It has been a bit of a strange week, with mixed feelings. It started last Sunday December 3rd; I was on my way to Dublin for a very special evening, my last day out, a night to remember or rather help me forget how busy the next 21 days are going to be. I was listening to P.J Harvey, “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”, already looking forward to a rare evening with my friend Domi, and a much older friend that I didn’t see in 20 years, Mr Robert Plant himself, former frontman of the legendary band Led Zeppelin; well, he’s not really my friend, but he is the same age as my Dad and was part of our musical family since I was a very little boy… My rambling mind, smiling face and tapping index finger on the stirring wheel got suddenly interrupted by a rattling noise coming from the engine. I remember saying something like “Fuck!”, four letters that basically resumed what was about to come… No car? No concert?No Domi?No Robert? All was normal, temperature was steady, there was oil in the car as I always make sure all is good before I do a decent journey. Then all hell broke loose, red lights and alarm blaring, I thought “this is my Sully moment” as I made a crash landing to my own Hudson River, aka the hard shoulder between Dunshaughlin and Dunboyne. So close… Yet ( all in unison) so far… I breathed out another “Fuck!”, this time, it was acceptance. On the bright side, and since I was a young boy, I have always wondered what those orange S.O.S phones looked like and since I managed to safely taxi my vehicle close to one, I was about to find out! Well, it’s just a green button and a giant speaker. The chap was very helpful, letting them know I was there; I had insurance to get picked up, but that would mean no concert. Tried the car again, gone, full engine failure. My last resort was “my guy”, the owner of a garage/ shop a mile or so from the house, 80 kms away… Sunday at 4:10 pm. I rang Mr “M” and he just said: ” hey buddy, where are you? Ok, I’ll be there in 40 minutes ( yeah right, but I wasn’t in a negotiating position here), you said you are on the Dublin side? Ok, I’d better bring you a car as well so…”. One hour and 15 minutes later, there he was, bright orange flashing lights, a car on top of the rescue truck, out it went, mine went on, here are the keys and “I’ll see you tomorrow”. I would be able to meet my friend in good time, and see my auld pal “Robert”. As I sat in the “new” car, trying to figure out where the wipers and lights commands were, I just whispered a very respectful “fuck”, this one was more admiration and relief…
Boxin the Fox
“Boxin the fox”: Irish slang for “stealing from an orchard”.
It was the end of September 1991; I was saying my goodbyes to county Donegal where I had worked for two months on a Rhododendron removal project, on the hills… “Slán Tamall Mín an Lábáin agus An Earagail “. Goodbye until later! I stepped onto the bus bound for Dublin after hugging a couple of newly made friends. It felt like yesterday when I landed in Ringaskiddy in co. Cork; I had got a free ride on a school bus trip, back from Brittany, all the way to Sligo; I hitchhiked the rest to Donegal Town, and now I was heading back the long way around. I crossed “The North” for the first time, Enniskillen and the intimidating British Army checkpoint – now long gone – before Belturbet in County Cavan. What a ride!
I have always known that Ireland had a special bond with Christmas. I mean apart from the obvious religious heritage, both our “Celtic countries” have, a strong history of emigration that makes the end of year a bit more special, I get it. But you couple all this with an unhealthy relationship with money and you get the perfect storm. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed it very much in the early years; there was something very sweet about it actually, in North Dublin, a foreign guest in my “Blue eyed girl’s” family; simplicity and warmth. No big fuss makes good fond memories, the inevitable turkey and ham which I read about but never had before was very new to me. Taking a walk by Bull Island to the sound of the Brent Geese and a pint on Stephen’s Day in a Coolock village pub before heading back west, to Sligo or Galway…