The Cock, The Texture, a Plinth and a Vagina. (Painting in Clare)

As I finally had everything for the trip ready, way later than anticipated, as always. I sat into my new car, turned the key to nothing. Feck, the possible dodgy battery was in fact dodgy, a few texts and calls ensued, a pair of melted jump leads and a lot of too and fro and the Golf was running. Just as well all this had happened as I had forgotten to pack my art box. As my main role this weekend was as mural painter, it’d not have gone down well if I’d left all my paints behind.

On the road at last, only 2 hours behind schedule, first stop Brian McCarthy, who since court the previous day, was in top form. I arrived to him singing around the house, with his attempt of an Oasis hairstyle, after coming from the shower. Tea, smokes and chat until again we got on the road, now only 2.5 hours behind schedule. A quick splash and dash in Killarney and some provisions purchased our journey begins in earnest.

Now sometimes when it’s just the 2 of us travelling, it can be quiet, more often it is not and this was one of those latter occasions. A few calls from Conor (Ted) Hogan increased our levels of merriment along the way.

“Go through the tunnel and take the first exit, I’ll meet you there” said Ted. But us country folk from Kerry didn’t realise there is an exit before the tolls so dutifully and in somewhat of a pleasant daze drove past the toll where we were overcharged by a robot, never using that lane again, til we got to what we believed to be the first exit.

“We’re heading for Sixmilebridge in some place called Cratloe.” “Ah jaysus you’ve gone too far you donkeys, do a yooey and head back under the bridge.” After some disagreement with Mr Google and another call we turn back under the bridge. Now not everyone knows this but Conor “Surveillance” Hogan was a spy in a former life. He has on numerous other occasions appeared out of nowhere to guide us through the treacherous roads of Limerick and Clare. This was to be another of those occasions however neither I nor Mac realised it for quite awhile. As we joyfully spoke to him through speaker phone updating him on what we see and pass, I suddenly realise something and interrupt McCarthy telling Ted a yellow car just passed.

“That’s feckin Hogan in front of us the whole time, the bollix” as we all laughed our holes off both our cars arrive at destination number 1. A young family man had been sleeping in his car outside the family factory that the criminal receivers had tried to steal the week earlier. The universe had started opening up for this chap as first he had met Conor, who in turn had brought Mac and I to him. Chatting with him for half an hour or so, we all knew he was already in a much better place when we left than upon arrival.

Ted stashes his car and sits into ours, his back seat companion for the next leg being an ash tree in a pot. The 2 boys opened a few cans for the lovely evening drive, I almost did too, somehow I didn’t, I realised why soon after.

“Fuck there’s cops up ahead” “Bollix” etc.

“Have you ever been breathalysed before sir”

“Actually, no I never have” the procedure went along, my convoluted story as to why I had no correct papers seemed to win favour.

“Did you know I could impound your car?”

“No I didn’t as you don’t make that clear to the general public”

“Well I won’t be doing so this time, but I am writing you a ticket”

As we pulled away and out of sight I breathed again, and spotted 2 very attractive ladies walking the road which immediately snapped my mind back to reality.

“Fuck it, we are cool” The 20 minute journey onwards to Tommy Collin’s house flew in an instant.

My usual welcome from the man Tommy, big hug and “Welcome home” “Christ” says I, “I need a drink” and so the painting weekend began.

Most of the crew were already there, Gillian Noonan, Ben Panter, Frankie Talti, John Donnelly, Banjo Hannon, I can’t remember did Colman McCarthy arrive that evening or the following morning. Food, drinks, chats and fun ensued until a relatively early sojourn to the bed with Macs warning ringing in my ears

“When the cock crows three times, painting season begins!”

He crowed at 4am, his crows entered my dreams as he became a character in my alternate reality til he eventually woke me up in the other reality, the one where painting season had begun. 8ish and surprisingly fresh I immediately make toast. Now this is not like me, I usually smoke and drink something first and be up a good hour before food, today was different.

“We only have one brush and only one roller” ah jaysus, the bauld John McCarthy aka John the “giant” (sic) the only professional painter amongst this rag tag team had double booked himself and forgotten to make said brushes and rollers available. No bother, a small team of purchasers were sent to the paint shop. Meanwhile the more, shall we say Bohemian, of us were left behind to wax lyrical and drink tea.

Loads of rollers, buckets of various paints and masses of food arrive back an hour or so later, all paid for by the generous donations from the previous week’s seminar. So now the fun and games could really begin. I had been warned I needed to do some regular house painting before I could get cracking on my art, so I did, kind of.

Our crew is made up of many, many chiefs and very few Indians; in fact some chiefs are very vocal on how chief like they are. I ducked and dived til I found a job I like i.e. rolling the inner walls. I had started at edging, but didn’t like it much and soon passed it on to Mac and Franki. As I was far more efficient and faster at my work than 2 men I would often go outside to check on progress there. Now both in and out “The Odd Couple” were being very disharmonious, Conor and Banjo (Felix and Oscar) were each so busy telling the other how little they were doing, that in fact neither were doing much of anything, except entertaining us to riotous levels. Conor sunk to his plinth with his black paint, reflecting his mood as Banjo studiously whipped up his mix to the right texture level. Five years of college plus and extra year learning texture levels fell on Conor’s deaf ears as the 2 kids bantered and battered each other all day. Somehow though, most of the house got painted. That evening, after all the tools were down, we sat back and admired our efforts thus far, it surprised us, but funny what one can do when one is busy having fun.

At this stage more had joined, notably from Kerry, Sheila Daly. A Cottage (not Shepard) pie was lovingly created by Gill and Franki with a tiny garlic related input from yours truly. Cider and Baileys substitute seemed the order of the day, a gift from Colman and Irish coffees were now too on the cards. John Donnelly had graciously brought us a big fuck off speaker amp with lights, so an impromptu disco followed, DJ wars began with myself, Brian and Mark (Tommy’s neighbour) spinning the discs. A right mix of music and laughing carried on into the wee small hours, along with a side issue of a Jerry Springer episode; I had a colander to put upon my head and was thus safe from all these external shenanigans.

Once we had all twisted our melons to the point of exhaustion we randomly took to the bed, I heard the next day there were negotiations regarding sleeping arrangements, this did not bother I nor the quiet Brian upstairs, as like Germans with towels, we had secured our own rooms early doors.

I don’t remember falling asleep, a good sign, I also didn’t dream of the cock crowing at 4, although I did learn later, he did. I slept deeply, massive fluffy rollers bouncing down a hill, a banjo playing in the distance, the scene opened within my mind.

I awoke not at 8, but earlyish, it was Sunday after all. My dream was still vivid in my head I had seen my painting. Although I had gotten a start on it the night before, I knew I would only do so much, as the rest was on the way. The aroma of rashers wafted through the air, we all were a bit quieter this morning. The tea and lyrical waxing a little more subdued. Felix had left, Oscar needed a spar, and I became his next victim. I’m glad to report though, as I am far more adept at handling such professional langers as Banjo than Ted, I was able to be a worthy opponent. So much so, that later that night we had a long chat.

The sizzling sounds of bacon frying proved too much and we all adjourned to the breakfast room. With half a pig within us we all bounded outside, the sun shone between the clouds as the return of John the “giant” (sic) was heralded by me, echoing a long battle from the day before, black paint and windows, can’t quite remember. All I know is Conor must have shares in the crowd that make that colour.

All the “professional” bits had been left for John and he handled them in a very professional manner, a blatant disregard to the constant slagging he received from an audience of hot beverage consumers. I had to wait for my room to be ready, Vincent was methodically painting it head to toe, and he also showed great method in his dismissal of my wall art. So good was he that I must take back all my previous comments about his woodenness as an actor. DeNiro himself could not have pulled such an elaborate piss take on me, I fess up now Vince, you were so good, I was about to give up, fuck my brushes against the wall and piss off. But I trust my friends more than this, I knew I was a little weak from the bad pint I’d had the night before. So I carried on thru the pain until Kavanaugh moved to the hallway.

His relief team was far more pleasant in the shape of Gillian, a gentle chat and time passed as a leaf in the breeze. I put a lot of paint on the wall in that time, without noticing.

Cutting in, or as I call it edging was being carried out across the building, concentration everywhere. It was noted as early as the first hour of the first day that painting keeps me quiet. It does, as I am somewhere else.

Just as the light began to fade we realised that Tommy’s house was as painted as it could be. The transformation was stunning. To me, his house had taken on a new life, a new beginning. We mark the occasion with a few poses for photos, I seem to be getting in them, rather than taking them, a lot more recently. Some had left by now; Ms Daly had gone back to the Kingdom, but not before ever imprinting on many minds, anal gland massage. Another great name for a band, when we take our experimental music to metal this shall be us.

A gentle night as I continued painting, Banjo put in a massive stint of work towards the end, like any great jockey, he knows its who’s ahead at the end that counts. He came up the outside like Frankie Dettori, scraping, brushing and cajoling. When all was finally done, I was the last remaining painter, painting differently, but in tune with all the love that had been put into the walls.

Somehow the speaker was in “my” room and as soon as John Donnelly arrived to sort what none of the rest of us could, again music. A break for food, Vinnie’s now famous pork Thai curry, wow it’s nice. My tiny appetite and restless mind soon drew me back to the mural. I don’t know when but Conor had come back, accompanied by his wife Lorraine, I knew I was almost done, but not finished.

I have learned over time to not worry about when, as when will come, when it is ready, when I am ready. So I relaxed. Everyone was on a high, yet were tired, a weird mix of emotions, and I went back. Dark Side of the Moon, perfect.

As the cash registers rang, opening side 2, I knew when the mural was going to be finished. The last beat of Eclipse, “I’m not frightened of dying, why would I be” “I’ve been mad for fucking years”. By now auto painting had kicked in big time, I darted around the wall like a fly on acid, singing as I went. Everyone instinctively knew to leave me alone for this last period. Just as I knew it would be; I finished the 6, of my signature right as the last echo from the album sounded. I cried for a second, then ran into the kitchen.

“It’s done!”

To my surprise and wonderment, everyone ushered into Tommy’s front room, the Nerve centre of AET activity in the past. From this very room I negotiated with PJ Armstrong that fateful day, about how to get the video up with the notoriously bad Clare internet coverage. It was done.

As too was the mural, no longer mine, now Tommy’s. An unexpected “lecture” about my vision, a quiet hug and deep words with Tommy in the hall, alone.

A few hours later, after a lovely discussion with a lady that came with Vince, some angel cards and crystals and a few snacks. I joined Banjo for that chat I mentioned before. Later still, I was alone, the only one up, I let my mind slow down and allow myself back to my alternate reality.

If the cock had been sitting on my face, clawing my eyes and crowing directly in my ear I’d have slept thru. This morning was not one I wished to wake for. As ever, Brian had to get onto his next venture. A meeting near Kanturk, for some vulture hunting brainstorming. My car, however, felt a bit like me, didn’t really want to go yet. More jiggery with batteries and cables. Golfie was running again. A last mad dash round the house, to pack away my belongings.

As we drove away, we left a new beginning.