Friday, July 29, 2011

Snorting the craic

I am writing this while sitting on a rock beside a lake in southwest Ireland, looking across at the mountains. My day job (I'm in Killarney for the Irish Open golf) takes me to some pretty astounding offices.

The gentle lap-lap of the water is the only sound that disrupts this corner of heaven. That and the slight pounding in my head. Was it really wise, having risen at 4.30am yesterday to fly to Kerry, to stay up to 3am on my first night here? Of course it was, there was singing to be done.

We don't do pub singing very well in England. On the rare occasions when anyone does start to sing in an English pub, it is the boorish, chanty, chavving footballer type of song. The sort that has barely any discernible words and even less of a tune. Why are the Irish more charming drunks than the English?

There are few pubs that put on live music and even fewer that do it well, with the punters encouraged to join in. I know of one glorious place in Marylebone that does old-style roll-out-the-barrel Cockney piano nights, but it is a rarity.

In Killarney, every pub has a sign outside boasting of live music. Purely on a whim, I chose O'Connors.

There was a man with a guitar and a man playing the spoons as percussion. And there was a tap dispensing black liquid and much love in the room. After a couple of glasses of the black liquid, I started to join in as the pub sang along to the guitarman.

I didn't know many of the songs, but I could pick up the refrain. When it came to the ones I did know, like the Fields of Athenry or Streets of London, I belted it out with passion. I suspect at this point my wife, if she is reading, is cringing.

At 11.30pm, the guitarist packed up but the pub was not finished. One by one, the punters took it in turns to start a song and everyone would join in as soon as they knew it. We did County Roads, we did The Gambler, we sang You've Got a Friend. A pubload of pissed men (and a few women) singing Carole King. Beautiful.

One jolly fellow called Fergal, a man with an astounding tenor voice made for the stage, serenaded an American lady with La Vie en Rose before doing a couple of numbers from My Fair Lady. Another guy did the obligatory Danny Boy, although his knowledge of the words extended only to the title. No matter.

And then it was the turn of the Englishman. National pride at stake. What to sing? What could I remember the words to at midnight after several pints? I took a sip, opened my mouth and began: "I'm sitting by the railroad station, got a ticket for my destination..."

At which everyone joined in "ooh-e-oohh. On a tour of one-night stands, my suitcase and guitar in hand..."

Yes, Simon and Garfunkel was a good choice. American Pie followed as an encore. After that, everyone told me how much they loved the Queen coming to visit Ireland.

The evening didn't end there. Fergal dragged me along to another pub where there was a fabulous rock group playing covers of everything from Abba to Hendrix. A bearded Goth with tattoos all over his body and the voice of Robert Plant led the way. More singing. More drinking. At three pints for ten euros it would be rude not to.

I crawled off to bed when the music finished. I'm sure that if I had wanted, Fergal would have found somewhere else doing a gig but by that stage my vocal cords were shot. And I'm a professional, I had work the next day...


Southern Waratah said...

Love It PK! I'm in Ireland in a few weeks, very much looking forward to a sing along...

"If she is Reading" - Classic!

England Cricket team looking good! No.1 in the world beckoning?

Anonymous said...

There is nothing like a spontaneous drunken sing along. Regrettably, my Mother-in-law occasionally requires me to accompany her to Mike Denver showband gigs. The 'Plumber from Portumna' as he is known amongst dance hall afficiandos usually begins his gigs at about eleven and 'sings' until about 2:30 am. As I attend in the guise of unwilling chauffeur I have the dubious pleasure of partaking without drink. From this I conclude that Irish country music simply does not work unless you are pleasantly pissed.
Jeremy Q