Friday, February 04, 2011

The Musician

I thought I wouldn't be able to go. I woke up feeling fine on Saturday but got progressively weaker, more lethargic, as the hours went past in work. At one point I pushed the keyboard away from myself, put my head down, groaned a small groan and took a minute's sleep.

It did no good.

Whatever crapness had come over me began to wane on the walk to Mayor Square, to the Luas stop to meet herself. We had a quiet night, few words, both of us drained from the day (hers good, mine bad) and I was worried that the ire would mean a cancelled flight.

We took it easy, had some pizza and a long sleep.

I woke up better on Sunday, far better, and put it down to a 20-hour bout of misery. We caught up on the laughing we hadn't done the night before, pottered somewhat, told stories about nothing at all and killed the time before the packing that would take ten minutes, the shower that would take four minutes, the 'misplacing the keys' that would kill two minutes and the locking of the door behind us.

She met my dad for the first time at Bus Aras and he professed her to be a 'dote,' which is a word I never use but there was no arguing with the sentiment. Goodbyes said, myself and the aul' lad headed for the airport, a pint, a meatball panini and a flight boarded on time with the minimum of effort.

=

He greeted us at the central bus station in Stockholm, this man that none of us had seen in fourteen years. My father's younger brother, my uncle, The Musician. Rounder of belly than before and still with that beard and long and greying hair, he didn't look the sixty years he would become at midnight.

It was a spartan hotel, with no lift to our third floor room. Two single beds and one that pulled out from a couch, my second uncle was waiting for us when we returned with a few cans. The four of us supped Swedish beer and chatted but the hour was late, I'd been ill and people were tired. We agreed to meet The Musician the following morning at 10.30 and he'd show us his Stockholm.

So it passed. We walked for what seemed like miles as he pointed out the school where he'd worked, the places he'd played, the people he knew, the landmarks we'd read about. We took an early pint and some lunch before heading back to his flat in the centre of the city, not far from our hotel.

Whiskey poured, he told us stories of his days in Paris and Stockholm. Meeting Sean Connery and Claudia Cardinale, George Best and his other footballing heroes. Walking empty streets on his 40th birthday, twenty years ago to the day. Fending off Arab youths who had tried to steal his guitar. Missing a trial with Arsenal. Strumming and picking and drinking and smoking.

He showed a phenomenal memory for a man who'd met with such trouble, a singer who treated every bit of tumult with remarkable serenity. He could tell me in great detail about the time he sang for me and my sister in the back bedroom, when we were tiny and bold.

I really took to him, all over again. This disappeared uncle who, through all the reminiscing, matched me factoid for factoid on the transfer window lunacy.

The next day, I let them off on their own.

They took a ferry; I read my book; they visited a museum; I went for a walk; they took a jar; I sat with a coffee watching a different city going past; they came back, and we headed back out for the last night of catching up before a 4am start and the trip back to Dublin, back to her grasp, back to the impression that I may have dreamt the whole thing up.

Leaving him behind was tougher than I could have imagined, but it won't be left another fourteen years.

16 comments:

Me said...

That's what I hate about you... You always make my cry. I don't know how you do it to this hardened heart of mine...

Me said...

me, not my

Tara said...

Fabulous, Tony! So poignant. Glad you had such a great time. Can't wait to hear the details from my dad.

Radge said...

Thanks ladies, glad you liked it...

shiny said...

One for the 'Best Bits', perfect.

Goldmaster said...

Thank you.

Kath Lockett said...

Ah you old git, you've made me all teary now.....

Sounds like you're happy though - illness be damned...?

Therese Cox said...

I love how you've gently mythologized him here as "The Musician," much like "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski. You've captured the experience and his character so well. Definitely want to read more - I believe we will have to send you back on assignment to Stockholm next year for further reporting.

Jackie said...

Beautifully written, Radge. One of my favorite posts, I think. I echo Therese here when I say that I love how you refer to your uncle as "The Musician." Lends the writing an air of mystery. Quite poignant.

Radge said...

Thanks everyone for the positive comments.

kathy_cuddihy said...

Beautiful, Tony. You have a gift. And I can verify that your story matches Sean's...but you tell it more poetically.

Radge said...

Thanks so much Kathy, really happy you like it.

Sean said...

Great Tony, It brought tears to my eyes even though I was part of the experience. I love "the Musician". it's perfect. I am going to send Kieran a computer so he we can all stay connected in future.

Sean

Radge said...

A great thing to do, Sean.

Holemaster said...

He was born under a wandering star. I really enjoyed that Radge. An excellent read.

Radge said...

Gentleman.