My old friend Sean McClory has a way of showing up when you most need him. Naturally, by you I really mean I, but if Sean were your friend, you’d find him doing the same. Not long ago, I played a dreadful gig in a dreadful Camden bar. I don’t fully recall what I was doing there, but I was quite alone and absolutely washed out, and the thought of free beer rings differently under those circumstances. Then Sean appeared and the night was salvaged. We made it through to closing time fashioning good from bad, quoting comedy sketches and folk songs and the recent curvatures of our own lives. I think I might have summoned him from sheer will. If I could do as much on airplanes and in bank queues, I would.

A more recent Camden Friday offered a wholly different sort of gig. I’d gone to see my new friend Nula Kennedy, one of the very finest Irish flute and whistle players you’ll hear. She’s got a mean band too, entirely up to the rigour of changing time signatures at the turn of her heel, which, if you’ll forgive the pun, is no mean feat.

Opening up for Nula was an old, old friend, A.J. Roach, who in his turn is one of the finest songwriters you’ll hear, and a grand fellow to drink whiskey with. We go back about ten years, to the U.K tour which was a first for each of us. A great time, sobriety pleasantly absent. Inverness remains hazy. I still don’t know what ‘A.J.’ stands for.

We gathered at The Green Note, one of London’s absolute best little venues. It’s pretty well my spiritual home. Yet another old friend co-runs the joint. She’s called Immy, and is one of my favourite people. So I was not alone. But with Immy on bar and A.J. and Nula on stage, and even with the giddy, riotous music filling the room as a result, aloneness wasn’t too far off.

And then came Sean, just back from Switzerland, hardly having set his luggage down. The rest of the night passed much as the one previously mentioned, though bettered immeasurably by Irish reels and Virginian vocals; craft lager and hands drummed upon tables. The part of me that hadn’t quite eased into things went ahead and did so. Sean had hinted he’d try and stop by, so for my part, the will was there. I congratulated myself quietly on another act of magic.

There’s a tremendous romance surrounding solitude, towards which I’d long believed my own proclivities inclined. The wandering poet, the lone wolf; that sort of thing. But to paraphrase Phillip Larkin, there’s something laughable about “immensements” such as these. Or, in any case, I don’t think I do well with them. I like people. I also like wine and song, and these two things are better with people. When I think about those same curvatures my life has taken, most of the high, soaring arcs have had some good soul as their locus, some good hand to hold the kite string.

It was good being in The Green Note that night, with some of those people. I was happy Sean could make it. A.J. and Nula, who are getting married soon, set the place alight. I started thinking about this minor dispatch as I watched, knowing then that the ‘feat’ pun was unforgiveable, and that even my friends would think so.


July 10th 2013

One Response to “Friends

  • Russ Harris
    6 years ago

    Hey JAck……..Loneliness… just that
    We are succesful when we are what we are….gregarious
    Being alone….that’s different.
    Give my regards to AJ and Sean x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *