Friday, 25 October 2013

The Ghost In My Pocket.

You just never know what you are going to find in the most unlikely of places.Early one Friday morning I had been down at Saint Georges Market hoping to pick up a winter coat, around the second hand cloths stalls. Back when second hand clothes were actually second hand clothes and not "vintage"as they have been re-branded by the terminally middle class. Anyway, whilst poking around in an old cyprus banana box I came across a very attractive old leather wallet which really caught my eye.It was a quite fancy looking old thing with broad stitching around the edges and what appeared to be a Celtic design carved into it. It was basically brown colored with gradations running through it that gave it a richly textured aspect. I had no idea what the design or symbol meant but it gave the wallet an ancient quality which made it attractive. I thought it was lovely and asked the woman who owned the stall how much she wanted for it and she only asked for the princely sum of a pound coin. Only a pound! A bargain I thought. She even old me she thought it had been hand made by an interned political prisoner back at the height of the troubles. Hmmm. What a heart warming story I thought. I had an impression of the heart broken and slightly mental cobbler imprisoned in the Bastille in Charles Dickens a Tale Of Two Cities. 
It was not until I got home and opened it I discovered the name Malachy carved into he leather of the inside. I could barely believe my own eyes. I have never seen my name on anything and now I find it cut into a leather wallet I had found in such a random fashion. I thought THIS IS THE WALLET FOR ME! This is a magic wallet. I thought if I keep money in this it will multiply, like the magic buckets in Micky Mouse's The Magician's Apprentice. A fabulous new life was about to begin for me with this magic wallet and I knew anything connected to its use will become imbued with magical properties and their value increased tenfold. I was very pleased to put it on display on the mantle of our fireplace. 
My ma, who was partially sighted at that time, threw it on the fire and burnt it. When one of my sisters had explained to her what she had laid hands on and was told the unlikely story of how I had come across it, just by chance finding a personalized wallet, she came to the decision I would be better off without it. She thought no good could come from an object found in such a way. She was like that, my ma. In her world there was magic everywhere and not all of it good. I was gutted but it was burnt and no amount of whining was going to un-burn it.
Maybe she was right. I will never know. Maybe thanks to her canniness I dodged a bullet.
A magic bullet.
p.s. Happy Halloween. From myself and Lil' Micheal Myers.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Going Underground.

I am still pinching myself, this is such a dream-like fugue state for a Doctor Who fan to find themselves in. Two Second Doctor Patrick Troughton stories recovered from storage in Nigeria; a complete Enemy Of The World and an almost complete...Web of fear. Oh my giddy aunt. it is almost as unlikely as a complete Tomb of The Cybermen being found in Japan. Oh wait, did'nt that actually happen?
               Was watching a feature on The One Show on Friday night on this historic find. And there it was, a scene from a story I have never believed I would get a chance to see. Scenes which had only played out in the run down theater of my mind were suddenly unfolding on the television in my living room. Yeti in the London Underground. The return of The Great Intelligence and the first appearance of one of the Doctor's very best friends Alistair Lethbridge Stewart. A crackling alien web spreading across an abandoned capitol city suffocating anyone it rolled over. Patrick Troughton at the height of his powers and on top of his game with Jamie and Victoria ably assisting him. Did I mention Yeti in the London Underground? Oh Boy, the Hartnell and Troughton eras of the Doctor's life have a mythic resonance for someone like me who came on board with Pertwee. A quality that still gives me goose-bumps whenever I am lucky enough to be treated to one of their stories on DVD. No matter how creaky it might appear. I am altogether quite creaky myself these days. I still cannot help but think about how the world probably was beyond the viewers front door whilst watching these stories on the original night of transmission. Was the world truly all black and white and mad all over? I first gained a proper awareness and knowledge of this three-faced hero through one of the first books I ever owned. The Making Of Doctor Who by Malcolm Hulke. My Rossetta Stone to a subject not a single other person, child or adult, knew or cared about the history of. Then came the greatest single publication I have ever owned and read(for the seismic impact it had upon my empty brain); The Radio Times Doctor Who Tenth anniversary Special. My poor Ma and Da never had a spare penny to spend on treats for themselves or us so I can only imagine the job I must have had to convince them to buy me a copy. They did though and it has turned out to be a gift for life.
                   Hats off to the man who went out there into the unknown and brought these treasures back. The Raider Of The Lost Tapes.
                  Philip Morris I love you.
                  The Web Of Fear would have been more than enough,thank you, but to also bring back The Enemy Of The World! A swinging sixties future retro epic with a double whammy turn by Troughton as the Doctor and the evil Salamander. I cannot help but think this story will suprise everyone with a fabulous glimpse into a period of the show no one ever expected to have the chance to see. Oh Happy days.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A Haunted Bookshelf.

                     So begins chapter one of The Haunting Of Hill house by Shirley Jackson. After reading this how could anyone possibly not wish to read further. A classic novel tracing the supernatural experiences of a team of ghost hunters in a house that was just plain born bad.It is quite a subtle novel given its subject matter; one that has been turned into a movie adaption twice. Once quite honorably, the other less so. I remember seeing the first as an impressionable child and then watching it again as an impressionable adult. Both times it quite gave me the willies. Whatever it is that stalks the halls of Hill House is a thing without empathy or mercy but possessed of a cool calculation that devours the unwary. It is a remorselessly evil entity that obeys no known laws that make sense of the flukey randomness of existence.It is very old and very wiley and very much should not be.
                     There are some wonderful books out there that explore that dark territory, monstrously cruel things rooted in bricks and mortar; it is a rich vein of horror which is enjoying something of a revival in literature, television and cinema.What about Hell House by Richard Matheson orThe Turn Of The Screw by Henry James. Books reprinted many times by many generations of readers. Both contemporary at time of publication, each successfully moving from decade to decade gaining appreciation as the years pass. And for the sheer joy of a tale about the power of tales what about The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washinton Irving. Ichabod Crane is a timeless literary creation, one who captures the spirit of this time of year as no other.
                     Just setting the mood for the beginning of a journey into the heart of the October Country.
                     The only maps being the ones we write ourselves.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Samhain vs The Great Pumpkin

Yesterday I caught the smell of wood burning smoke in some freshly lit hearth in a home nearby.It is that time of the year. The days are getting shorter and the nights are drawing in. Full sail into the heart of The October Country. Halloween is just around the corner. All Souls Night. The Great Pumpkin is rising from the pumpkin patch. And there are not many of those in Northern Ireland. I have just finished reading A Stir Of Echoes by Richard Matheson to aid somewhat in getting in the mood. Written and first published in 1958 it still holds up well. A book with good character writing as well as a good thoroughly modern, for 1958, Haunting at its core. A good jazz score written by Miles Davis would be the perfect score for a moody reading. With a finger snapping theme tune song effortlessly by Bobby Darin to set the tone.
                I used to have an October ritual where I would read The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. It is the perfect mood piece for the autumnal shades that turn to winter. Full of rusty Halloween Hues as familiar as the lop sided grin cut into the face of a seasonal turnip. In Belfast we used turnips for Halloween lanterns not pumpkins. And we ate what we carved out. Hmmm.Turnip. I must admit the novel has lost some of its otherworldly and historic charm for me as I find the older I get the more like Ichabob Crane I become. Same reason I find it difficult to watch the David Lynch movie The Elephant Man.
It has me reaching for my pillowcase with the single eye hole cut out.
                 I am going to dig out The Legend Of Hell House by Matheson. I am going to once more seek out the company of The Roaring Giant Belasco and his hateful house. I know I have the film version somewhere at home too. With a hipster turn by Roddy McDowall being tormented by a weird electronic soundtrack in a house full of nauseating camera angles. Oh boy, cannot wait.
                My Da used to say YOU ARE NEVER ALONE WHEN YOU ARE READING A GOOD BOOK  and you know; the whole time I was reading A Stir Of Echoes I could not shake the feeling I was being watched....

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Orpheus In The Underworld.

The old Orpheus Bar in York Street has been pulled down. Saw the bones and rubble of it from the bus on the way to work the other morning. The newly adjusted bus route took us past its dusty skeletal remains and I do not believe another person on the bus batted an eyelid at the sight of its demise. I noticed the old Co-Op Building is coming down as well, stage by stage. That end of York Street, just past The Art College, seemed to me like a fixed point in time where nothing much ever went up or down. I used to think The Great Void began just beyond The Orpheus. Off course it was just the beginning of the motorway but it always seemed to stretch off into an electric over lit nothingness to me. For all I knew it was the rainbow bridge to Asgard.
               I do remember way back in the day a couple of buddies and me(see photos above) put together a band and that we made our stage debut in The Orpheus. I say debut but it was in truth our one and only stage performance. SEVENBASTARDSSUCK we called ourselves, after a Virgin Prunes song. The Prunes were a Dublin grown band we worshiped and thought Elder God Like. We were a support act for a band that could actually play. There is no other way to put it. Such was their generosity they allowed us to use some of their equipment. We did three songs which we stretched in our naive incompetency into a set. A song I wrote called The Devils(which was based on the Aldous Huxley story the Devils Of Loudun). As the lead singer I had this great spoken intro line HOW SHOULD A MAN PROFIT IF HE SHOULD GAIN THE WORLD BUT LOSE HIS SOUL before the guitars and drums came crashing in. At that point someone switched on a rented smoke machine and we vanished from view. Did not stop us though. I wailed and raved and my buddies slashed and bashed. We went straight into our second song. A cover of Dark Entries by the band Bauhaus. I believe I managed not to quite mangle Pete Murphie's punk toasting though I am probably wrong. We finished with a Siouxsie And The Banshees song Israel. LITTLE ORPHANS IN THE SNOW WITH NO WHERE TO CALL A HOME START THEIR SINGING. I thought it was heaven. An illusion no doubt reinforced by being shrouded in an artificial fog. Unable to see the faces of those unfortunate enough to hear us. Until I turned and saw someone else from the other band was playing for us. Our drummer had remembered he had left a bottle of cider hidden in the toilet cistern in a cubicle behind the stage. He had gone in to sit on the bog and finish it off.
               I thought we were a triumph. The bar manager described us as the second worst band ever to play there. Which I thought was a crashing insult. To be the worst would have been something but to just be the second worst was just to be rubbish. I thought we were stars. Indeed I thought it was already time for me to be thinking about my solo project with Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith. A concept album about Oscar Wilde dinosaur hunting.
               Leaving the Orpheus that night we were chased by skinheads. We fops scattered into the darkened Belfast side streets. Me and my mate ran up Royal avenue. This proved to be a mistake. The City Center in those days was ringed by security fences of very high steel that were locked up at night. If you were already in you could get out through a turnstile but not the other way around. My mate flew up that fence with the agility of a spider monkey. In truth he was just propelled by adrenalin and terror. In that state he could have climbed up a jet of water. Even at my very best I was less agile. However fear is a great spur to achievement and I somehow managed to go up that steel fence.On the way over the kilt I was wearing snagged and I fell forward and just hung awkwardly from the metal spike on top. When the skinheads reached the fence they just laughed and mocked. Which I suppose is better than a kicking. Thank Goodness there was no such thing as a phone camera then. Off the skins went on their not so merry way looking for some other victim on that dark Belfast night. I had to tear my kilt to get off that spikey top. All the blood had quite rushed to my head and I felt giddy and odd. I have often felt that way after escaping a kicking. Like my brain turns to chewing gum.
                 We never did take to the stage again. SEVENBASTARSUCK did indeed suck. My buddy Denis died. The first of the gang to die. Precious mate he was too. We were stupid and funny together. It is still unbelievable to me that he is gone. And now even the old venues are disapearing as the world gets ready for new peoples stories. Buildings cannot talk so we must speak for them. I am sure Belfast and beyond is full of people who have their own wee yarns to tell about evenings spent in pubs that were probably never all that good. I do not think that is an imminent qualification for a good memory though. Often the most vivid memories are not necessarily the best. Or even the worst.
                 Like moments lost in time.
                 Or Orpheus in the Underworld.
                 When the worst possible thing you can do is look back.