Thursday October 14, Göteborg… I’m being followed around by the god Thoth. He’s making me take notes, scribble down phrases from William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch, stay up to 5am trying to write lyrics to long forgotten riffs recently discovered on Sony FX cassette tapes. Write your blog, Thoth tells me. Scribe of Ma'at in the Company of the Gods….i will do that.
By chance I discover some homemade documentary film on youtube about the murder of Bridget Cleary (1895) often referred to as the last witch burning in Europe. But it wasn’t really that. For a start it wasn’t the remnants of the vile Inquisition or a Witch Finder General type scumbag that killed her, but her husband and a bunch of her relatives and neighbours. Her Father was even there. I had read a lot about this years ago, first unearthing the story as a 9-year-old kid in Patrick F. Byrnes ‘Witchcraft in Ireland’. About 6 or 7 years ago Angela Bourke’s account was published – ‘The Burning Of Bridget Cleary’ . I started to read it again. On google maps I found the house where she was murdered. I couldn’t believe (A) it still stood and (B) it was lived in. Now that I’ve been there in the virtual world I’d like to visit on the physical plane of this vague reality. I might go there on the astral by accident. Been lotza places by accident, real and imaginary. Took down copious notes, a song or two may be brewing. And Thoth, Ibis headed god of scribbling (and more) says ‘keep writing.’ It’s one way out of hell.
Thursday October 21, Dublin…It was like old times. Stories to be told, plans being made as we drifted from one watering hole to the next up an down Baggot Street. But it had been an early start for me, up cockcrow to catch a flight over via Copenhagen, so come 4 o’ clock I went down to Temple Lane Rehearsal Studios. We had a room booked, but we weren’t due to start until 6, so I managed to get two hours sleep on the big leather sofa. Foxy was there to greet me as I awoke from my slumber. It just so happens that he was down the corridor with his crew The Mosquitoes. Would he meet me for a drink after rehearsals? No, he couldn’t do that. Chris arrived in and we got down to work. He had brought in a Yamaha amp for me and I tried it out and liked it and it’s mine for the weekend.
Afterwards we visited Sweeney Mongrel to see a band (whose name I can’t recall) from Westport. Then onto the Ha’penny Bridge Inn, The Working Man’s Club and Les’s flat and time for a lie down.
Friday October 22, Dublin’s Fair City…. Jessica was having breakfast as I stumbled into the kitchen. I was looking for the toilet, wrong way entirely. She pointed me in the right direction and I went back to bed. Hours later in Sweeney Mongrel I was checking out things for the gig when in walks the undisputed King Of Rockabilly, Seanie Foy with Edel and another friend. He was on Erdinger (non-alcoholic) I needed to self-medicate a bit. Good times….good times. It had started to rain and a few buskers came in and asked if they could play in the bar. Mark (the fixer of our gig) said this was a great idea and he sorted the folks out with a few free beers. Not every pub would be so kind. The played a mix of bluegrass , hillbilly , country and sounded great. After a while the rain eased up and off they went on their merry way. I went for something to eat, rambled the streets and it was time for sound check, a painless affair and the sound guy knew what he was doing. Afterwards we drove out the country, stopping in for provisions at some roadside shopping centre, a few glamour puss babes buying vodka, the young people of Ireland preparing for another debauched Friday night out. Then we spent a while on Chris’s barge. Joy was there to greet us with some pasta with green pesto sauce. The barge is a lot bigger than I had imagined. Homely, welcoming and tranquil.
Back into town and there’s a good vibe on the street. The gig was really enjoyable and familiar faces were there, and a lot of unfamiliar ones too. We all really enjoyed playing and that’s what it’s all about. A bonus if other people like it too, and I reckon they did. Long may the rock roll.
Sunday October 24 Dublin… Having spent the day (and night) in Clane, County Kildare, I was back in the capital for an afternoon gig in the IMOCA (Irish Museum Of Contemporary Art) Freezing cold during sound check and gig as well. Niall Toner Jnr and Johnny Rohan were great. Reminded me a bit of the Jayhawks. Unfortunately I missed Sean Millers set. I played a few acoustic numbers, then Chris and Les got up and we did our thang. Jessica told me her handbag was nicked the other night. Petty thieves beware…never steal a witch’s bag ! Not a good idea. But on this Sunday we had a nice gathering of old friends, and some new ones too and despite the arctic conditions we had fun.
Sunday October 31, Göteborg… Recorded some songs with Damon from the Don Darlings. A good version of Delia, and a song of his own – can’t remember the title. Got some handclaps on one of my own songs and wrote another song by accident as often happens. I was trying to play something else and along this tune came like an uninvited, but welcomed guest. Put down some tambourine on a song using an old one with a skin. Before long Freja unloaded a bowl of yoghurt into the tambourine. Smells fruity now.
Downtown wandering the foggy grey streets with Paddy Lynch. He’s on a visit from London. After drinks at a Spanish place we were all hungry as vultures after a skunk weed spliff. Just up around the corner we found the Thai restaurant with the tuk tuk in the centre of the room. I asked the friendly waitress for 3 beers, saying I would go for some wine when the food arrived. Her smile faded as she informed me that they were under new management. A muslim guy has taken over and won’t allow alcohol on the premises. So out the door we go. Near Nordstan we visit Mother India, go through the ritual of getting a table, coats off, reading the menu and then they tell me the only have folkbeer and NO WINE. They’ve lost their licence. Got on the tram. Five stops later we’re in another Indian restaurant and its third time lucky.
Friday December 3, Copenhagen….. The train was late getting into Malmo, so it was a bit of a panicky scramble to get onto the correct platform and catch the next train down and into Denmark. A very very disgruntled Austrian tourist had missed her train due to adverse weather conditions, and thus would not make it in time for her flight home. Felt sorry for her, but the more she went on and on about it the more my sympathy faded. She ranted and ranted to the friendly lady who sat beside me. I read my Anais Nin book and went off someplace else.
The Danes weren’t prepared for so much snow. 6 or 7 inches of the white powder covered the thoroughfares of Copenhagen. Navigated my way with help from a kind stranger. The gig was a small club called Bartof Café. Good sound, good people. A single domestic turntable behind the bar with records being played over the sound system, a small record shop tucked away in the corner.
Central Station, down past the Tivoli is a cold drab place at 9am. Breeze blowing through, no place to warm up and relax. Everybody in transit or looking lost. Eventually we’re travelling across that 20 mile-long bridge that gets us back into Sweden. Stop in Hamstad with the great yellow-bricked Best Western Hotel casting a weary eye over the cold-war-era bleakness of the train station. A lady across from me reminds me of Lena Olin. Onwards up through Falkenberg and Kungsbacka. People hacking away emails into their laptops. We’re moving into a lost era. The art of letter writing is a thing of the past. Time is slow. We’re running late. All the toilets are out-of-order. I still feel ok. I can take a leak whenever we reach our destination. The eternal optimist strikes again.
Friday December 17 Göteborg…. A lady got on, young (compared to me anyway) and out of her bag she pulled her knitting kit. I was trying to mind my own business, but I was afraid she’d take one of my eyes out with those long needles. Frantically she knitted for a whole 4 minutes, then stuffed it all back in her bag and she got off the tram at the next stop. I suppose she thought I was a weirdo reading my book of Anton Chekov short stories. Whatever gets you through the day, or in this case…whatever gets you through the tedium of using public transport.
Back at HQ I put the finishing touches to some songs from a previous life (the late 80’s). Hours spent knob twiddling, getting the EQ right, a bit of compression here and there. Then back to the 21st century to have a run through of few songs for tonight’s gig. Had intended to have a lie down as I’d been awake since 5am, but it never happened. Just didn’t get around to it. Outside it was bitter cold. Minus 12 Celsius. The gig is at Klubb Sonja in Hakket. After sound check I had dinner with Steafan and a beer. Needed to get out of dodge for a while. A ramble around Jantorget was in order. On Andre Långgatan I heard music coming from a place with frosted windows. Went inside, a white room with an accordion orchestra belting out the tunes. About 5 or 6 piano accordion players with a thumping double bass player. Sounded like Nordic folk music but I could be wrong. The place was packed with what looked like an invited, but very appreciative audience. On my merry way and had a beer in L’Assassino, and then back to Hakket. Anders, Martti and Kaarina were just arriving. Caught the tail end of the set by Det Blev Handgemang. Soon it was time for my set. I enjoyed it, sound was good and Marti said he needed to smoke a Cuban cigar. No need for a coat, Martti is from northern Finland and this type of weather means nothing to him. A Stena Line ferry sailed by, a big floating monster of a vessel, the first surreal moment in an evening of many.