I’m typing this up after a day of sporting fever, or utter boredom – depending on which side of the fence you lie. Ireland finally won their first rugby grand slam title in 61 years, and Bernard Dunne is the new World Bantamweight Boxing Champion. Personally, I enjoyed it, but I won’t bore you with the finer details. Anyway, here are my scribbles from a few days ago…
St Patrick’s Day (aka Paddy’s Day/St Paddy’s Day/busiest day of the year for hospitals… but never ever known as Patty’s Day. Patty’s short for Patricia!) was a bit mental. That’s not unusual. In fact it’s expected. The fake Paddy’s Day they held in Trafalgar Square was strange. (I call it fake not to be mean, but because it’s two days earlier than the real St Patrick’s Day. There’s no public holiday for Paddy’s Day in England, so the Irish ex-pats are holding their festivities on the nearest weekend to the 17th. This year it falls on a Sunday.) A sea of green is marauding around under the watchful eye of Admiral Nelson. Nelson was the fella who sent Napoleon packing at the Battle of Trafalgar. Most non-Irish won’t know this, but Nelson also kept a similarly watchful eye over Dublin’s O’Connell Street until 1966, when the IRA blew up Nelson’s pillar. (The Spire, or the “Stiletto in the Ghetto” as it’s unofficially known, now stands in place of the pillar.) Penny for his thoughts…
Myself and Q had made the dash from Heathrow, and arrived at Trafalgar Square with about 30 minutes to spare before our show. I really enjoyed the set – which is no small thing, because festivals are notoriously difficult for performers to enjoy. The show’s almost over almost as soon as it’s begun, and then you’re left with litres of spare adrenalin coursing through your body. Spare, unspent, surplus adrenalin has brought about the untimely end of many’s the hotel minibar and tv set. I decided to nip the adrenalin in the bud and join the revellers. Many hot whiskeys and pints of Guinness are consumed. I spot the Irish Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan at our show, Sinn Féin’s Jim Doherty, gangs of people wearing prosthetic bottoms sporting the phrase : “póg mo thóin” (which means “kiss my arse” in Irish/Gaeilge) and, of course, girls wearing bikinis made entirely out of shamrocks.
I was worried about reaching the Square on time, but everything went smoothly for us. Really I should have known that it would be the return journey that would cause all the trouble. Murphy’s Law moves into the ascendency around St Patrick’s Day…
I’ve just missed my flight to Dublin from Heathrow, thanks to St Pancras tube station shutting down and all the tube-riders being thrown out onto the street. My initial thought was, of course, that it was a bomb scare. Awful memories of the bad old days come creeping in. (Not least due to the recent shootings in Northern Ireland.) It turns out, or so we were informed by a lift operator at a nearby tube station, that two trains had broken down in the station and also some pregnant ladies became a little less pregnant whilst in the station. The result of throwing an entire tube-ful of commuters onto the street was unsurprisingly chaotic. Anyway, as a result of the delay, I missed my flight back to Dublin and, to my horror, the cost of the later flight was £190 sterling.
I’m told that that’s the problem with “zero fare” flights. Now I begin to spout steam at this point. Zero fare? Zero fare may be cheaper than full fare, but please don’t call it zero fare unless it’s actually a zero fare. Being a musician, and travelling as I am between gigs, I have to carry a load of gear and a guitar. This makes the whole travel experience quite difficult and expensive. So you end up trying to fold, roll, squeeze and squash solid metal pedals against each other into the ever dwindling size of “cabin baggage” in order to avoid the €30 plus each way cost of checking in bags, as well as your guitar. Then there’s the weight of your bags. Unsurprisingly, having solid metal in your bags along with cables and all your clothes makes for a far heavier bag than the 6kg allowed on Aer Lingus and just marginally makes the 10kg Ryanair allowance (provided you squeeze the air out of your socks and encourage moths to eat weight-saving holes in your best shirts – every gram helps). I’m not exactly sure what they expect us to do at our destinations, but it seems to involve zero sweat, dirt or any activities that involve anything beyond typing. Hell, speaking of typing, I’ve even considered getting one of those miniscule netbooks in order to save another few hundred grams.
Now, why amn’t I getting the ferry like the good green little citizen that I am? Well, I need to be in Limerick for a gig tonight, so the unfortunately, air travel was the only option. Personally I love the ferry and train to the UK (see: http://www.sailrail.co.uk and http://www.seat61.com/Ireland.html). It’s relaxing, on your doorstep, you can write, read or phone at your leisure, and it doesn’t actually take as long as you’d imagine. The trip is essentially 7 hours, which is not too much longer than the usual carry on in airports, where you feel violated in every possible manner. The ferries don’t make you take off your shoes, belt, remove sharp objects, etc… That stuff is ridiculous. How many possible terrorists have been caught using this technique? They’ll be removing the perforated edges from the toilet paper next, just in case… And yet, despite all their safety concerns and terror prevention, I’m sitting here on the runway, while delayed for another 30 plus minutes, with two colossal wings a few feet away, which are fully laiden with tonnes of the most highly refined petroleum on the market…. and they’re worried about my belt.
Right, enough from me. Speak to you all again soon.
EDIT : I must add some thanks… Firstly, HUGE thanks to Gary and all at the London Irish Centre for allowing us to play and for looking after us with their usual warm hospitality. Secondly, thanks to Iain, Coral, the Bodega crew for a highly entertaining St Patrick’s Day. Damn, I love those salvers…. ooo and big thanks to Kev and Will for putting us up!