When I opened the big gate of adolescence, a frightening squeak from a giant cast iron secondary school entrance welcomed and absorbed me in a solemn vacuum. Of course, and like today, there were kids who just wanted to blend in, ride those teenage years under the radar with minimum collateral damage, wanting to be acknowledged and noticed, yet having the skills to keep your cards close to your chest; not showing too much, dodging rain drops and other potential scraps or punches because you looked at, or aggravated with smart words a tougher kid with social or rather deeper personal issues than yours. Some built themselves with a strong and bold shell: Punks, Goths, Skinheads and Red Skins (the left wing ones; their Doc Martens were burgundy rather than black), right down to a couple of old fashioned black leather jacket bullies with learning difficulties, easy enough to manipulate if you knew how to; keeping them sweet by sharing candies, giving a few test wagers that would up some grades, preventing them from repeating the class… Again. I was a “bullet dodger”, or at least that is what I have been called once by that big fucker – who was actually pretty smart- as he tried to pound my face into the granite wall of the refectory. I used words, and it seemed to work.
When I was a kid, my Dad wasn’t the cook in the house; my mother – and through silly cultural reasons- naturally adopted the role. That said, it didn’t mean that my father, like other men in Brittany couldn’t or wouldn’t cook; “au contraire mon frère” like we say in some parts of Dublin 4. I remember how, a long time ago, an Irish guy explained to me that a man who cooks is considered as, well, a bit of a sissy… To which I replied a bit surprised and annoyed at that silly cliché ( now long gone), that if cooking was making a man more effeminate, having a shower with 14 other lads after the Sunday Game must just be a bit of male bonding so… I know it was a cheap shot, but it just came out like that. I’ll stick to cooking thank you.
I woke up one morning, in this big bare one room bachelor pad; a friend had given her the keys, you know, to water the plants and open the windows once in a while, until he would come back from abroad… It was a small but cool place to crash in, a secret space for young broke and starving lovers. My girlfriend was already up, making coffee and smoking Pall Malls while listening to “Barbara”… The rain was battering the old zinc roof and I kept staring at a painting of ” Keith Haring” precariously hung beside the portable gas rings, just over the sink; Prevert came to mind and while Brest was calm at last, Sarajevo was getting battered. It was 1992, I was twenty and free, with a girl five years older than me, hiding from nothing – or rather from a future too scary to contemplate-right in the heart of the Breton Capital.
( Iwerzhon means “Ireland” in Breton… I wrote this song in 2011 at the back of the Irish recession… Enjoy).
Iwerzhon ma Iwerzhon
Now twenty years since I’ve been gone
I left you without say goodbye
Didn’t do it, didn’t even try
You’d be thinking, with a title like that, we are going to get another kale smoothie or a healthy drink for guilty January… Not a chance! “The Juice”, is the French slang word for “busy”. It can be used in two different ways: “I am in the juice”, meaning that you are very busy, loads of work, bang-bang, can’t talk too much but you can manage, you are in control… On the other hand when you say ( and this could be very Breton) “ I have taken a juice”, means that tunnel vision has taken over, you have lost that control and start focusing on the one thing, while the situation around you gets more and more critical. Right now, I can only think of three professions where “Juice intake” can have various consequences. If you “take a juice” while at the helm of a plane, you and your passengers better hope that your co-pilot spots the symptoms early, or it could have a dramatic outcome. Same with air traffic controllers I guess. If you work in a call centre and start to feel overwhelmed by the volume of people treating you like a human carpet, you might want to take five, before you tell someone to go eat a lemon, which could get you an early P45 ( the end of employment form in Ireland). Then they are the cooks and the chefs; “Taking a juice” is just not an option, even if you might hear stories, it’s not ok… The phrase “it happened to all of us” is not ok… That sentence of fake empathy echoing “it’s not your fault… It’s not your fault” … You don’t know what it feels like, but I know… It happened to me once, eighteen years ago; time to face your demons Franckie Boy, time to share it with the world…
I saw your name in a paper
Of people loved does it matter?
A few words patched our stories
And reversed our gravities…
I have touched your hand
– by accident –
On the kitchen table,
Littered with tea bags
And sorrow soaked handkerchiefs,
Regrets soaked …