At the risk of contributing to your information overload, I wanted to share some things I’m reading, watching and listening to at the moment. Inspiration is drawn from many sources, and even if something doesn’t inspire anything directly, a bit of knowledge can’t hurt. Okay, it can hurt a lot. Still… go for it!
For citizens of Ireland or anywhere else that espouses austerity, you may like to know the influential paper that has been the the whole reasoning behind austerity programs has just been blown to smithereens. The Colbert Report demolished Reinhart and Rogoff in typically hilarious fashion last night. It’s accurately described here in Business Insider, but you’re probably better off just watching him do it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Oa-Bfdkg3w
and the interview with the grad student who spotted their “error” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgMV4KV6Qw0
Find The Conversation
If you’ve ever felt that humanity is on the wrong track, then you might wonder whether we’re taking the necessary steps to right our course. This podcast goes some way towards addressing this. Their website (and the start of each podcast) explains it better than I could, so dive in and take a listen. Warning : may provoke thought.
From April to December of 2012, Aengus Anderson traveled America and recorded long, unstructured conversations with a cross-section of thinkers and doers, from transhumanists to neoprimitivists, urban farmers to musicians. The resulting conversations were wildly diverse but unified by a few themes: critiques of the present, hopes for the future, and discussions of what each thinker considered “the good.” The results may not yield any existential answers, but you’ll hear thoughtful and often provocative discussions emerging from a cacophony of ideas.
The World Is A Battlefield Contradicting Pat Benatar’s assertion, it turns out that the world is a battlefield. Also on soundcloud, I heard this interview via “Democracy Now!”, an independent news organisation based in the US. The reason I’m posting it is because it introduced me to the phrase “forward deployment”, meaning invading a country and preparing the ground for battle before you’ve actually “started” the war. There are several levels of creepiness laid out here, describing the drone wars, outsourcing of secret prisons and torture centres. I’m not sure if you even SHOULD listen to this. https://soundcloud.com/democracynow/the-world-is-a-battlefield
“I like your manifesto, put it to the testo” – The Sultans of Ping F.C.
For a long time, this blog was merely a repository for gig notices, occasional newsletters and photos from foreign lands. I want more. From now on it will be my diary. Fairly unfiltered and concerned with everything and anything that takes my fancy. I need a proper outlet for it rather than dumping it all into emails to my long suffering friends. I’ll install a ‘select category’ button somewhere, so you can simply view the posts you want to read. (“Music-only”, “all” or “daily nonsense” or something to that effect.) So, the blog will continue to function in the old traditional way, but you’ll have the option of devouring my daily ramblings if you so wish. The choice is yours. (Choice. I’m good to myself!) And so… for a confusing explanation and brief catch-up, read on…
For the past two years, since the release of Fingertips of the Silversmith, my second album, I have felt increasingly lost. Sitting in a vacant lino-floored laundrette, I’ve been waiting, interminably waiting, and watching my mind slop slowly against the porthole glass. Going nowhere. I realise that I’m entirely to blame for 99% of my failures. (The other 1% is of course your fault, as a member of that useful catch-all group : “people”!)
Yes, the music game has changed. Few people really know if there are goalposts anymore, never mind whether they’ve been moved or not. However, music is not to blame for my inability to make decisions. It’s not responsible for my “financial embarrassment”. Music is not to blame for my stasis. Nor for the rut that I dug for myself – the one that I’m finding nigh on impossible to climb out of. I’ve heard it said that one should never invest anything more than you are fully prepared to lose. We’re probably all guilty of breaching that guideline. I certainly am.
By the end of the promotional campaign for Fingertips of the Silversmith, having spent so much that I was unable to fund a proper tour and pay musicians/petrol-money, I was flat broke. Eventually, luckily, I still had a job offer on the table. (A rare thing in Ireland these days!) I took the job in order to rescue my situation, but it was a huge blow to find myself back working long full-time stressful hours, that finished too late and left me too tired to gig in the evenings. I realise how ungrateful that sounds – loss of pride and self-respect when I FIND a job… it’s ridiculous, offensive even, but that was my honest reaction, drenched of course in two gallons of guilt. A good friend of mine once shared with me the rules set by a well-known New York jazz player, whose name escapes me : Always look a million dollars – and never let anyone see that you’re broke. These would be good guidelines but for one thing… If everyone follows those rules, and nobody is willing to admit that we might have a problem, then how can we change or fix anything? We’re expected to vacantly talk everything up, like Comical Ali on a roof in Baghdad boasting of Saddam’s victories just as the American tanks roll into picture behind him. Just like our looney Irish economy, no-one willing to acknowledge the problems. We’re the climate change deniers. We’re the facilitators. Music is the drug, and we’re terrified that dissent will stem the flow of those lovely blue crystals from Los Pollos Hermanos.
So here’s the thing. I’m no revolutionary leader. (A bit of a relief really – Irish revolutionaries traditionally end up betrayed and executed by their own. As any correct Irish economist will tell you.) In truth, I can barely lead myself to get up in the morning. But I’m officially quitting with the ludicrous put-on-a-good-face that we do so well here. I’ve rarely done it in private – but I’ve tried to steer clear of this talk in public as much as I could. I’m rethinking that. Dishonesty is not helping many people, is it? But the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, isn’t it? I need to do that. Our country certainly needs to do it. On the radio every day I keep hearing people saying that they’re sick of all the negativity, and that we should stop talking the country down. We should be optimistic, they say. Optimism is an outlook though. A framing or re-framing. Optimism will not mend your car, broken leg, or nation. As if talking positively will cure the economy and encourage investors! Investors don’t listen to desperate pleas – they’re just looking at the figures. If the figures don’t make sense, your über-positive dodgy salesman banter is not going to help. In fact it just embarrasses us further. We’re the fools who can’t or won’t admit that things here need radical, radical change. Who do you think is impressed by our failure to admit we have a problem? Europe certainly isn’t. Tim Geithner certainly wasn’t, when he threatened the EU with hellfire if the Irish nation wasn’t held responsible for the actions of a few small privately-owned banks. Until we admit that we have a problem, aren’t people supposed to refuse to help us? That’s certainly what the ECB and EU have been doing so far.
So to hell with all of that. I’m not going to deliberately set out to be negative – but I refuse, on moral grounds, to sugar coat everything. I’m going to call the pot black, the kettle black, and the death star : a negative development in the quest for a universal peace. We’re all grown-ups here (aside from a few avid feline readers who I’m sure are following this intently given the vast photographic evidence of IT-savvy cats). If things are working out, I’ll shout it loudly from the blog-tops. But if things are shit, I’m going to describe them as not going well. There is nothing to gain from it. Investors and business leaders will invest when they spot an opportunity to get in at the bottom of possible economic growth. They’re not looking for reassurances from those “wonderful” politicians of ours.
The main thing anyway is to be a bit truer to my own self… and “put myself out there” a bit. I’m a bit nervous, but more exhilarated by the prospect of it all. For the past year and a half I’ve been playing very few shows, touring very little, and I’ve been unable to commit to anything creative properly due to the silly working hours I’m doing. This is not good. Am I overly negative? I’m not really a glass empty or glass half-full kind of person. I don’t fit well into either category. My problem is much more fundamental than that. I’m much more likely to fixate on things like : Whose glass is this anyway? Do we know for certain that it is a glass? Humans generally don’t work well with grey areas. Our brains function like a series of binary switches : on/off, good/bad, tasty/nasty, etc… The world is usually a lot more complex than that, but binary choices allow for useful shortcuts. They prevent our brains from collapsing under the sheer weight of computation that would go into every moment of every day if we were not routinely making these sweeping generalisations.
Like “this wall is white” instead of “this wall is white except for 2 microns of unidentified black soot in the top right-hand corner of the wall”. Precision can be a killer. Again we’re back to grey areas. We must try to maintain the beauty of observation without being capsized by its heavy load. Science is “the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis with an ugly fact.” I’m going to attempt to live in a grey area in this blog. Embrace the doubt and try to allow precision to creep in… but not so much as to destroy everything! And so, onward into the grey…
It’s Christmas in Berlin. I’m writing from a small café in Xberg, as the rebels call it when they’re sure they are amongst friends. The regime has ears everywhere, or so it seems to the besieged people here. No one is prepared to take a chance.
Berlin having tumbled from the Weimar Republic’s crippling debt burden, which offered a foothold to the fledgling fascist movement, grew into a forbidding capital built on lies, oppression and genocide, and finally ‘liberated’ by Stalin’s colossal army which at times appeared to operate solely on the basis that they had more soldiers than you had bullets, and they were not afraid to use them. From the brief liberation it was not long before the remaining rubble of Berlin was carved up between the Allies… And then simply between Capitalist and Communist regimes. It became the frontline for a bizarre and quietly brutal war, with two bullies circling each other for decades, refusing to throw the first punch – much preferring their tiny minions to get thrown into the napalm or machine gun fire or whatever their weapon of choice was at that particular moment. Berlin was only given some respite and chance to become one again at the tail end of 1989. Citizens had been marching for weeks in other East German towns like Leipzig. They grew in confidence. In the end the collapse of the DDR was eerily meek. It was as if the people just en masse ceased to believe… and in turn the DDR ceased to exist.
There was a fabulous story by Anna Funder in “Stasiland”, where she recounted stories of the citizens storming the HQ of the Stasi. (Imagine US citizens just walking in to Langley – that’s the level here.) Such was the effect of the regime that while “storming” the building, the Stasi officers at the door were checking ID papers upon entry… and people complied! If Berlin were your friend you would have to take pity on him/her (Berlin’s gender anyone?). The unlucky friend, fantastic to spend ashort hedonistic time with but ultimately too self destructive for anyone’s health, falling from one abusive relationship to the next, and finally when everything seems to be turning out okay against all the odds, it finds itself somehow under the control of another cruel despotic regime.
Any Westerner will recognise the claws of the new leader. Spending most of his time in the shadows, like they late Kim Jong-Il, his public presence is trapped up massively at the end of every year for the anniversary. Just like the Parties of old, both Fascist and Communist, the city is decked out in colours and bright, shiny things to attract and indoctrinate the youngest citizens and to stir nostalgic feelings in the older ones. Few rebel. Unlike days of old they do not fear being disappeared in the night by the Gestapo or Stasi thugs. No, they fear alienation. They are vastly outnumbered. To rebel is to be seen as curmudgeonly, mean and ill-befitting the self proclaimed most prosperous country in Europe. Throughout the winter months, the bulls up begins. The party colours cleverly re- engineered by some marketing experts in the thirties. Families are forced from sheer weight of expectation, peer pressure and relentless TV propaganda to splash out on the anniversary celebrations. The threat of not celebrating while oft threatened is never realised. No one dares. Everyone caves. In historical terms-it’s a phenomenal achievement, evil as it is. Like Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, The Roman Empire… You just have to marvel at the drive in achieving such things, horrific as they may be. The young family next to me in the café are surrounded by shopping, and the little bit is totally in real to ask the present sing things and that elusive promise of happiness. His parents look weary and drained. They speak in hushed tones of these jolly one, but we all know his true form. Another year of empty promises and short lived satisfaction. They’ve seen it all before. XBerg and Berlin will rise again I’m sure. As will the West. Shake the shackles off. But when?
I found this hidden on my facebook page, and decided to dust off the cobwebs and repost it here. This was written in January 2009, back in the days when you didn’t have to pay The Facebook Corporation when you wanted to share thoughts online with your friends. It was the result of the only illuminating chain post ever – 25 things.
“I want everyone to know that I’m not in the least bit fooled by all of this superstition business. I’m only doing this out of courtesy… I feel guilty knowing all of this crazy shit about people and keeping quiet about my 25 random things. I’m not tagging anyone but the people who were nice (or bored) enough to send me theirs! I just hope this isn’t mind-numbingly boring for you all…”
Of my grandparents, I’ve only known my maternal grandmother. My maternal grandfather met me briefly though. He sang and acted in the theatre, so it would’ve been nice to have known him better.
I was once in the middle of a weird stand-off moment between Reg Presley from The Troggs and Paul Jones from Manfred Mann. Paul’s an evangelical Christian and Reg believes in crop circles and aliens. They’re not entirely compatible.
I once watched a World Cup match with Daniel O’Donnell. Yes, there WAS a sweater around his shoulders. There were other people there too.
Every time I play football (or “soccer” for the Americans!), the big toe on my right foot bleeds. It doesn’t hurt, but it stains my sock. [2012 update : This stopped happening eventually. New boots stopped removing my toenail mid-game.]
One of the weirdest drives I’ve ever made was from Dublin to Kenmare on a beautiful clear night while I was in college. I had to stop on the road between Killarney to Kenmare, which winds on for miles and miles through amazing scenery, in order to wake-up and physically push the sheep off the road. They wouldn’t budge. Big woolly boulders in the middle of a tiny boreen. Thugs!
I have never broken a bone in my body, which is miraculous considering the stupid things I’ve done.
I learned how to walk at about 3 years of age. Until then, I realised that rolling was by far the quickest way to get around, and used it to devastating effect. I could also climb out the window before I was 1. I don’t know how that works either.
My parents, in an effort to get more than 1 hour of sleep, eventually nailed the sides closed, and nailed a lid down onto my cot. Not to be outdone, and inspired by the WWII prisoners at Colditz, I decided to tunnel out, by pulling back the mattress and mesh wire bottom, wedging myself into the gap and wriggling until I hit the ground head-first.
The prison theme continued into the garden, where in an effort to avoid the early death of their first-born, my parents surrounded my play-area with very tall chicken wire fencing.
At three years old, incensed at being sent to bed at 10pm, while the sun was still shining outside and there was clearly valuable playtime left, I jumped out my bedroom window to avoid the sentry near my door. I missed the corner of the steel oil tank by centimetres, and didn’t quite expect the force of the fall. My heels dug into my backside, leaving me quite sore, but grand. The “tuck and roll” technique has its flaws. I was aided by my superman t-shirt, which had a nice blue cape. If it weren’t for that cape…
I haven’t chosen an epitaph yet, but I think it’ll be hard to beat Spike Milligan’s, “Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite!”, which is Irish for, “I told you I was ill.”
Hairiest moment while driving – when the gearstick came off in my hand, mid-corner, leaving me in fourth gear – which is not the nicest gear to be stuck in. It’s very disconcerting when it happens, by the by.
Most accomplished moment while driving… Coasting from the Swiss Alps towards Turin with the fuel reserve light on, in the middle of the night, because the Swiss petrol stations in the ski resorts were not open 24hrs and didn’t take our French debit cards. The Mont Blanc tunnel was still closed due to the fire a year earlier, so we tried to cross the mountains… but the mountain roads had snowed over, so we had no option but to turn back to Italy.
I’m a mine of entirely useless information, like Michael Caine, but with a more realistic Cockney accent.
I have an addictive personality… tinged with a bit of OCD. Hence my fear of computer games and gambling.
I’ve played shows in French and broken, nay, shattered German. Not the songs themselves, just the banter… (It’s really hard to sing “Elphinbine Herz”).
Strangely, I’ve had more problems with my name in Ireland than anywhere else. Bloody Paddys!
I’m a Virgo. I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I’m apparently typical of Virgos. I’m obsessive about details, and I over-think everything… including this sentence.
My first concert was The Big Day Out in Galway (the Wescht of Ireland) in 1996. The line-up included The Divine Comedy, The Cardigans, Nenah Cherry (I can’t remember if Youssou N’dour was there with her), The Bluetones, Ron Sexsmith and Radiohead. Donal Dineen DJ’ed in between acts (I distinctly remember a euphoric “I want to hold your hand”.) If there was ever a doubt before, I was totally lost to music from this point on. I took the three hour bus journey alone too, which I’m proud of. I later discovered that one of my future best friends was at the same gig. I’ve a sneaking suspicion Ash played too, but I’ve no evidence of that whatsoever.
Anyone who tries to tell me that my University years were the best of my life, automatically gets filed into the “blithering idiot” sector of my brain. I spent hours every week learning how to prove conclusively that 1 is equal to 1, without the aid of narcotics. It was not fun.
I feel really guilty going to areas where I don’t know how to say at least a few poorly pronounced words in the local language.
I’m an idiot, but I think the fact that I know I’m an idiot makes it less of an issue. Although maybe that’s just me being really idiotic.
Mick and Kev from The Guggenheim Grotto dubbed me “The Singing Duvet”, and I think it’s the best description I’ve heard thus far. Thanks lads! (Most common names include : Tiger, Tigger, Der Teig, Todger, Taj, The Long Fella, and Ya Lanky Streak of Piss… no, that last one’s not one I use myself.)
Good music sessions, after gigs or at friend’s houses, is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. It’s a shame that more people don’t get to witness them.
I believe that there’s more than one true love out there. I know I’ve missed one already, so if I ceased to believe in that, I’d be forced to combust right here in front of your eyes.
This is just a short note to notify of a slight change to our internet presence. Facebook, despite appeals from all quarters, refuses to allow page names to be changed. This means that our Tadhg Cooke page cannot become “Tiger Cooke”. Slightly annoying, and not very consistent – in an age when consistency is really required (although admittedly not often shown).
So we’ve set up a brand new page called, yes, you’ve guessed it : Tiger Cooke. There’s a little link box on the right hand side of this page. Yes, that’s over there! –>
Please do join us, and help spread the word, so we don’t feel so lonely. It’s tough starting from scratch.
In other news, there are things afoot behind the scenes here. All will be revealed soon – but keep your eyes peeled in Dublin in the next two months. Also, I must post some tales from our New York/Philadelphia shows in March. Myself and Tony Maceli enjoyed three fantastic shows at three great venues. We have some photos, and more have been promised to us. (If you have any yourself – please do send them on!)
It’s been emotional. I said goodbye to some dear friends and close family. You bade farewell to some vicious dictators. What does it all mean? Does it need to mean anything? Well, some meaning would probably help, and would certainly aid our bid to get “2011 – The Movie” picked up by Hollywood, but really, it doesn’t need to mean anything. In the year that Gil Scott Heron died, I’m not sure what he would have made of the many revolutions that were both televised AND live. (I just hope that they lead to better lives for us all.) So, in no particular order…
In a freezing cold Irish February, myself and one Rory Gavin headed down to Dun Laoghaire for a glamourous video shoot. The glamour ended about halfway down the pier when the full force of the biting north wind slapped my cheekbones. I’m really proud of the video – but almost even more proud of my survival on that pier in a mere shirt. The line between bravery and stupidity really is a fine one. (The video link is further on down – the embedding feature doesn’t seem to be working tonight.)
David Geraghty and I set off for Germany in the Autumn. We hit the mean streets of Berlin, Hamburg, Bielefeld and Münster after a gorgeous start at the Münsterland Festival. Huge heartfelt thanks to Jenni & Purgen, The Donots, Patrick, Kathrin, Lars, all at the Ramones Museum, and the countless other lovely folk who put us up, and put up with us.
After such a lovely tour in Germany, we thought we might extend it a wee bit. The Scratcher in the East Village was the venue for our first New York show together. Plagued by sound problems, when we finally got going, I was a bit shocked. I hadn’t realised how large the crowd was. We had to improvise a little – performing part of the set acoustically on guitar and banjo in the heart of the bar surrounded by a motley crew of New Yorkers, adopted New Yorkers and of course, the Irish. Also, we took advantage of Paul Noonan’s presence to have an impromptu interlude of BellX1 tunes. I need to stay longer next time…
The Workmen’s Club, a stunning new venue on the Liffey turned one year old in 2011, so we organised a show to celebrate that fact. Nixer Night, which featured Rob Malone (Lir, David Gray), David Geraghty (Bell X1), Cathy Davey, Vyvienne Long and myself, was a candlelit soirée to the soundtrack of everything from Sea of Bees to Marvin Gaye, not to mention the stunning original music on display. It was designed as a one-off… but I suspect, and hope, there will be a reprise. We have a lovely memento of the occasion taken by our good friend (and genius) Bob Dixon.
Back in Spring, we (Dave Redmond & I) ventured out to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria for a tour. It was our first time in the region, so everything was bright, shiny and new to our weary eyes. It’s been a while since I was in a country where I did not understand a single utterance from anyone’s mouth – and I’d forgotten how tough it can be. Luckily we had Ivi looking after us. Most of the tour was unamplified which was a rare treat.
I got around Ireland in the solo… em… line-up?… more than I expected to this year. I teamed up with Colm Lynch and Fiach for a clutch of gigs around Ireland – there’s even evidence of some Christmas tunes floating about on the interweb… although you’re probably sick to your back teeth of Christmas songs at this stage. Maybe next year. I had the pleasure of opening for Mélanie Pain and her band – if you don’t know Mélanie, you may know her work with Nouvelle Vague. Fantastic show. And after a gap of a few years, I finally got back to Northern Ireland thanks to John Deery & The Heads. We had some fine times in Belfast, Dublin and, of course, their hometown of Derry.
I played in London a bit this year. Huge thanks to Rae, Ana Maria, Sarah and all at Urban Fog, Bar Bodega and The Mermaid. Urban Fog was a beautiful installation and bar in Dalston… and a fantastic event. I’m just glad I missed the riots that engulfed whole swathes of that postcode a few months later. The definitive list of things one should not carry through a riot zone include : “massive barely-portable continental quilt” and “guitar”.
That’s it for now… I’ll leave you with the blurry unresolved mess of firsts, lasts, and undefineds that happened in the last 12 months : The Queen visits Croke Park; the POTUS visits Ireland; the Arab Spring sweeps across North Africa into the Middle East… and is still going; a tsunami kills thousands in Japan, cripples a nuclear plant, and forces the evacuation of huge swathes of land already obliterated by the tsunami; Bin Laden and Gaddafi are killed; Kim Jong Il is no longer looking at things; the world’s first synthetic organ transplant is carried out; the US shuttle program ends; UNESCO recognises Palestine as a state; musicians Gerry Rafferty (Stuck In The Middle With You, Baker Street, etc), Gil Scott Heron (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) and Trish Keenan (of Broadcast – check this out : Broadcast’s Papercuts, featuring the vocals of Trish Keenan) pass on; the US ends its war in Iraq; the Euro’s existence looks increasingly shaky as the EU writes off 50% of Greece’s debt, bails out Portugal, and still no end is in sight; in September, encouraged by the Arab Spring and frustrated with every single politicians’ unwillingness to do anything for the people they represent – the Occupy Movement starts, spreads to over 80 countries and after an initial media blackout, eventually creeps into the news;
I hope that you all have a wonderful 2012, and that we meet on the road soon. Slán agus beannacht libh!
We seem to be having some issues with our mailing list settings – some of you recently received mails that are months late. Everything should be correct now, but we’re still battling the spam filters of the world. It seems that as soon as you start to put images into emails the spam filters go nuts! I’ll have to tweak things methinks…
Anyway, I didn’t log in to write about emails… I came to warn you that I’m coming to your town. That is, if your town happens to be Derry, Belfast or Dublin. I’m playing just a handful of small acoustic openers before Christmas, and one triple bill with Colm Lynch and Fiach. It’s been far too long since I’ve been up North, so I’m glad to get back…
1st Dec – Sandino’s, Derry : with John Deery & The Heads
5th Dec – Black Box, Belfast : with John Deery & The Heads
9th Dec – Sweeney’s Mongrel, Dublin : with John Deery & The Heads
22nd Dec – The Cobblestone, Dublin : with Fiach and Colm Lynch
In recent months I’ve had the pleasure of hitting American shores for a solitary gig at The Scratcher in New York’s East Village, and of touching down in Germany for a small tour with the masterful David Geraghty. I haven’t written much about the trips, but I posted a few shots on our facebook page. As soon as I get clearance from Merkel, more stories of our German adventures will be leaked…
Also, we have absolutely ludicrous Christmas deals going in our online shop at the moment. So get your orders for “Fingertips of the Silversmith” and “Wax & Seal” in early! (Remember to send us a message if you have any special requests.)
“Your True North” was partially inspired by the thrilling Robert Louis Stevenson story Kidnapped, which I loved as a little nipper. All the images of Georgian life and cities, and their modern equivalents, were flicking through my slide projector. Any visitor to Dublin will know its extensive Georgian and Victorian architecture – well, that was my setting – a setting I know well. A beautiful city to shred your knuckles upon. Kidnapped, however, was set in Scotland.
So it was timely that a documentary about the inspiration for Kidnapped appeared on my radar the other night. There’s no definitive proof because Stevenson never mentioned it, but the story of Kidnapped bears very close resemblance to the life of one James Annesley. It turns out that James Annesley was Irish, and spent his youth destitute on the streets of Dublin after his father, the Earl of Anglesey, had disowned him and kicked him out. After his father’s death, the Earl’s brother, James’ uncle, decided to get rid of James permanently in order to inherit the title of Earl of Anglesey – and of course all the wealth and power that came with it.
Anyway… strange to find out I wrote a song set in Dublin, inspired by a story set in Scotland, which was inspired by events in Dublin. Circular!
In the morning we wake, and drive to Wien. Bratislava and Wien are surprisingly close together, so we’ve decided to drop our rental car back to Vienna before hopping on the train to Olomouc, to the east of the Czech Republic.
Olomouc’s astronomical clock, the second oldest in Czech, before it was destroyed in WWII and before this 1950s Communist addition to the Town Hall.
Dropping the car is a simple enough task, and finding the correct train station on the U-Bahn (Vienna’s underground railway) where we can change to a regional train to take us north and across the border. Trying to find the correct train was a nightmare. Thanks to Party-Fifi, we eventually confirm that I did find the correct platform, and was waiting for the correct train. Not ONE sign or notice on the platform could confirm it though. Bloody irritating. Anyway, we grab some coffee and pastries to see us through the trip.
Sitting in some old border train stations at places like Breclav, you can’t help thinking of all the old Cold War films and spy swaps under yellow street lights. If it weren’t for all the bizarre espionage goings on between Russia and the US lately – with spies getting expelled and whole cells being uncovered – I’d say that those days are gone. But you never really know, do you?
Our little espionage meeting is with Vlad on the front steps of Olomouc train station. It seems pretty, but when Vlad whisks us to the venue in a taxi through the leafy streets, we quickly realise that the train station is in the ugliest part of town. Olomouc is amazingly beautiful. A gorgeous old university town, with a really lively feel. The venue is massive, and seems to be close to sold out, which is great news, and a great way to end the tour. We kicked out the jams. We’re only disappointed that it’s the final night of the tour… we were really enjoying it.
After a slap-up breakfast in Olomouc, we head back to Wien where we hang out with my old friend Party-Fifi (not actual name), and get to see a little bit of the city, and move a washing machine. I’m a big believer in avoiding tourist traps wherever possible. Partially because I hate crowds, but also because if we all have exactly the same experience of a place, then it will inevitably lead to dull conversations. So, there’s a challenge for you all. Go forth and move washing machines.
Party Fifi at Cafe Sperl
At a bar that night, someone asks us what we’re doing in Austria, and I tell him we’ve just finished a small Eastern European tour. He’s surprised that we include Vienna in Eastern Europe. I don’t think he’s pleased. So, the final night brings a diplomatic incident. Oh well! Thanks to everyone for looked after and fed us so well, translated for us, and especially to those who came to the shows. It really means a lot. Hopefully myself and Dave will be back again soon.