For Galen’s 15th birthday we had lunch at The Good Things Café. Having ordered a cake we were careful with what we ate, sticking to a main course and the cake that came out with five candles on it as we all sang Happy Birthday. Despite our efforts we still came out feeling stuffed, most of the blame for which could be put on the cake. It was almost six inches high and slathered in thick dark brown chocolate. We could not have eaten any more.
Back at the Cottage the clouds had come down and it was grey and restless outside. There was a temptation to settle into one of the chairs and sleep and maybe we did that for a while but there was a need for fresh air so some of us went for the short walk in the hills behind Ahakista to the stone circle. It looked different this year – some of the vegetation had been cut back but the stones were still stuck solid in the landscape overlooking their corner of the bay. I took pictures of the same striations in the stones that I always take when we do the walk.
Walking back past The Tin Pub we saw that Brian & Nicola were going to be playing that evening starting at 7.00pm. In the Cottage I made garlic rich tomato sauce for later and we all trooped back out to The Tin Pub. Cars lined road outside and pushing the door open we had to squeeze past the crush of bodies that filled the place. I made it slowly to the bar and put in the order for cokes and crisps that had been shouted at me by the kids.
Despite it being so busy there was a table free in the corner under the bar with a few empty seats and most of us were able to sit down with me propped up against the bar well placed to put in an order for another pint.
The place was full with faces familiar and others half recognized. Big men sat at their stools at the bar. Outside in the marquee there was food and more people milled occasionally forcing there way back in to pick up another sound. The place was heavy with deep conversation and laughter.
Nicola & Brian were two young women playing guitars and singing and Brian sat on an amp in the back adding the odd harmony vocal. They were tucked in the corner under the dartboard and played Proud Mary and a selection of Beatle’s songs. The played for half an hour or so and then announced that they were making way the O’Donovans.
Brian & Nicola stepped away from their corner to be replaced ten minutes later by a group of five faces that up until then had been part of the crowd and the chat round the bar. They carried tin-whistles and a small recorder, a guitar, an accordion and an electric mandolin and a bodhran. They were squeezed into the corner with the crowd in the bar having swelling to push them back. The woman playing the bodhran and was almost part of the crush, it was difficult to see how she played with her head bent down as people pushed past and around her.
The noise quietened as they started to play. Despite all the instruments they were not loud. The guitar and accordion set up the basis melody and rhythm and thrum whilst the recorder and mandolin flirted over the top. It was difficult to see how many were playing at one time such was the crush and the hands held high carrying cameras. It was later that we realized that the cameras were held up not by eager tourists but by the cousins, the aunts and uncles of the people playing. An old lady sat rapt at a spare chair by our table. Tadgh Hegarty stood in front of us shoulders shaking to the music.
After two songs a voice from near the bar called for spoons and a pair were passed over the heads of the crowd to the the bodhran player and their clack and click underscored the next song.
They played for about 45 minutes. The first few songs were instrumental and then one of the women stepped forward to sing. The singing brought about another change in the atmosphere. the songs were familiar and you the tone of the background conversation changed as people started to mouth the words.
They finished with Wild Mountain Thyme the audience now singing words rther than just mouthing them and the Close to Fine an old song I could remember sung by The Indogo Girls and that was it. The crowd relaxed and we were back in a bar again. Brian & Nicola collected their instruments and started to get ready for their second set.
We turned to go back to the Cottage and spoke briefly to Nieve over the bar. They had not played for 18 months and they had got back together for a 50th birthday over the weekend. That had been celebrated the previous night at Arundels and tonight they were playing again as one of them had come back from the States for the party.
Outside the weather was more restless and a heavy wind flattened the hedges. Rain came as the kids were jumping off the pier in the dark. Whipped by the wind it stung at our faces as we watched them leap from end into the choppy waters.