Monday, 24 October 2016

Stopped in My Tracks by the Moon

Tonight is a perfectly calm, crisp and cloudless night in Kerry. I finished up in the pub, did all my bobs and jobs before driving home as normal. The roads were empty, and the temperature gauge on my car showed a brisk two degrees. The way I come takes me over a low hill, from the top of which you can see right across the valley to the hills in the distance. Tonight when I rounded that last bend, something spectacular was waiting for me.

A huge crescent moon hung just above the floor of the valley, in a night sky so dark, it may as well be painted black. It looked as if the moon was hanging directly over a tiny town in the distance, shining down on it in utter brilliance. The whole scene was serene and otherworldly. I know this is a trick of the atmosphere, bringing the moon so close you think you could touch it, but I really did feel that way. Right there at that moment, the universe held up a tiny part of its beauty to be compared alongside the work of man, and our efforts looked puny in comparison.

I pulled the car over and got out. It was amazing! Then I did the same idiot thing everyone seems to do these days, I took out my phone and tried to take a photo of it. After a few shaky looking snaps of a bright dot in the sky, I realised I was an idiot and put the phone away. I stood there for a good ten minutes, undisturbed by even one other car and watched this huge astral artwork move slowly skyward.

When I eventually got back in my car, I knew I had seen something very special, and the only sad part was, I had nobody there with me to share the experience. I may have been the only person in this part of the world, who saw that moon, from that angle, at that moment, and that knowledge made me sad. I wanted to wake everyone I knew up and let them see what I had seen, I wanted to be able to share that moment with someone special, it may well have acted as a wedding ring for the soul, but that wasn't meant to be.

So what better way to celebrate the gift's of the heavens than with music.

Here are the crappy phone shots just to prove how silly amazing things look when we view the world through a phone.

(This one was taken lower down the valley closer to the village.)

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Poker Face

God, weddings can be the most boring and drawn out things in the world, particularly the speeches. I nearly lose the will to live when I see a microphone being passed to a nervous father of the bride. All that changed the day Bridie and Eamon got married.

I'm sure weddings all over the world are a bit different, but in Ireland, we tend to sit down for a meal with the wedding party on one long table at the top of the room, while the rest of us sit at tables of ten, or twelve. Sometime you get to choose where you sit, but then there are times you don’t. Those are extra torturous occasions, where you end up sitting beside people you’ve never seen before, and will never see again. It’s not so bad if you're a couple, but at Eamon's wedding, I was that awkward single workmate. It was like feeding a live mouse to a room full of snakes.  

Eamon, the groom, was about the only person I knew at the wedding. During the pre-dinner drinks reception, I got a look at the table-plan. I was pencilled in on table thirty-two, right at the back of the room, but at least it was near the bar. I pulled out my chair and sat to the right of two elderly ladies who turned out to be spinster sisters. They were lovely, in a sipping sherry kind of way. At the other side of me was a couple who seemed to be fighting; talk about frosty. Thank God there were a few younger people at the table as well.  

Grace was said, and the and meal started. As the courses vanished, it became clear that Brian, one of the younger men, was determined to be the centre of attention. He had a good few pints under his belt and was dominating the conversation while his much younger girlfriend tried to set a world record for free wine top-ups.

The other dominant force at the table was, Fiona, who clearly knew Brian. Fiona was gorgeous and bubbly, if not the sharpest chisel in the box. Her boyfriend, Tony, smiled in all the right places, laughed at all the right jokes, but seemed a little distant. It was around the desert time I found out why.

It seemed, Brian and Fiona had a short-lived relationship while they were at college. While they seemed comfortable with this, Tony clearly wasn't. Fiona didn’t help the situation when she laughingly grabbed Brian's arm to stop him recounting some saucy titbit from their past. As tea was served, a hotel manager appeared behind the best man with a microphone in his hand.

"Oh Lord, the speeches are starting," I said out loud, my words heavy with impending doom.

"Great stuff!" said Brain, as he pulled an empty wine glass toward him. "Are yea all up for a game of, The Groom Thanks."

"What's that?" I asked as Brian rifled through his wallet for a note.

"It's easy," he said, waving a tenner in the air. "Everyone puts money in the glass. When the groom starts his speech, every time he says the word, Thanks, the glass moves right, one person. Whoever has the glass at the end of the speech wins the money."

It sounded like a bit of fun so I said, "Count me in," and I pushed a note into the wine glass along with Brian's. Fiona had her tenner in like a flash, the warring silent couple said nothing but the man stuffed a twenty in. The spinsters had a quick discussion among themselves about the evils of gambling but still added a tenner between them; they would count as one person. Tony reluctantly put his money in. Brian's girlfriend's head was swivelling around like an orange on a toothpick; she had no idea what was going on.

"Don't mind her," said Brian dismissively as she slumped against his shoulder.

We had to endure the priest, the father of the bride, the father of the groom, Aunty Peggie; whoever the hell that was, and the best man before the groom’s speech started.

"Here we go," said Brian gleefully, pulling the glass in front of himself which caused a giggle of excitement to emanate from Fiona. Tony gave a sideways glance at her. Even to my ears, the sound was vaguely sexual.

"Why does the glass start with you?" Tony asked.

"I was the first to put money in," Brian said, snootily.

"I'm not sure that’s fair."

"Fair me arse. Anyway, it's where the glass ends up that counts," he said, getting a bit tetchy.

"Now comes the moment you have all been waiting for, let's hear it for the man himself, Mr Eamon Ryan." said the best man, passing over the microphone, a movement that caused a burst of feedback.

"Jesus," said Eamon, when the screeching died down and glanced over at the priest who was glaring at him. "Sorry, Father." There was a rustling of paper while he got his notes in order before he raised the mic to his lips and said, "How yea," in a thick bog accent that got the whole room cheering. "Thanks for coming," he said.

"And were off," hooted Brian as he moved the glass to his right.

"I never thought I would see the day ..."

I have to admit I started to zone out for a bit but then Brian thumped me on the shoulder.

"What?" I asked.

"He just thanked some auld bat who taught him in primary school. Yea got to pay attention and move the fecking glass around."

"Oh, I missed that one," I said, shoving the glass toward the two spinsters who eyed up the money like hungry dog eyeing up steak. So much for the evils of gambling.

"I want to thank the bridesmaids for looking ..."

"Whoop! There is another one! Move it on girls, come on now," teased Brian as a sad looking spinster shoved the glass in front of the grumpy man. It had hardly stopped when Eamon said, "I don't know how Bridie would have done it without yea, Thanks."

The grumpy man shoved the glass in front of his misses, and gave her a filthy look, as if she’d somehow cheated him out of something.

"I want to thank Father Tom for ..."

The glass moved on again.

All through the speech, the glass moved. I have to say it was getting very addictive. We hung on Eamon's words, waiting for that magic one. When he said it, low cheer ran around our table. Even the spinsters were getting in on the act but it was Brian and Fiona who were leading the charge. People were starting to notice what we were at.


Whatever Eamon tried to say was blotted out by a burst of feedback, but he powered through. "…as she searched every shop in Ireland for pink roses, so thanks a million."

The glass moved in front of Tony, but Brian shot out his hand and grabbed the stem. "He said thanks twice there, it's got to go to Fiona.

"I only heard one," said Tony, trying to pull the glass back.

"Nope, there were two. One just before the static, then one at the end."

"Hang on a minute, he only got a T out, it could have been anything."

"What else could it be, for flip sake."

"Think, threw, timed, tempted, tits; who fucken knows!"

"Nobody says tits in a wedding speech," said Brian, deliberately not seeing Tony's point, and moved the glass.

Reluctantly, Tony let go, but the mood at the table was very much darker from then on. Tony didn't join in with the cheering as the glass moved, which seemed to make Fiona determined to make up for him.

Ten minutes later, and a thousand thanks’, Eamon was drawing to a close.

"So, to finish, I want to raise a glass to my beautiful bride and thank her from the bottom of my heart for having me
." Everyone in the room stood, and our table was on tender hooks because the glass now rested in front of Tony who smiled for the first time since the barney with Brian. It looked like he was going to claim the cash.

"Right, the bar is open, and the band is ready to go, so let's have at it, have a great night everyone, and Thanks again."

Eamon put the mic down on the table, and with a half-sad face Tony moved the glass in front of Fiona, which caused Fiona and Brian to cheer at the top of their voices. Lots of people looked in their direction, including Eamon, who thought they were cheering his speech. Sure enough, he picked up the mic and said, "Thanks, Lads!"

Another huge cheer came from Brian and he grabbed the wine glass. He held it aloft like a conquering hero.

"Ah, hang on! That's not fair!" said Tony, sitting forward.

"He said Thanks!" said Brian, waving the folded money in Tony's face.

"The speech was over."

"No, it wasn't, but it is now."

"And that other thing earlier, if that were any other word besides thanks, the glass would have ended up in front of Fiona, not you!" he said, his eyes ablaze. I sensed trouble was coming so I shoved my chair back from the table.

"Come on guys, it's only a game," said Fiona.

"You stay out of it," snapped Tony. I saw the shocked look on her face as she glared at her boyfriend.

"I beg your pardon?"

"You've been drooling all over this moron all evening, I'm sick of it. Just because you let him shag yea in college," snarled Tony. I knew a line had been crossed.

"What did you say?" said Fiona, coldly.

"What did you call me?" demanded Brian at the same time and getting up from the table. In the process, he dislodged his drunken girlfriend who woke for the first time since the speeches began.

"I said, you SHAGGED HIM!" yelled Tony, pointing an accusing finger at the man across the table from him while glaring at his own girlfriend. Everyone in the room was now watching. Oh, God. Why did I get put on this table?

From nowhere the slurred word, "Bitch!" rang out. A haymaker landed Fiona on her arse while the drunken girl flailed at her.

Well there you have it. That was how the battle began. It took two squad cars, and a half dozen bouncers, to bring order. I never knew what happened to the money, but I do know this, if I ever get married, there’ll be no table plan, you can bet on that!