Wednesday, 17 December 2008

There’s no friend like Galway City, and for that I’m thankful!

I’m stumbling over Wolfe Tone bridge into town. The afternoon is grey, the river is gushing brown, there’s an unusually large number of gulls flying and screeching overhead, and people are going about their normal daily lives.
I’m not normal. Right now I am an emotional, physical and mental wreck of a human being. Half an hour ago I finished the writing of a novel, and by the time you are reading this, I will have printed it out, left it be for a week and then read it as a book for the first time. Having done that, I will then ‘call it’, as the Americans say: Over. Finito benito. Dunded.
The End.
So right now I need a friend, but all my house calls and phone calls have come to nothing. Doesn’t matter. There’s still one friend I know will be around. As I cross the river I feel safe. I trust Galway City. Galway will be my friend today.
What do you look for in a friend? Loyalty maybe? Trust would have to come pretty high up on any list of friendship criteria, otherwise there’d be little difference between a true friend and a mere acquaintance. A friend is somebody you enjoy spending time with. Somebody who understands you and your needs, and of course, a friend is somebody that you can have fun with. When you go out to get your kicks, be that drinking in pubs, knitting in circles, licking the pavement with your bare tongue or collecting 17th century Argentine pickle jars, it’s a friend you’ll want by your side.
Finishing a novel is like climbing a mountain that disappears as soon as you reach the summit. There is no climb down. Just a void; a blank empty afternoon in which to exist somehow.
As far as loyalty goes, friendships are a two way street, and after returning from my life in America, I was welcomed back warmly, not only by all my friends and Howyas, but also by this noble rag. Galway was loyal, forgiving and accepting, just as a good friend might be.
First stop, a coffee and a Jamie outside Neachtain’s. I sit outside and and stare up High Street. Well, I think I am sitting and staring up High Street, but in fact, lost in my tiny world of exhaustion and insanity, I am sitting hunched, screwed up into an ugly twisted form, with one leg almost over my shoulder, my lips pursed, stretched outwards tightly and ridiculously.
“You’re in public , Adley!” I remind myself. “Wakey wakey! Come down here and join the planet!”
Trust is the foundation of any friendship, so do I trust Galway City? Well, depends doesn’t it. Do I trust Galway to nurture me, make me fit and well and return me safely home? If I do I am already dead. But do I trust Galway to be always ready and willing to offer me succour? Do I have faith in Galway City’s ability to transform any gentle straightforward day into a raving messy investment in tomorrow’s headache?
Just as I trust the ground beneath my feet.
As a good friend, Galway offers company, in the shape of our allocation of 10,000 Howyas, all those we recognise just enough to acknowledge, any one of which might be available for a wee chat, raising the stakes to friendship on the way. Galway is also good company without others, sitting alone, relaxed and at peace in a bar in Bohermore, enjoying a solitary stare at the optics and mirror. Thankfully, also, there are great friends, and others in-between, always available for that other ingredient of friendship: a laugh, a bit of fun, da craic.
Friends should be inspiring, and even though I hear several hundred great ideas a night pouring forth from the mouths of my fellow drinkers, none of these pint dreams elevates me more than the sight of the starlings at twilight by the Fishmarket/Buckfast Plaza, or the hills of Co. Clare bathed in orange twilight. Soul food and inspiration Galway has in spades, so chalk another one up to my good friend.
And before we get all schmaltzy and dewy-eyed, you can always have too much of a good thing, and just like any friendship, myself and Galway City have fallen out many times over the years. There was hardly a more joyful day in my life than that back in 1994 when I loaded all my worldly belongings into my Ford Transit van and fled to live in Connemara. Three times I have left, two of which were emergency escape hatch ejector seat type retreats, where my sleep patterns, liver and all points from sanity to dribbled dried-up porridge required and demanded I get the hell out of town.
Yes, there’s a lot to this relationship. I’m outside the Quays now, drinking another whiskey and trying to look as if I’m not completely nutsoid in the noodle, because today I am, but cannot help it.
There’s one other side to this friendship with Galway City, and it’s not the most attractive part of this city's personality. There exists what I have long called the ‘cruel craic’, which is what you feel and suffer if you know no better, and try to stay home expecting visitors. Out there you can feel the distant craic in Galway City raging unabated, but if you are not there, in the pub, you do not exist.
Thankfully, it has been ages since I suffered from the cruel craic, because I realised that by merely staying home I was not missing out on anything at all. But for years when I first arrived, and I am sure for many others to this day, if you cannot afford to go out, or are too tired and emotional to be seen in public, then Galway will betray you. It will shun you, turn its back towards you and nobody will even know you weren't there.
Galway City is not a friend who’s going to reach out, grab you and hug you. You have to make the effort and immerse yourself within it to appreciate its scary and wondrous talents.
And then there are days such as this, when I don’t give a hoot what people think, or how I look. I just needed to be with a friend, and for these two hours gone, I have enjoyed just that.

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