16 April 2011

Highfield Park Blues

The Proclamation on the door
Said "They who shout shall shout no more,
for residents will not tolerate
The ructions of the inebriate.

"Warnings we have given thrice
That your behaviour should be nice,
Civilised, decent, above reproach,
Since on our road ye did encroach.

"But in your folly ye did choose,
With nightly revels and with booze,
To create a brazen, hideous din.
Your presence 'midst us is a sin.

"Frequent visits from the guards
Failed to daunt you or your pards;
Shame on those who did ye rear-
We mean your mother and your pere.

"A fitter place for ye to dwell
While on your merry way to Hell,
Would be a cave along the shore
Or else a Shack in Bohermore.

"On behalf of our Association
Now established through the Nation-
these, our names, we hereby sign
Michael J. and Phyllis Styne".

Highfield Park Blues is a poem from the collection Dactyl Distillations by Patrick Finnegan.  (1991) Published by Weaver Publications, Dublin.  ISBN 0951304429

PDF of the book available here

07 April 2011

"i got some money, cause i just got paid"

On Saturday night I was sitting on a sofa three feet away from the brother. We'd spent three quarters of an hour sat there without any apparent outward communication at all. Other people came and went, chatted with either of us briefly, and went on about their business. In actual fact we'd both found the venue's WiFi network with our phones and we were checking out each other's Twitter feeds, re-tweeting where appropriate.

Some of the group and their entourage had come up from the West on the bus with us. Others were already in Dublin. Still others were due to arrive, any minute now. Just about everyone from the group and crew was still jetlagged. They'd flown back from Las Vegas only three or four days ago.

I hadn't been in Dublin for almost a decade. We didn't have much time for more than a quick mooch around Temple Bar between getting off the bus and heading in to the venue, but there seemed to be a nice buzz around the place. I found myself getting a bit nostalgic walking the streets that used to house favourite old haunts - book and record stores, coffee shops, pubs, music venues - places that haven't been there in years.

The brother asked if there was anyone I could think of in Dublin that I'd like to bring along. Off the top of my head, I couldn't think of anyone. No doubt there would be a few names in the old phone book but how many people are going to be able to drop everything and fly into town for a gig on a Saturday night at a moment's notice?

Things went on smoothly enough. Everyone was tired and jaded but in good spirits, glad to be back on familiar turf, working on reserve energy. The band soundchecked, I grabbed a cup of tea, nibbled on some biscuits, tried to get the TV to work in the dressing room. I remembered playing here a couple of times in the early 90s. Apart from the flat-screen TV, the backstage/upstairs area hasn't changed much. The front has been completely transformed, several times - it's a standup venue where it used to be theatre seating. There used to be one bar, now there are three. The Celtic Tiger had its way with this place all right. There's some small reassurance that backstage things hasn't changed. Apart from the TV - and the availablity of WiFi.

After the soundcheck mesel' and the brother grab a Chinese from a place next door to the venue. Not very fancy, cheap and cheerful. I wait outside and puff on a cig - in the space of five minutes I'm approached by two different scalpers, asking for spare tickets. Kev says the gig isn't quite sold out yet, but may well be by showtime. As we're tucking in to our Chinese backstage, and getting our phones out to check Twitter, there are shouts and hoots in the street outside. A hen party.

Later, while the band are playing out front, I grab a beer and head out to the stairs where the network is a bit better. Kind of dismayed to find out the brother isn't tweeting from the stage. And yes, the band sound excellent, as ever. Going to be a long journey home, though. That's one thing I remember about those Dublin gigs.

04 April 2011

keys to your heart

The locksmith retired some time ago, but he still comes around to check on the family business. Three sons keep it going for him. He's well into his seventies but in good health. He's out walking first thing in the morning, he swims, he keeps busy.

In years gone by the locksmith was, by his own account, quite handy on the dance floor. It was back in the days of the Ballrooms of Romance, when people packed out dancehalls like Seapoint in Salthill and parked their bicycles outside. Men would line up on one side of the dancefloor, women on the other. There was no alcohol available in the dancehall, just minerals and crisps. And by all accounts there was some serious hoofing going on, and our man the locksmith was one of the best of them.

I can see him now, gliding across the floor to take some girl's hand. Making the ladies swoon and the men clench their jaw. Old Twinkletoes.

Word went around on the jungle telegraphy that there was going to be something of a 'showband show' in Seapoint sometime next week. Survivors of the showband days would all be appearing, people from the old bands. Too many names to list (though it would make for a great blog post in itself).

The old locksmith was keen to go. But tickets had sold out long ago. He wasn't too pleased about this, especially when it was made known to him that the last 50 tickets had gone, en masse, to what he referred to as "a bunch of feckin' Franciscans". He told this to the brother a few days ago in the pub. (Where else?)

My esteemed sibling later reported that the matter had been resolved. Well, kind of. When next I met the locksmith myself, I heard it straight from the horse's mouth. He had tickets for the night. Tickets had been got. The thing had been sold out weeks ago but tickets Had Been Got.

There's something about the combination of The Passive Voice and A Galway Accent that makes you not quite believe What Is Being Said. So I had to press further.

"Oh, I got tickets all right." Fair play to you, but how did you manage?

A long pause. "Someone died."

You don't know whether to laugh or cry at times like these. For my own part, I was given pause for a second, briefly fancying that there could be a bit of neat local serendipity at work.

A friend of a friend passed away just last week. An older gent, and a former musician himself - drums and trumpet (it was the time of the ballrooms, and it was a time when double jobbing might net you a few extra bob). The man was known locally. He would doubtless have been one of the first to get complimentary tickets for an event such as this.

A likely story, perhaps, but there's no reason to believe it's actually true. The gent who passed away died after what the death notices call "a long illness, bravely borne". He hadn't been active much in the past few months. The more you think about it, the less likely it is that the tickets were his.

It would be good to know, though. The locksmith for one is keen to find out.

"The least I can do," he tells me, "is find out who it is and turn up at the funeral."