We didn’t mean to go to sea, and today I am still pining for Ireland. There is a magic in the music there that captures my heart, and whips up a wistfulness in me that has a tendency to become a sadness. It is a sadness that I push away; I have often noticed that certain music does this to me. It kind of draws my attention to the grief in the world. Usually I choose not to listen to music that saddens me, but that means I am missing a whole world of sound so beautiful that it brings tears to my eyes.
This is a strange phenomenon as it only happens to me with recorded music, or at least only that I remember, out here on the ocean there is not much opportunity to listen to live music, unless it is me that is making it!
When I was in my teens I went to a few gigs, but I didn’t like them much, the music was always too loud. I have never understood why people like music to be so loud, I think it must be partly so that you can hear it properly over the talking humans, but then the humans talk louder as they can’t hear themselves over the music, and then the music has to be turned up so you can hear it over the talking humans, and so the humans have to talk louder, and the music has to be louder ad infinitum. There I have just solved it! That is why it has to be so loud. So then I wondered why are all these humans going to these gigs to talk over the people playing them?
Humans are so strange I don’t think I will ever understand them (that makes me sound like I come from another planet, and I have wondered more than a few times whether I do). If I am at a gig I want to listen to the music, unless I don’t like it. More than that I want to look at the musicians, I want to see what they are doing and how they are doing it. I think I am probably a bit odd to have at your gig. I sit and stare at the performers, I stare at their instruments, their hands, their faces, and then I zone out altogether from my vision into the soundscape, only to be brought back into the room by some annoying human trying to make conversation with me, which I am not good at at a gig!
If I love the music then I also fall in love with the musicians, indiscriminately. I can’t help it, it is a strange thing, which doesn’t really happen when I listen to recorded music either, I think a good performer puts their heart and soul into what they are doing, and to me that is more visible and more valuable than say accuracy or perhaps even content.
I didn’t go to many gigs in Ireland, I was young and skint! I went to a few in Galway, I think I saw the Levellers there, but it’s possible that I just imagined it. I saw Christy Moore in a tiny pub in Dingle in Kerry. I was living there at the time in a concrete cowshed with a little herd of cows, in a small field just outside the town. I can’t imagine how I did that? I must have been a different person altogether, I can’t imagine hanging out with a herd of cows, and I seem to remember there being rather a lot of crispy old cowpat in the shed. Somehow over the mooing we heard that Christy was playing an unpublicised gig in a little pub in town, and of course I had no money, so we climbed in through the pub toilet window and watched some of the gig. The landlord spotted us after a while and asked us to leave the way we had come in!
Perhaps it is something else to be sad about, all the gigs I missed because the music was too loud. There are far more things in life to be sad about, perhaps sometimes sadness just has to be.
Another reason I didn’t go to many gigs was that I have always preferred playing music to listening to it; I love to play music with other people. More than anything else in the musical world I love to sit around a fire with other musicians and play whatever we feel to play in the moment. I don’t know what it is about music that makes it so wonderful when mixed with fire, stars and good company. Perhaps it is something ancestral. I love to see the firelight reflected in your eyes and the moon passing overhead (we must have been there until the sun rose). I have seen the most wonderful shooting stars while playing music.
I was at a festival a few years ago and ended up playing music round a fire very very late, or perhaps it was early, but more and more people appeared around the fire, we were in a campsite and eventually somebody said that the music was so beautiful that they had to come out of their tent to hear it properly. I think this was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.
There are no fires and no gigs out here on the ocean. My whole way of life is gone, temporarily only I hope, and there is no way of knowing if I will ever find my way back there.
I don’t think I will find my way back to Ireland either, not the Ireland of my youth anyway, although I am pretty sure it is still there tucked away in a green lane somewhere. Wouldn’t it be quite something if we washed up one morning on an Irish shore? (not that kind of washing up, silly!). I think my favourite part of Ireland was in Donegal, we lived in a pine forest next to a beach called Murvagh beach. The beach seemed to go on and on for miles. It was a white sandy beach and one night we all went down to the sea and in the dark the sand glowed with a million phosphorescent lights! This experience was partly confused by the fact that the majority of the people on the beach that night were in an altered state of consciousness and thought that the lights in the sand were an hallucination. I however was in an ordinary state and could also see the lights in the sand. Apparently glow worms are not found in Ireland, so the Jury is out, or perhaps they were something else.
I lived there for a few months, and it was strange, I never went in the sea there, perhaps there was a reason, but I cannot think what it might have been now. Normally if I am beside the sea anywhere that is even half safe, I get in the water very quickly. It was back in the day before digital cameras, or at least before they were any good, and a strange thing kept happening, when I took photographs of the dogs. I had an old point and click camera, the type where you had to send the film off to be developed, and whenever I took pictures of the site dogs on the beach they always managed to duplicate themselves. Instead of five dogs there would be fifteen all placed strategically across the beach. Some of them were a bit misty and see through, but there they were, all in different poses. It was as if the dogs’ spirits were there too. It was a fairly spooky beach, long and very flat and it looked out onto endless ocean, there is something about the North-Western coast of Ireland, it sort of feels a bit like the end of the world, far more so than Land’s End ever did to me.
What made this place even spookier was the fact that in the woods near where we lived there were plague pits, mass graves from sadder times. Going out at night for a pooh under the stars in the woods and digging a hole somewhere is not ideal for anyone with a vivid imagination, the woods are so full of sounds anyway, I used to scare myself half to death, which actually made the whole thing quite a lot quicker, but really!!!
One of my silliest stories from these woods was when one night I went out for a pee naked as the day I was born. It was about three in the morning, at time when one would only expect to see perhaps a deer grazing in the mist, or a ghost or two from the plague pit. I had my pee by the light of a lovely moon and turned around to go back into my van when I saw two Gardai in their police car looking horribly embarrassed. I smiled and waved at them and they drove away as fast as they respectably could down the very bumpy track!
Of all the places I stayed in Ireland I think Donegal is the one place I would be very sad not to go back to.