Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Land of Saints and Scholars - part two
J and I left Dublin for the beautiful South Coast and arrived in Waterford, not exactly a buzzing metropolis I'll grant you, but very beautiful to stroll around and our hotel was just as the doctor ordered. Who knew Waterford has a sex shop now ? Ye Gods, it's a far cry from my memories of buckets and spades on Tramore beach. Actually, what tickled me was not so much the sex shop but the "booth" therein, where a passing gent could spend a couple of Euros to indulge in a quick spot of porn and erm ... relief. Soho has finally reached the South coast of Ireland, well I never.
The hotel itself was deathly quiet when we checked in and I did wonder if it was conducive to kicking J up and down a corner suite with his pitiful cries going un-noticed. Happily, on our return from dinner, the population of the hotel had swelled on foot of a clapped out tour bus carrying the geriatric version of Club 18 - 30. For want of a better word, they were being "entertained" in the bar by Finbar* (*names changed to protect the completely inadequate) with his keyboard and a right foot which operated rather like a flipper, thrashing away at a drum machine at least two beats behind each note of the song being murdered.
"Quelle horreur!" I thought.
This was a crime against music and no mistake. As an aside, one of the people I most greatly admire from a musical point of view is Les Dawson, yes I said LES DAWSON. If you recall, he had the most marvellous ability to play any song just one semi-tone off key throughout, resulting in anyone with even half a musical ear fighting to control their rattling teeth. In actual fact, it takes a person who is very musical in the first place to be able to pull that off, and it used to make me howl with laughter. In fact, I've just found this wonderful clip of him singing "Feelings", click here. RIP. :(
Anyway, back to the bar; things went from bad to worse when Finbar announced he was taking requests, and there was a veritable stampede of hush puppies and other sensible shoes to the stage. There's always one, isn't there ? One very elderly man who does Elvis to varying degrees of success, in this case he was actually fantastic and sang a couple of his classic hits, I'm sure I saw several embroidered hankies being used to quell feverish brows when he swung his hips to "Suspicious Minds". I couldn't let the opportunity go and wrestled with my conscience as to what to sing. For a fleeting moment I entertained the idea of that dreadful song by Samantha Fox - "Touch me", but thought better of it, and in the end I went for a safe bet - "Crazy", by Patsy Cline. It went down a storm and I had lots of hugs, an offer of marriage and a slap on the back that nearly sent me into reception, (Irish farmers just don't know their own strength). Having secured several bookings for a 21st, a Christening and a hurriedly arranged wedding, Finbar was packing up his one man orchestra and J and I decided to call it a night, when the magic happened. It was pre-empted by the usual declaration -
"WILL YIZ SHURRUP ? MICK IS SINGIN', G'WAN MICK."
A hush descended on the bar and from the corner of the room, "Mick" began to sing in a mournful, soulful and truly moving way about his inevitable demise to Greenland with dolphins, and so it went on. Song after song from misty-eyed patriots who in all honesty, had never set foot in "The Fields of Athenry" in their lives, let alone fought in the "Great Fallen of 1916". It was all I could do to stop myself reminding one gentleman who was mourning his beautiful Motherland that actually, he lived in the bungalow, first turn on the right. I think I would have been thumped for that offence.
As I tried to explain to J in hushed tones, this is the way things are done in Ireland. When someone dies, everyone gets together for the "tórraimh", or the "wake" and remembers the person, and rather than mourn they laugh at the good memories they have of them, then they get absolutely rat arsed and sing. Following on from that is the funeral, where everyone dresses in black, pays their respects, and then they get rat arsed and sing. Come to think of it, there aren't many occasions when my country folk don't get rat arsed and sing.
Given his (ahem) Etonian accent, by now J was positively panicked, because THAT stage of the evening had begun where the songs had adopted a staunch "rebel" theme, so much so that he refused point blank to open his mouth for fear of being lynched, so we called it a night, for real this time.
You know, whenever I go back to Ireland to visit my clan, it's always really hard to leave them, and if I'm honest I usually have a howl on the way back to Scotland, but for the first time I realised that it is the people and the culture I miss too, I sat amongst those warm, wonderful people and for the first time in many years, I realised I was very, very homesick.