To the West

She had only been back in the country for a couple of days. She needed to get to the west though. It was drawing her there. It had been so long since she’d been home, at least by her standards for she was a homebody at heart. She liked to be near her piano and with a pint or a shot within reach at the end of the night. She loved Dublin but she lived there mainly because it was the place to be if you were a musician. It allowed her to play more than if she lived out in Connemara. Her family was originally from there. They lived in the coastal town of Spiddle on Galway Bay. She had thought of moving to Galway as it had a music scene but it wasn’t the same as Dublin’s. Plus she genuinely liked Dublin city. But now having spent the last 3 months either in Senegal or Cleveland, Ohio Mairead O’Connor wanted to go and roam amongst the mountains in the west . She called her good friend Mary McGreal who had a place on Lough Corrib in Oughterard. If she wasn’t going to be using it she would always let her stay there so long as she kept it clean and in good condition, which for Mairead wasn’t a question. Mary wasn’t home when she called so she decided to take a walk up the street and get a pint. She would inquire later with Mary. Either way she was going. There is a plethora of B and B’s so she would splurge a little if necessary. She really liked Mary’s place as it was right on the lough and she could go out in Mary’s little boat and just float in the water, plus there was a piano there. She put on a shawl and tied her hair back locked the door of her apartment. She went down the stairs to the first floor, Mairead rented an apartment that was over a sandwich shop so she stopped in and said hello to Mack the owner. She wanted to place an order so a sandwich would be ready when she came through. Mack was glad to see her
“So you’re back are ya?” He said smiling and coming out from behind the counter to give her a big warm hug. Mack was a short but wide man with a great warmth that just oozed out at everyone he knew. If he didn’t know you, a person might get the impression he didn’t trust you, but if you were his friend there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you. Mairead and he had first met when she started renting the apartment 10 years ago. She had ordered a sandwich while her piano was being moved in. Mack loved music and instantly started talking to her as the 2 movers struggled with Mairead’s baby grand. She had chosen this apartment because it was isolated from neighbors except Mack’s shop and a pub that was on one side and a warehouse type building on the other. Her piano would not bother anyone. Mack was ecstatic about a pianist moving in
‘Ya better wait to find out if I’m any good ya know” Mairead had remembered saying to him. A couple years later Mack had turned to her out of the blue while they were sharing a pint on her porch, which looked down over the entrance to Mack’s shop, and said “You were right I probably should have waited to get excited over a pianist moving in but ya know, I had a gut feeling you were really good and ya know what else... I was right.” This had really endeared him to her because of the way he had said it and the intensity of sincerity that it conveyed.
They sat talking for a good half hour but eventually she put an order in to be ready in an hour and they gave each other a hug and Mairead proceeded up the street to McSwarthy’s Pub. It was about 3 blocks up and the air felt good. It was mid October and it was a grey overcast day but the coolness had felt good. She had just come from Dakar Senegal where she was with the Consort for a couple concerts and some promotional appearances. It had been hot there. It was around 95 degrees, which by Senegal standards isn’t overly hot. She had been there when the temperature floated around 120 degrees. Hot indeed. Today it was in the low 50's and there was a crispness in the air. She got to the pub and stepped inside and who was there but Mary McGreal sitting at the bar with a Jason Heinrich. Jason was a mutual friend of there’s from America. He’d been living in Dublin for 3 years now as part of a record company’s promotional team in the U.K. Jason was stewed. Mary was laughing when Mairead came up. They both turned to her. Mary stood up and gave Mairead a hug.
“Your back. Excellent. How’s Senegal and Babakar and all the crew?”
“They are all doing fine. Babakar sends his best. And I am sure if he’d met you Jason he would send his best to you too.”
“Whozthis Babakar you talk of” Jason said slurringly while trying not to slur.
“He is the Consorts fearless leader” Mairead answered.
“What Consort???
“Jason your fucked up, I’ve told you several times about Mairead’s group, you even have their first album, silly.”
“OOOh THAT Consort, the Headwhiz consort something something”
“Moderne Internationale” Mairead finished the groups title for him
“I’m sorry Mairead, you see I am really really really really drunk, been sittin’ here all day doing shots of Jamesons and pints of Guinness”
“A good combo and who woulda thought ya’d find a drunk in a pub ?? Surprise surprise!” Mairead said. She had seen Jason stewed many times before. He wasn’t really an alcoholic but when he drank he did it with gusto. “Today must be his day off “Mairead thought to herself
“Ya know Mary I just called you to see if your place on the lough was free for a few days. I’m just chompin’ at the bit to get out west these days. “ Mairead asked Mary.
“Ya know Mai I was planning on heading out there tomorrow. Why don’t you just come with me. It’d be fun to have someone around. You can play the piano all you want. I won’t bother you at all ‘lest ya want a little company. Use the boat. You can take the car and go to the Mountains near Westport or go over to Clifden. I won’t be using the car at all. The only catch would be that I’m coming back in 5 days so I’ll leave Friday and come back Tuesday. Is that schedule good for you?”
“You sure you don’t mind. This sounds more like you have planned it a bit. Are you sure a extra person won’t wreck your mood. I understand if you do.”
“Look, I wouldn’t’ve offered if I didn’t want it. It’ll be fun. We can spend the days doing what we want and then I’ll make dinner and we can have a bite and a nip of something.”
“What about my piano playing? Will that be a bother?”
“Mairead, you are a wonderful player. It not only would not be a bother but it would be a joy to have live in music such as you supply. Please, if for no other reason join me and play so I can listen.”
“Great, and thank you. What time were you planning on leaving?
“It takes 2-3 hours so by noon. I’d like to get settled in before dark. Maybe get a boat ride in or something before dinner”
“I’ll be at your place bag in hand by noon Mary, and thank you so much” so Mairead finished her pint and headed home picking up her sandwich at Mack’s and going up to her apartment to pack her rucksack for the next day. She was very excited. This was just what she needed and she was glad that Mary was going to be there. They were a good pair. It was easy to be around Mary and not be bothered and you also felt that she wasn’t being bothered.

The next day couldn’t get there soon enough for Mairead. She actually had a hard time getting to sleep because she was so excited. The mood out west was different. It was much more wide open. The landscape was beautiful and craggy and green all at once. She probably would take Mary up on her offer to take the car as she would like to possibly climb Croagh Patrick and look down on Clew bay and she wouldn’t mind heading over to the area around Kylemore Abbey. Often she would just pull to the side of the road and leave the car and just walk along the road. It was a very beautiful area. “One of the finest areas in the world” she said to Babakar recently when they were in Dakar.
The next day got there and at a minute after noon Mairead knocked on the door of Mary’s house. Mary lived about 4 blocks form Mairead so she had walked there and felt invigorated by the late morning air. It was a day with partial clouds but lots of blue sky peaking through. It didn’t look like rain. That was good. Mary opened the door jokingly chastised her for being a minute late. Mairead didn’t even go into the house. Mary had her bag and stepped outside to the drive where the car was and they threw their things in the back seat, got in, Mary started the car. She looked at Mairead and said”Ready” Mairead smiled in agreement. It seemed to Mairead that Mary too was eager for this. They pulled out and made their way to the road to Mullingar. From there they passed through Athlone, Ballyforan, Moylough past the Knockmoy Abbey and into Galway City where they stopped for lunch and a pint. After their repast the got back in the car and took the road north to Oughterard. It was a little after 3 P.M. when they got there. They went inside and sat down, a little tired from the drive and the pint at lunch. Mary put on a pot of tea which they both had and this seemed to renew their energy. “I’m gonna take the row boat out, you want to join me Mai?” Mary asked
“No thanks, I think I might just read or perhaps play some “
”OK, see ya” and with that Mary headed out in to the back yard to the edge of the water and put the boat in. Mairead just sat for a bit. She opened one of the windows as it had gotten a little warmer since yesterday with the sun peaking through. “If the heat kicks on I’ll close it” she thought. Eventually she grabbed her rucksack and unpacked it. It had a couple changes of clothes and underwear and the sort but it also had a small tape deck and some blank sheet music in case she wrote anything. There were 3 rooms for sleeping and Mairead took the one near the front of the building. The best one was the one that looked out over the lough but that was Mary’s. It was her place after all. She knew Mary would say she should take the good room but if she was already moved into a different one that would be how it would be. She made a little more tea and drank that and then she sat at the piano. Mary also had a baby grand. It was an old Chickering that had been in her family for years. Mary had claimed it when her parents had both passed away and she’d kept it in playing condition all these years. Next to her own this was one of Mairead’s favorite piano’s to play. Granted she knew the setting had something to do with it. As she played she could see Mary floating out in her boat. Both of them loved the boat and neither of them fished. They just liked floating and dreaming. Eventually Mary returned and Mairead was napping. The smell of Mary cooking rousted Mairead who came into the kitchen and poured both of them a cocktail. Mary had Jameson’s on the rocks while Mary asked for a Manhattan. They had a vegetable curry and rice that Mary had whipped up from what was available. Tomorrow she would go to the little market up the road and get some supplies. Mary had no real plan. She just wanted to stay in her place and had brought a bunch of books to read. She didn’t have the desire to go climbing around the hills and the mountains exploring like Mairead but that was just her mood at the moment. Plus she got out west a lot more than Mairead did. After dinner they had a nightcap and went to bed early. 3-11-06

The next morning the sun coming in the window woke Mairead. She slowly climbed out of bed slowly realizing where she was. It sometimes took awhile when she had been staying in different places a she had been recently with her work with the Consort. She paused sitting on the side of the bed for a moment and then a smile broke across her face. She was in the west. This was where she wanted to be and now, on this fine day, she was here. She pulled on a sweatshirt and a pair of sweat pants and walked out into the main room of the cottage. Mary was already up and the scent of coffee filled the air. Mary drank tea but she knew Mairead was a coffee addict so she had that brewing.
“I figured you would be getting up soon what with the sun rising and the scent of your beloved coffee wafting through the air.” Mary said as Mairead entered the kitchen.
“Good morning to ya Mar.” Mairead said and then sat down at the table and looked out of the kitchen across the main room towards the lough. “Do you mind if I take the car today Mary?” she asked
“Not at all. I plan on reading and walking to the market for some supplies and we need to another bottle of Paddy. Given that I have no need for a car. Where ya think you’ll be goin’?”
“I’m not totally sure but possible Westport way and towards Croagh Patrick. I also wouldn’t mind taking the ferry out to Inishmore.” If one today then the other later in the time we are here. Feel like going to Croagh Patrick. I really wouldn’t mind company there.” she asked
“No thank you Mairead, I’m am older and more feeble than you, I see you aren’t extending the invite to Inishmore? There a reason for that?” Mary asked smiling.
“Nothing personal I just really like the solitude I can feel when I am there. I simply get out in the fields and wander until I hit the cliffs then I sit on the rocks with cows behind me and the water in front of me. Please take no offense.” Mairead with a tremor of fear that she might have offended Mary.
“No offense taken, I just noticed it and I figured that was a special place for you. The keys are on the hook just take them as you need them. Let me pack you a lunch to take with you. Perhaps a few cheese and tomato sandwiches with some sprouts. I don’t have much in the house yet and I suspect you want to get a jump on it.”
Yeah, I’ll probably take off within the hour. I just want to drink the coffee and shower and then I’ll be off. No need to hold dinner for me. I probably will gone most of the day. I’ll start heading back when the sun starts to set so I don’t have to drive too long in the dark. Maximize my daylight hours romping around... that sort of day.”
Mary got up and went to the fridge and started to make the food for Mairead who then took her coffee to the bathroom and took a shower. She decided to head towards Croagh Patrick and try and get up that today. She had climbed it many times. It was about 2600 feet. Not hugely tall but a good climb. She got out of the shower dressed. She took a notebook and a small her tape recorder and a pint of Paddy’s in a glass flask with a leather holder. She wasn’t planning on getting stewed or anything, not with her driving Mary’s car but a nip at certain points of the day was going to add to the overall day she felt. She thanked Mary for the lunch and grabbed the bag containing it and then walked out the door grabbing the keys off the hook. She got in to the car and took the road through Recess so she was in the vicinity of Kylemore Abbey. She pulled the car over to the side of the road and just got out and walked around a bit. It was beautiful. It had started to rain and gotten overcast but the rain was light and didn’t bother Mairead at all. She just walked along the edge of the road and looked at the mountains around her. At one point she stopped to marvel at a mushroom that was the size of a hubcap on an automobile. Thick too with the cap being a good 4-5 inches from the tip to where the stem connected. With all the green and stone showing. She had parked near a small bridge that went over a wetland area that spread in to a small lake that was in front of the Abbey. As she looked across the water she noticed 2 men in a boat fishing and behind them was the Abbey with a mountain rising behind and to the right of it. Green and powerful. Then she turned around and on the other side of the bridge was a small body of water with many reeds growing up. It was all so beautiful she felt. She was home. She was back where she belonged. She loved that her music took her many places but ultimately she belong here and today she was here. She walked around the area for about an hour before getting back into the car and heading towards Croagh Patrick via the towns of Leenane, Delphi and Louisburgh. She approached the mountain from the west along the road that ran along the southern side of clew bay. The farther north she got the more the weather cleared up. The sun was starting to pop out intermittently. That was good she had been on Patrick in some of the worst weather one could imagine and there was no view. She had been enshrouded in clouds and fog with a strong rain. She had an umbrella with her so she once she got to the top she went next to the little white chapel there and crouched down and held the umbrella low over her head so she was protected well against the rain. Today wasn’t a day such as that. Today she had better weather and time was on her side. It was only 10:30 so she wasn’t rushing.
She got to the parking lot at the base of the mountain. There were a few people around but it was the off season for tourists. The people who were there seemed more like locals here for reasons possibly similar to her own. She got out of the car and threw her rucksack over her shoulders and proceeded to ascend the mountain. The first 20 minutes of climbing was serious walking on Mairead’s part. Then she realized she was missing everything and she slowed her pace and started taking in the scenery. Her first 20 minutes had gotten her up the mountain away from the others who had been down in the parking lot. So she felt she could go slower without them catching her. That was the only part of this mountain was that it was a tourist area. Still there was a strange pull for her. She had been raised Catholic and still attended church when she could. She still had her faith in Jesus and the whole Catholic approach although she didn’t consider herself a good catholic as she had sex out of marriage and didn’t go to church on all the holy days and often didn’t observe lent although she didn’t eat a lot of meat to begin with, it wasn’t something at the forefront of her mind during the lenten time of the year. She stopped at one of the summit stations. She read the inscription and followed their instructions. She knelt down and said the Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s then she prayed for he pope and started circling the station and saying the prayers as instructed on the plaque. When she was done she paused. She wondered what someone would think if they’d seen her doing it. Then she continued her ascent.
After about 2 ½ hours she got to the top and the sky had cleared so there were only an occasional cloud. She looked around and breathed in the fresh air. It was cooler at the top but she was on the warm side from the climb. She sat down and pulled out the one of the sandwiches Mary had prepared for her. She noticed that Mary had put in the bag was a little bottle of wine so she opened that up. She looked down the Mountain and could see no one so she had the place to herself for probably at least a half an hour. She took her time eating the cheese and tomato sandwich and sipping the wine. It was an excellent combination. Not just the sandwich and wine but these things with the way she felt and the view. Her muscle felt relaxed and she felt an ease come over her for the first time since she had been back in Ireland. It almost brought tears to her eyes she felt so happy. She took a sip on the wine held it in her mouth a bit to let the flavor get into her sinuses and then swallowed it. She smiled and gazed down at the land below. Off to the east were field where they were gathering peat. She looked out across the blue waters of Clew Bay. She would stay up here until there were too many people or until she felt she had to go back to Oughterard. Both occurred about the same time. She got a good 2 hours by herself and just sat thinking. Her mind crossed a lot of topics and she at times just didn’t think at all, at least to the best of her ability. Mairead did have a certain ability when she was alone to lock out her own thoughts and to just feel the moment. She would try to describe this to others and they usually would end up nodding there head in hopes that she would quit talking because they were starting to think she was a little crazy. Sometimes she felt she had some mystic Irish presence in her, although that wasn’t what she normally felt. For now she was happy with the sun coming down on her and her having this wonderful mountain top where S.t Patrick had done 40 days and nights. In the back of her mind Mairead often would hope for some type of epiphany while she was up here. She thought maybe there was something holy about this place and that God would talk to her. She didn’t really expect this but somewhere in the back of her mind she would like this to occur. It would cancel any doubts she might harbor about the existence of God. As she sat looking south she heard voices coming, and it wasn’t God but the folks from the parking lot she assumed. She decided to leave. She pulled her rucksack on and started heading down the mountain. The area right around the peak was particularly tough as there were many many jagged rocks that were not packed down so they would constantly shift under your feet. Eventually you crossed that and got to where it was just a vague dirt path you could follow. It was easy from there on as it was smooth walking and downhill. She got back to her car and it was about 3 o’clock. She went into Westport and stopped for a pint at Molloy’s pub. It was owned by the flute player for the Chieftains. She had met him once and they’d discussed music for a little bit. She thought he was just a fine person and his playing was unmatched. Plus he was very handsome she thought. He wasn’t there that day so she sat reading a paper and drinking a pint. The bartender made some small talk with her but she wasn’t in the mood and he realized it and left her alone. After the pint she walked around the corner to visit an old friend of hers who had a B&B. She stepped in and asked if Rita Shridon was in. The girl who was in charge stopped and the look on her face got very serious. “Were you a friend of Rita’s?” she asked. The use of the words ‘were you’ chilled Mairead. “Yes, my name is Mairead O’Connor. I only know her from having stayed here. Is she well?”
“No, you see Rita passed on about 6 months ago. I am her granddaughter and I have been running the place since then. I’m really sorry for the bad news.”
“Yes, well, that’s very sad. Was she ill? I haven’t been this way in a couple of years but Rita always remembered me. It was very endearing. She seemed such a wonderful lady”
“Indeed she was. No she wasn’t ill but had a sudden heart attack. It all came rather quickly. My mother is still grieving. That’s why I have been taking care of the place. Did you need a room?”
“Oh no, I was just passing through town and thought I’d pop in for a moment just to say hello. Well, I should be on I guess. That is very sad. Give your mother my best. I have met her on previous stays here. She too is a delightful women. I’m so sorry for your loss. Goodbye” and with that Mairead backed out of the door, as she had never totally entered before the girl had engaged her in conversation. The whole time she’d stood there half in and half out of the door. Now Mairead walked back up the road to where she had parked the car near Molloy’s. She stopped next to it and paused. How odd. Just a couple of hours ago she had felt so wonderful and now she was so depressed. “A heart attack... Rita seemed so vigorous. Who would of thought?” she said quietly to herself. Then she opened the car got in and headed back to Oughterard.. She had, as she always did, taken the long way home which took her on the road that passed on the eastern side of Lough Mask and then the road that cut between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib. Then she headed south into Oughterard. She got to the cottage just as the last just as the sun was starting to go down. Mary was sitting in the big room reading with just one light on drinking a cup of tea.
Looking up as she heard the door open Mary Said”Welcome back oh weary traveler. How’d your day go?”
“Excellent until the end. I stopped in to see someone in Westport, a women I had know from staying at her B&B and it turns out she died of a heart attack 6 months ago. I mean we weren’t best pals or anything but I would always stop if I were n town just to have a cup of tea with her or a glass of whiskey if it were later in the day. It’s sad. She was a really lovely person.” Mairead and there was genuine sadness in her voice.
“How about a shot of Paddy’s. Lets toast your friend I pick up another 5th today.”
“Yeah, that sounds good. She would be glad to know we toast her I think.” And Mairead went into her room and deposited her rucksack while Mary grabbed 2 glasses and the new bottle of Irish Whiskey. She poured 3 fingers each neat. The clicked glasses and Mairead said “To Rita Shridon may you rest in peace.” and they clicked glasses again and took a drink. They sat down together and talked for another hour. Then Mary went out for a walk. Mairead at this point sat down and started to lay the piano. She felt so sad from hearing about Rita that the only thing she could do was play. She was just making stuff up as she sat at the piano. It was a great comfort to be able to do this she felt. She caressed the piano. Emphasizing her grief with minor chords and a slow dirge like tempo. It was quite beautiful she was thinking but also very solemn and sad. She went into her room and got her recorder out of her rucksack and put it on the piano and recorded what she played for the next hour. Eventually the tape ran out but at that point the ideas she had been noodling with were on tape to be evaluated later when she could think straighter. Her mood wasn’t one at that moment to stop feeling how she felt just to get an idea down. Sometimes an idea would send her into a flurry of activity. But now she could only let the emotions out that she was feeling via her instrument. It made her feel better to know that something good came out of her finding out about Rita’s passing. Perhaps tomorrow she would return to the idea and work it out. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to do any driving tomorrow. She had done a lot that day and perhaps some rest and piano tomorrow would be good. Perhaps Mary would want to go to the pub and knock back a pint or two or three. As she played the room got darker and darker until she was playing totally in the dark. Finally she stopped playing and she heard a voice coming from the back yard. “Don’t quit playing that was beautiful.” She went to the back door and there was a man she recognized. It was Seamus from next door. He was visiting his aunt who lived there. She had met him previously when she had come here alone. He would always sneak outside the window and sit and listen to her playing and listen. Most of the time he said he would leave without saying anything but today he actually made his presence know.
“Don’t stop Mairead that was gorgeous. Very sad sounding but really really wonderful I’m sorry for eavesdropping, I figured the last time I did it you didn’t seem upset and what you were playin’ was so darkly uplifting. You’re sad aren’t you?” He asked. He was not one to keep things in that was something Mairead had learned early on with Seamus.
“Yes, I had a wonderful day going to and climbing Patrick and then I stopped to see a friend I had met staying at her B&B only to find she’d passed away. Came as a bit of a surprise.”
“How close was she” Seamus asked.
“Not like family or anything, just one of those people you befriend and always figure they’ll be there. Then she wasn’t. I’m not sure why but I feel it deeper than perhaps I should, than what ‘normal’ folks would” Mairead continued.
“Well, I don’t know ya that well but ya never gave me the impression you were ‘normal’ and I mean that as a compliment. I mean god yer playin’ alone shows you aren’t a run of the mill human being, thank god.”
“You’re too kind, would you like a nip of Paddy’s. I’m going to have one and then probably crash.”
“I’d love one.” So they sat and drank a couple fingers of the whiskey while looking out over the darkened Lough Corrib then Mary came home and she joined them which lead to more drams being poured and pretty soon the bottle was showing its dent and so were the three. The conversation lasted long into the night. Mary mentioned that Mairead had been in the states and Senegal for her music which just made Seamus pepper with questions.
“So what type of music is it that this consort plays. And why such an odd name?” Seamus asked. He listened to mainly traditional Irish music.
“Well my friend Babakar is the one that put the group together and he likes to do more experimental thing. Not totally wacked out. There is a lot of melody and rhythm but it isn’t normal folk or pop music either. Kind of a blend of world, jazz, classical avant garde and of course a bit of rock and roll.” Mairead spewing out almost verbatim the press release. She had helped write it with John McGrail, one of the composers who supplied them with music, and Babakar. “As far as the name goes that is something Babakar and John came up with along with another American who goes by the name of Projectile Vomit.”
“That’s a hell of name” Mary chimed in.
“Yeah, he’s the vocalist for a group called The Chunks. If I got this straight they used to go by the name Projectile Vomit and the Spontaneous Chunks but they shortened it to just The Chunks for commercial reasons. It’s pretty out there stuff though. I’m not sure there is any point in worrying about their commerciality. I have a CD of some cuts they’re working on we can play sometime if you are interested. Babakar is one of The Chunks. For what its worth. They don’t play much so it doesn’t take up much of his time.”
“This Vomit guy, what is he a Satan worshiper or something, why would you take a name like that.???:” Seamus asked.
“Actually he’s a very nice man. He can get a bit abrasive at times and be a bit strident but deep down he has a good heart and soul. Lovely little daughter. She won the Mind Fry Person of the year award. It’s something they give out over in Cleveland. It’s a funny trophy they’ve been passing around for over a decade. I never actually saw the ceremony but I have seen the trophy”
“Well maybe tomorrow or sometime while you are here you can play me some of this music. I thank you for the whiskey. I should be heading to bed or I’ll end up sleeping out here behind your house.” Seamus said standing up. He wavered a bit and then gathered his bearings. Luckily he only had to walk through the gate that separated the 2 yards. “Good night lady’s”
Goodnight Seamus” Mary said.
“Night Seamus” “dittoed Mairead. The two women sat on the porch talking a little longer and then they too went to bed.

The next day Mairead awoke with a pain in her head. Her stomach felt OK but she clearly had drank some the previous night. She didn’t rise until almost ten in the morning. When she did there was Mary in the kitchen area with a bottle of aspirin in front of her she also had her tea. Seems she too encountered the same bottle as Mairead. “Wonder how Seamus is feelin’” Mary said.
I hope better than my head feels. At least the stomach is OK. How ‘bout you?” said Mairead.
“I’m OK there too. Just a little pain in the temples. Nothing else.” Mary said slowly and carefully as if to think too quickly hurt. Mairead laughed a little but only in empathy. They were a sorry pair. Couple of hungover women. “Don’t think I’ll go anywhere today. Maybe I’ll just recover. Mary had the coffee ready so Mairead poured herself a cup and sat across the table from Mary. No one spoke. Steam rose from her cup and she sipped it gingerly partly due to the heat but also she wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to get her stomach started. The 2 women sat silently. At one point Mary put some toast in for both of them. She didn’t get anything out to put on it. She didn’t want anything and was assuming that Mairead probably didn’t either, at least not on the first slice. After about 45 minutes of silent coffee and toast Mairead got up and said “I’m goin’ back to bed. She picked up the bottle of aspirin and ate 3 of them filled her coffee cup with water at the sink faucet and drank that with the aspirin. Then she went back to bed. While Mary didn’t go to bed she did end up falling asleep on the couch and neither was to move until it was about an hour before sunset. When they finally did get back up they felt better although they were dragging. Mary suggest they go to the pub for dinner. “There was a good all you can eat fish thing at McNulty’s Black Dragon Pub. I’ll treat. “ Mary said.
“What if they don’t have the fish thing.” Mairead asked.
“I’ll still eat, we can just eat off the menu”
“Oh, I was really just wonderin’ ‘bout the food.”Mairead said not wanting to imply she cared if it was still Mary treating or not.
“It’s pub grub but its good. The Shepard’s Pie is probably what I eat there the most when the fish thing isn’t happenin’. I think my stomach can handle that at this pint.”
“Mine needs something”Mairead said as her stomach growl audibly.
“Guess ay do Mairead, lets then. It’s just a short walk up the road on the left. It’s right on the lough too so with luck we will get a seat that looks out the big window.”
The walk took about 10 minutes at a slow pace when they got there who was in there but Seamus. When he saw them he smiled and waved at them. They came over to where he was sitting at the bar and talked. They invited him to join the but he said his mother had dinner waiting but he would join them for a pint before he went home. So the 3 sat at a window that did indeed look out over the lough and they chatted. Seamus was most interested in talking about music.
“So Mairead, what do you think of pop music. From what you tell me the stuff you play is not anything close to it. Do you like pop. Ya know bands like Coldplay, or Peter Gabriel or even U2. Stuff like that. What do you think about Britney Spears or that girl who lipsynched on Saturday Night Live.... what’s her name” he tapped his head trying to think of it
“Ashley Simpson” Mary piped in.
“Yeah her” Seamus said
“I don’t really have a problem with pop music per se.” Mairead started “It’s something some people like to listen to. I myself don’t enjoy a lot of it although U2 is one of my favorite bands and Peter Gabriel does have some interesting stuff. I mean if you make music and your intent is to make money then why not. If you are trying to make art then by all means. I mean I don’t expect people to go for the music of the Headwhiz Consort. It’s a little too challenging for most. I don’t think that Babakar expects it to rise to the top ten on the Billboard chart or anything and that’s OK. I mean we’ve been able to make a couple records so far and play some concerts in countries that I might never have gotten to. We get a good response at the shows because the folks coming are adventurous listeners so it all works out. Granted we don’t pack the Odeon Hammersmith but we can get a good audience at a small hall.
“What about all that Ashley Simpson lip synching stuff” Seamus continued in his queries.
“Well the only real problem is that she was being dishonest to the audience who thought it was live. Some folks don’t care if its pre-taped or not. I mean U2 did that some at the Superbowl show. I think that was more a logistics question than because they couldn’t do it live. Simpson on the other hand was appearing on a show that stressed in its title that it was a live show and clearly she wasn’t totally live. If you’re gonna do that be happy and proud of it. Don’t do it to hide that you suck. If you can’t play live don’t play live. I mean the Consort uses some programming on its recordings but if we can’t play the piece live we don’t. I mean Robert our programmer appears on stage with us because we do use some programs and he is operating out there live. But the programs are still programs. I don’t have a problem with that cuz we aren’t trying to act like its not happening that way. It’s actually a cool thing to have Robert sitting there in a section of the stage with his computers and sequencers surrounding him. It’s kind of like Rick Wakeman with all his keyboards except Robert can’t play music.”
“I like pure live music generally” Seamus added “there is just something about seeing people sitting together and bringing to life a tune. Ya know”
“It’s beautiful, indeed, don’t get me wrong I’ll take as much live music as is good to listen to. If things get too programmed live there isn’t a point in it being live I suppose. If the sequencer wigs out at a show we have plenty of music to put on a show with out any preprogramming.”
“You’re not getting defensive are ya Mairead?” Mary asked with a big smile on her face.
Mairead smiled back and just shook her head and said softly “No.”
“Oh Mairead, I meant no offense, I’m just inquisitive, to each their own, I didn’t mean live was superior. I guess I can come off sounding a bit condescending. I apologize” Seamus said stumbling through his words.
“None taken Seamus, I realize that. Whatever is what one likes is what is right to them. I’m not sure if there are many universals when it comes to personal taste.” Mairead said with a slight smile on her face.
“Ey, ya speak the truth... Guste bus or what ever that phrase.”
“Yes, I know the one yer talkin ‘bout. John often uses it, it’s latin, I think , for ‘there is no accounting for taste’ or something like that, eh?”
Then it was time for Seamus to head home for dinner with his mother. He couldn’t miss it or she wouldn’t speak to him for a 2 days. “Besides she’s a fantastic cook and ya have ta be crazy to not want to eat her dinners” Seamus said before tipping his hat to Mary and Mairead and turning towards the door. At that point their orders of fish came and their was a mutual silence as the two women devoured their orders. At one point the both looked up at each other as they had a piece of fish in there mouth, realizing that they probably represented starved savages they both burst out laughing send bits of white fish flying towards each other. When they settled down they clicked glasses and sipped their pints.
“Ya know Mar, all we’ve eaten today was that piece of toast this morning and the coffee”
“Tis true, we ought to feel like starving beasts, although we probably should refrain from sending any more bits of fish flying through the pubs air, ya know?” Mary answered.
After their dinner they sat for a bit staring out the big window that looked over the lough. Mary finally ordered a whiskey for both of them. Mairead looked at her as if she was serious.
“Just one and then we’ll head back. I want to turn in early tonight I think.”
“Ok” Mairead said” just one. I too want to get an early start on the ‘morrow. I think I’m going to Inishmore, if ya don’t need the car.”
Take it, take it. I’m going to keep reading and maybe go out on the lock. Seamus mentioned us possibly going fishing, not that I care about fishing, but he’s a nice guy and I have a boat and he doesn’t so I can enjoy being in the boat and he can catch some fish. Said he’d let us have whatever he catches for dinner tomorrow night. So it really looks like a win win situation.”
For a brief moment Mairead almost thought that Mary was attracted to Seamus. She was 54 and he was in his 30's. “What if she is...” Mairead thought to herself.” She probably needs to get some as much as the rest of us. Aging doesn’t necessarily mean ya don’t get urges and have needs. Good for her” and she smiled without Mary seeing her. .3-12-06

The next morning came early for Mairead who rose before the sun. She quietly went to the kitchen area and made her coffee and toasted some bread and nuked a couple veggie sausages with a piece of sharp cheddar on them. She sat in the kitchen area eating with the light out. There was just starting to be light coming up and Mairead didn’t want to rush anything. She felt very good. She was glad she didn’t drink more than the one whiskey Mary had ordered. Now she felt refreshed as she felt the coffee kick in. She finished her breakfast and grabbed her rucksack from her room. She had packed it the night before. She quietly went out the front door to the car and got in and started it and took the road to Galway city. When she got to Moycullen she turned right onto the road to Spiddle. She just had an urge to drive through her home town. She thought she might visit the old cemetery that was between the main road and the bay. She got to Spiddle and the sun was fully up and it was looking to be a glorious day. There was a lot of sun and big grand puffy clouds with a beautiful blue showing between them. It was cool but it felt good. She parked the car near off the road just west of town near the cemetery. Then she walked a little bit further west to the area she could access the entrance to the cemetery. The wind was not over powering but right there on the shore it was strong through her hair and she breathed in deeply. She loved the feel and scent of the air coming off the bay. It reminded her of her youth when she and her brother Michael lived here. She loved the sea and when she was a little girl she went to it almost daily. Her brother had been a fisherman who had died when his ship went down in a storm. This always was a small torment. Sometimes she felt like she was loving her brothers murderer. She knew that was crazy but there was a small tinge in her that did indeed feel that way. She knew Michael wouldn’t feel any ill will to the sea. He loved it probably more than she did. She was a land lubber and he rode it like a wild man. Even when the fish weren’t striking he would just go out to be out there. When it was calm he would spent the night on his boat just floating somewhere in Galway Bay. “A unique view of the sky” he would always say. He was right. She noticed a tear leaking out of her eye and wiped it off and toughened herself up. “Love ya Michael” she said she said softly. She turned around and headed back to the car. She knew she couldn’t stay there too long or her grief for her brother would start to overwhelm hers. She paused briefly and looked back out to the bay and then got in and fired up the car and headed west to the ferry. She got there parked and got her ticket for one. The boat took about a half hour to get out there. It was one of the early boats so there weren’t that many people on it. This trip was mainly to stock the pubs and restaurant on the Island. She got there and got out and headed out of town. She was ahead of the groups of people that were also getting off and they would tend to stay near the town but Mairead headed out. She knew approximately where she wanted to go. She would take the road out and then take a left down another road that would dead end and then she would start jumping the stone walls and walk through the fields. Periodically there would be cows and sheep along the way. They were harmless. Occassionally a cow might come near you out of curiosity but it was rare. She walked for a while and remembered the first time she had come out this way she hadn’t even realized that the cliffs were less than 50 yards away. The wind was blowing so intensely that day so all she could hear was the wind in her ears and not the sound of the sea over the edge of the cliffs. If she had been blind folded she would have walked right over the edge. The wind was so strong it was actually blowing water that was going over the cliffs back up on to the top of the cliffs. She had never seen anything like that. She eventually got to the cliffs and she sat down a little back from them and just stared out to the sea. It was beautiful. She had gotten so into the Consorts recent schedule of performing and recording that she had not taken the time to just sit and observe life and take it all in. Now she was. She wanted nothing else. If she could feel the way she felt at that moment for the rest of her life she would be fulfilled. She didn’t even try considering that it was an absurd proposition. She pulled her journal out of her ruck sack and sat writing. It turned out to be too windy to actually write so she put it back. She pulled out her little tape recorder and started speaking into it.
She talked of nothing in particular but just talked. It was like thinking only it was verbal and it was being recorded so it could be accessed in the future. She did this often. She would fill reams and reams of tape only to erase most of it. But every now and then something would come out that was worth writing down and keeping for good. She wasn’t a poet but she liked to write. She didn’t really write stories just little bits and pieces here and there. She and Babakar had come out here the last time he was in Ireland and she had played some of her talking tapes to him. He encouraged her to try and put it to music and make songs out of them. It had briefly piqued her interest but she eventually concluded that she didn’t want to write songs. She really didn’t even write that much music. She usually played someone else’s music which was ok with her. She loved to play and it didn’t matter who wrote it. It was always a challenge to make someone else’s music something you could love as much as if it were your own. She had always wanted to come to these cliffs and play. She thought it would be exhilarating. Her rational side figured the wind would be to strong and it would be too noisy to actually play anything good. As it was she would just sit and listen to the music that nature was making. The music of the wind and the birds and the cows and sheep and most of all the music of the sea. “Ladies and Gentlemen... Lets give it up for Galway Bay” she thought and chuckled to herself. After sitting for a long time she ate some of the food she had brought and uncorked a bottle of wine she had packed. It was a Syrah from Australia. She just drank out of the bottle. She wasn’t picky about wine. A friend of hers claimed she couldn’t stand California wines and yet when Mairead had served her some by accident, she claimed it an excellent wine, at which point Mairead didn’t tell her because she didn’t want to make her look stupid. Her friend was one of those people who had an opinion on everything and pretty much disregarded whatever others thought. When she thought of her that way she wondered what it was that made them friends. They had history and overtime her friend had evolved into this somewhat overbearing personality. Still she had a good heart they did have fun together. She drank about half the bottle and then got up and started to follow the coast along the top of the cliffs. The wind would gust and push her to her right as she walked. Eventually she got to Dun Aengus an old fort that was shaped like a semi circle and was built with the cliffs as one of its boundaries. This was where she would take in the sunset. She stayed there until the sunset and then she hired a carriage to drive her back to where she could catch the ferry. She had walked a good 8 miles today. Her feet were sore and she didn’t mind the expense for the horse drawn ride. She got back and took the next ferry and drove back to Oughterard in the dark. She got back and noticed a slight light coming from the main room in the cottage. She opened the door and there were Mary and Seamus butt naked in the middle of the room on a blanket going at it with a vengeance. Mairead couldn’t resist and just started laughing. Seamus looked over his shoulder, he had been doing Mary from behind, and immediately started to grab the blanket and cover himself. He was turning redder than a beat. Mary on the other hand laughed and told Mairead to get to her room and not to come out for and half hour which she did laughing all the way. She close her bedroom door and sat in the chair. She pulled out Paddy she kept in her room and poured a stiff one. This would knock her out and Mary and Seamus could do it all night in the living room.
The next morning Mairead was surprised that Seamus wasn’t around.
“It’s his mother. She wouldn’t approve.” Mary told Mairead
“Hmmm, ya like him eh?”
“Yes, Yes I do. He’s real nice. We had a great time on the boat today and then we came back and had a few drinks and well. You walked in on the rest.”
“That was funny” Mairead said ”Sorry, I couldn’t help laughing”
“I didn’t mind so much but you embarrassed the hell out of Seamus, he had a hard time getting it going, well just for a little bit. I wasn’t gonna let it stop me. We were fucking like old hands Mairead. It was a little odd cuz the first time is always so clumsy ya know.”
“I seem to remember something like that.” Mairead answered.
“Ya know May, you should take the car back to Dublin tomorrow by yourself. I know ya got a rehearsal and I don’t think I want to leave. D’like ta get a little more of Seamus. Wish he could spend the night, nothing like morning sex.”
“Quit bragging, Mary yer like a school girl, besides I’m not getting anything so don’t rub it in”
“I’m sorry May I feel a bit like a schoolgirl right now. A 50 something schoolgirl”
“With a 30 something hunk of man, not bad, I’m happy for you. Seamus is a great guy”
So the next day Mairead got up and drove back to Dublin and had her rehearsal. She was going to return the following weekend to get Mary but she had received and -email saying not to return until the end of the month. Seamus was going home then and she was going to stay in Oughterard until he left. She would visit him in Cork. They could have a proper relation there with out his mother in the picture. This was fine with Mairead. She had things to do in Dublin so while she would have liked to go west staying would at least be productive. Her rehearsals went well and the concert eventually was a success. After the concert she came back to her apartment and made some toast and poured herself a whiskey. She leaned on the kitchen counter and took a sip. Her cat Triplet came over and rubbed against Mairead’s leg and arched her back.
“This weekend was wonderful” she said as she picked Triplet up and rested her on the counter “ It really put me in the right frame of mind to play the music we had for the concert. It calmed my mind and put my soul at ease ya know?” Triplet looked and Mairead and her tail swooshed. Triplet understood.