The Fine Art of Self-Destruction

Although the trains between Oban and Glasgow generally operate between meal times, there always seems to be an instinctive need to snack when travelling on them.  I have never known why it is, but when you look around any table on the 12.11 service you will see them decorated with pretty paper Costa bags, Subway sandwiches and large bags of Kettle’s crisps.  And these are all people who probably ate a large lunch before they boarded the train.  There’s just something about the prospect of spending three hours enclosed in a boiling metal container that has people stocking up as though they might never see food again.

In my modest backpack I was carrying three peaches and two bananas.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a peach, though it seemed unlikely that it had been within the current century.   Despite my lack of recent peach experience, it caught my eye whilst shopping in Lidl that they had the fruit on offer at 59p for a punnet of six, which if nothing else would at least finally provide me with a retort to the question of what can you get for ten pence these days?  If anyone should sarcastically ask that in the general area of my presence, I could tell them:  “well, actually, you could get yourself a peach and still have a penny change.

I approached the checkout with a basket filled with peaches, bananas, four cans of Budweiser and a few other items which I wasn’t going to need until after my train journey.  The queue was unusually long for a Monday afternoon, or at least it was longer than I had imagined the line would be, having never actually shopped at three o’clock on a Monday before.  It was when I eventually reached the self-service till, having scanned each of my items through the system, that I became much more aware than ever before of my need to make contact with the card reader, even when making a contactless payment with my debit card.  I was feeling a sense of unease, perhaps even embarrassment, when I realised that not only was I touching the device with my purple plastic debit card, but I was holding it firmly against the screen until the payment had been recognised.  It was clear that I was substituting my emotional need for intimacy, for contact, for a £9.87 payment for groceries.

On the train, I unpacked the fruit from my luggage just as the others around me were placing their own food on the table.  The white-haired woman sitting opposite me unveiled a sandwich that was the most tightly wrapped in clingfilm I had ever seen.  The wrapping job was perfect, as though it was a tourniquet holding a wounded salmon together until it could make it into surgery.  Watching the whole thing, I couldn’t help but feel shame about my own use of clingfilm, which is so loose that it resembles a Club 18-30 holiday.  By the time the sandwich had been unwrapped, it was obvious that the salmon had not made it.

At the table across the carriage, a middle-aged couple whose accent depicted a Yorkshire charm became involved in a dispute with one another when a third party at their table pointed out that their sodden Costa bag was leaking coffee onto the surface.  The woman hastily removed two cups which were stained with brown from the bag while her other half sighed, his face as stern as a weather-beaten granite statue.  “We’re going to have to get rid of these coffees ASAP,” the man said, speaking the final part of his sentence as though it was a word, rather than the initialism most people commonly use.  Other than drinking the coffees, I couldn’t see what their options were.

Jesse Malin performed The Fine Art of Self-Destruction at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut on Thursday 20 June

As I was unpeeling my banana, the passenger sitting next to me was using the Spotify app on his mobile phone to listen to the greatest hits album by Midge Ure.  He pressed play as the train was leaving the station in Oban, and by the time it had reached the first stop in Connel fifteen minutes later, his earphones were coiled on the area in front of him, alongside his phone and his glasses.

Around an hour had passed since consuming the banana when I was beginning to feel the need to eat again.  I hadn’t purposefully left it so long before thinking about having the peach because I was looking forward to it, the way I’ll sometimes leave my favourite song until the last selection on the jukebox, but more because I was feeling anxious about eating a peach in front of other people.  It’s not that I didn’t know how to eat a peach, just that it had been so long since I had eaten one that I had forgotten how to do it without looking like someone who hasn’t eaten a morsel of food in five months.

With the peach sat on the table staring back at me, I was reminded of a similar situation I found myself in some years earlier on the same train when I was sitting opposite a mother and her son, who was no more than five-years-old and who had peeled the skin from an orange in one attempt and in the fashion of an elephant’s trunk.  I was suddenly feeling very self-conscious about the two satsumas I was carrying in my bag.  My anxiety was justified when I began peeling the first of the satsumas and it turned into an arduous demonstration of my method of stripping old wallpaper from a wall, taking at least eight tries at removing all of the orange peel.  I felt disillusioned, and even though the young boy’s head was buried in a colouring book, I was sure that he was silently judging me.  Not only that, but he was probably staying within the lines, too.

I was keen to avoid a repeat of the orange peel incident and ensure that I wasn’t left looking foolish in front of my fellow passengers, particularly when I could recall that a good, ripe peach has the potential to be very juicy.  It was this that was troubling me, in addition to the furry texture of the skin, which was key to my uncertainty over how the fruit should be eaten.  I used the Safari browser on my phone to Google the phrase “how to eat a peach,” and the first result was a WikiHow page which offered the helpful advice that a peach is eaten like an apple.  Confidently I sunk my teeth into the skin and found that the fruit was not entirely ripe.

My first calling point in Glasgow was MacSorley’s on Jamaica Street, a city centre bar which had reopened the previous Friday following its closure in 2018.  I had a faint memory of a busy night drinking in there with a wild-haired friend some years earlier, and it seemed like a good location to while away a couple of hours before the Jesse Malin gig I was attending later in the night.  The bar was the brightest I had seen anywhere, with late afternoon sunlight falling in through the impressive stained glass windows and an entire solar system of spotlights sparkling from the ceiling.  A selection of music was playing over some speakers, though the volume would suddenly go from being very loud to barely audible, in the way of a conversation in the pub, and I was left tapping my foot to a beat I couldn’t quite hear.

The couple along the other side of the bar from me was keeping a more steady volume, and they seemed to be involved in a dare which had challenged them to speak exclusively using words that were four letters long.  After a drawn-out dispute over the technicalities of saving a photograph from a WhatsApp message to use as a screensaver, the couple asked one of the barmen for suggestions of a drink that the raspberry-haired woman could try as an alternative to vodka, which seemingly is much too easy to drink and doesn’t last nearly as long as a pint of lager.  The barman poured various schooners of Heineken, Amstel, fruit ciders and Neck Oil IPA, and despite the latter drink’s pleasing elderflower fragrance, the woman decided that she would have another vodka after all.  I was watching the scene unfold with interest and the cynic within me wondered whether it was all an elaborate rouse to score some free drinks, rather than a genuine concern over equity.

My observation of the couple had provided a brief distraction from my ongoing curiosity regarding the dish of blueberries behind the bar, beside the wedges of lemon and lime.  I couldn’t determine what use a blueberry would have in a pub, and I was thinking about it so much that it was all I could do to ask the barmaid when it came time to order another beer.  The young woman behind the bar had a stature that put me in mind of a cocktail stick, and I worried that my question would knock her over.

“I can’t stop looking at the pile of blueberries there.  What kind of drinks would you use them in?”

“I’m not really sure,” the barmaid bristled.  “No-one has ever asked that.”  Considering that the bar had not yet been open for a week it didn’t come as a surprise to me that no-one had asked about the blueberries, though it seemed inevitable that they would in time.

The barmaid’s striking pink eye shadow must have mirrored the colour of my cheeks when she suggested that she would ask her supervisor about the blueberries.  After a few moments she returned with a tall man who had a beard which implied knowledge and wisdom.  The barmaid told her supervisor about my blueberry query, and suddenly my vague attempt at flirtatious banter had turned into a full-scale investigation.  I sunk into my barstool the way my heart had been sucked into my liver as the barman explained that sometimes people like blueberries with vodka and lemonade, or occasionally in gin or combined with a daiquiri.  Now the music gets louder, I was thinking as they walked away.

Before I left MacSorley’s for King Tut’s I made use of the bathroom, where I discovered a large chalkboard on the back wall of the men’s room.  The board was headed ‘The Graffiti Wall’, and it was presumably a device installed to prevent people from inscribing telephone numbers on the doors of cubicles with suggestions of a pleasant night.  On top of the hand dryer, which was adjacent to the Graffiti Wall, sat two pieces of white chalk, and as I was drying the water from my hands I was feeling the urge to make my own addition to the board.  Hands up if you like to pee seemed in keeping with traditional toilet humour, but I became worried about the integrity of the writing equipment and thought better of handling it.  The Graffiti Wall seemed like a good idea all the same, though, and as I walked to King Tut’s I spent some time considering how it would be used in Aulay’s Bar.

Although Jesse Malin had played his debut album The Fine Art of Self-Destruction in full in November 2011 to mark the tenth anniversary of its release, and there wasn’t any obvious reason for doing it again eight years later, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hear it performed live once more.  The Fine Art of Self-Destruction was one of the seminal records of my budding adulthood.  It came at a time when I was learning about the types of music I enjoy and the bands I was wanting to spend my time listening to.  The first ten tracks on the album* were perfect, and the eleventh song, Xmas, was sometimes quite good to listen to around the month of December.

King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut has a way of appearing to be part museum and part advertisement at the same time.  Three-quarters of the walls around the bar have been decorated by a variety of tour posters dating as far back as the early 1990s from bands such as Pulp, Supergrass, Manic Street Preachers, and The Strokes.  The stairs leading up to the concert venue itself have been adorned with the names of many of the acts who have played at Tut’s over the years.  Meanwhile, the area of the bar nearest the entrance is a parade of posters and leaflets advertising the upcoming bands and artists who are aspiring to become the latest addition to the exhibition on the opposite walls and on the stairway.

As the bar was filling up prior to the doors to the venue opening at 8.30, I was glancing around the museum-like portion of King Tut’s, becoming increasingly convinced that I might be the youngest person in the entire room, and if not the youngest then I was certainly in the most youthful 5%.  I was beginning to perform a quick head count of my fellow gig-goers, but after a while it seemed that I would be more efficient counting the number of heads without grey hairs on them.

When I am at home and in Markie Dans it usually seems to be true that everyone around me is getting younger, but the opposite was the case at my recent experiences of attending gigs, where everyone else looked to be getting older.  I found myself scouring the scene around King Tut’s trying to spot the twenty-year-old version of myself:  the guy who fifteen years earlier was travelling to gigs in the city by himself, dressed in jeans and a checked shirt which invariably was a combination of black plus one other colour, with a dark suit jacket decorated with novelty badges bearing amusing slogans and superhero logos, although the Batman and Superman buttons were soon claimed by girls who I would never see again.  I couldn’t find the young adolescent version of myself in Tut’s, however, and if he was there he must have done a better job than I ever did of finding company at a gig.

During my brief time in Glasgow I was gradually becoming aware of a new habit I seemed to have been developing where I would use the word perfect as a prefix to ‘thank you.’  An example of this would be when I was asked how my stay was by the young man on reception at the Euro Hostel upon checking out on Friday morning.  My room in the hostel was on the ninth of nine floors and had a single bed which required to be made up from the small pile of linen sitting atop the mattress on my arrival.  The bathroom was small – so small, in fact, that it almost made my own bathroom at home seem luxurious. It was so compact that they had to plumb the wash hand basin outside the bathroom.  When asked how I enjoyed my night in the Euro Hostel, I replied:  “It was perfect, thank you.”  It wasn’t the first time I had heard myself use perfect in this way, and when I said it again in Aulay’s later that evening I couldn’t help but feel that it was a very high standard to be setting.  Where can you go after a pint of Tennent’s Lager and a £5 all you can eat breakfast in the Euro Hostel has been described as being perfect?

Over the course of a few months the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had, through means of either romance or sickness, dwindled to just a lonely heart.  I walked into Aulay’s wearing a black sleeveless v-neck sweater over a burgundy wine shirt and a navy blue tie, even though I had spent most of my day on a train rather than in the office.  Over the course of an hour or so groups of implausibly young looking people were arriving in the bar, apparently on their way to the high school leaver’s dance, which was being held next door in the Royal Hotel.  Many of the youngsters were dressed in outfits far more colourful than I had ever dared to dream of wearing, while their ID cards were forcing the bar staff to perform mental arithmetic much faster than I was capable of.  I was discussing the idea of a leaving dance across the bar with the moonlighting banker when I remarked that they never had anything like that when I was in school.  As soon as the words had left my mouth I realised that it was the perfect thing to say if I was hoping to convince someone that I was getting old.

I was still reeling from my realisation regarding my increasing age when I stuttered through the bar to the men’s bathroom, where a lone silver-haired patron was finishing up at the urinal.  I slunk over to the far side of the short steel trough and unzipped my trousers in a fashion which I hoped would not attract any attention.  Steam was barely beginning to form when a voice belonging to the only other man in the room piped up.  “£3 a pint just to pish it away.”  There was a brief pause, and in the silence I couldn’t find it within myself to dispute his understanding of the human digestive system.

“And then they expect us to wash our hands?  Fuck them!”  The silver-haired man stormed out of the bathroom in an act of rebellion against hygiene that I had become all too familiar with during my time in the bars, though I supposed that at least this man had given a reason for his uprising, even if I couldn’t be entirely sure who the they that he was referring to were.  I was staring ahead at the empty tiling before me, hoping for a Grafitti Wall that would stop people from talking to me at the urinal.

Towards the end of the night I found myself in Markie Dans, which was quieter than usual for a Friday in June.  A bar band was playing the last of its set to a floor which was slowly emptying.  Of the collection of people who were still scattered around it seemed obvious that if I wasn’t the oldest person in the bar, I was in the upper 1%.  It was an experience entirely different to the previous night, almost like the feeling you get when you have used the last sheet of kitchen towel and you know that there is still an oily pan needing to be wiped clean.  I wasn’t feeling at ease with it and left for home, where there was still a single peach left in the fruit bowl, sitting amongst a bunch of evergreen bananas.  By the end of the week the peach was just like everything else.  It had finally ripened and grown old.

Listen to The Fine Art of Self-Destruction by Jesse Malin here

*Cigarettes and Violets didn’t appear on the UK release of The Fine Art of Self-Destruction, although it features on the Spotify version.

The tennis racket reservation dispute (aka Brian Fallon @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh)

I always like to make a great drama out of taking my seat on the train.  Even if nobody is watching the scene as I unload my vast supply of travel companions into the small space before me, it gives me a tremendous sense of purpose.  On this particular morning, I was experiencing an exuberant rush of energy, which was supplemented by the session of yoga I had been able to get out of bed for, and the power walk to the train station I had been forced into when I once again mistimed my morning, despite living closer to the station than ever before.  I expect that my cheeks must have taken on the appearance of undercooked bacon with the physical effort exerted and from the frosty February air as I plonked my baggage onto the empty seat next to mine.  From the bag I extracted a silver flask which had been filled with approximately a cup and a half of coffee, an A3 notebook and a pen to record any observations I felt I had to make, a set of earphones, a Tupperware box which was packed with two bananas, two small oranges and some broken up pieces of rye crispbread, and an empty sandwich bag which would be used to discard of the loose peel.

I was feeling pleased with my organisation, and when the train pulled away from the pale platform and Pearl Jam was playing on my Spotify playlist, I opened up the Tupperware to eat the first of my bananas.  The oranges rolled out of position as I removed the greenish-yellow shape, and it took me a few attempts to snap each of the four latches on the sides of the lid back into place along the lip of the container.  Across the aisle of the carriage, I could see the young woman who was seated opposite me shudder with each failed attempt at securing the snacks.  Her face contorted into a soft fury as she glared at me from the corner of her eye.  I was beginning to feel anxious that the box would never be properly closed, that the woman with hair the colour of a late winter afternoon would erupt into a volcanic rage by the end of the journey, and that the crispbread would become soft and inedible.  Eventually, the lid was fastened safely into place, and the woman opposite me alighted from the train at its first stop in Connel. Commuters hardly ever get off at Connel, and I wondered if the woman had decided on a different mode of transport owing to my lack of tact with the Tupperware.

The snow-peaked fields on the west of Scotland had given way to an icy fog which was leaking profusely by the time I arrived in Edinburgh.  It seems that the city’s cobbled streets are always slick with rain, which really makes a person think when they are leaving a bar after wiling away a few loose hours in the afternoon.  As I was sitting in the corner of Brass Monkey reading the last couple of chapters of A Confederacy of Dunces, I studied a young university-type as she approached the bar.  She enquired to the barman who, according to the observations of native drinkers in the pub, had recently had a haircut, about the possibility of reserving space for seven members of The Fresh Air Society, who were due to meet at 7.45 the following evening.  I kept my head in my book, but my eyes were straining upward towards the young woman.  I found myself hoping that the society’s fledgling meeting would run late into the night and I could chance upon them after Brian Fallon’s performance at the Usher Hall, for the woman seemed to have a quality which I couldn’t quite describe.  She appeared to be a very new and welcome vision.

I was still thinking of The Fresh Air Society on the day of the show when I returned to Glasgow to meet with my two gig-going friends.  We arranged to assemble for drinks in The Ark, a bar which is close to Queen Street station and seemed reasonably priced.  I was the first of our trio to arrive, and although the place was remarkably busy for four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, I was able to find a table.  All of a sudden a great sound could be heard rattling against the roof of the building, like handfuls of gravel being tossed against the window of a lover to attract their attention.  I turned to look out into the beer garden, where hailstones were furiously lashing the canopies.  A sense of relief that I had made it into The Ark when I did flooded over me as I watched the hail continue to fall.

The girls were running later than planned following an incident where a loud-mouthed woman fell up a flight of stairs in a piercing studio, and I went up to the bar to order myself another drink.  I removed my black leather jacket and folded it over my stool to indicate that the table was occupied, giving the seat the appearance of a sloppily dressed child.  When I returned with a beer in hand, one of the other stools around my table had been furnished with a rucksack which had the handle of a tennis racket protruding from it.  Soon a young lady appeared and informed me that I was sitting at her table.  I told her, with great pride, that I had been sitting there since before the flood, and the look on her face implied that she didn’t know what I was talking about nor care for my sense of humour.  I lifted my buttock to show her the leather jacket I had used to mark my territory, an act which seemed to speak more honestly to her.  I apologised and claimed that if I had not been waiting for two other people I would have gotten up and given the table to the girl and her boyfriend, though I wasn’t sure if I was saying that to make her feel better or to absolve myself.

I could sense the cold stare of the couple from somewhere else in the dimly lit bar for the entire time I was sitting at the table by myself.  Even when the kaleidoscope of hair arrived and vindicated the story I had told, I felt unable to put my jacket back on, despite the increasing chill around the place.  It was the penance I had to pay to make it clear to all onlookers that my jacket was a legitimate placeholder.

After a series of drinks which increased in strength over the hours, from beer to wine to Jagerbombs, the three of us split a bottle of pink gin between three bottles of Sprite and took the train to Edinburgh.  We arrived at Usher Hall pleasingly intoxicated as Brian Fallon was taking to the stage, where the frontman of The Gaslight Anthem was performing a solo acoustic show.  His ninety-minute show spanned the majority of his career and was enjoyable, although some parts of the set left me feeling underwhelmed, like a steak dinner you have been looking forward to and it is only after eating it that you realise you have forgotten to cook the onion rings.

The night ended in Shakespeare’s, where the answer to the question was to beer, and we enjoyed a final drink before the girls with the spectacularly coloured hair caught the last train back to Glasgow.  The rain had stopped by the time I left the bar, though my black leather jacket was still wet and my stomach was in ropes.  My day had been riddled with an anxiety I couldn’t understand, and the walk along Princes Street to the hostel I was spending the night in took more than an hour, according to phone records.  By the time I had reached the other side of the city it was too late for me to venture to Brass Monkey as intended, and the chances are that no responsible bar person would have served me anyway.  It was a sorry end to the night, when all I had been looking for was a breath of fresh air.

The day I had a cold (aka The Gaslight Anthem playing ‘The ’59 Sound’ tenth-anniversary tour @ Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow)

I embarked upon the 12.11 ScotRail service to Glasgow and located my table seat close to the toilet, where I unloaded all of my travel essentials from my backpack onto the  green surface of the table which resembled a regurgitated avocado:  an A5 lined notebook, a black pen, two bacon rolls, three sachets of Nottingham’s finest export, four cans of Budweiser, a small flask with a finger of Jack Daniels, a pocket packet of tissues and a silver film of Paracetamol.

Despite having recently added an intake of effervescent multivitamins to my morning routine and having also eaten a third of a punnet of blueberries, a banana and two easy peeler oranges which had taken no fewer than five attempts to peel, I had been hit with my first cold since December 2017, and it happened on the day The Gaslight Anthem were performing the tenth anniversary tour of their ‘59 Sound album at the Barrowlands.

I folded myself into my seat and watched Oban slide slowly into the distance when another sneeze erupted from my nostrils, which by that point had taken on the distinct shade of a wind-battered rose.  I cursed my immune system and wondered if this was the sort of thing Alanis Morissette was alluding to.  A heavy sigh and a cough left my mouth at roughly the same time and I reached for the Paracetamol and drowned two of the tablets in a mouthful of whisky, unsure if I was trying to numb the nuisance of the cold symptoms or of everyday life.

By the time the train had wheezed into the village of Dalmally, I had downed most of the first can of Budweiser and my nose was streaming more quickly than an addictive Netflix series.  The alcohol had soaked into my system and I was feeling extremely drowsy and miserable.  Steal My Sunshine by Len played from my Spotify playlist, and even though the elderly woman sitting opposite me had spent much of the journey complaining of a cataract in each eye which meant that she was barely able to read her copy of the Daily Express, even with a magnifying glass which was larger than my hand, she could probably see that I wasn’t capable of finding the energy to drum along on my thigh.

I managed to stay awake all the way to Glasgow Queen Street, and when I checked into my room on the fifth floor of the Travelodge the first thing I did was to take another dosage of Paracetamol using the small, flimsy plastic cup they provide guests with, presumably for such emergencies.  Soon I was forced to confront the dilemma which seems to vex me more than most other issues:  whether or not I should wear my denim jacket out to go to the gig.  It wasn’t feeling especially balmy outdoors considering it was the middle of July, and my failing immune system seemed capable of convincing even the most ardent horologist that it was November.  However, in the back of my mind was the memory of many hot and sweaty nights seeing The Gaslight Anthem, and I decided that I would be better off leaving the jacket behind.

I pushed all of the most valuable possessions in my life into each of the four pockets of my black jeans:  a mobile phone with its ability to play music, a pair of earphones to listen to the music, a wallet which was thick with silver coins and as many tissues as a person can reasonably carry.  The weight pushed my jeans – which were already sitting quite loosely – down past the waistband of my boxer shorts, and I worried that it might look to others as though I was making some vain attempt at a youthful statement of fashion, even though it was clear that I simply don’t have the buttocks for such a thing.

At The Raven, where I would enjoy a pint of Caesar Augustus, I was beaten to the bar by a short red-haired girl who proceeded to tell the barmaid in a softly whimsical tone that I should be served first.  This friendly act didn’t sit well with me, and when the barmaid floated across the floor to my side of the bar I insisted that the short red-haired girl had arrived before me and should be served instead.  The barmaid returned to where she had once been standing and thanked both of us for our honesty as she poured a schooner of ruby coloured ale for the diminutive redhead.  I made some stupid remark which drew laughter from both of the ladies, all the while my internal narrator was telling me that despite making a chivalrous gesture and doing the socially correct thing of ensuring that the person who was first in line was served their drink before me, I was actually a dick because the short red-haired girl had made the move first.

After drinking my ill-gotten pint of hybrid lager and IPA, I strolled down the Gallowgate to Saint Luke’s, which is a relatively new bar that has been restored from an old church, although people still go there seeking salvation and hiding from the problems of real-life with the assistance of a spirit.

I met with the girl with candyfloss pink hair and her friend who had the most bold and brilliant pink hair which looked almost like an explosion of raspberries.  I felt a little out of place with my boring and balding salt and pepper hair which was slicked over to the side, but we engaged in a round system anyway and I ordered a Tennents and a Jameson in an effort to give my cold a good kicking before the Gaslight Anthem show.

Most of the tables in the bar had been reserved by smart people who had planned ahead for the occasion, leaving the only seating available at tables which were so high that a compass was needed to reach the summit.  The Irish whiskey worked in drying out my nose and all of a sudden the pocketful of tissues that I was carrying had become redundant.  We ordered a round of Jägerbombs, having decided at six o’clock that eating any kind of food would be futile, and the shot glasses were placed carefully inside a glass with an exceptionally wide rim which made it almost impossible to down both the Jägermeister and the Red Bull without a good quantity of the drink spilling onto my shirt.

In Bar 67, a pub I had never visited despite being a frequent attendee at Celtic Park over the previous two years, the Jägerbombs were served in regular glasses which made it easier to drink the entire quantity of alcohol as well as energy drink.  My drowsiness was disappearing to an extent where I was once again beginning to feel human, if not dancer.  An older gentleman arrived carrying a small bundle of magazines which he quickly tried to convince us would be a good idea to buy.  His sales pitch involved an explanation of how the magazine he was selling raises money for the homeless and is a contemporary adult competitor of The Big Issue.  He continued, insisting that he had received complaints that some of the content of the magazine was misogynistic and anti-Semitic, but that he didn’t know what either of those terms meant.  I couldn’t decide whether he was pushing was some kind of elaborate scheme or if he was being genuine.

As we were entering the Barrowlands Ballroom, which is directly across the road from Bar 67 and was the venue of the first gig I ever attended in November of 2003, I could feel myself becoming anxious as it became clear that I was going to be subjected to a pat down.  I felt concerned that I would be forced to explain the excessive quantity of tissues in the front left pocket of my jeans and why a thirty-four-year-old man was wearing jeans below the waistband of his boxer shorts anyway.  The girl with the candyfloss pink hair handed me my ticket and I watched as the man in front of me was fondled around the pocket area without any issue and I knew that I would be next.  I strode forward towards the man in the high visibility jacket with a Jägermeister confidence which I hoped would mask the fear I had over the pocket which was bulging conspicuously with tissue paper.  The man’s hands danced over my body and I could only hope that he was finding the entire experience as awkward as I was.  He didn’t pass comment on the tissues and we were all free to enjoy the night ahead.

We ordered a round of doubles between the end of Dave Hause’s supporting set and the beginning of The Gaslight Anthem’s in the hope that they would last, but my Jack Daniels was finished by the time the lights went down at around 9.15pm.  There are not many feelings more euphoric than those few moments after the room goes dark and you know that your favourite band is about to come on stage.  The Gaslight Anthem began with a blistering version of Handwritten, and it wasn’t very long into the opening song of the set when my glasses were sent flying from my face somewhere into the blurry distance in front of me.

I could hardly see a thing and I was utterly panic-stricken.  I had no idea how I was going to find my glasses amongst the mass of people who were standing around six or seven rows deep in front of us.  How would I enjoy the rest of the gig when I couldn’t even see my own pink nose, let alone the band I had been waiting years to see again?  How would I find my way back to my hotel, or even be able to get a new pair of glasses in the morning?  It was the worst thing that could have happened to me.

I nudged the person who was standing next to me to alert them to the fact that I had lost my glasses, but I didn’t know what I was expecting a complete stranger shrouded in darkness to do about it.  Could she get the band to stop playing rock and roll songs and have the house lights turned up so that everyone could look around their feet for my stray spectacles?  I conceded that she couldn’t, and that even if I could see the stewards they would likely be too far away for me to attract their attention, so I squatted onto the sticky floor of the Barrowlands and desperately fished my hand through rivers of beer and amongst a dark forest of legs and crushed plastic cups.  Somehow, miraculously, I was able to put my fingers on the extended leg of my glasses and I retrieved them, unscathed, from the floor. It might have been the best feeling I have ever felt.

The ‘59 Sound is a joyous portrait of youthful exuberance, of heartache, of wild summer adventure and of hope and glory and love and everything else, and this gig was too.  I found myself frequently locking arms with bouncing sweaty strangers, my own blue and black flannel shirt clinging to my hot body like foil around a jacket potato, and my black jeans melted to my flesh. My hair was drenched – utterly soaked – with sweat, as though I had just walked out of the shower and decided not to use a towel because the wet look is in vogue.  It was a cathartic release and I sang myself hoarse.

Nice n’ Sleazy’s seemed like a very long way from the Barrowlands when the gig finished at sometime around eleven o’clock, but it is one of my favourite bars in the city and they had been promising the best offering of music after the Gaslight Anthem performance.  I weaved my way through the maze of the city centre, with all of the demolition work which had been going on around Sauchiehall Street meaning that much of it was closed off and alternative routes had to be taken.  I had my music for company and after some time I managed to find what I was looking for.  I stepped casually towards the doorway, where I was confronted by two large bouncers who had the appearance of men who had never known amusement.

“Are you alright?”  The least amused of the two men asked, and I was baffled by this sudden interest in my wellbeing from a total stranger.  I assured him that I was well, having forgotten all about the rogue cold which had befallen me earlier in the day.

“Where have you been tonight?”  He continued, his tone taking on an increasingly interrogatory nature.

“Just the Gaslight Anthem gig at the Barras,” I said excitedly, wondering if he was going to engage me in conversation about the finer points of punk rock.  Instead, he viewed me with suspicion, his demeanour becoming no more amused.

“Go easy in there tonight, pal,” he eventually relented as he opened the door and invited me to step inside the bar.

I ordered a Jack Daniels and coke and stood at the dim end of a quieter than expected bar, and it suddenly struck me that with all the Paracetamol I had taken earlier in the day and all of the beer and whisky and Jägermeister I had drunk over the course of the night and with my sweat-soaked head and disgusting shirt that maybe the bouncer had seen me as a figure of distress.  As I pondered this a young woman arrived next to me and she was holding a smartphone which was open on the Google Maps app.  She leaned across a pile of free magazines which were sitting on the bar between us and asked me if I knew how to find Mango.  I had never heard of the bar but could see from the flashing icons on her map that it was close to Nice n’ Sleazy’s.  I explained to her that with the various works going on around Sauchiehall Street it might be more difficult than normal to find Mango, at which point it occurred to me that I could make a really great pun about the difficulty of finding a good mango.  The words had barely left my mouth when the dislocated stranger left and rejoined her friend at their table.

I had one more Jack Daniels and coke before retiring to my bedroom on the fifth floor of the Travelodge hotel.  I undressed and sunk into the cotton sheets but was still so exceptionally warm that I soon kicked them away.  I woke up in the morning, dazed and hung over, and sneezed.  Not once or twice, but three or four times. I reached over to the bedside table for my glasses and affixed them to my face and nothing else really seemed to matter.

This post was first published on 25 July 2018. The original can be viewed by clicking here.

Posts which are similar to this:
The night I ate dinner (aka Ryan Adams @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh)
The day I took a flask of coffee on the train (aka The Low Anthem @ Stereo, Glasgow)
The week I wore a t-shirt and got a haircut (aka James @ Corran Halls, Oban)

The night I didn’t go to The Kooks (aka King Creosote @ Studio Theatre, Corran Halls, Oban)

It was the morning of the first Celtic vs Rangers fixture of the new season and I woke up feeling anxious about the game, and with both of my cheeks marked with three spots of  green, orange and pink neon paint.  Three questions immediately occurred to me as I stood staring at my brightly coloured reflection in the bathroom mirror: How did my face get into this condition? What is the procedure for removing neon face paint?  Wouldn’t it really make my eyes crackle if only there was a fuschia too?

The features of my face scrunched into a look of consternation as I considered my options.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, my internal monologue had assumed the role of a lazy cartoon devil, and it was attempting to convince me that the neon green and orange colours were ideal for displaying my allegiance to Celtic in the football that afternoon.  For around thirty seconds the thought didn’t seem entirely ridiculous to me, until I thought about the possibility that my team could lose the game and I would be left a prime candidate for a day of intolerable ridicule; a bright neon target drawn across the curve of my cheekbone, begging for attention.  My better judgment prevailed and I used a towel to wipe the colours from both sides of my face, leaving what could easily be mistaken for the remains of a squashed frog smeared upon the fluffy grey cotton.

By the time my face had been restored to its natural state, with a hung over glaze, I had received a text message from the girl whose floor I had mopped several weeks earlier in an act of chivalry and deeply flawed courtship.  She was remarking on how weird it was to wake up with UV spots painted on her face, and it was like shining a torch into the cupboard which is lined with cobwebs under the stairs and discovering that’s where the small tin of varnish which was used once years ago was stored.  Of course I let her paint my face!

In the Studio Theatre at the Corran Halls, King Creosote and his band performed an intimate set of Scottish folk rock before a capacity audience.  I attended with my brother, the plant doctor and a barman who is comfortably amongst the eleven best bar staff in Aulay’s, with whom I later became involved in a dispute over the size of the attendance.  The barman argued that there were nine rows of seating which each had ten chairs in them, whilst I contended that there were ten rows with twelve seats, having made no fewer than three attempts at counting them during the evening.  Either way, it could be said with some degree of certainty that there were between 90 and 120 people at the gig.

During an interlude between songs, I ordered a round of drinks for our group at the bar, where I found myself in conversation with the barmaid while she transferred Tennents Lager from a can into a plastic tumbler with a precise manner.  She enquired about my thoughts on the performance and told me that she was enjoying what she could hear of it from her position, which was behind a false wall at the back of the room, which meant that she was able to hear the music clearly but could not see the band.  I asked her if she had ever seen what King Creosote looks like, and she said that she had not. I offered the view that he would probably not appear as she was imagining, and before I knew what I was saying I had painted an elaborate picture of how he could quite easily have been busking on the street earlier in the day.  I felt as though I had said too much and quickly searched for a distraction by raising my concern about the difficulty of carrying four pints without spilling any beer. I asked her if she felt that my friends would mind the presence of a finger in their drink, and she assured me that it would probably be fine.

King Creosote and his band continued to play their brand of musical entertainment, and towards the end of the set, I became aware of the barmaid’s presence at the top of the stairs which our group had converted into the unofficial standing section.  I stood with a quiet sense of satisfaction at the thought that her curiosity as to King Creosote’s appearance had overwhelmed her following our brief discussion, and during that one particular song I imagined a scene where the barmaid felt compelled to stop pouring £3 cans of Tennents Lager into plastic containers for a line of baffled customers.  “Sorry,” she would have said, flicking waves of dark hair from her face as she abruptly left the bar, “but I just have to see if this guy looks like a busker.”

After the show, I sought out the barmaid to ask her if the singer had met her expectation.  She laughed in the kind of dismissive way that most girls do in my company and strongly disputed my earlier claim that he looks like he could have been busking.  I softened my stance and suggested that if King Creosote was a busker, he would probably be one of the better-dressed street performers, but this did little to bring her onto my side.  I wished her a good night and spent much of the following few hours thinking of ways I could engineer a second, less chastening, encounter with the moonlighting barmaid.

I had been trying valiantly to ignore the existence of my bladder since the last song before the encore, and so it was a tremendous relief when I walked into the bathroom after the gig.  The room was empty and I had the opportunity to reflect in luxury.  I had barely unzipped my jeans when an older man arrived at the furthest of the three urinals.  He spoke with a voice which boomed with enthusiasm and asked emphatically:  “Wasn’t that just the best concert you have been to in Oban?”  I paused mid-stream and tried to recall the bands I had seen play in the town, which proved difficult due to the beers I had been drinking and the concentration I was affording my effort to expel urine.  I agreed that it was an enjoyable gig, and the man continued to speak effusively about the second half of the gig and the talented young schoolgirl who was brought on stage to play the bagpipes.  I had no strong opinion on any aspect of the gig, but feel particularly uncomfortable disagreeing with another person in any situation where I have my penis in my hand, so I accepted everything the man said as being true.

In the bar along the seafront, my acquaintances and I chewed the fat of the evening’s events.  After some time, three members of the band we had just been watching turned up for a drink, including the female fiddler who we had all agreed was the star of the show, contrary to what the man in the Corran Halls bathroom believed.  She was the most attractive fiddle player I have seen and I immediately began to consider how a person would even flirt with a fiddler.  I couldn’t shake the notion of introducing a line around the phrase “it could be a real string in your bow…”, but I knew from instinct that I would make it sound terribly convoluted and not at all seductive.  The plant doctor managed to approach her and express his admiration for her talents as we were leaving the bar at closing time, and it became clear to both of us that the fiddler was involved in a romantic relationship with the guitarist, who would presumably have a greater range of string-related jokes to charm her with.

Some days later, the popular indie pop band The Kooks were playing in the main hall at the Corran Halls, and despite not being very familiar with their music I had spent much of the week considering buying a ticket, particularly when it occurred to me that it could be an opportunity to see the moonlighting barmaid again, and after I had learned in the meantime that she is ‘probably single.’  By the day of the gig I had been struck by a terrible dose of the cold and I didn’t feel like listening to pop music.  I considered that it was probably for the best that I didn’t see her so soon after the last gig anyway, with the potential that I would have ended Saturday night with a red face.

The day I had a cold (aka The Gaslight Anthem playing ‘The ’59 Sound’ tenth anniversary tour @ Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow)

I embarked upon the 12.11 ScotRail service to Glasgow and located my table seat close to the toilet, where I unloaded all of my travel essentials from my backpack onto the sickly green surface of the table:  an A5 lined notebook, a black pen, two bacon rolls, three sachets of Nottingham’s finest export, four cans of Budweiser, a small flask with a finger of Jack Daniels, a pocket packet of tissues and a silver film of Paracetamol.

Despite recently adding an intake of effervescent multivitamins to my morning routine and having also eaten a third of a punnet of blueberries, a banana and two easy peeler oranges which take no fewer than five attempts to peel, I had been hit with my first cold since December 2017 and it happened on the day The Gaslight Anthem were performing the tenth anniversary tour of the ‘59 Sound album at the Barrowlands.

I folded myself into my seat and watched Oban slide slowly into the distance when another sneeze erupted from my nostrils, which by now had taken on the distinct shade of a wind-battered carnation.  I cursed my immune system and wondered if this was the sort of thing Alanis Morissette was alluding to. A heavy sigh and a cough left my mouth at roughly the same time and I reached for the Paracetamol and drowned two of the tablets in a mouthful of whisky, unsure if I was trying to numb the nuisance of the cold symptoms or of everyday life.

By the time the train had wheezed into the village of Dalmally I had downed most of the first can of Budweiser and my nose was streaming more quickly than an addictive Netflix series.  The alcohol had soaked into my system and I was feeling extremely drowsy and miserable. Steal My Sunshine by Len played from my Spotify playlist, and even though the elderly woman sitting opposite me had been complaining of a cataract in each eye and could barely read her copy of the Daily Express even with a magnifying glass which was larger than my hand, she could probably see that I could barely muster the energy to drum along on my thigh.

I managed to stay awake all the way to Glasgow Queen Street, and when I checked into my room on the fifth floor of the Travelodge and took another dosage of Paracetamol using the small, flimsy plastic cup they provide guests with, presumably for such emergencies, I was forced to confront the dilemma which seems to vex me more than most other issues:  whether or not I should wear my denim jacket out to go to the gig. I balanced the fact that it wasn’t especially balmy outdoors with my failing immune system against the memory of many hot and sweaty nights seeing The Gaslight Anthem and I decided that I would be better off leaving the jacket behind.

I pushed all of the most valuable possessions in my life into each of the four pockets of my black jeans:  a mobile phone with its ability to play music, a pair of earphones, a wallet thick with silver coins and as many tissues as a person can reasonably carry.  The weight pushed my jeans – which were sitting quite loosely anyway – down past the waistband of my boxer shorts, and I considered that it might look to others as though I was making some vain attempt at a youthful statement of fashion, but I simply don’t have the buttocks for such a thing.

At The Raven, where I would enjoy a pint of Caesar Augustus, I was beaten to the bar by a short red-haired girl who proceeded to tell the barmaid that I should be served first.  The barmaid floated across the floor to my side of the bar and I insisted that the short red-haired girl had arrived before me and should be served instead. The barmaid returned to where she had once been standing and thanked both of us for our honesty as she poured a schooner of ale for the diminutive redhead.  I made some stupid remark which drew laughter from both of the ladies, but my internal narrator was telling me that despite making a chivalrous gesture and doing the socially correct thing of ensuring that the person who was first in line was served their drink before me, I was actually a dick because the short red-haired girl had made the move first.

After drinking my ill-gotten pint of hybrid lager and IPA I strolled down the Gallowgate to Saint Luke’s, which is a relatively new bar that has been restored from an old church, although people still go there seeking salvation and hiding from the problems of real-life with the assistance of a spirit.

I met with the girl with candyfloss pink hair and her friend who had the most bold and brilliant pink hair which looked almost like an explosion of raspberries.  I felt a little out of place with my boring and balding salt and pepper hair which is slicked over to the side, but we engaged in a round system anyway and I ordered a Tennents and a Jameson in an effort to give my cold a good kicking before the Gaslight Anthem show.

Most of the tables in the bar had been reserved by smart people who had planned ahead for the occasion, leaving the only seating available at tables which were so high that a compass was needed to reach the summit.  The Irish whiskey worked in drying out my nose and all of a sudden the pocketful of tissues that I was carrying had become redundant. We ordered a round of Jägerbombs, having decided at six o’clock that eating any kind of food would be futile, and the shot glasses were placed carefully inside a glass with an exceptionally wide rim which made it almost impossible to down both the Jägermeister and the Red Bull without a good quantity of the drink spilling onto my shirt.

In Bar 67, a pub I had never visited despite being a frequent attendee at Celtic Park over the past two years, the Jägerbombs were served in regular glasses which made it easier to drink the entire quantity of alcohol as well as energy drink, and my drowsiness was disappearing and I was once again beginning to feel human, if not dancer.  An older gentleman arrived and tried to convince us that it would be a good idea to buy a magazine he was selling which raises money for the homeless and is a contemporary adult competitor of The Big Issue. He insisted that he had received complaints that some of the content of the magazine was misogynistic and anti-Semitic but that he didn’t know what either of those terms meant, and I couldn’t decide whether this was some kind of a scheme or if he was being genuine.

As we were entering the Barrowlands Ballroom, which is directly across the road from Bar 67 and was the venue of the first gig I ever attended in November of 2003, I could feel myself becoming anxious as it became clear that I was going to be subjected to a pat down and I felt concerned that I would be forced to explain the excessive quantity of tissues in the front left pocket of my jeans and why a thirty-four-year-old man was wearing jeans below the waistband of his boxer shorts anyway.  The girl with the candyfloss pink hair handed me my ticket and I watched as the man in front of me was patted down without any issue and I knew that I would be next. I strode forward towards the man in the high visibility jacket with a drunk confidence which I hoped would mask the fear I had over the pocket which was bulging with tissue paper.  The man’s hands danced over my body and I could only hope that he was finding the entire experience as awkward as I was. He didn’t pass comment on the tissues and we were all free to enjoy the night ahead.

We ordered a round of doubles between the end of Dave Hause’s set and the beginning of The Gaslight Anthem’s in the hope that they would last, but my Jack Daniels was finished by the time the lights went down at around 9.15pm.  There are few feelings more euphoric than those few moments after the room goes dark and you know that your favourite band are about to come on stage. The Gaslight Anthem began with a blistering version of Handwritten and it wasn’t very long into the opening song of the set when my glasses were sent flying from my face somewhere into the blurry distance in front of me.

I could hardly see a thing and I was utterly panic-stricken.  I had no idea how I was going to find my glasses amongst the mass of people who were standing around six or seven rows deep in front of us.  How would I enjoy the rest of the gig when I can’t even see my own nose, let alone the band I have waited years to see again? How would I find my way back to my hotel or even be able to get a new pair of glasses in the morning?  It was the worst thing that could have happened to me.

I nudged the person who was standing next to me to alert them to the fact that I had lost my glasses, but I didn’t know what I was expecting her to do about it.  Could she get the band to stop playing rock and roll songs and have the house lights turned up so that everyone could look around their feet for my stray spectacles?  Obviously not, and so I squatted onto the sticky floor of the Barrowlands and desperately fished my hand through rivers of beer and amongst a dark forest of legs and crushed plastic cups.  Somehow, miraculously, I was able to put my fingers on the extended leg of my glasses and I retrieved them, unscathed, from the floor. It might have been the best feeling I have ever felt.

The ‘59 Sound is a joyous portrait of youthful exuberance, of heartache, of wild summer adventure and of hope and glory and love and everything else, and this gig was too.  I found myself frequently locking arms with bouncing sweaty strangers, my own blue and black flannel shirt clinging to my hot body and my black jeans melted to my flesh. My hair was drenched – utterly soaked – with sweat, as though I had just walked out of the shower and decided not to use a towel because the wet look is in vogue.  It was a cathartic release and I sang myself hoarse.

Nice n’ Sleazy’s seemed like a very long way from the Barrowlands when the gig finished at sometime around eleven o’clock, but it is one of my favourite bars in the city and they had been promising the best offering of music after the Gaslight Anthem performance.  I weaved my way through the maze of the city centre with all of the demolition work going on around Sauchiehall Street meaning that much of it is closed off and alternative routes need to be taken. I had my music for company and after some time I managed to find what I was looking for.  I stepped casually towards the doorway where I was confronted by two large bouncers who had the appearance of men who had never known amusement.

“Are you alright?”  The least amused of the two men asked, and I was baffled by this sudden interest in my wellbeing from a total stranger.  I assured him that I was well, having forgotten all about the rogue cold which had befallen me earlier in the day.

“Where have you been tonight?”  He continued, his tone taking on an increasingly interrogatory nature.

“Just the Gaslight Anthem gig at the Barras,” I said excitedly, wondering if he was going to engage me in conversation about the finer points of punk rock.  Instead he viewed me with suspicion, his demeanour becoming no more amused.

“Go easy in there tonight, pal,” he eventually relented as he opened the door and invited me to step inside the bar.

I ordered a Jack Daniels and coke and stood at the dim end of a quieter than expected bar and it suddenly struck me that with all the Paracetamol I had taken earlier in the day and all of the beer and whisky and Jägermeister I had drunk over the course of the night and with my sweat soaked head and disgusting shirt that maybe the bouncer had seen me as a figure of distress.  As I pondered this a young woman arrived next to me and she was holding a smartphone which was open on the Google Maps app. She leaned across a pile of free magazines which were sitting on the bar between us and asked me if I knew how to find Mango. I had never heard of the bar but could see from the icons on her map that it is close to Nice n’ Sleazy’s. I explained to her that with the various works going on around Sauchiehall Street it might be more difficult than normal to find Mango, at which point it occurred to me that I could make a really great pun about the difficulty of finding a good mango, but as soon as the words left my mouth she left and rejoined her friend at their table.

I had one more Jack Daniels and coke before retiring to my bedroom on the fifth floor of the Travelodge hotel.  I undressed and sunk into the cotton sheets but was still so exceptionally warm that I soon kicked them away. I woke up in the morning, dazed and hung over, and sneezed.  Not once or twice, but three or four times. I reached over to the bedside table for my glasses and affixed them to my face and nothing else really seemed to matter.

The day I realised that I don’t want my bones to go on display in a museum (aka Ryan Adams, two nights @ The Olympia Theatre, Dublin)


It has been nigh upon seven weeks since my last visit to Dublin, a trip which left me with a warm familiarity with the city and the things that are possible here.  Of all the stops on my manic journey to see Ryan Adams perform seven times in twelve days it was probably the three nights in the Irish capital that I was most looking forward to.  There were bars I wanted to drink in again and places I wanted to see between the two performances at the elegant old Olympia Theatre.  So it was perhaps a little disconcerting to find that staying in a slightly different part of the city from my previous two visits would completely throw off all my bearings and cause me to lose all familiarity with the place.  I felt like a baby who is learning to walk, finding myself wandering across bridges without knowing it and down unidentifiable cobbled lanes, leading me to places I had no idea of.  And it was even worse when I was sober.

I have developed this remarkable knack – in cities and in life – of having no discernible idea of where I am going but yet still finding my way to where I need to be.  Part of the trick to this in a city is to pinpoint a landmark or a memorable place of interest in your mind, so that when you see it you know that you are on the right track.  Mine was a brightly coloured building on the opposite side of the River Liffey from the Custom House building which in the map of my mind appeared to resemble a gay jigsaw puzzle.  The Spire also proved particularly useful for this purpose.  On my first two trips to Dublin I could not see the point of the Spire, and I thought that was a pretty good joke as well as a pertinent observation, but it turns out that the tall phallic landmark does have a very good and important purpose:  it is essentially a 4million homing device for drunks.  Because at night, when the sky turns dark (or at least darker than during the grey, rainy day) the point of the Spire will glow, helping even the most inebriated of people to see it from almost anywhere – and when you see the Spire you know where to find O’Connell Street, from where you can find your way home.

The point of the Spire tells me exactly which way I should be going


I wanted to use my time in Dublin differently from when I was last here.  That is to say I wanted to stay out of the bars until at least four o’clock.  This was partly out of a seemingly noble sense of actually wanting to do something useful and also because, at a minimum of £6 for a pint of beer, I would otherwise have to re-consider my 100 daily food and drink budget.  I was successful in achieving this exactly one-third of the time, and on Tuesday I embarked on a three-hour walking tour of the city and followed that up with a wander around the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, having been told that they had on display 2,000-year-old human sacrifices and thinking that would be a cheerful way of spending an afternoon before a Ryan Adams gig.  

Observing the well-preserved religious artefacts from Celtic Ireland along with the books and the tools from Medieval Ireland was an interesting and thought-provoking way to pass a couple of hours before heading to the bar.  I thought about the type of museums people would be visiting a hundred years from now and what kind of displays they might have.  There probably won’t be physical museums, as such, and we’ll only have to push a button on the microchip implanted in our wrists to bring up a virtual reality vision of a ‘museum’ in our minds.  Instead of books and important religious documents they’ll display kindles, and there will be iPhones from the age where we had to actually dial numbers or send emojis to communicate with another person.  There won’t be plaster cast representations of how a mummy might have looked, but instead you could swipe through an array of selfies.  And there will, of course, be digitally stored Tweets from the time when people used so many characters to express an opinion.  They might showcase a pen as a token joke exhibit and still nobody will make the suggested donation.


It was the room dedicated to the Vikings which really had a profound effect on me, though.  The very first display houses a skeleton from an excavation of an 11th Century site in Dublin and staring down into the glass case of this brutal warrior brought me to the realisation that, at the end of the day, we’re all really just a bag of bones with a very big fucking sword.  I looked into the hollow eyes of this Viking and decided there and then that I do not want my skeleton put on display in a museum.  The thought of tourists in the future standing around the exhibition of my skeletal being and criticising my bone structure filled me with dread.  I could hear them commenting on the state of my tibia and how “I’m surprised he managed to go as long as he did with femur like those.”  Women would question the need for preserving my penis when surely museums should only exhibit items of usefulness, and there would be a general consensus that “his ribs are surprisingly bony, considering…

The only natural place to go after viewing an exhibit of a skeleton is for lunch, particularly if for some reason my posthumous orders are to be defied and my bones will be put on display for ridicule.  I’d better get some more meat on those things.  Down the road from the archaeological museum is K.C. Peaches, one of those self-service canteen style restaurants.  It is the kind of place which encourages the most ridiculous food combinations a person can think of.  I scooped pork cheek marinated in red wine onto my plate, alongside a helping of spicy Malaysian chicken and lime with some white rice and peas and dropped on some cold Japanese noodles with celery.  I walked around this island of various hot and cold foods and simply piled everything I could onto my plate because it’s food and it’s available and you can.  There is no consideration for diet, taste or aesthetics.  So I took this plate of multiple ethnic cuisines to the counter where as I approached the young woman behind the desk remarked:  “That’s a large plate,” and I wasn’t sure whether she was making an observation or a judgment – she would have been correct either way – so I panicked and ordered a medium cup of coffee (what else would you drink with spicy Malaysian chicken?) in an effort to relieve the stress of the situation, hoping that she might recognise that even though my food order was large my drinks order was medium, so I can’t really be that much of a sloth.

It wasn’t just canteen style hostesses who I was struggling to communicate effectively with.  By Tuesday evening I had reached the point in my interactions with the various barmaids in town where the only banter I could engage was some arduous routine whereby I would empty all of the coins from my wallet, as though to imply that I couldn’t tell the different denominations of currency apart.  Of course, the more I tried this ‘bit’ the more I realised that I really couldn’t tell the coins apart.  Nevertheless, I would count through the coins in my hand, trying to make up the 6 whatever cost of a beer and I would apologise and say something like:  “Sorry, I’m struggling to make any cents (sense) out of this.”  Which was invariably met with stony silence each time, or occasionally a “don’t worry, take your time,” at which point my faux stupidity had been translated as actual stupidity.  One time I repeated the joke, hoping that I could make the North American barmaid laugh, or at least crack a vague impression of a smile in recognition at my attempt, but there was nothing and I would eventually just hand over a twenty and add to my collection of coins.  


Being that my decision not to drink at the concert in Belfast on Friday worked out pretty well in terms of remembering details of the gig, and indeed remembering actually being at the gig, I resolved that I would do the same in Dublin and conduct all of my libations before and after Ryan’s set.  I was pleased that I came to this decision, as the two nights at the grand Olympia Theatre are almost certainly the best I have seen him perform.  To date this tour seems to have found him in a very focussed place where he is intent on playing the best two hours of his life every night.  His band is great and the set lists have been perfect.  I counted seven changes from the first night to Tuesday’s show and on Monday he played Love is Hell – which he had performed for the first time this year in Cork on Saturday night and I had feared I might have missed it.

Night one at the Olympia Theatre – though Magnolia Mountain was replaced by Shakedown on 9th Street


My relative sobriety did come with a downside, however, and that was my increasing disdain for the couple standing in front of me.  Firstly I failed to understand why a couple would even go to a Ryan Adams show together, and this question weighed on my mind as I watched them dance along to lyrics like “anything I say to you now but goodbye is just a lie” and “you and I together, but only one of us in love.”  But not only did these people have the gall to be happy in a relationship – they (more so he) also had to record every other song and upload it immediately to their Instagram account.  They didn’t want just me wallowing in their happiness; the entire world had to.  I think the true source of my irritation was the fact that they were filming only the more recent material, indicating that they have perhaps only been fans since the last album or two.  Which is fine and I would actively encourage anybody to listen to ‘Ryan Adams’ and ‘Prisoner’ – but when he put his phone back into his pocket and left for the bar when Ryan started to play Dear Chicago that got on my goat.  If you’re going to insist on taking your partner to a Ryan Adams show, at least stick around for the most depressing and miserable song in his back catalogue.

Night two at the Olympia Theatre


Bars visited:
The Black Sheep – 61 Capel Street
The Porterhouse – 16-18 Parliament Street & also Temple Bar
Beer Market – 13 High Street
Brew Dock – 1 Amiens Street
J.W. Sweetman – 1-2 Burgh Quay
Bad Bob’s – somewhere in the Temple Bar
Bad Ass Cafe – somewhere in the Temple Bar

Next stop:
O2 Apollo, Manchester – Thursday 14th September