Spurting Man
Details of the band’s arrival in Ireland are hazy to me. I am insanely tired – everyone else remembered to bring little roll-up sleeping bags that fit in tiny cases. They all find chairs, wrap themselves up in these science-fiction cocoons (I didn’t know that this size of sleeping bag was even possible – I still have a massive brown roll-up one from my early teenage trips to Boys’ Brigade camps that is still in the van) – and immediately sleep. I curl up on the floor near the rest of the band, hoping sleep will overcome me eventually. It does, for about an hour. But I can’t work out whether or not I fancy Marion, the fiddle player. Probably. Leeson designates himself Driver as soon as we reach Rosslare. There is no choice in this, I discover – this is for Leeson a pilgrimage, and he, therefore, drives. I sleep in the van, awoken when Leeson finds a newsagent’s; here he must buy and consume a Brunch – a pink-and-yellow ice cream on a stick that he persuades me also to buy. It’s surprisingly good – all about the texture and yellow sprinkles: kind of like a Fab, but infinitely better. I am hooked.

We get to Wexford, find the venue, and play a decent gig  – actually, very decent (although uneventful) – and then we hunt on foot for our hostel. This is hampered by a rowdy, drunk Geoff, who is running maniacally around the otherwise silent streets of sleeping Wexford, shouting at the residents “you’re all a bunch of langers!” over and over in his thick Cork accent. We lose him a few times, although he stays mostly within earshot and manages to wind his way to our accommodation. The hostel is functional, even for Geoff, who has instantly changed moods to exhausted; he wants more whisky, but is content with passing out in his clothes. There are four bunks in the tiny room, for the four guys in the band; the girls have their own room. The guitars that were too expensive to leave in the van stack up in the corner. I could sleep for my country, and immediately drop off.

Neck arises late. We have little to do with our days but play gigs every evening, and get acceptably drunk afterwards (or unacceptably during the gig, in the case of Geoff).  I am awake before most of the others, and wish I had brought more to do. I play Snake 2 on my phone, and hear Leigh, the guitarist, stirring on the bunk beneath me. We all manage to lave the hostel about 90 minutes after Leeson wakes up – this man’s morning routine (plus his petrol station routine, and the leaving-a-gig routine, and the leaving-his-house-even-once-we’re-all-ready-to-go routine) will define the measurement of time in my life on many occasions in the next few years. I eat my first Irish breakfast. It seems (although I don’t dare say this) very similar indeed to an English one, with an emphasis on tea, and the bonus feature of “white pudding”. Unsure what this is, I eat it nonetheless, concluding that it is probably a good deal less distasteful in origin than the black pudding I have already devoured. There is brown sauce too, which makes me happy. Full of starch and carbs, we head for the van. Next stop: Waterford.

As the least hung-over person in the band I elect and am elected to drive. This will become a constant theme during my recurring tenure with Neck. Leeson and I each pick up a Brunch before leaving town. Geoff doesn’t want one because he’s from Cork, and Brunches are not from Cork, therefore they’re not authentically Irish and thus not worthy of his time. By the same rationale, Geoff drinks Murphy’s over Guinness, Murphy’s being brewed in Cork whereas Guinness is from Dublin (which is so un-Irish it might as well be London). We are scheduled to stay two nights in Waterford, to play one gig at the Waterford Spraoi. The organisers had even arranged for us to have three rooms at a hotel! When we arrive there we split up – Geoff and Leigh take one room, Marion and Marie the second, and I share the third with Leeson, who explains to me the Neck Policy on sharing rooms: whoever pulls first gets the room, and if you don’t pull, you don’t get the room. I am not going to pull – history has taught me this, and I am never really sure I want a one-night stand anyway. Leeson, by contrast, appears pretty certain that this is something he definitely wants. The band all heads in to Waterford, to see what the Spraoi is all about.

Our afternoon is punctuated by two epiphanies. Firstly, Marie discovers in the market a handbag adorned with huge pictures of strawberries. She is deliriously happy with her purchase, an acquisition tainted only by the fact that she has not (yet) been able to find the matching shoes or jacket that she is certain must exist. Marie then disappears for 24 hours. The rest of the band is collectively intrigued by a listing on the Spraoi’s programme for The Spurting Man. None of us quite expects what proves to be one of oddest performances I have ever seen. A man in silk a dressing gown takes the open-air stage. Some very dramatic classical music is piped through the sound system (I wish I could identify the composer and the work). The man then spends 15 minutes removing his robe and spurting water in arcs, initially from the palms of his hands, and then from nodes all over a flesh-coloured body suit, moving hardly at all. The music and the spurting cease, and in order to process what just took place I wolf down some fish and chips, and go to watch Austin Powers: Gold Member in the cinema. It’s the second time I’ve seen the film. After this I find the band in a pub. We drink, go to bed late, and are up just in time to take full advantage of the hotel breakfast. We then hang out in another pub, where I drink two pints of orange juice and lemonade – at risk of consuming a third, I suggest to Marion and Leigh that we all go and see the Austin Powers movie, which I watch for the third time.

The night’s gig begins well, with a hassle-free load-in. I love playing with Neck, and I know the songs and the band well enough to really enjoy the performances. This one is longer than we expect, but the surprise few extra songs are somewhere deep in my memory, but annoyingly I keep being told I’m too loud. This makes me cross, so I play worse and forget things, making me angrier and intensifying the downward spiral. “I can’t play quietly with the energy that you hire me for!!!”, I scream in my head at Leeson and the sound man. Seething with energy and frustration, I get stuck into a couple of Guinnesses and then some lager at the bar. I hate hanging around in places where the recorded music is so loud you can’t hear yourself think, especially when I only want to sleep. But Leeson is prowling around after the gig like a bear in heat, desperately wanting to get laid. I can’t go back to the hotel alone, lest I am ejected from my bed by a libidinous Leeson and shag. At around 1.30 our leader staggers forth, arm-in-arm with a woman who needs some help standing; I cannot tell who is propping up whom.

I round up the band, relying on Marion – de facto squadron leader – to guide us back to the right hotel. I try first of all to sleep on a handy bench, in the corridor between my room and Geoff-and-Leigh’s – close enough to mine that I should hear if the lay ups and leaves. After nodding off I am curtly moved on by a maid, who accuses me of cluttering up the hallway. I go and knock on the door of my room, thinking that they might be done, and that hopefully she’d be in the shower, readying to leave or to sleep. Leeson asks who it is, and tells me they haven’t finished. I am amazed that either of them is still conscious. I try Geoff-and-Leigh’s room. It is around 4.00, and they are both on their bed grinning, drinking bottled beer and watching TV. Marion is also here, never one to be the first girl to bed (she has out-stayed Marie, so wins this round). I hang with them for a bit, and Leigh graciously offers me the floor. With a “thanks, but no thanks” I return to my own room and try the door again. “HEY, HEY, HEY!!” I am greeted by Leeson and friend who are still, somehow, in the act. At a loss, feeling shamefully tired and soberer by the minute, I trudge back to Geoff and Leigh to lie sleeplessly on the floor, only to find Geoff more animated than he has been since insulting all of Wexford two days earlier. Geoff proposes that I join he and Marion for some cider in the dining room. This seems like utter madness, but here we are anyway – necking canned cider on the steps of the blue-carpeted dining room of a two-star hotel in Waterford while my singer and employer screws the living daylights out of a wasted groupie in my bed. This is the life.

Geoff then suggests that, since it’s been light out for while, we should really go for a walk. So we wander the deserted streets of the city, find a bridge over the river Suir, and play “Pooh Sticks” with twigs. I think Geoff is trying to get Marion to sleep with him – something that most previous members of the band had no trouble in achieving at all (since Marion’s announcement that she would be the Band Slag) – but thus far Geoff has been as successful in achieving his desired ends as he has been subtle in revealing them. By 8.15 or so I have had a basin-full of fucking dawn Pooh Sticks and follow my unconscious back to the hotel and my room. I make one last attempt at entry, only to be greeted for the third time by my Olympian band mate’s rejoinder that he is (still) still at it. He points out to me several hours later before passing out in the van I am again driving that if a job’s worth doing, it is of course worth doing properly. So now I know.

 

 

 

 

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