I Don’t Hear Voices

One of the perks of living in Dingle is that people come to you.  You head out for a quick pint one nondescript evening and end up hanging into the wee hours with Nigel Kennedy and Donovan (Nigel happily and obligingly playing the violin on request; Donovan sulking). You sell your house to some guy who turns out to be the drummer for Snow Patrol.  You eye up Paddy Casey over an extended evening in Benner's bar and wonder why he's so damned sad.  You hear that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are up at McCarthy's and it seems entirely plausible.

There is no aspect of celebrity in these interactions, no autograph seeking, no photos, no preening. Everyone's just hanging out. 

For years, the Other Voices concerts in St. James' Church have been one of the best events for this dynamic. In the darkest days of the peninsular winter Dingle suddenly fills with musicians here to play one stunning little gig in the tiny old church on Main Street, filmed for television.  In between gigs there's free mingling and impromptu sessions in the town's many bars and pubs.  All very low key. 

It used to be easy to get tickets. Sometime in November I'd get an email with the potential lineup, and would be directed to a makeshift website where I could buy tickets.  Or, often, you could just turn up, especially for the lesser known groups or singers.  You might be terminally bored.  You might get an undiscovered gem.  You get to see yourself and your friends on television later, when RTE broadcasts the series.  

Those were the days.  About two or three years ago, Other Voices became An Event.  Dublin discovered it.  Uh-oh.  Naively, I thought this wouldn't matter.  I live here.  I should have the inside track.  Getting tickets will be a snap.  And so this year I tried.  

First, I checked the official RTE website, which had nothing but ads for last year's television program.  I could find no reference to this year's gigs anywhere on the web.  I put out a call on Facebook.  Confusion ensued.  People usually at the center of the Dingle arts world traded rumors.  Was it on or off? Too expensive? Funding pulled?  Finally my enterprising and Internet savvy neighbor found a press release on the Hot Press website saying it was on, with tickets available online November 23rd (I don't know how he did it because I've never been able to get back to that page).  No hint of the actual website where one could purchase these tickets, but I had ten days to find that out.

Next, my alert neighbor discovered that a limited number of tickets would be on sale at the church itself, to locals who made it into Dingle on Saturday morning, November 21st.  That's more like it.  Local privilege.  As it should be.  I duly drove to Dingle in a gale to find an encouragingly short line of the Dingle arterati at the doors of St. James' Church.  Five people before me, the tickets sold out.  Damn.  I did get two valuable pieces of information however: the name of the website where the tickets would be sold on Monday morning, and the fact that Snow Patrol would be playing on Friday.

Back home, I checked the website to make sure it existed.  It did.  And there were the dates, individually listed, Not on Sale at This Time.  But it said the concerts were taking place Saturday through Wednesday. The Snow Patrol tip was useless.  A false plant, I wondered?  Has it come to that?  Are we being deliberately put off the trail while tickets are surreptitiously shuffled to the Dublin music business elite?  Is this paranoia a sign that the false trail is working or that thirty days of November gales are getting to me?  

Monday morning my phone alarm went off and I was prepared.  I'd have that website cranked up and ready to go.  I'd use my fabulous Internet skills to snag tickets for as many nights as I could.  I turned on the computer and opened up my browser.  It wouldn't connect.  I tried my email.  No.  My ever steady Internet connection, always on, wireless throughout the house, was off.  Stunned, I could think of nothing for a few minutes but reload, reload, reload.  Then I thought of friends.

One minute to 9:00 a.m., I sent desperate texts to three friends with broadband connections who I thought might be up and semi-active.  At that moment it hit me.  I am a total amateur.  I should have had a nationwide friend network in place, everyone at their computers at 9:00 a.m. on November 23rd, trying for tickets.  What had I been thinking to try this alone?  One friend made it to her computer by 9:05.  She could not get through to the website.  By 9:20 I knew it was all over.  

A call to Kerry Broadband, my ISP, revealed they had shut down service that morning because of a lightning strike.  A lightning strike.  Come on.  Who or what does not want me to get tickets to Other Voices this year?  And why?  Is something terrible going to happen there?  Should I warn the others?

I'm not quite done, though the odds are long.  A well-connected friend has a promise from one of the tech guys to let her know on Saturday if there is any possibility of tickets.  I am not revealing either name.  And I'm already working on next year's strategy.  But right now, I'm not hearing voices.

Over the Rainbow

Weather perspective shifts radically in the west of Ireland.  After three weeks of lashing rain and whipping winds, we're ready to call a morning where the sky is occasionally blue and the sun occasionally shining, with only intermittent flights of lawn furniture across the landscape, a fine day (Ex-pats call it a fine day.  Locals call it a beautiful day).  Taking advantage of the lovely, not-quite-hurricane conditions, Lucy and I headed to Inch dunes for a walk. 

All began well, and I felt that locals sense of smugness about being one of only three people on a gorgeous three-mile beach in November, my little dog happily chasing scent up and down the dunes, exhilarating wind blowing through my hair and her fur.  Then the first peal of thunder sounded.  Lucy bolted into the dunes.  I looked to my right and saw, picturesquely framed between the mountains of the Dingle and Iveragh peninsulas, a huge, dark, blue-gray cloud approaching at speed down Dingle Bay.  That's one of the perks of walking at Inch. You can see exactly what weather you're going to get in the next five minutes. I thought it might be a good idea to cut this walk short.

First I had to find my dog.  Heading up into the dunes as the next lightning strike flashed, my whistles were lost in the wind.  I reached the top, where I could see the unfolding expanse of dunes, but no small dog. Looking back to the beach I saw the few cars parked there start up and head for the exit, headlights on.  One walker in a red jacket, about halfway down the beach, turned back as well, but did not run.  She was never going to make it but she'd retain her dignity.  I continued calling for Lucy as I semi-jogged along the path at the top of the dunes.  Lightning flashed; thunder followed.  A sense of drama descended.

Suddenly Lucy appeared at my feet, ears flat, tail down.  "Good dog!  Come on Luce!" I shouted as another tremendous clap of thunder rang out.  Lucy shot off again and was gone.  I hurried back along the path, shouting "Lucy! Lucy! Lucy!" and eyeing up the approaching storm.  The woman in the red jacket maintained an even pace on the beach as the interval between lightning strikes shrank and the dark cloud loomed overhead.  I, on the other hand, was an orange-jacketed lunatic on top of the dunes, racing along and shouting.  

This time when Lucy reappeared I got her on the lead.  For a little thing she sure has torque.  My twenty-five pound dog yanked me along the top path then catapulted me down a sand canyon and back to the lower, main path along the bottom of the dunes.  I let her off the lead and we both took off for the car, running.  

Lucy can outrun me by several factors of speed but, fair play, kept circling back to make sure I was on pace.  Near the end she figured I was going to make it and lit out for the car on her own.  Just then the hail hit, little icy needles in a gale force wind. "Ouch ouch ouch ouch" I laughed to no one, soaked through in thirty seconds, but thankfully at the last dune.  Up and over I went.

And, briefly, up and over I kept going. Briefly, I flew. The wind picked me up as I crested the dune and I was not in control of my own movements.  The immediate temptation was to let go.  I can fly!  For some reason, I thought of Dorothy.  And thinking of Dorothy made me remember gravity.  In real life, when people go up with no visible means of support, they come down hard.  I fought to stay on my feet and did a comical stumble run down the back side of the dune.  I saw Lucy dancing impatiently by the car.  I opened the hatch and she leaped in to the safety of her crate.  

Safe though soaked, I drove the Beetle down a rutted track to the beach exit, meeting the other fleeing cars at the main road. I don't know what happened to the lady in red.  Just as I pulled out, another car was pulling in.  Sure, why would a little thunder, hail and lightning keep you from your daily walk on the beach? Now that's a local.