|The Halfway Mark|
I was driving over the border the morning after a gig in county Cavan where I performed for about 30 freedom fighters. Cavan was a secretive event so we had our phones turned off off, so secretive I couldn’t type another word. . . except that the freedom fighters laughed, danced and sang without the distraction of phones buzzing or police interrupting. I drove over the border, or at least until Google Maps lady informed me, I had crossed an imaginary border.
I noticed the roads had sharper turns and a few British flags as I looked for ‘Mones Fuel Depot’ which was the location given to me from the host I had never met. The host didn’t give me his address, so I presumed it was another top-secret gig. There were two Mones fuel stations beside each other but Google Maps lady thought it would be funny to send me to a sheep farm instead. I suppose it was rather amusing for a robot. She sounds so serious but deep down she gets a kick out of such Tom Foolery.
I met the host, Mr F who was a young enthusiastic man with a huge smile, welcoming hug, and a green tweed Irish cap. I loved him straight away and his green tweed cap. We went to get some booze for the gig but when we drove into the shopping centre the police, or ‘peelers’ as they are called across the invisible border, where there. Mr F drove in, drove out, then raced around some corners and parked. Uh oh! Around the corner we went, parked, and walked back. He took his green tweed Irish cap off, and I took my blue Irish styled, made in China, cap off as we didn’t want to be ‘attracting unnecessary attention’, apparently. We saw that the peelers had driven after us but we just casually wandered into the booze section. Mr F knew most of the people in the shop and stopped and chatted away to all of them. He talked to a dude in a Liverpool football jersey with a mask on who greeted me with a handshake or so I foolishly thought, but turns out it was a fist bump. ‘You know because of the thing’. I grabbed his fist like a wining move in paper rock scissors. Oops silly me! He didn’t mind and was excited about watching a football game that night instead of watching my show. Different folks like different strokes.
I bought a bottle of ‘The Quiet Man’ whiskey for £31 because I had some sterling money in my pocket and thought I may as well get rid of it as I don’t know how appropriate it is to have the Queen’s face in my pocket rubbing off my Mickey on that side of the imaginary border. The cops didn’t stop us, but a bunch of lads did for a friendly chat and a bit of banter. I noted that Mr F is more popular with the locals than with the peelers.
We got to the home, well the camper van and Mr F. showed me to the room. He said he had cleaned the place for me which I thought was a joke, but it turns out I was in the clean version. It was messy but lovely. I loved it and looked at all the weird and wonderful pagan and Irish history books. Did he leave them here because he is well read or because he wants to impress ladies with his love for decorating his house with cool books? If it is the latter, he should probably start by picking up his boxers off the floor.
I thought he was going to sleep in the house beside the camper van, but it turns out he had sacrificed his room for me, just like Jesus. I was embarrassed but rested anyway as he gave an online pagan ritual on Zoom. The pagan zoom call finished with the Braveheart tune and then I jumped in the car to round up some audience members. We collected 3 of the audience members in my car. In the old days, you would buy a ticket online and make your way to the show to an actual venue, nowadays, thanks to covid and everyone’s compliance with made up nonsensical regulations, you don’t need a ticket or a venue, the comedian collects you at your home and the show is outside on a mountain beside ’St. Patrick’s seat’. This ‘New Norm’ stuff is great craic altogether.
I had requested a chair for my show and the resourceful Mr. F provided me with a half full suitcase from the back of his van. Perfect! Who needs theatres, bars, stages, and lights, anyway? The show was a cracker. Three women even brought their own chairs, in my boot, and the others sat on rocks or grass – seats provided by the mountain. Mr F gave a beautiful introduction about the importance of gathering and human connection and added, ‘Tonight is about meeting up and connecting and sure I never met this fella before and don’t know much about him, but sure he was mad enough to come here, so here he is.’ I nailed the gig on top of Carrigmatuke mountain where the Irish hero Setanta, known as Cú Chulainn, used to guard the city. There is a seat made of rock there that was once know as, Setanta’s seat, later it became known and St. Patrick’s seat. I sat it in and I watched the sunset behind the heads of the audience who came to the top of a mountain to watch a fellow they had never seen before doing his thing. It was better than any green room I was in before.
After the show, a man hugged me, really hugged me and said “never stop what you do. It’s really important work.” The hugs, compliments and handshakes were flying, and one woman even cried. Laughter is too easy! If I don’t make at least one person teary-eyed these days, I feel like I failed as a comic. Another man told me he was a nurse in a nursing home and enjoyed my story which meant a lot since my story mentions the horrors of dealing with nurses in nursing homes. He said he had been there 4 months and was happy that the regulations have changed so now the families of the patients are allowed visitors. The word ‘allowed’ stayed in my mind as I rolled a smoke. Ah balls, I am smoking again these days. How did that happen? I have not smoked in years but touring around a country in lockdown and gathering with good folks has brought me back into festival mode. I have done over 20 gigs so far, met hundreds of people and seen our country and am still going strong. It’s the best tour of my life and I envision touring Ireland for many years to come.
A man the called Rooster stopped his story to say, ‘there’s a kestrel’, I looked into the sky and saw a bird doing some funny move when Rooster added, ‘looks like he is about to swoop’ and sure enough the kestrel swooped down like a falcon to eat some poor creature. Luckily for the kestrel, the government have not regulated his ability to earn a living… yet. Rooster had a lot of knowledge about nature, history, and life – he told me he had learned a bit about nature when he was growing up. Like me, he spent many years living with his granny. I could learn a lot from this man. I rolled another smoke as he told me that his work was harmed by the regulations, lost his girlfriend as they could not see each other anymore. He told me that he really appreciated the chance to get out and meet people. I liked Rooster, even though I am pretty sure that was not his real name but sure these days we must be secret if we dare to go outside our 5k limit (I believe this has changed to 20k but I stopped following the rogue government recommendations long ago).
Before the mouse had been gobbled up by his prey, we were on our merry way to light a fire by a lake to celebrate Bealtaine prematurely (Irish start of the summer – May 1). The fire was mighty! The company was fiery. I learned about Irish history from Rooster and Mr. F and was flabbergasted by their vast amount of knowledge. Sure, I didn’t even know which side of the border we were on.
Over the premature blazing Bealtaine festival fire, a woman who claimed to be a grandmother shared a powerful story about being sick but cured by a healer. When she saw that Mr. F threw a book in the fire; she lost her mind. Mr F. Explained the book had been destroyed already so she found her mind again but then he realised that it was the wrong book he had thrown on and then they both lost their minds together. Nothing like a good fire to bring people together!
As approached, I needed my rest as sure I needed to travel to the next county, gathering, gig, adventure in the morning. I thanked Mr. F for his generosity for giving up his room and he said, ‘did you know the High kings of Ireland used to share a bed with their guest…. Uh eh, I didn’t mean that’. Good night brother.