A man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and all time (George Bernard Shaw) Enough about me. Lets talk about my work. Other than that its about my life.
Cleared frost from the car window this morning in Sligo, my adopted town.
November is rolling into early wintery light and frosty windscreen mornings. One or two women walk nervously along O’Connell Street with their jeans tucked into purple waterproof boots. Their brown quilted winter coats fastened up to the neck , hood pulled over their wooly hatted heads. Gloved hands in coat pockets. This damp cold can be very bitter. In offices workers keep themselves warm with hot-water-bottles wrapped in t shirts. The young and frivilous venture out in just a sweatshirt pulled over a long sleeved shirt. My Columbia Titanium bought in end of winter sales last February and recently gotten boots are now constant wear . Maybe the Daily Express headline they all read was right “Coldest Winter In 100 Years on Way”. Change is coming – but it doesn’t come easily to all.
The early bird gets the parking space. No change for the meter. No sign of the traffic warden either. Early is good. Lyons Cafe is echoey and empty except for the kitchen staff. The place hasn’t warmed up yet. The coffee is strong. Maybe too strong. Feet question whether the new boots on them are going to stand up to a cold winter. Viewing out the window – pink yarn bomb is gone. High heels clack on the wooden floor and the well coiffed lady takes a short cut through the cafe – slightly smiles a greeting.
Change comes easily to those who pay for their coffee with a note. But the fluorescent lemon clad traffic warden almost beats me to it. Almost. No exhibition or drawings to check. So I walk aimlessly for a bit while the town is still quiet. Its too dark to draw or paint. Read the headlines in the newsagent. Wish I hadn’t. The river is full from so much rain of late. Wish I had remembered to bring along my leica. Next time.
The sun shines at a lower angle glaring through windows and windscreens. In an instant the sky darkens and the wind changes. The dog snuggles down and hides in her kennel. Bins blow over and with a nerve clanging bang. Icy needles sting my hands and face as I push and pull the wheelie bin upright. The cat grooms herself in front of the cast iron stove with the glowing peat briquette heart. My thoughts turn to the afternoon movie – slide into another world – the hero saves the day.
Its a chilly wet season in Sligo, my adopted town. Some decide its a good time of year to abstain from alcohol. The shortening days can shorten tempers and the autumn leaves lying thick on the ground start to compost to a slippery mush. Smokers stand outside with one hand shoved into a trouser pocket to keep warm and wear a “screw this world and everything in it” expression at anyone unfortunate enough to have made eye contact. A misty rain falls and messes with your hair and temperatures take you by surprise- either too warm to wear a winter coat or too wet to go without.
In a town the size of Sligo, things have a way of falling into familiar pattern forming repetitions. Driving up to the bridge. Stopping at the red light. I look out at the water under the bridge and say “ The water is very high today – I wonder when the high tide will be.” because I’m always worried about floods. They hardly ever happen though. On we go into the town centre. Check to see if we can park near the cafe entrance. Usually of course we can’t because others have gotten there before us. The vegetable man is delivering fresh produce, not in a van, but in a Jaguar XJ, but no one seems to notice the incongruence. We turn the car about at the town hall gate and go back to the space thats usually free nearer to the river and the Quay Street car park. Get glared at by the smokers already outside the pub. We count our change, and pay the fee – and walk back to Lyons Cafe. The ladies of the inner wheel are chatting and exchanging pleasantries and the dentist and his wife are sitting at a table near to the counter. The owner nods a friendly greeting in our direction. The lady that writes the chalkboard signs is perched up on a stool with her liquid chalk markers and carefully and neatly draws each word of the delicious food thats on offer today.
We sit at a window table with our two black coffees and a fruit scone that he butters and cuts a piece off for me. I bite it and taste the fruit and the butter melting in my mouth and warm my hands on the coffee cup.
Outside the window I can see the street – the shiny wet ground and the empty commercial property directly opposite the cafe where I sit. Someone has yarn bombed the tree nearest the corner of the junction and the brightness of the pink vividly tries to cheer us up. After all it is craft week in Sligo.
A couple of tourists are standing on the corner of the junction – they seem overdressed in heavy rain clothes and thick hiking shoes – Germans I suppose as they raise their cameras and decide if they really want to take a photo afterall. Is this a memory they really want to preserve? They are poised and ready but can’t decide to take it. Before they do -one of them points left and they all follow and stand in front of the town hall andeach takes a photo before walking the few steps back to the junction where they again look first up and down the street before looking back up the street again. Now their faces look slightly bewildered as if they are thinking “Is this all there is ?We had allowed another two hours to see this town.”
Today was a little different though. Not mundane, not rythmic, but a thump on a drum as I head around to the art gallery that is in the Yates Memorial Building on Hyde Bridge. My drawings are in a group show there and I walked past the big tree bombed by the crafters and paused to enjoy it before entering to look over the show rehang we did yesterday.