Galway 1995

Galway Bay, by Robert Lindell (source: Flikr).

What an exciting place Galway was! Filled with pubs heaving with musicians, and we had no particular place to go and not much money. Luckily we met a beautiful flame haired busker called Mairead who told us about a hostel where we could work for our stay. The hostel was between two pubs, opposite two pubs, behind two pubs and next to a pizza place, and close enough to the sea to go for refreshing walks and to be occasionally windswept which really does have it’s benefits when one has imbibed a drop of the Irish Spirit! Amazingly a few people were living in tents on the common next to the sea, those hardy types that can put up with the sea blowing a gale through their lives.

When we arrived in our hostel there was a Swedish-American Dixieland Jazz band staying there that were visiting and playing gigs in Galway, I wandered into their dormitory while they were rehearsing and joined in on a song I knew and to my delight they invited me to join them for a few gigs. The band were all considerably older than me and insisted that when I sang that I should stand on the table in my bare feet so that everyone in the pub could see me! I sang “I’m nobody’s baby” and “I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter” amongst other things. It was fun and exciting and somehow strangely parental! The guys in the band were all on my case trying to straighten me out, but it was already too late by then, I’d taken the red (blue?) pill and there was no going back! I still have the cassette they gave me, although I don’t have a device to play it on!

We had a fairly uneventful stay in the hostel, punctuated by pizza and a lot of cleaning, and strange and interesting guests, including a dark curly haired softly spoken gothic man who did incredible embroidery on peoples jeans, and a punk who had turned to folk that I’d known in Oxford a few years before, sort of the opposite to turning to the dark side, or is it? Eventually Sammy and Harley had enough and walked hurriedly back out of Galway to hitch back to England in a haze of frustration, I’m not sure if it was the lack of contraception or the absence of cannabis that got to them first, but whichever it was it had taken it’s toll on their relationship and it was time for them to go.

One day I was in the pub across the road, the Roisin Dubh, for a mid morning cuppa when I met a beautiful German girl called Rada. Rada had long dark hair and a mischievous look in her beautiful dark eyes, her English was a bit patchy, but we soon discovered that she was also looking for somewhere to live and that she shared my birthday, and a love for a lot of the same music. A couple of hours later we had decided to look for accommodation together with Joanie and Jock, and in what seemed like no time at all to me now but was in reality probably ages we managed to rent a flat in Mary Street in the centre of Galway.

To call it a flat was a rather generous and creative description, it was more a box with a few walls in it containing smaller boxes and all the windows looked out a few feet onto brick walls. Nevertheless it was somewhere to stay and to invite all the other random drifters in from the streets! Few nights went by without somebody sleeping on the sofa, or peeing behind it (thankfully that only happened once). I have often since wondered who makes the decision to build ‘homes’ without a view, even of the sky. The lack of sky was definitely made up for by the scenes on the inside of number ten Mary Street, there was no televison or indeed longing for one, there was however an almost constant stream of musicians and other street entertainers providing free entertainment for the inmates. Weirdly one of the most memorable people to pass through our little box was a man named Niall Rivers. Niall was in his fifties and he often used to come round for tea, and would eat whatever was on offer, one day he ate an entire raw onion, as if it were an apple. Just thinking of it makes my eyes water!

I fell in love in that funny little flat with a handsome blue eyed, dark curly haired Irish man from the north side of Dublin, he suffered from jealousy, the kind that reflected his own rather poor behavior. My blue-eyed boy was forever chatting up other English girls, or Swiss girls, or girls from anywhere really and then accusing me of the same! He was a drummer and therefore a few days after we met he moved into our flat! There is something terribly wrong with five people living on top of each other in a space that has no views of trees or nature or even the sky! I don’t know much about astrology, but I’m pretty sure that trapping four Pisceans in a small space with no view of the sky is not only a very bad idea but is possibly also a crime against our sensitive natures and that of the lone Aries who suffered, or perhaps laughed manically at our hands.

The tension in the flat was terrible and there were a lot of noisy and ridiculous arguments between pretty much everyone, which fortunately frequently ended up in laughter.

I doubt that our diets helped much; I mostly ate chocolate and cereal from the corner shop that was pretty much next door, fortified with occasional bouts of hot rum and blackcurrant. We were all totally penniless and lived mostly by busking, Jock used to play slide guitar on the high street with a coffee cup instead of a slide, I’m pretty sure that was the only reason he made as much money as he did, because it certainly wasn’t for his musical genius, which was not yet apparent.

I busked on the penny whistle outside a department store, people did give me money so I can’t have been all that bad, but my repertoire was rather limited and my style was somewhat lacking panache, I was not only shy but I also didn’t really like people looking at me or talking to me (I have always wondered why somebody with this sort of temperament would have such a drive to be a performer, it makes no sense at all, look at me I’m on stage singing, only don’t look at me because you’re putting me off!), it’s also very hard to say thank you while playing a wind instrument. I had a lovely jacket that I acquired somewhere in Ireland, it was black and cosy and had deep pockets with a tibetan looking pattern on the top of the pockets and around the hood. After a couple of weeks of owning the jacket I started to notice that whenever I put my hands into the pockets I found one or two punts (old Irish money before the boring old Euro made everything so ordinary). How on Earth this was possible I have no idea but it really helped to contribute to my income and in particular to my hot rum and blackcurrant habbit that was slowly forming. I’ll never know what happened to that jacket, I just hope that whoever is fortunate enough to own it now puts it to good use!

I don’t know what Rada lived on, she was quite mysterious in many ways, possibly partly because of the language barrier, but she always managed rather well and usually had a smile on her face. One of my favourite pastimes was talking with Rada, we had long discussions into the night that were made considerably longer by the translation, we often came across words and concepts that required elaborate explanations, and as we didn’t have a German/English dictionary, or any other translation tools, and I am not one to be put off by a challenge, we often ended up laughing until we cried after a lengthy game of sharades and none the wiser.