair, I said goodnight and went up to my unheated bedroom at the top of the house wasting no time getting beneath the blankets to begin the process of warming the bed with my own shiver.

 

I am never sure if it’s better to talk to myself or to go blank when in pursuit of sleep. Well if the truth is said, I know now that silence is best, but the debate is always there with the great temptation of some entertaining recollections, a very pleasant way to drift off, if you can. That night I was young and had no issues with sleep, so there was no debate at all, I had to look back over the evening in detail, I had to scrutinize Tom, imagine his story.

 

“He appears to suggest some kind of opulence, but even before the suggestion gets a chance to give birth, it’s a non starter. If he had money he would be staying at one of the Hotels surely. And how could he not know that young fellas like me living in the back of beyond, could NEVER make a recording like the Beatles White Album.

Where has he been, where is he from?  He’s not that old, maybe thirty, yet he seems me Mammy’s age. Why wasn’t he in the Pub tonight? This is Friday night, ALL the men are in the pubs!”

 

As if on cue, I could hear my Father coming in from the Pub himself. He would never miss Friday and Saturday night in the pub with his friend’s playing cards. My Mother didn’t join him, seldom did any of the wives. He would go into the Kitchen now have a cup of Bovril with two slices of home made brown bread, his usual nightcap. He was a cheerful drinker but during the nightcap stage he could get melancholic and try to relay the horror he experienced losing his Mother to the Spanish Flu when he was only seven.

 

“Wonder what me Da’ll think of Tom? He wasn’t backwards in coming forward, he didn’t mind asking for a hot water bottle. Jesus that was beautiful Piano playing. There musta been a Piano in his house. Is he going on the Boat?”

 

We were right next to the North Rail Station where he could get the Train to Rosslare Harbour a mere 12 miles away. – And from there the Boat to Fishguard Wales,

 

“He’s one of them Rugby player looking fellas, a suggestion of a broken nose, and the schooling that comes with it. Like the fellas in Town here that hang out with the Doctors Solicitors and teachers, beating the up scale Women offa them.

Where are those women from? I don’t know any of them, well I Know Wendy McCourt from around the corner, the Chemists, but she’s the only ONE. That other one she hangs out with, the one with the short black hair is gorgeous too, I wouldn’t even know how to speak to her, Wendy tries to encourage me but I’m paralyzed in her presence. I bet Tom would know how to speak to them! He would charm the knickers offa them. Jasus it’s cold out there tonight, listen to that howling wind? Just imagine there are fishing boats out there, with men resting in the galley after a hard days work, having tea and brown bread by the stove, maybe playing cards while the black waves bash the bow, and low foreboding clouds mask the faint moon”

 

I imagined looking through their little port hole lights to see them in their cosy nest so close to the elements. They would be family men with a Home on shore, and on a night off they’d go for a pint just like me Da. But now there out on the dark Sea alone, working on a different schedule, living from a different harvest, flirting with danger, capable if need be, to sail off to Spain or Scandinavia with their mates,beds, pots and pans.   On a calm night- from this window – you can see their tiny lights out on the black horizon.

 

“Tom seems at sea, like he is not fixed anywhere, I can’t nail him down, he’s very pleasant company. Of course after tonight I will probably never see him again, wonder who’s Piano he’ll play tomorrow?”

 

STEVENS PREPARING TO LEAVE from the CD “Angelic Language”

 

Steven’s preparing to leave

He has to go to the sea

He’s been so mesmerized

By glistening port hole lights

Along the horizon line

Imagining the life inside

Steven believes in he blue

Nothing but water and the roof

Just like a burial ground

Where the mourners are gone

And there’s nothing around

But the silence and the corpse best friend

The weathered stone

And the massive wild deep sky

He has to leave while he can

Otherwise he could lose his chance

He knows he’s blessed with this

A curious need to leave the nest

Before the heart inside his chest

Becomes too old to experiment

He wants to conquer his fears

Counting the mounting years

He wants to face the place

Where nothing is but thoughtlessness

A bed of sea

And a roof of stars

There to be until he feels

At peace with the dark

 

Oh darkness

I know you are my friend

And in the end

I’ll be with you alone

I knew you every night

And I knew you in the womb

You wait beyond the light

Inside my tomb

And I know I have to kiss you

Before our wedding day

And I know I have to kiss you

Every night

And I know I have to love you

Before I let you go

Then I’ll laugh at grey dark clouds

Then I’ll see the setting sun with you

And know darkness

© Pierce Turner, from the album Angelic Language. (part 2 next week from NY)

A Day without speaking

                              I always wanted a toilet in the kitchen

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“What’s for breakfast?”

 

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

 

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

 

I scribbled hastily;

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

 

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

“Tomatoes”

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Good” I wrote down.

 

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

“will need Pounds for S-land”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

love (to hear from you) Pierce xx

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that a he or a she?”

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

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

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

“What did you think he said?”

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

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

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

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

But then I thought about that guy’s demeanor

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

I kept tuning the piano.

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

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

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

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

You can never put yourself in my brain

And feel what it felt like in a Dodge Polara

Speeding down a New Hampshire highway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Larry turned to me surreptitiously.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He beckons another driver who is now showing an interest.

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

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

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

Sandy spat out.

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

 

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

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

Larry had been thinking the same thing.

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

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

“Excuse me?”

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

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

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

“Can we put our stuff in here?”

“Oh, oh, in the Trunk? Sure”

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

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

 

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

More adventures of that poor little car

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Pierce xxx

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

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

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

Fergus’s Tractor and the Christmas Geese

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

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

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

 

Fergus’s Tractor and the Christmas Geese.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Are you fucking joking me?”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Gi way outta dat”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your TV in the closet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many hours do you watch per day then lads?

Love Px

Pierce Turner photo of santa on 14th street 2015

That Petrol Emotion

East village photo 2

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

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

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

“Yes we do indeed”

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

“Would you have tuna by any chance?”

“I have” he replied unhesitantly to my surprise.

“Could I have it on brown bread?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is this?”

“Eh?” said Mike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“ 911!! Let’s call 911” said Mike

“A great idea” said I. But! Said I

“What can they do?”

“They can siphon it off”

“Can they? 30 Euro worth of petrol! ”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it?”   mm     ♬   ♪     ♫   mmmmm

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