Roddy Doyle is my stalker…

Roddy Doyle is my stalker. Or at least at a certain point frequent path crossings convinced me of this status. Clearly, this recognition works two ways but for a period Roddy Doyle was everywhere. Near me in ques, in cafes, on public transport and at concerts. At times  it seemed there was certainly more than one Roddy. Not quite omnipresent, Roddy moved around Dublin and the midlands at pace ensuring a fairly persistent presence. When does he write books I wondered?

Vaguely chuffed at first noticing Roddy at a belting performance by The Return of British Sea Power in the midlands, I nudged my companion. Agreeing that Roddy was gathering material for a novel, we also hoped he recognised the strengths of British Sea Power from an early stage in their development. This, in the book of any half discerning indie music lover, is enough to earn the schreibmaster significant kudos. At the time, Sea Power were predicted to rise to heights now occupied by the likes of magnolia music makers, Elbow and chief churners of bland, Coldplay. Unfortunately, The Return of British Sea Power are continually eclipsed by easy sales, and as far as I am aware Roddy Doyle has yet to mention them in any of his novels. At this stage they could probably do with the boost Roddy!

Penning novels seemed to have been shelved at that stage however, as Roddy was seen shortly afterwards rocking out to the repertoire of the cult classic band Mercury Rev at Vicar Street. His penchant for indie rock was becoming increasingly apparent. Sporting spectacles only a novelist of substance can get away with, Roddy seemed to know his music prompting a mental note to read  his anticipated next novel on the music scene. Mental notes are sometimes interrupted at gigs by music and the outbursts of  other revellers. Both factors turned my attention to the hazy lights, the rock star profiles of a band putting their all into  Darkness Rising, and the torrent of beer the nearest hispter saw fit to pour down my jeaned leg. Lucky Roddy escaped this!

There was no escaping Roddy though! Twinges of suspicion began to grow when I saw Roddy on a bus in Dublin less than a week later. Coincidence is strong however, and Ireland is tiny so shoving twinges aside, I assigned the crossing of our paths to serendipity. The fact that he was sitting across from me on the Luas less than a week later was simply uncanny. However, when we both alighted at the National Museum I realised that Dublin’s matrix was closing in on me. Being Irish, I expected to find out any day that Roddy Doyle was in fact the third cousin of my neighbour’s wife. This didn’t happen. But what happened next confirmed my suspicions that Roddy Doyle was neglecting his writing to rush around in my path.

Settling into a cafe in the Italian quarter in Dublin,  I set up my notebook to do a bit of typing. Being in a tiny cafe where Italian waiters encourage you to indulge in little chocolate luxuries and relishing a cappuccino, I felt pretty relaxed. Relaxed enough to ask the woman on the bench next to me to watch my belongings while I used the ladies. “No problem”, she said, “I am just waiting for a friend” and that has since become one of the most ominous sentences ever uttered. “I am just waiting for a friend”. The  explanation was needless and, yet, when I returned it made sense. Sitting across from her was her friend and, of course, it was Roddy Doyle. Who else could her friend possibly have been? At this point Roddy Doyle was not just recognising me but clearly  jokes I made to  friends about our frequent meetings were becoming reality. Roddy Doyle was my stalker.

Realisations have consequences and this one snowballed quickly. Becoming preoccupied with the perceived  fact of having a stalker, I began to revel in it. I gobbled up Doyle’s novels. Revisiting Paula who walked into doors was excruciating and following the movements of Henry back and forth through war torn Ireland into the under worlds of Dublin was thrilling. However, getting to know Jimmy  Rabbit again was easily the most enjoyable revisitation. Jimmy Rabbit, the protagonist of Doyle’s early novel The Commitments, is a dreamer seeking to over come the obstacles working class Dublin puts between him, soul music and managing a motley crew of musicians and fractured individuals into global stardom.

Regularly imagining interviews with Terry Wogan during which he modestly bats Terry’s praise of his imagined success aside, Jimmy’s wanderings act as a literary device filling the reader in on the future possible directions of the plot. Jimmy loves music, champions popular culture as politicised action and dreams of bringing a white soul band to the heady heights of Stacks and Motown. Aspirational this may seem but for one single beautiful moment, stardom is almost possible. Jimmy’s band misses success by the grace or gracelessness of  accident. His imagined interviews come to nothing and we are left witnessing Rabbit’s gracious acceptance of chance and what never came to be.

The grace of acceptance  Rabbit demonstrates is admirable. However, such grace can only work when followed by the enthusiasm to tackle aspirations from another angle all over again. Recently, when bombing down the M7 towards Limerick, the shock of seeing giant white star fish suspended and turning  above a valley jolted me out of  a day dream. Drawing closer to the wind turbines, my internal conversation with Tom Dunne, radio talk show host and former lead singer of the 90s band Something Happens, in which we were discussing my blogging joy ended. Conversations with Tom Dunne? Giant suspended star fish in the midlands? Clearly I have turned into the female version of Jimmy Rabbit. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is certainly not a good thing.  Admittedly, internal conversations with Tom Dunne in the car are  less embarrassing than interviews in the bath with an imaginary Terry Wogan, but they won’t  improve my writing. Work might help, but better still some tips from a former stalker would certainly be of much greater benefit. Roddy, where are you now? Your shadowing is required and there could be a couple of mixed tapes in it for you.

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You know when you’ve been tangoed…

Emerging from the basement of the Globe bar on George’s street earlier, the evening settled powdered and blue across Dublin’s sky. Silken dusk scarves pulling themselves across the city for the night brought a certain peace to the moment. Half turning back to say goodbye, I moved off the kerb. This, I knew, was going to be awkward. The people in whose company I had just spent the last two hours were also finding the moment a little strained. My shuffling certainly didn’t help.

A strange sight you might think. A group of acquaintances saying goodbye with one looking upwards as though utterly entranced while twitching away from them down the street. Having witnessed the occurrences of our last dance class however, they knew it wasn’t strange at all. Rather it was required to alleviate all of our embarrassment. Sky focusing helped avoid their eyes. It was goodbye and we all knew it was for the last time. I wouldn’t be back. Both brief and tumultuous, my flirtation with tango has definitely come to an end. It was enjoyable at times but for once, I can safely say this relationship is over.

Tango requires poise, rhythm and a certain confidence. Most of all however, tango requires that your have two feet at the end of your legs unrestricted by dyspraxia. Your feet that is should understand simple instructions like leave the weight on your right foot and swivel, and swivel until the lead urges you to swivel in the opposite direction. That, apparently, is all it takes to perform a backwards ocho in Tango.

Trust your weight on your feet and turn on the ball of your foot. Look poised.  Now, pull your breath from your stomach. Lean in towards your leader. Push against him. Only move when urged to do so and read his movements. His movements, a body map, let you move through space together. Keep your legs loose. Move from your hips. Lean in. Not out. Lean in. Strike a spatial equilibrium between you keeping your embrace rounded and firm. Hold your hands in the centre. Relax. Forget that both of your palms are sweating profusely. Swivel. Extend your leg backwards. Keep your weight on the other foot. Turn, extend, move, swing, straighten up, breathe, listen to the music, so on and so on.  Poise, rhythm, a physicist’s capacity to interpret space and turn it into action are all the skills required to perform the basic moves of tango. Their absence however, brings embarrassment, extremely sweaty palms and the awkward collision of bodies. That simply isn’t tango!

Failing to dance opens up lots of possibility however, and not dancing tango in Dublin is just as interesting as dancing tango in Dublin. Just beware of the risk to your pride. Saving face is certainly important to the established dancers of whom there are many but they actually can dance. However, throwing all pride aside lets interlopers like myself become briefly privy to the politics of a well networked niche that has had people dancing across Dublin’s basements, bars and society’s for the past 20 to 30 years. Fleeting but fascinating that insight has now come to an end. And it is all a little disappointing. Rather than being an inability to accept that I will never really tango across a wooden floor in Buenos Aires, the disappointment towards my dyspraxic feet is more to do with the ending of this look into and at tango fanatics.

Lessons and melongas (social meets) in the Globe are just a small suggestion of the movements and interactions of Dublin’s dancers. Indeed, the capital’s tango fanatics meet five nights a week in places like the basement of the Globe, the Turk’s head, Wynn’s and the Pillar Room. The Pillar Room, a secret room tucked away behind the Rotunda Hospital on Parnell square, draws a “classy crowd”. This information, passed in whispers and with the confirmed confidentiality of a hand squeeze, suggests layers of hierarchy and a thinly veiled snobbery at work. Being poised and classy, it seems, is of central importance. The regulation and control demonstrated on the dance floor stretches across this network. This, after all, is tango, not rock and roll. The push and pull of resistance dominates this dance rather than what looks like the suggestion of tantalizing moves and sensuous chemistry that could explode at an given moment. It is a dance of control.

Knowing this of course does very little to quell the mortification of your patient leader moving you to the right with yet another ‘okay we can start again’. Tango bliss, a state far beyond any existential knowledge of our being, is further away than ever. Indeed, my encounter with tango has drawn out an inner child tripping around in her mother’s stilettos. It is back to rock and roll for me. It may be a short cut to a point outside ourselves but the slide of rock guitars and the safety of dancing boots are easier to trust. Sophistication and control may induce bliss but this woman knows when she’s been tangoed…

Nights like mornings

Approaching the summer solstice

Approaching the summer solstice

Mid June in Ireland offers nights like mornings. What seems like endless hours of daylight promises potential long forgotten  last winter. On nights like this, in a city like Dublin, anything is possible. Open air cinemas compete with museum hunts, late night music events and the  opportunity of a loose limbed stretch across the sands  licking Dublin Bay.

On the night before the solstice Dublin lured a friend and I away from the strand into a late evening gig at The Sugar Club on Lower Leeson street. The Fred Wesley Trio, headed by FW himself, pulled us into the intensity of their layered sound immediately. Bringing the whole audience on textured navigations of jazz solos and crescendos, FW’s sound was full of the endless return of solstice promise. Fred Wesley, we salute you!

Fred WesleyTriocrop

The Fred Wesley Trio at The Sugar Club