Dublin, twenty years ago. The nights spent darkening the door of the Gigs Place in later years – it could take some time to get in – can be counted on one hand but all the key details had been sketched at the outset.
7th September, Saturday
Gigs Place: out of the corner of my eye I saw a young crew-cut slipping out with a Groucho Marx walk (a runner). Then there was the long-haired musical type who insulted me after roaring for pepper. Got into a slanging match over pepper, saw a guy do a runner, met two women: a fifty-one-year-old female Dorian and a doctor in the house (her niece). More wine. The pinch test: Dorian showed me the difference between the skins of ‘old’ and ‘young’ via the elasticity of the back of the hand.
8th September, Sunday
On Sunday morning the ends of long streets in their post-dawn haze – all cities look the same then. Awake, shake scenes from your awareness. Bed at 7.20 AM.
17th October, Thursday
Gigs: people crashing out left, right and centre. Of a group of four women across from us, the one good-looking one lost the plot after making a pudding sandwich with her toast. She had to be helped out, while I never saw what happened to another member of her group who’d dipped first.
Behind us, one of a group of three women lay stretched out like a corpse. I only spotted the horizontal human-like shape on rising to go to the toilets.
Over to my right, beyond the dried-leafy trellis, a ginger-haired fella rested his head on his table, with his clean fry-up and a tall glass of milk. Vermeer might have captured it. Every so often a waitress would make a token effort to wake him. The Gigs Place is some place.
21st October, Monday
Words for a review of the Gigs Place: fare with no exotica and no frills. Optional chips with everything. Bad wine, the list consisting of red & white.
16th November, Saturday
Gigs: the sight of the night was a fella puking like a muck spreader.
The easiest way to get from Ireland to western Austria is via Munich but at Dublin airport in February 2015 the flight was overbooked until three people took an Aer Lingus bribe to stay behind: €250 plus a free hotel night. I didn’t try to sleep on the plane because I had to eat something i.e. two sandwiches. The Munich airport train seemed to take an age before reaching Marienplatz. The Neues Rathaus looked great in the fog but there was a hint of snow too. It was the most Gothic-looking thing I’d seen.
At the Stachus hotel the room was fine, it had a heated floor. I had a shower and went down to the Augustinerbräu for a couple of steins and a bowl of soup. From there I sought out the Hofbräuhaus but at midnight it was closing. The odd fleck of snow landed on my lips…
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19th June, Monday
Resting in the hotel, Le Gamaritz, where I was checked in by a lovely (both senses) girl of no more than thirty. Most probably less. Her father was recently in Ireland. He liked la bière. This morning I got a taxi to the station in Bordeaux. If you tell a Frenchman that you’re from Ireland it seems fifty-fifty that he’ll mention rugby. At the station I just sat there, conserving energy. Nearby a little blonde of five or six watched a lame pigeon. She spoke to her father. Il a mal.
On the train, a quite elegant lady sat across the table but spent much of her time nose-picking, while reading documents. I nodded off a few times but in Biarritz there were no taxis at the station.
Got a bus for a euro to the Mairie and then set off on foot in the general direction of the hotel. A green neon pharmacy sign said thirty-six degrees. Bag or no bag, I took a break in the church of Ste. Eugénie before getting the camera out along the rocky seafront. This is a tasty resort. Surf crashes on the brown rocks both onshore and offshore and falls back into the varying twinkling shades of blue. The swimmers down below look and sound happy.
Though I found the street name at a T-junction, I took the wrong turn that wound around to a very hot hill but a retired gent put me right. Je vous accompagne. After seven I headed out.
Dined very well at Casa Juan Pedro, which overlooks the water at the Port des Pêcheurs. A fillet of hake and a half-litre carafe of white wine were followed by some fruity ice cream. Less than thirty euro.
Thirty-one years ago (1986) there was a plan of sorts for a family holiday in Biarritz. It fell through and my parents took themselves to Antibes, on a bus from London, I think. They were harder times. The original plan gets a mention in the short video I’d made out at the Rocher de la Vierge.
While I was at the tip, there were some swimmers (and surfers) hundreds of yards offshore but still inside the outer rocks. There must be strong tidal currents, though, as they changed position very fast. From there I wandered around to the rocky harbour that now only contains pleasure craft. By the time I left the table at the restaurant (it’s all al fresco) some cloud had gathered, out at sea. Wind rose down on the Grande Plage.
17th June, Saturday
I’m in the Black Velvet Bar at eight, with a pint of Carlsberg. A burger is on its way. Though this place was on my list I’ve just found it by accident, in that I took a left off the Quai Richelieu to photograph something, on my way to the Bourse, and spotted the street name.
The Garonne is muddy filthy, like a series of chocolate whirlpools. Though very warm, it isn’t as hot here as I’d feared. There is a breeze. I was right about a wine convention bunging up the local hotels. At the airport I saw a sign for the VinExpo and the taxi driver asked had I come for it. Non, le rouge me donne une gueule de bois. That was my way of saying red wine blows my head off. Too much of it. At nine, I found the Café Brun. I took some photos before it filled up.
The DJ is behind my end of the counter. He had a problem with his Mac charger. Wires exposed on the lead meant it was fumé – i.e. ‘smoked’ – and he had to shoot home on his scooter for another.
“Lor” AKA Lorenzo also told me he was ordered by le patron to play Eighties stuff tonight but I got him to put on some French hits from that decade, starting with France Gall and Ella Elle L’a. The crowd liked that. Anyway, there was a bit too much English junk otherwise (e.g. Pass the Dutchie) but Hoegaarden’s on tap & I even got a buy-back. I’ll be back.
After leaving there I wandered around some more, lingering in Place St. Pierre and thinking this city is lovely, not least at night with the calm, warm ambience. It’s a mini Paris, without the hassle.
I went back to the Black Velvet Bar and had a few more. I got joined by two young lads, one of whom banned the other from practising his English. The former later threw up in the toilets, in a brief time-out. Another character to appear was a flower seller in a fetching blond lady’s wig. Except he wasn’t selling flowers. They were plastic sticks with lights in them. He had a quick drink and kept going. The other time-passer was the silent TV screen showing a documentary on Lemmy. The subtitles were English. It never ended. Almost like Lemmy.
18th June, Sunday
It was a long walk to Gare St. Jean and I’m feeling the heat a bit more now. Resting on a soft seat, I’ll have to go about a return ticket to Biarritz soon… That’s done for tomorrow but I’m in no hurry to leave. The tickets cost €62 plus a few cent.
I’m in the St. André cathedral. It’s cool in here and there are lots of chairs. I could eat, I could sleep, I could take a leak. On the wander back from the station I passed two cardboard begging signs – in Arabic.
La Terrasse St. Pierre: an elderly American woman nearby seems to have married more people than Elizabeth Taylor but in a professional capacity. She was on about doing it in Nepal and then performing on the side of some hill. That was before she got on to her “Anne Frank experience” but I didn’t catch those details. I’ve had a duck burger here to fill a gap. It’s not that I’m into duck. Burger du canard was chalked on the board and I was curious.
After chilling at the hotel for three hours, I walked back over the Pont de Pierre. It was baking in the fierce evening sun. The brown water runs one way, then the other, but that must be the tide fighting the river.
A tall cruise ship has somehow made it upriver to dock north of the Bourse. It must be here for the wine. I sat on a stone bench on the Place de la Bourse. At ten past ten the lights came on and I filmed the show.
A strange, unsettling outbreak of paranoia in the renamed Billboard (“Leroy’s”) on Camden St: I was upstairs, waiting patiently, admiring the voluptuous new waitress. Thirty-something, a dyed blonde, bobbing up and down the stairs she came and went.
Three guys sat quietly at the table behind me, the farthest one back, in a raised corner under a translucent skylight. As I was eating the indifferent brunch, one of the other staff below discreetly called the lady in charge about an issue upstairs. Whatever the problem was, I was suddenly keen to find out. I just felt that I should know what the matter was but it wasn’t being broadcast.
Looking down I could something of a contagion spreading among the black-attired waitresses, an almost silent but visible effect like the chill in The Masque of the Red Death.
I wanted to know more. The problem created a paralysis, like it was frightening, at least to women. I wanted to know but all I managed to make out was a simple exchange.
“Have you been up there?”
“No, I haven’t been up there,” replied the one in charge.
“Well, there’s something up there.”
It didn’t get any more appetising, what was on my plate. Those three guys behind abandoned their table and didn’t pay. When they had left, I was alone in the eye line of the anxious women in black, down below. They couldn’t stop themselves raising their eyes in my direction, in that of the skylight. Remember Harry Dean Stanton and the cat in Alien.
Don’t look back. It was time for me to leave. I paid but wouldn’t be back. If we only knew, we’d go nowhere. Start a panic. If I’d turned around before the door and demanded to know what was going on, I’d have been the one to start that stampede.