They, whoever ‘they’ may be, say never go back, at least I think ‘they’ say this. I take it to mean that if you have been somewhere, in this case, the west coast of Ireland and you’ve had a great time, as we did on our last visit (of course this requires an intact memory to make this judgement, not an automatic given in my case) but assuming I’m remembering it right, we had a great time, so we’ve come back to the very same place, the same house even. Something we’ve only ever done once before in our travelling lives, not including going back to staying with friends of course. That was Macrahenish (I think that’s how you spell it) on the Mull of Kyntyre and the old saying proved correct, it wasn’t as good the second time. Nuff said.It set me thinking – again, about whether this piece of advice applied more or less in retirement. Is there a danger when you’re seeking after the right kind of retirement, as I believe I am, to be more inclined to cling on to those experiences which seem in the right area satisfaction-wise? Those which have given pleasure / fulfilment in one’s short history of retirement. Question is, by clinging on to the experience and even trying to repeat it exactly, do we put the experience under more pressure than it can properly bear? By elevating it to a ‘this is precious’ status, do we risk the whole thing collapsing? Sounds a bit dramatic when I write it like that but I think it’s generally a fair question. Maybe not collapse but at least sag a tad. There is little doubt, in my experience at least, that seeking for perfection in retirement does make a person more needy and even more likely to clutch at the straws of a seemingly – past – ideal time.
Certainly this is relevant to our time here in Ireland in that we have done a number of things again that gave us pleasure on our last visit in May. Seems fair enough when you put it like that, I mean who wouldn’t repeat an activity that had worked for them before? One such experience was attending a Tuesday night concert. Now I’m not going to name the venue because I am not going to be very positive about this particular evening. Last time we went I couldn’t fault it, it was an excellent musical evening, but this time, it was frankly a disappointment. A number of factors contributed to this when I reflected on why I felt a little disgruntled (apart from being a miserable bastard, let me say that before you do).
First, the room was very crowded much more so than last time, it felt like they were trying to be a bit greedy packing in more and more people. The owner told us about the history of the beams above our heads (as he did last time, fair enough) when I looked up I was surprised to find that there weren’t any people up there. It was that full. Second, the last time we were here the band were a (professional) American group called Foghorn playing to a largely Irish audience. This time we had an (amateur) Irish trio playing to a largely American audience. There was something about these dynamics that didn’t work for me – I felt there was too much pandering to an American taste. I will say no more. Finally, and most importantly, and it pains me to say this, they weren’t very good. They were flat and lacked any kind of joy, no pizzaz and don’t get me going about being asked to join in with the chorus. I understand that I may be in a minority here and that this is very much ‘my’ problem. Nevertheless…
I won’t put any of this on Tripadvisor as they asked us to. So going back to this ‘concert’ and paying our 15 euros each, and this is relevant on account of what I’m going to write in a moment, didn’t work. But, as is often the case in our life experiences, there was a twist in the tale of this story. Earlier in the day I had had my second ever Irish guitar lesson from a guy called Gerry o’Beirne (look him up on Google or Youtube, he’s worth the effort). Now, in this case, the first time was very enjoyable and so was this time, no moral about not going back in this instance. So, conveniently ignoring this because it does not fit with my theory, not that I much like the theory much anyway, the lesson relates to what happened after the above concert. Gerry had told me that he was playing in a local pub (John Benny’s as in photo above), starting at 9.30 that very evening. In other words straight after the concert. So we and our two Australian chums (that’s them in other photo below and I can hear them thanking me for putting out this photo but the problem is when I came to write this blog I realised I had no photos of either band because I do not like to take pictures flashing (pardon the expression) in the face of the performers good or bad but don’t mind doing that with friends – they’re fair game) who are staying with us for part of this week, walked down the front at Dingle to Benny’s pub to listen to ‘my tutor’ playing guitar along with a musical partner whose name, I am slightly ashamed to say, I do not know.
Well, folks, here was everything that was lacking (in my humble opinion) from the first part of the evening, the fact that it was free is not strictly relevant here but it’s interesting nonetheless. First thing to say is that their ‘skill level’ was exceptionally high, to the point where we kept saying what are these two doing here? They played with pace, vigour, commitment, they had everything and more the first set of performers (and no slight on them) did not. They were just outstanding and the point, for this blog at least, is that we had more or less just randomly stumbled across them. OK, Gerry had mentioned it earlier in the day but that was in passing and getting there was all based on being there for the first concert – which he hadn’t recommended.
So this is a blog, the underpinning of which, is our retirement years. Always believing that this kind of experience is beyond coincidence and that some unseen hand has directed that it should be so, the question is – what can be learned about having a perfect(ish) retirement life from an experience such as this? Again it’s all a bit vague. Don’t bank on past successful experiences being repeatable and, being retired, do not grasp at past straws as the key to a happy future? In other words do not put too much weight on past successes just because you’re searching for something like perfection? Be prepared to take chances and see what number comes up on the wheel of fortune (as a self-confessed control freak I hate this one). I’m pretty sure there is more in this tale that I’ve excavated but as usual, I’m buggered if I know what. I may have said this before, but I’ll say bit again, retirement is a puzzling business.
PS. To the lady in the back row, it’s not appropriate to open a bag of sweets and then the sweet itself in the middle of a gentle Irish air no matter how indifferent the playing might be. To the tall guy in the back row, it’s your behaviour that earns your compatriots the reputation you have abroad even though you were squashed. Personally, I would have welcomed your head being further squashed. To the lady at the front complaining about the smell of the candles, I take your point but frankly, given the number of candles and the number of people packed in, we were lucky to get out without being incinerated. Count your blessings, so.
PPS. I’m writing this in the excellent Blasketts Centre and I don’t just say this because Christie might read it, it really is excellent.
To end on an appropriately positive note. For the romantics among you. We went into Dingle again yesterday, ostensibly to try and buy the CD Gerry had recommended which contained the tune – Lament for Limerick – that we had been playing. We couldn’t find it so, in order not to leave empty-handed, we bought a Chieftains album and another by Mazz who owns the shop where we bought them. We played the Chieftains as we drove home and as we crested the pass from Ventry to Dunquin Van the M (guesting) started to sing ‘Have I told you lately that I love you’. The ocean lay below us in the late afternoon sunlight, the Blasketts dotted like black pearls in a sea of silver – blimey – I had to pull over and drink it all in, it was a perfect moment. We almost held hands, a quick squeeze at the end, what a romantic old fool I am. I was so busy living in the moment that I forgot to take a photo by way of evidence. Who says retirement and romance cannot go hand in hand, not me, guv.