Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-
Four weddings and a festival
2007-02-25 to 2007-03-21
I must start with a disclaimer! Please forgive me for blatant errors in spelling and pronunciation in this entry as I am using a keyboard in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and quaintly they have moved all of the keys around, bizarrely swapping the `z` with the `y` (or should that be biyyarelz swapping the `y` with the `z`s?!!). Needless to saz, grrr, say the punctuations are all over the place so I have to go hunting for each one…
So what have I been up to in the last few weeks. Well as the title suggests I have to this date survived three weddings (with my brothers to come in Italy in May) and a music festival. The first set spectacularly in the Hunter Valley Wine Region of New South Wales, the second in the splendour of Manly in a truly medieval inspired chapel and the third for one of my best mates back in my home town of Limerick.
I have to say that the brides for the three weddings stole the show in each case and for different reasons. Amanda surprised Rob with a fireworks show as they danced their first waltz in the open air reception. So many of the band members were there and we sang till the early morning
Two weeks later, after a very successful stag party that took 40 of us out on the harbour for fun and festivities, we celebrated Conor and Louise`s wedding in a truly amazing chapel where the guests sat side on to the altar and watched the bridal party walk down the red carpet. Louise`s speech was so heartfelt as she spoke of the fairytale end to the story of how her sister and herself had married two best friends from Dublin.
The day after I flew to Avalon airport, south of Melbourne and I availed of the hospitality of strangers. Campbell and Sandy drove me to an Irish Pub in Geelong to see if I could find anyone driving the 200km to Port Fairy where I was expected to sing that evening. No joy there but I was given a big piece of cardboard and a black marker and I was in for a day of hitching!
I set out rather less than properly attired as I was sweltering in my jeans and top in the 35 degree heat. Coupling that with me forgetting to bring a bottle of water and I was saying creeds to St Joseph, the patron saint of travellers. But a mere 30 minutes in and I was picked up by Bruce who drove me outside the city because no one would stop for me where I was. I didn`t want to draw attention to the fact that he just had as I was just glad to get out of the sun. He drove for a while and left me on this road and said he was sure I`d be picked up soon. I thanked him and with greater vigour worked on my optimistic yet safe look for the punters driving by.
When you saw a family approaching, you knew you were out of luck, equally when you saw a single woman coming up the way (I`d nearly be afraid of a woman that would give a male stranger a lift!!)
One guy that had passed came back and shouted to me that I was on the wrong road and that if I stayed on the road I was on, it`d be a miracle if I got to Port Fairy tonight. I thanked him as much as I cursed my mate Bruce and walked to the nearby alternative road where I felt confident that my luck would change. I had no good reason of course to base this optimism but knowing I was on the right road at last was uplifting.
The problem with being lifted up so high is that the views get diyyzing, grrr, dizzying and the falls are harder! I was standing out there for over an hour in the beating sun and I was seriously thinking of pulling the plug on this `adventure` (my prayers having moved from St Joseph to St Jude, patron saint of lost causes about 30 minutes earlier) when Brent, the legend, came back for me! He`d passed me out thinking the truck driver behind would have picked me up (believe me that old unwritten partnership between truckie and hitcher is well and truly over) so he came back for me… in his convertible!
Now I don`t know a lot about cars and would have gratefully have sat in the back of a Ute just to get where I was going but if you can do it in style, so much more the better! Brent was a top bloke, a true gent and we talked about his multi millions and my dreams of travelling. Unfortunately I couldn`t work it around that his millions would sponsor my travelling but the lift was more than enough considering he drove past his house (where he was expected for his birthday party!) and delivered me to Port Fairy where I gladly bought him his first birthday drink!
I met Clare, Martin and Randall from our band and got set up for the evening session where we were joined by about 8 or so old hands at this festival. There was a power cut however and since we had a big crowd, Martin started up `Cannonball`, one of the songs I sing, and I belted it out to the bar without the need of a microphone (all that opera training coming back to me!). It hardly surprised me to see that when the electricity came back, I wasn`t given one of the mics!
What a night! It was a folk festival but anything that the crowd wanted to hear, we sang! It was a privilege to sit with some seriously talented singers and musicians. We finished (after 5 solid hours) at about 1am, or at least that`s what time I think it was!!
We woke next morning and I took a walk around the little town that had spawned this huge festival. Such wide streets and low rise buildings gave it an old world feel. It was 9am and there was a group singing Jesus worship songs while directly across from them, two scallywags were belting out Bob Dylan hits!! The battle for the souls of the passersby ensued and this was even funnier when you considered there were no other singers on the street for 100 meters! Little kids were making hardly intelligible noises off a baby guitar and a tin whistle and such was there cuteness factor that they were making a few bob!! I was in the wrong game!!
We were about to start our morning session at 11am when we bumped into Luka Bloom, international artist, brother of Christy Moore, folk legend.. We told him he had it easy as we had 11 hours of singing and he only had two that evening. He was suitably impressed and asked how we did it to which I replied, “Strepsils and Alcohol!”. He said that there was a lyric in there somewhere so if you see it appear on a song of his, I`ll be looking for royalties!!
Another huge day ensued where we sang till 6pm without a break, took two hours off, showered and changed and came back for the evening session. We had 5 guitars, a piano, a banjo, a mandolin, a saxophone, a box accordion, a trumpet and even a flugel horn!! I have never been so tired from singing as I was that evening when we finally wrapped it up and to be honest I don`t recall too much about the aftermath (must have been all those strepsils!!)
I flew back the next day to Sydney and had drinks in the legendary Cock and Bull for my last night where I was joined by a great cross section of friends, both old and new, golfers and footballers, some gorgeous and others bald!
The next day saw myself and my flatmate of nearly 7 years go on a rampage! He hired a truck and our appetite for destruction was satiated!! We destroyed our furniture to make it easier to throw it out our third floor window to the truck below! It was very weird to think that as I left that apartment that I would never be back there.
Some recent developments in Sydney had given me cause to have second thoughts about leaving but getting a lift out to the airport from my `mate` Colm put that right, I was leaving a lot of good people and things behind me but I was also leaving him so it nearly balanced out!! Thanks for the three points buddy!
And back in Ireland after the 30 hour trip home. I hardly recognise my own town and my estate such are the developments. I was back for my friend Richard`s wedding to Collette on Friday. On Thursday evening, we all went to the local and the 5 friends from childhood (Eoghan, Kevin, John, Richard and myself) were together again for the first time in 7 years and we reminisced until the early hours, ably assisted by Richards` Dad`s liquor cabinet!
The wedding day was a cool one indeed and after the beautiful, musical ceremony, we had to grin and fake smiles in the bitter cross winds as I was part of the wedding party for the photographer. Fulfilling my duties to a tee, my hip flask of whiskey hit the spot for the groomsmen and bridesmaids alike!
A great reception where Collette gave the speech of the night, having the audience in stitches and causing me to think that she should take it up professionally! St Patricks Day followed and it found us watching the Irish Team narrowly lose the 6 Nations to the French and the next few days passed with varying degrees of total sobriety and otherwise.
I noticed a few things when I got back. Toilet seats are freezing in Ireland and the showers are set to scald to get your heart started again! The adverts are the same as in Australia but they have Irish voice overs so that we can understand them presumably! Prams have become the most fashionable accessory for the discerning teenager this season and if you can find an Irish born person in the service industry you are doing well! Home has changed but so have I, so it was time to go again.
Which brings me to where I am today, Luxembourg! I have an interview tomorrow for a job that should, all going well, find me in some truly bizzare spots on the planet for work. I was up at 3am this morning for an early flight to Frankfurt in Germany and I was greeted to a snow blizzard! It was amazing as I hadn`t seen a snow shower in 7 years or more!! This was proper Bing Crosby!!
I was to get a bus to Lux but I had arrived early (damn German efficiency!) and I approached the driver to see if I could take the earlier bus.
`Guten Morgen` I said exhausting basically all my German besides `Achtung` and `Himmel`!! This seemed to confuse my driver and I heard that familiar gutteral sound that only the confused French could make so I said,
“Parlez vous Francais?” to which he replied “Oui, bien sur”! “Ah, tres bien” I said and managed to explain to him that I was going to die of hypothermia if he didn`t take me with him. As I have often been told of the French and French speakers, if you even try to speak in their language, they warm to you immediately.
This proved to be the case today as I have spoken to numerous locals for directions and they are impressed and mildly amused by my French in an Irish accent!! But I am loving it, back to having to fend for myself again, walking around the city and just letting my inner compass guide me. Its a beautiful city, with a massive ravine that looks like it was cut out by a glacier running through it. The architecture is so impressive and regal in appearance and with the snow falling on me all day, I felt like I had been tossed around in one of those picturesque globes and left to settle.
The French words are coming back to me because with the exception of the road signs, they don`t bother with the English translations to anything (hey, if you want to eat, learn to read French!). I am meeting a friend this evening and I texted him to see what I should see on my first day. His advice that there was nothing to see and to just get out of the cold before we go to the pub this evening did not sit well with my newly reestablished sense of adventure so I walked around the city for two hours.
That was until I thought I was going to get lockjaw! It was bitterly cold but still I was exhilerated. So I have come in here, to this frustrating keyboard ( I have just typed normally, copied it to WORD and done a replace on the y`s and z`s so that ze could read it) and listened to cheesy 80`s music for the last two hours, oh man I`m in my element again!
It`s been ages since most of you have written in my message board so feel free to do so, I love getting them.
Wish me luck in the interview and no doubt I`ll have a lot more to write soon. If I don`t get the job, my fall back plan is to just go travelling! You gotta love plan B`s!!
Have a good daz… D`OH!!
You never have to keep up with your neighbours if you don`t have any!