Saturday, February 20, 2021


I heard Sir Ray Davies’ classic, evocative song Days, the other day on the radio and it got me thinking of… well… days I suppose. I thought of the time when all the seven days of the week were as individual as shop-fronts, motor cars and hit singles.

I lways felt the first day of the week was a priceless gift.

Mondays were the start of a fresh week, a time for new ideas; new adventures; new thoughts, and even a kick-start to your week. If that didn’t work for you then they were great days to just stay in and wait for the Eircom guy to phone you back and explain why the internet highway had, once again, failed to make it all the way to Donegal. Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get me Down by The Carpenters is a perfect record for a Monday, or any day of the week for that matter. Any day is always a great day to take solace in Karen Carpenter’s pure yet soulful voice. For a comparable car I’ve always associated the Austin A40 with the first day of the week if only because it was my dad’s first car. Thankfully he spared us the threatened Ford Anglia.

Tuesday Afternoon by the magnificent Moodies, a.k.a. The Moody Blues, heralded the day, which sadly usually turned out to be a day as disappointed with their station (assuming of course days can be disappointed in themselves) as someone might who came before or after a sibling. That is to say they were neither the first nor the last, which of course was no big deal unless you chose to make it so. I nominate Tuesday’s twinned automobile an Yves Klein shade of blue (I’m dreaming of course) Volkswagen Beetle.

Wednesdays always seemed to be trying to prolong their worth, while attempting to shun it’s “mid” - as in midweek - prefix. At the same time the midweek football match was always a treat. Wednesdays were also the perfect night for the telly, including, Colin Dexter and John Thaw’s classic, timeless series, Morse. Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. by Simon & Garfunkel and a maroon Jaguar MK 2 (but only if the cream leather seats smelt factory new) completed my midweek soundtrack and picture. Every day had to have some kind of badge of honour and Wednesday’s badge was most definitely the Jag, if only because there would always be something special about a Wednesday but, just like Morse’s maroon Jag, you’d have to look just that wee bit closer to enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling.

If you ask me, Thursdays were always a wee bit too cheeky for their own good and were never above trying to steal some of Friday’s thunder. Thursday’s car definitely has to be a Vauxhall VX 490 though, racing green with white side flashes. Both the car and the song, (Thursday) Here’s Why I Didn’t Go To Work Today, by Harry Nilsson, helped catch Thursday’s mood perfectly.

It’s Finally Friday, by George Jones…thanks to the Ready Steady Go TV show, Friday was always blessed with The Weekend Starts Here tagline. Yet another work week had sailed smoothly (or otherwise) to a close. A worthy BIG day even without Miss Cathy McGowan. Definitely the ideal day for the eternal Mercedes SL200 (preferably with the soft top down).

Saturday Night at The Movies by The Drifters perfectly celebrated the most anticipated day of the hallowed seven. Equally Saturday’s preferred car just has to be a red and white Vauxhall Cresta complete with white-walled tyres. The design was obviously nicked from the USA, and that isn’t meant to be a negative because it was the coolest looking saloon ever manufactured in the UK. The Cresta was a vital addition to the exceptional composition of the penultimate day of the week. Saturday was meant to be a play day, a chore-free day but there were always too many things that had built up over the week which needed to be done, just absolutely had to be done, if only to ensure the Sabbath’s tag of, day of rest (and worship) was valid. You didn’t mind all the extra chores, including a visit to the laundrette, though, because Saturday night would always be a night out and you didn’t mind how late you stayed out because…

…Sunday’s permitted lie-in, late breakfast and a few hours with the papers were the perfect lazy start to your final day of the week. And if you still weren’t in gear then a nap on the sofa, in front of the fire, after a large lunch, wasn’t out of the question. Car-wise think of one of the woodie station wagons that Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda might have driven… for instance a 1950s Plymouth Special Deluxe and, ideally, with Sunday Morning Coming Down by Kris Kristofferson on the car radio.

Nowadays, days seems to lack of individuality. In fact they seem to be so bland, that if you blink you could miss where one ends and the next one starts. Talking about lacking in character, beauty or charm, the current crop of automobiles - the majority of which seem to be 4x4 vehicles, more like eight legged rhinos - all appear to come from the same drawing board, where, really… they should have remained.

But surely Monday to Sunday should be allowed to be much more than what has become, undistinguishable 24 hour periods where you monitor fingernail, hair, and toe nail growth?

The other major worry is that these days, without their own unique character, now flash past in such a blur with no respect whatsoever for how many daily cycles you may have remaining in your life. I mean we humans really need our individual days. We need to embrace them, nurture them, and savour them and to take care to tick them off one by one, if only so we can consider them as… well… days.

So, let’s re-introduce, and celebrate, their uniqueness and spend them well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Dawn of Fruupp


To celebrate the release of Maid in Ireland, a new Fruupp compilation released on 24.07.20 by those good people at Esoteric Records, I include below a piece I did on the origins of Fruupp as part of the sleeve notes for the new CD. This is the first Fruupp complication to feature the remastered versions of the songs which were undertaken for the 2010 re-releases of the original four albums. The Dawn of Fruupp is included here by kind permission of Esoteric Records.

I met Vince McCusker in September 1964 when I moved from the Intermediate School in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, fifty yards back towards the town centre, to the Technical College. Vince was from the neighbouring village of Maghera and he played guitar. At that point I was into Ray Charles, Hank William, Otis Redding, Beatles, Kinks, Them and Dylan. Vince was more of a Rolling Stones fan and into RnB. I imagine through our shared interest of both music and the beautiful girls of the Tech College we became mates and good friends. 

For the annual college Christmas concert, in 1965, we formed a wee group called Goggles Anonymous – we all wore glasses and Hedgehoppers Anonymous were enjoying the first and only flush of UK chart success at that time. I still can’t remember exactly my (non-performing) involvement in the group bar the fact that I owned a copy of the Beach Boys Sloop John B, the song Goggles Anonymous performed at the concert. Anyway, on the appointed night, I do remember a lot of screaming from the audience. Either the audience were screaming as they had seen people do on TV to the Beatles, or, they were screaming in horror at the harmonies. I’m prepared to give GA the benefit of the doubt on that one. 

Christmas over, Vince and three of his mates from Maghera and one of their mates from The Rainey School, formed a group called the Blues by Five. There were five of them and they played their version of the Blues.

Things were so simple in those days.

The Blues by Five’s material was based on the Them Again album, Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Ray Charles and songs from a compilation called, Ireland’s Greatest Sounds. I went to hear the group. They were excellent musicians, had a great sound, and they had Paddy Shaw, one of the best singers I’ve ever witnessed live. The remaining Northern Irish singers in my Top 4 would have been: Paul DiVito (The Interns) Billy Brown (The Freshmen) and Van Morrison (Them).

The Blues by Five rehearsed a lot but didn’t play many gigs. Luckily enough a fine gentleman by the name Dixie Kerr lived two doors down from me. Dixie played saxophone in The Breakaways showband. So, I knocked on his door and asked if he could give the Blues by Five the relief spot at some of the dances The Breakaways were playing. Dixie being Dixie said, “Why of course.” 

The Blues by Five were delighted at the several bookings I’d secured for them and immediately appointed me as their manager. I was 15 years old at the time. The Blues by Five were to be Vince and my first steps in the music business. 

I left Magherafelt in Sept 1967 (quite literally) to head to London so that I’d be able to see the Beatles live on a weekly basis.

Or so I thought.

In those days it took a long while for the buzz on the biz to reach Ulster. I arrived at Euston Station only to discover the Beatles had stopped touring a few months previously. 

Not to worry, sure weren’t there lots of other groups to see and hear. Pretty soon I was a regular at the Marquee Club and writing a weekly music column for Belfast’s City Week which eventually became Thursday Magazine. 

Vince started to visit London and would always crash at my flat in Wimbledon. He’d work late into the night on a bunch of songs he was writing for a group he was thinking of forming back in Belfast.  

I thought these songs, Decision, Garden Lady, and Olde Tyme Future, were brilliant. Vince’s main concern was he felt that they might be a wee bit too progressive for the Irish Market.  

So, we hatched our plan. Vince would return to Belfast and form his new group. I would set up a few gigs for them in London and I would bring some managers and record companies down to see them. They, Fruupp, would get signed up, go on to fame and fortune and I’d happily continue with my writing. Sadly, it didn’t really happen that way and so, by default, I became the manager, the agent, the roadie, the sound engineer, the lyricist, the writer of the stories that linked the songs on stage, and… the last one to be paid.  

Fifty years later they’re selling more CDs than they ever did back in the day! (a clue to this phenomenon might just be that CDs didn’t come along until the mid-1980s!) 

Which all brings us nicely to our latest collection, Maid In Ireland. Maid in Ireland was a title we had picked and reserved for a live album, should we ever do one. And we did.  Well at least we recorded one. We recorded the band at the legendary Friars Aylesbury, on Sat 6th December 1975. Sadly, the tapes, along with all my worldly possessions, were destroyed by a fire in my flat in Peckham the follow year.

I believe the title also covers this selection perfectly. Peter Farrelly’s wonderful Fruupp’s Face on the cover was ever present in everything we did. As it was when I was listening to the songs for this collection. 

Prince of Heaven is unique for two reasons in that this song, a synopsis if you will, of the story I wrote to be the basis for our third album, The Prince of Heaven’s Eyes, didn’t appear on the actual album. It is also the only Fruupp song written and composed by the four original members of the group. 

The idea for Sheba’s Song came from a news story I read in The Daily Mirror about a wild cat’s escape from a zoo. I just love what the band did with the chase and capture sections of the song. Musically it’s always been so visual to me. I’ve often wondered what rap artist Talib Kweli heard when he first came upon the track and decided to sample it for Soon the New Day, a line (taken from the original lyric) he used for his title. I found it very refreshing that Talib and his people were very generous to us with credits and publishing.    

“Another day begins the same 

The things you do you’ll do again.”  

Two lines from Ivan “Touche” Valley’s beautiful poem, which was the inspiration behind Vince’s song, Decision. I always found Vince’s music to be passionately visual and that he should have been writing music for films. Decision has to be included in any Fruupp collection as it really is the best of Fruupp 

Until the next time, 

stay safe. 



Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Glastonbury Acoustic Stage Playlist (1993 - 2019)


So, this is the day we would usually be heading down to Glastonbury to get set up at the Acoustic Stage for the weekend.

Sadly, this weekend, like everything else in the live music world, has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus 19.

The plan is to repeat the 2020 bill as fully as possible in 2021. We’d a brilliant bill lined up so that’s something to look forward to.

So, in the meantime, and in an attempt to fit in with the current celebrations, please see below a playlist picked from some of the top performances we’ve enjoyed over the years up at the Acoustic Stage

Based on memories of special performances. Sequenced from an airplay, and not a priority, perspective. (Honestly!)

1.   The Moody Blues (featuring Michael Eavis) - Questions

2.   The Waterboys – The Whole of The Moon

3.   Art Garfunkel (featuring the entire packed Acoustic Tent audience covering Paul Simon parts) - The Sounds of Silence

4.   The Bootleg Beatles – Something

5.   Keane – Somewhere Only We Go.

6.   Christy Moore – Beeswing

7.   Nick Lowe – Indian Queens

8.   Paul Carrack – Satisfy My Soul

9.   Proclaimers – Letter From America

10.                Suzanne Vega – Marlene On The Wall

11.                Sharon Shannon - Music on a Found Harmonium

12.                Joan Baez – Day After Tomorrow

13.                Ray Davies – Waterloo Sunset

14.                Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - Rotterdam

15.                Lonnie Donegan – Rock Island Line

16.                Hothouse Flowers – Don’t Go

17.                Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames – Yeh Yeh

18.                Alan Price Set - Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear

19.                Tommy Stewart - Let You Go (best Demo of 2019)

20.                Lucy Rose - Shiver

21.                Portishead – Sour Times

22.                Penguin CafĂ© Orchestra – Music on a Found Harmonium


Please note this is a slightly different version than the list on the Glastonbury Website, which had to concentrate on Spotify versions of the songs.  I know, I know, and I agree with you that it’s a shame they don’t (yet) have the Moody Blues featuring Michael Eavis’s version of Questions on Spotify. Nor do they have The Acoustic Stage Audience filling in for the absent Paul Simon on Art Garfunkel’s version of The Sounds of Silence. A historic performance from Art and his special 6000-member choir on a historic night. Both of these one-night-only-performances can be viewed on YouTube, as can Tommy Stewart (2019’s best demo). Tommy is well worth checking out.

Big big thanks to Michael, Emily, Nick and the entire Glastonbury team for producing all the virtual activity to comfort us all over this weekend. We needed it.

Roll on June 2021.

Stay Safe



Thursday, June 11, 2020

What's Happened to The Checkers

Here’s One I Prepared Earlier.



So, I have to apologise, for my lack of blogs in this space for a while now. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the lockdown. It has more to do with the last few pieces I have written for this space have ended up elsewhere. Mark Twain with a Martin G28 and I Can’t Dance both went to Hot Press Magazine. Writing a Crime Novel is Like Jumping off a Diving Board appeared on the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine website and, The Genesis of the Abbey Road Graffiti appeared on the Irish Times website.

I promised myself that the next one would be for my own website. But then I discovered this piece I wrote in November 1997 BB. (BB as in Before Blogs.)

It concerns a visit I made, while I was clearly under the weather, to NYC. I’d been mugged in NYC (which I wrote about in Mugged in Manhattan Blues - a 2015 blog) but I was clearly also distracted on this visit.

Until the next one - which will be appearing very shortly, I promise, to celebrate the release of a new FRUUPP compilation CD by those very nice people at Esoteric Records - please stay safe. Anyway, here it is, exactly as it was written in November 1997.





What's happened to the Checkers?




I've been wandering around the streets of New York City this time, trying to figure out what's wrong. Yes, I am feeling a bit ill and, agreed, I'm missing a new love, back in London.  But I don't mean wrong in that way. I mean, what's wrong with New York City?  The smell is different. The street scents no longer gouging recklessly at the insides of your nostrils, while making your heart beat faster as you search in vain for that rare fresh air.  NYC now smells like a European city; no good, or bad, thing I think.


The street attitude is definitely still there, but no longer as threatening.  I was mugged in Times Square a few years ago on what was 'til then, one of my frequent visits to the city and, to be honest, I'd never felt ill at ease until that time.  Maybe it was because the musicians I was hanging out with were nice people and this was their city and they went out of their way to make me feel welcome.


Broadway's many cinemas seem to have been razed to the ground to make space for the likes of the Virgin Megastore and the Waldorf Hotel.  On the other end of the scale and the opposite side of Times Square, I see that Paul Simon, a very fine songwriter of the parish, has a musical, 'Capeman', opening very soon and I find myself making a mental note to try and blag a pre-release cassette of the music from a friend at the once elegant Warner Bros. This will have to wait a few days, until I visit the other side of this ginormous (an Ulster word combining the largeness of gigantic and the power of enormous) country in the City of Angels, a location now more favoured in my itinerary.


But back to New York City and what's wrong with it.  Even my trips to Coliseum Books and Colony Records were a let-down this time. At this point I should admit to you, normally, on reaching my hotel in Manhattan one can hear two thuds. One; my case hitting the floor and two; the door closing after me as I rush out of the hotel, high on adrenalin, to visit the aforementioned shops of words and music. And again, usually having a mental fight as to which one I'm going to visit first. This time it took me nearly forty-eight hours before heading in their direction, and in the end, although with good intentions, I didn't even manage to make one of them at all.


True, Coliseum Books had several titles I wanted to purchase but I decide my trip will be easier, luggage-wise, if I don't flex the plastic until I reach Hollywood, the movie capital of the world. My eye was caught by a few titles including another tasteless JFK expose, a true-crime book called Big Trouble - a Very big book at that, with 875 pages, and, the new Michael Connelly, Trunk Music, which I’m really looking forward to. In fact, my solitary purchase in Coliseum Books was an audio version of 'Wobegon Boy'. Audio Books in reality are not great for in-flight distraction, although I mostly purchase them thinking they are going to be exactly that and end up listening to them while walking about Regent's Park and Primrose Hill.


What else was there? You know, I can't recall now, but I do remember that there were at least half a dozen I resolved to purchase in Book Soup on Sunset Blvd and have my friend ship them back to me in London. I did, however, notice a couple of 'Conversations with God' (Vols 1 &  2). The author, and father of nine children (you'd think he would have at least created his very own set of apostles by going for the full dozen) Neale Donald Walsh does look like a chap who would have a conversation (several in fact) with God - good luck to him, is all I'd like to say. I searched for a new Robert James Waller (sadly there was no new volumes to be found) I do like his conversational style of writing.  I searched for 'I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass' and didn't find a copy, so I comforted myself with two thoughts. One, they were probably sold out and two, I now didn't have to embarrass myself in public by moving it to the front of the shelf!


Apart from that, the staff didn't seem as friendly as they appeared twenty years ago, but then the world is not as friendly a place as it was twenty years ago, so what are you going to do about it? Mope? In which case, I really do need to get out of the house a bit more. But you know, really, I think bookstores are places like doctors' surgeries; lawyers' offices; accountants' paying desks; dentists' waiting rooms; restaurants; hotels and undertakers' parlours where you need to be able to talk to the staff. Not the owners, just the staff.  The owners treat you like you're part of the whole wide world and not actually an individual.  No, you need to be able to be involved in more of an interface than the one which came over the Public Address system when I was in the shop.


'Would Mr. Johansson ... who is from Sweden,' then a pause for you to fill in your own snigger. 'Please come to the cash desk, where his wife,' another well placed pause for some more sniggering, 'is waiting for him! Thankyou!'


Was his wife Swedish? Had she forgotten what her husband looked like? Couldn't she go looking for him? Was she afraid she might find him in the dirty books section? Or worse still in the Jeffrey Archer section?


The final words I heard on placing my prized audio, 'Wobegon Boy' on the sales counter was, '29.95 plus tax.' Then, with the aid of a calculator, 'That will be thirty two dollars and forty two cents.' And that was it, well unless you count the additional words on the receipt as communication.


'Absolutely No Cash Refunds!!!!' (their exclamation marks not mine) 'Store credit with Sales receipt within one (1) month of purchase.'  And, 'I agree to pay the above total amount according to the card issuer agreement.' Yeah, and if I don't they'll give me back my money, but they can't can they? 'Absolutely No Cash Refunds!!!!' That was it, apart from, just in case you're interested, the fact that my sales assistant was in fact Clerk No. 1 and finally (I promise) 'Pub Overstock (Yellow Label) 10% Off. Thankyou!!!' (I think they were also probably suffering from a computer overstock of exclamation marks!)  'Please come again.'


Well after doing exactly that for just over half a lifetime, I'm hardly going to stop, am I? Assuming, that is of course, I come back to NYC at all.  Such thoughts of non-return fill my head as I take off in the general direction of Colony Records. Colony records is the very shop where I collected my original US Beatle vinyl, (very different from the UK releases) some of my Dylan non-catalogue releases and my mint Gilbert O'Sullivan 'Himself'', a genuine classic and the very heavy vinyl made me feel that the extortionate price I paid may have been justified after all. This list would, and surely does, run.  But it won't be added to on this trip. I'm not in the mood. I give it (the shop) a wide berth and I continue to wander around, filling up the time until my next meeting.


I decide to make my way up to Fifty-Eight Street and Avenue of the Americas. What a grand name for a street... Avenue of the Americas. Why couldn't O'Connell Street in Dublin be called, 'Eire Avenue'?' or Oxford Street in London be called 'The Street of England'. Mind you, there is a quaint street which borders Primrose Hill with Belsize Park Avenue called, 'England's Lane'. Lovely. Anyway, back to New York City, as I was saying I made my way up to 58th Street in search to a chemist.


I was not looking forward to my flight over America, a cold-cum-flu bug I'd had before leaving London had left me pretty blocked up. Landing at JFK had been anything but pleasant. So unpleasant I would have swapped five visits to the dentists to avoid it... let me tell you about dentists some time, soon, perhaps. I don't feel we know each other well enough yet) I literally thought my head was going to blow open. I sucked a sweet. When that didn't work, I sucked my thumb. When that didn't work, I yawned. When that didn't work I sucked another sweet.  On and on it went for an excruciating twenty seven and one half minutes; I think I counted every second of it. So to say I was not looking forward to my flight to Los Angeles is in fact something of an understatement.


I rang my friend in Los Angeles. He’s a very excellent manager of one of my clients to boot. I told him my problem. He thought about it and then recommended this herbal (plus) tea called something like 'Clear Head'.


'The only problem with it,' he explained via our inter-continental call, 'is it will make you a bit argy, a bit hyper, but it will definitely clear your head.'


I had a problem with that. Basically, I don't like taking medication of any kind because I don't trust what the meds are doing to the rest of your system to make one part of it feel better.  I know it doesn't make a lot of logical sense, but there you have it. I've been like that all my life and I'm less inclined, if anything, to change now.


'Okay, I hear you. There's this other thing I've just tried,' he continued. You see, there, in that one sentence you have the reason why I like the man so much. He is always the first person on the block to know about new things.  He turned me on to the Walkman, to Gameboy, to Rumpole and to fruit crate labels. I mean, the list really does go on and on but anyone of the above would have been more than enough for me.


'Yeah, there's this new thing they developed for astronauts that's just come on the market and they're called "Ear Planes".'


One thing you learn to do when you are desperate is not to laugh at your friends, besides in the fifteen years or so I'd known him he'd never let me down.


'Aha.' I tried to sound enthusiastic but it's hard you know, I mean "Ear Planes". Please? Come on.


'Yeah, they're like plastic things your put in your ears, just before taking off and they protect you from the change in pressure. Not all chemists have them.'


Now there's a surprise. This thought I kept to myself though as we discussed where I could get them. Basically with the help of the hotel concierge, one hour later, I enter Windsor Chemists and was heartened to find they have friendly, helpful staff. The assistant advises me that they do have "Ear Planes" and they do work. He'd used them three times (successfully) himself.  As I wait for him to fetch me three packets (hey, if they work that well they'll make great Christmas presents). A French man came up to address the other assistant who was equally friendly.


The French man explained he had a bad cold and with the sound of his voice and all his coughing and spluttering, I'm inclined to take his word for it and divert my gaze in the opposite direction.  That's a funny thing you know, well it's not funny really, more like strange, you know, how come people who work in chemists don't get every disease under the sun? They have to stand close to all these bug-infected people to discover the ailment and then, hopefully, find and sell them a cure. I wonder what sick leave is like for employees of chemists. So, the second assistant goes into this pitch on Mycinetes (sugar free lozenges). I mean I was prepared to believe they could do everything short of curing cancer. Hey, you know that's probably how chemists’ assistants stay healthy: they all take Mycinetes.  Good enough for chemist assistants, good enough for me! So, when my chap returns, I order a pack and a tube of Nivea Cream.


I didn't need Nivea Cream you have to understand but I happen to believe it is the wonder drug of our times.  I'm convinced if I could find a way of applying it to the inside of my (very sore) throat it would heal my ailment over-night, if not sooner.  So, a happier man, a much happier man, I depart the Chemist and continue my search to find out what's happened to New York City.


On the corner of the next block, I discover exactly what it is. In fact, I am very nearly run over by what it is not. I'd better explain, hadn't I? I was very nearly run over by a taxi, a New York taxi, but not the New York Taxi.  No, since my last visit, the famous Checker has been replaced by new Fords, Ford Crown Victorias to be exact. Still yellow, like the Checkers, and even though not one of them is yet a year old, they all have several dents about their frontage.


You can imagine the drivers in the car showrooms buying their new cabs, can't you? You can further imagine the John Cleese's Fawlty Towers' salesman wringing his hand in glee as he offers, "Wonderful vehicle, complete with the signature egg crate grill, powerful and efficient Continental Engine and don't forget the vital double rear, fold-down, jump seats. I can guarantee multiple bangs for your bucks with this particular model, Sir." "Yes, they're all lovely, but do you have one with a dent?" the buyer would ask. To which Basil Fawlty would manically reply, "No Sir, but just give me a minute while a fetch a hammer and I can add two dents for the price of one for you. Yes, here we go. And where exactly would you like the dents? How about here, Sir?" Smash, wallop. "Yes, that's it, that'll do great. I'll take that one please." the happy cabbie would grunt as he signed on the dotted line.

The Checker Marathon, to give it its full title, was manufactured from 1960 through to 1982. It was truly a head turning motor vehicle, but not head-turning in an Exorcist kind of way. No, not at all, but, alas, it will turn heads no more.  


The Checkers are all gone! 

Apparently, a few do remain venturing out only at night, but New York's second (to the Empire State Building) tourist attraction is gone and I'm absolutely gutted.  New York without the Checkers is like London without the black cabs; Dublin without a friendly greeting; Liverpool without the Beatles; Edinburgh without the castle; or, Morse without the Jaguar. A client and friend of mine, Loudon Wainwright III owned one, a Checker that is, and I suppose I'd become quite attached to the iconic vehicle. 


I also remember this one great Thanksgiving where The Roches borrowed Loudon's Checker to drive a bunch of us up to their parent’s house in Rochester for dinner. Everyone in the Checker, with the obvious exception of myself, was female and it was the first time I had experienced girls enjoying just a great, old, day out.  I couldn't work out if it was a sign of the times or merely the influence of the good old Checker. But now the Checker, Loudon's and New York's, were gone and it just wasn't, nor would ever would be the same.


I left New York City the following evening, happy and sad.  Happy because the "Ear Planes" worked perfectly and I could now tick a few friends off my Christmas present list. Sad because the yellow wonders were all gone. I wondered if they were gone for good, (that's a hell of a lot of cars to get rid of) or would public opinion force them back on to the street. The Louise Woodward case showed us just how powerful people-power has become. Will Checkers make a comeback in a few years’ time, appearing on the Letterman Show or on a U2 stage set? I don't know.  But I do know that their disappearance is one in a growing number of reasons why not to hurry back to New York City, Ear Planes or no Ear Planes.



Thursday, December 12, 2019

Sadly 'Twas Not To Be A Silent Night

It’s that time of the year again when Catherine and I head off to Santa Monica. We set off on our annual adventure for two reasons mainly: 1) to avoid the bad weather and 2) to enjoy a feast of movies lining up for Oscar to give them a nod, if not a nomination.

So far I’ve enjoyed The Irishman; It’s a Beautiful Morning in the Neighbourhood; The Marriage (which without it’s embarrassing dragging-you-out-of-the-fantasy, OTT Karaoke, moment, would have been an Oscar contender); Maiden; Queen and Slim; Parasite; After Parkland; Where’s My Roy Cohn; Dark Water and Knives Out.

It’s too early to tell yet if The Two Popes will walk away with all of the Oscars – it’s most certainly, at the very least, a masterclass in film-making and acting.

However I feel I should reserve my final opinion until after I see Clint Eastwood’s latest, Richard Jewell, which will be his 38th film as a director, most of which could/would/should have been contenders, as in fact quite a few were. Plus, there will be the usual rush of Christmas Day Blockbusters. Christmas Day seems to be the final day to release a film the studios feel worthy of Oscar consideration. It’s always a bad sign when a much talked about project is announced as having a Jan or Feb release. That’s usually a sign that the final product has turned out to be… well maybe the best way to put it would be to say that it’s not all that the studio and/or director hoped it would be.

I wonder what BMG/Sony Classics feel about a recent co-production of theirs? It was entitled David Crosby: Remember My Name. Cros, as he’s known backstage, was one fifth of the Byrds; one quarter of CSN& Y; one third of Crosby, Stills & Nash; one half of Crosby & Nash and now, that he is touring under his own name, is down to just the one.  I represented CSN and C&N for many a year.

The film was released last Friday 6th December. It’s playing in one cinema in Los Angeles – the funky and friendly Lamelle in Santa Monica. The cinema is fine, I love it, but to put it on at 9.55 p.m. for its single nightly screening, it’s well… well let’s put it this way, at least they didn’t release it on the following Friday. (Friday the 13th!)

Anyway I arrived at the Lamelle early to ensure my seat. I was expecting the screening to be sold out.  As it turned out I was so early I was able to watch an earlier screening of the Wolf Hour and still have time for a cup of tea between features. But I really needn’t have worried about getting there early.


The cinema was embarrassing empty. Monty Python’s dead parrot hadn’t even bothered to turn up.

So what about the film, PC?

Okay… well I felt it looked great, beautifully shot. I thought he was painfully honest; maybe too honest if I too, can be too honest.

“Why are you still working?” the interviewer asked after discovering Cros has had three heart attacks, is a diabetic, has several stints in his heart and just about to embark on a six week tour. “I need money to put food on the table and pay the mortgage,” Cros replied.

Okay he’s honest but I can hear a loud but rolling down the nearby Route 66?

But… for all of that I didn’t feel he came across as a nice man. 

I didn’t see the point in not showing the other side of the man.

Crosby although usually very cutting is also, really a very funny man. “What’s the main difference between CSN and CSN&Y?” he was once asked. He thought for a few moments before replying, “Oh about $650,000 a night.”   

In my book David Crosby is one of the benchmark artists of our era. If Only I Could Remember My Name, his first solo album, is an amazing piece of work. It’s a breakthrough album of an artist pushing the boundaries of making music while, at the same time, delivering a masterpiece that is revolutionary yet still manages to be so pleasing to the ear. Like all classic albums If Only I Could Remember My Name continues to sound stunning. It’s mentioned in the documentary, but kinda like only in passing. It would be like doing a documentary about Van Morrison and not making a fuss over Astral Weeks.

Crosby’s soulful harmony work with Graham Nash took what the Everly Bros were doing and still managed to up the ante. Crosby & Nash were the go-to harmony guys for everyone making music on the LA/Laurel Canyon scene in the 1970s and 80s as proven by the number of album-sleeve-credits they have to their names.

David Crosby may be, by his own omission, his own worst enemy, but why focus on one aspect of his life at the expense of the great music he made over the decades? Does doing so make this a better film? I certainly didn’t think so.

The film also shows the final performance of CSN. They appeared at the White House on December 26th, 2015, to preform Silent Night for the Obamas and their friends. Their performance is so excruciating out of tune that even the president and some of his guests are witnessed (on camera and in turn on the screen during this film) grimacing in apparent pain. What is the point in showing that?

As I mentioned I worked with Crosby Stills and Nash as their agent and also as promoter for a good few years. I have had the pleasure of witnessing at least a hundred of their concerts all over the world and please believe me these boys do not know how to sing out of tune. While I was watching the Remember My Name film clip of the White House performance I tried to focus in on Graham’s voice, he seemed fine. I then focused on Crosby’s voice, he seemed fine. I didn’t have time to pay the same attention to Stephen Stills and I couldn’t hear his voice as clearly. On the walk back along the beach from the cinema I thought about the Silent Night performance quite a bit.   

Now as you know I do love a good conspiracy theory. I still believe that the president who pulled the trigger on JFK is still on the run, hiding out somewhere… sorry… sorry… let’s backtrack there a wee bit. Did I actually say the president who pulled the trigger… of course I meant to say the person who pulled the trigger, as in the person who pulled the trigger is still on the run?  I’ve obviously been reading too many Phillip L. Nelson books for my own good.
But let’s get back to CSN’s dubious harmonies. What if someone in one of the best harmony groups the world has ever known didn’t want to be there in the White House singing Silent Night? Or, what if one of them was so annoyed by one of his colleagues, he just didn’t want to be singing with him? I mean David’s falling out with Graham (and with Neil Young) are so well (not to mention embarrassingly) documented all over the internet.

I’m just saying… but my main point being: why include the clip in the David Crosby documentary in the first place?

Surely at the very least we’re entitled to a more balanced view of the man and his musical heritage?

Happy Holidays.

Until the next time…




Monday, August 12, 2019

Even Golfers Get The Blues

So here’s the thing: I’m not a big golf fan. I’ve never played golf. I do enjoy watching it on television though. I will admit that I did once enjoy a glorious day in LA with two artist-managers on a golf course. But my enjoyment was entirely down to the fact that they let me drive them around the course in a golf-buggy. I should also admit here that I’ve never driven a car in my life, so that’s why it was such a buzz. Maybe I should have forewarned them that I am a big Formula One fan. Either I scared the Bejesus out of them or they were actually crap golfers. I have to say they did talk a great game and knew exactly where they were going wrong. So fair play to them.

But, let’s get back to my reason for being in Portrush. I’m a big fan of Rory McIlroy. It’s partly to do with the fact that a) he’s world class in his chosen arena and b) he is an Ulsterman. For the exact same reasons I’d also include in that list: George Best; Alex Higgins; Seamus Heaney and Van Morrison.

One of my fictional detectives, McCusker, was originally from Portrush. He was a social golfer, so social he lost his first wife and all his property over the game. McCusker is also a big fan of Rory, Alec and George. Musically speaking he’d be more of a fan of Rory Gallagher, Planxty and Christy Moore. I’m currently working on the third McCusker Mystery, Hi Love, You Just Dropped Your Glove. In the course of this mystery, McCusker is based in Portrush and I’ve been visiting “The Port” - as I used to do most of the summers of my youth with my family - to do some catch-up research. When I was there last summer for a few days, working out locations and trying to discover the locals’ favourite haunts rather that the tourist trail, I heard all about the town being rebuilt (pretty much) for this year’s Open Golf Tournament when the game would return to Portrush for the first time in 68 years.

I decided I would return this summer myself and visit the Open as McCusker might have done. Which was all well and good, but instead of booking accommodation last year, I left it to spring of this year by which time not only were all the hotels quadruple their normal price, and you have to book for a min of four nights, but they were already all booked out and when I asked a few of them if I could go on their waiting list, I’d hear them laugh as they set the phone down.

What was available though was Glamping; glamorous camping, luxury under the canvas. It was also affordable. But those two facts should have been clues; Big clues.

On Thursday morning (18th July 2019) at crack of dawn I caught the Red Eye to George Best Airport, Belfast, stopped off for a visit with my dad in Magherafelt and then, late in the afternoon I travelled on up to Portrush. I arrived at the Glamping site in the wind and rain at five o’clock. The entrance to the site was ankle deep in muck and the grass on the way to the tent was calf-long and soaking wet. The tent was very primitive. Very unglamorous dare I say, even very un-luxurious. The father and son owners however were extremely nice and helpful. I left my case in the tent and caught the shuttle down to the outskirts of Portrush. I had planned to stay in my tent for an hour or two to settle in before heading down to the Port, but to put it purely and simply, there was absolutely nowhere to sit in the tent and the bed was an air bed and quite impossible to sit on. I was later to discover it was even more uncomfortable to sleep on, but more about that at lights out.

I was going into Portrush so all was good.

Every time I go to Portrush I get very excited. There is just something magical about the Port. There always has been from when I was a kid and it still hasn’t worn off. This time was no exception. In a break between the showers I passed the hive of activity that was the Royal Golf Club. I continued on into the town along the East Strand beach, past what used to be the entrance to the Arcadia Ballroom where I’d spent manys a happy night listening to the likes of Billy Brown and The Freshmen. The Freshmen were one of the few great showbands - so great in fact that the dancers used to stop dancing and just listen to the band. No mean feat nailing all those feet to the floor. Now all remains of the once glorious ballroom is the entrance-hall section, which before it was the entrance hall to a ballroom used to be the ladies changing rooms for their outside pool.

I was, as they say locally, famished, so I stopped off at the 55 Degrees North restaurant to get a quick bite. The food hit the spot and the waitresses were, as usual, extremely friendly. Now I was properly equipped to head off for a dander around the town. Portrush, thanks to Rory McIlroy’s efforts in helping secure The Open’s visit, had enjoyed a complete facelift - a long overdue facelift. I stopped off at a wee antique store. The owner told me that the council had paid for every shop owner (who wanted) to have the front of the store done up.

To be honest I had quite expected the town to be heaving. This was not the case. The streets were relatively empty. All the people who were visiting for the golf were still up at the Royal Golf Club. The Club had a strict no-pass out rule that the local business people were up in arms about. “How can we make money if none of these people are allowed to come out and do a wee bit of shopping?”       

The owner of the antique store, like a lot of the traders I spoke to, felt that even with their own numbers down this weekend, the actual benefit of The Open was going to be more of long term project.

Anyway, in an effort to lift their spirits I did a wee bit of shopping myself, then made my way across town to Barry’s Amusements, which over-looked the West Strand and the picturesque harbour. Barry’s Amusements Arcade is the most exciting place in Northern Ireland… or so I once thought.

It was empty!

I mean it wasn’t actually empty as in absolutely without punters. There were (literally) a few people. I’m talking thirty patrons at the very most. I’ve been visiting Barry’s since the early 60s and I have never seen so few people in there in my life. I couldn’t believe it.

“Where is everyone?” I asked the man in the information booth. Well that’s what an information booth is for, isn’t it?

“I’ve worked here for over eleven years and I’ve never seen it this empty,” he replied.

“But what about the golf influx?”

‘They’re all stuck up at the Royal and once they leave the Royal there are no pass-outs, so they can’t return to the course for the remainder of the day. The ones who are coming out are more used to the likes of Disneyworld, so Barry’s isn’t really high on their bucket list.”

I offered my condolences and said hopefully it’ll be better over the weekend. He said he hoped so but doubted it.

“Is there a chance it’ll have to close,” I asked, fearing if they can’t pull a crowd from the influx they might be in danger.

‘Heaven’s no, not at all. This is just one weekend, every other weekend Easter to September, we’re absolutely heaving in here.”

I walked further along the beach in the direction of the harbour, all the time shocked by the lack of people, while at the same time scouting out locations and characters for my McCusker Mystery. I came across the town’s new super duper big wheel. It was merrily spinning away. On closer examination I realised it was devoid of people, aka customers. It was as empty as it would have been on the streets of Bodie, Califonia.

There were absolutely no people in the big wheel’s buckets - or whatever it is they call those pods that humans sit in.

A man licking a 99 infused ice-cream cone saw me staring up at the wheel in amazement.

“Why do you think they have it spinning with no people in it?” he asked.

“As an advertisement to potential customers,” I offered hopefully.

Nope,” he replied, “if you go further down to the green there you’ll see that the BBC TV One Show is broadcasting on location tonight, and if they have the wheel spinning in the background then people out there in TV land will think Portrush is thriving and want to visit here. It’s all part of a cover-up”

Oh I do love a good conspiracy theory.

I wandered on chatting to people as I made my way over to the crowd gathered for BBC TV One Show recording. People are so friendly and easy to talk to in Portrush. Not just that, but there are so many brilliant characters on your doorstep, which is one of the reasons I’m bringing McCusker back to Portrush for this mystery. I eaves-dropped on one of the judges from Strictly Come Dancing going on about Ballroom Dancing in Ulster in the 1960s “It was huge”, he declared. I think he might just have got the wrong end of the stick there. What happened was that yes people did use to dance in ballrooms, such as the Arcadia Ballroom, in Ulster, in the 1960s but, believe you me, it was not Ballroom Dancing, as we know it today, they were attempting. Their main step was not the quickstep, but more likely the shimmy-step, where you would try to subtly sidle closer to a girl and risk all by asking, “Do you come here often?”

Eventually I reluctantly left the town centre and caught a taxi back out to the Glamping site. The driver was moaning about how the entire town’s road system has been laid out by the people who designed the track layout for Barry’s Ghost Train. The end result, he claimed, five minute journeys were now easily taking up to an hour. He kept going on about how badly everything had been messed up; having said that, we did reach the tent site pretty quickly.  

Once again I tried to sit on my air bed and once more I nearly fell off again. It was ten-thirty, too early for bed so I wandered out of my tent and over to a communal area covered with a large canvas canopy. The sides of the Henley Regatta type of sun-shelter, if they’d ever existed, had been removed so you could see the amazing soulful views over and beyond Portrush. In this area, which was empty of fellow glampers, the site organisers had kindly supplied bales of hay to sit on. By lamp light I wrote up my notes for Hi Love You, Just Dropped Your Glove. Eventually, task completed, the cold air drove me back to my tent. When I was back in my tent I realised it was colder in the tent than it was outside. It was also dark and dank. I found that attempting to sleep on an airbed was comparable to trying to sleep on a tightrope. You move an inch either-way and you risked falling off altogether. Not that I’ve ever slept on a tightrope but I think next time I’m offered an airbed I just might opt for the sleeping-on-a-tightrope option. It couldn’t be any more difficult.

On Friday morning, even the news that the electricity was off and there were no warm/hot showers available didn’t dampen my mood. For starters I was so cold I figured that even a cold shower would warm me up a little bit and I’d still breakfast to look forward to. But then I hear you say: surely if there was no electricity there would be no power for kettles and coffee-makers and toasters etc., etc. And of course you’d be right. Oh well I was heading down to the Royal Golf Club and there would be everything I could dream off down there.

Ah… but the guy who was trying to fix the power was also the guy who drove the shuttle van, so that was going to be delayed for a wee bit. He was really a very nice guy and you just couldn’t get mad with him, it wasn’t his fault.

Eventually, just before eight o’clock, the shuttle van dropped a few of us off and, quite literally, a couple of minutes after that I was inside the Royal Golf Course in Portrush, surely the speediest and easiest entrance to a mass-audience, event I have ever experienced.

There was a strange air of calm about the site. Maybe an aftershock might be a better way to describe it. Everyone seemed to be in a zombie like state and whispering about Rory’s massive meltdown on the course on the previous day (Thursday). It appears he just couldn’t get into the rhythm of his round. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and the short, least depressing, version of the story is that he was a massive seven over par going into Friday’s round. Could his massive dip in his game be put down to the pressure of being the local hero? All I can offer by way of explanation is: if it took genius to be as brilliant as he had been in the past – and he still holds the course record for the Royal Portrush; he went around in 61 when he was just 16 years old – then when you’re not in the best of form, or suffering from Rory’s Blues, or even nerves, the complete opposite can happen. When he’s on his game he does tend to make a round of golf look deceptively easy. Well that’s McCusker’s theory on the matter - and he discusses it in great detail with his partner D.I. Lily O’Carroll in A Day In The Life of Louis Bloom (the 2nd McCusker Mystery published by Dufour Editions).  Whenever Rory is allowed to keep to himself and focus entirely on his game, McCusker muses, he always delivers. However, also according to McCusker, when he’s distracted with lots of media requests and is cornered into predicting how on form he is and how brilliant he’s going to be, he mostly has a bad day at the office, or in his case, on the golf course. 

Tiger Woods - who would have enjoyed top billing in Rory’s absence - at 6 over par had also experienced a disastrous first round. Now we were faced with neither Tiger nor Rory making the cut by the end of Friday’s play. The cut is where all players who manage at least 1 over par are safe and go into the 3rd and 4th rounds (played on Saturday and Sunday). Everyone from 2 over par and above got to go home, leaving 70 golfers for the final two days.

Who would the local crowd then get to support? We’ll have more about that later as well. In the meantime I had a date with my breakfast in one of the Hospitality Pavilions, the majority of which were on the right hand side of the first green. That’s as you face up the green and away from the tee.

According to one of the greeters in the hospitality suite, it took 4 months to build the Pavilions and the rest of the plant in order for The Royal to host The Open. He guessed it would take around the same time to remove. The Suite I was in didn’t really have any atmosphere. Maybe it was a case of the room being so spread out, it made the ceiling appear lower. The numerous TVs relaying the current action out on the links were very small. The volume of the TVs was painfully low. To truly enjoy golf on TV there are two basic requirements. You need to have a nice comfortable chair and to be able to hear the commentators. The seats looked like they’d been hired from a school canteen, or, put another way, they were hard and uncomfortable. Failing ideal viewing of the TV, I always find it best to just turn the darn set off. But the TVs needed to be on because there were already players out on the golf course. The first trio, Tom Lenman (US) Joaquin Nieman (Chile) & Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain) had teed off at 06.35 that morning.

The overall feeling from our group of people was of everyone was waiting for something.

Perhaps they were waiting for the bars to open (at 11.30 due to Ulster Licensing laws) or awaiting a legendary Ulster Fry served up to kick start our day.

In the hospitality suite, the friendly staff’s two most popular questions of the day were: 1) Where did you travel from this morning? And 2) Who do you fancy to win this?  

With their first question, the words fitted together so well and the delivery was so word-perfect you had the feeling the question must have been listed in a tournament directive. On the other hand the second question was a very clever way of avoiding the elephant in the room: Rory’s Blues.

In these circumstances I’ve learned it’s always good to have a name at the ready. I have to admit I still fancied Rory playing a blistering round and getting back in the race. Nonetheless, I felt it was prudent to examine the options and have a few names up my sleeve. Tiger, in my eyes, still couldn’t be ruled out. Tommy Fleetwood (England) seemed to be an easy name to remember, he seemed like a very nice chap, had played a brilliant round on Thursday and didn’t he nearly win something major recently? Oh yes, I remember now, he nearly won the US Open last year but Tiger Woods pipped him to the post. Tony Finau (USA) was a distinctive name and he had made a decent start earlier that morning.  Justin Rose (England) perhaps? Shane Lowry had played a brilliant round on the Thursday. On camera he was always smiling and looking like he was really enjoying playing a round of golf and he was just one off the lead. At times - when he took his hat off – he looked like he could have been Wayne Rooney’s brother.  JB Holmes (USA), the leader from round 1, looked like he knew what he was doing and was very enjoyable to watch but Tommy from Carolina (at my table) assured me he wouldn’t last the course. I decided I needed to hedge my bets and came to the conclusion it was just too early to decide. I had a quick day-dream of Rory starting off his round with a series of holes-in-one (a physical impossibility) and getting back in contention. I shared this with Tommy from Carolina who didn’t take it as the joke I had intended but seemed to spend a few seconds going through the scenario in his mind. Then I noticed what he was actually doing was checking where the closest exit was.

A few minutes later at 10.09 Tiger Woods arrived at the 1st tee on this the second day of the tournament to loud applause. His compatriots for the day’s play were Mathew Wallace (England) and Patrick Reed (USA). I decided that as the weather was holding and the rain was meant to come at 2.00 o’clock in the afternoon, I’d nip out and walk the round with Tiger. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being rude, or even familiar. He doesn’t even know me, let alone that I exist. What I meant was I would walk with the crowd who followed Tiger & Co from tee to tee.

The first thing I discovered was how solidly some of these guys are built. That doesn’t come across on TV.

A completely opposite view was offered from a wife to her husband walking directly behind me.

“They’re not big are they, they’re all wee men.


“Great strike,” a fan cried out and the rest burst into applause.

On one of the big screens around the course, we could see Rose teeing off; he was 6 under par from yesterday. That means he was then 12 shots ahead of Tiger on the leader board. This also meant he was 13 shots ahead of Rory.

That’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen shots ahead of Rory. Or, as they’d say in Donegal, “That’s a massive mountain to climb.” 

And the trio of golfers, Woods, Wallace & Reed headed off down the fairway.

“Welcome Tiger,” someone in front of me called out.

“Thank you,” Tiger replied without breaking his stride or his concentration.

Their golf balls had all reached about midway up the fairway. By the time we caught up with the location for their next round of shots, I realised we were directly across the road from Kellys where the other Rory (Gallagher) played his version of the blues with his sublime band, Taste. Fruupp (my first professionally management client) also played a few great gigs in there.

I was having great difficulty getting near the first green to see Tiger & Co concluding their work on the first hole. My mantra while scouting vantage positions for better views from then on was: always walk on that wee bit further. It didn’t let me down all day. I noticed on the big screen - viewed in the hope they would show the lads putting on the green - that on another green Jon Rahm (Spain) had a weird looking 4 inch square putter. I figured it must be like hitting the ball with a bar of chocolate - just saying this in case anyone out there sees it as a marketing opportunity; remember where you heard it first.

On the next hole, the 574 yard, par 5, 2nd, they all enjoyed great applause as they teed off although… two of them didn’t fair very well with their shots. For this action I’d a much better view and all three golfers hunkered down in a near perfect (seemingly) synchronised move, just off the green. The trio - who very nearly formed a straight line across the fairway - eyed up the ideal path for their second shot. As Tiger Woods walked up to take his turn, I could see clearly he was genuinely in pain. You could see from the regret in his eyes that he wished he could be enjoying this moment more. He dropped his first shot of the day at this hole.

“Must have been cling-film over that hole,” an Ulster fan muttered to himself as he headed after the players to the 3rd tee.

Overall, as was visible on the big screens, the going was getting tough and when the going is tough the balls tend to get going… into the rough. It wasn’t a great omen for Rory. On top of which, he was due to start his round at 15.10, by which time the predicted rain would have worked up a head of steam; also known as teaming.

By the time we reached the 4th green, Woods and Co were looking like they could have done with an elevenses pit-stop for coffee and snacks. Luckily enough there was a wagon which was parked up ever so close to the green, selling such items. Professionals that the golfers were, they soldiered on, although it has to be said, a lot of their followers were happy to partake in the refreshments available.

After five holes and finding myself distracted by the action on other holes I decided my intel might be of better use elsewhere, so I peeled off the pack and headed on around the course dipping in and out of play from game to game. I also found that as the ground is rather bumpy it is much better for your ankles, in particular, to keep on the move. On top of which I found it just too sad to watch Tiger painfully trying to hide his limp. More selfishly I thought I could feel the first spits of the predicted rain. 

Tommy Fleetwood was playing well and moving up the leader board. He was great to watch if you didn’t look at his face. What I mean is, from the look on his face you got the impression he was having a disastrous round, whereas his actual play, not to mention the leader board, proved otherwise.

Some of the comments from the fans I found very amusing

“It’s like he’s got a magic wand rather than a golf club,” one guy (wearing a Motorhead T-shirt) suggested to his mates, after a particularly magnificent second shot on the 194 yard, par 3, 6th hole. This hole was also known as Harry Colt’s (named after the course designer) and was right beside the Atlantic Ocean with spectacularly inspirational, jaw-dropping, views.

I imagined McCusker maybe being mates of the guy with the Motorhead T Shirt,  and, after witnessing a couple of subsequent bad shots suggesting, “If I was him I’d return the Magic Wand to the Harry Potter gift shop and consider using a golf club again”

“That 2nd hole just needs to open up,” another armchair expert had offered.

“Aye to the size of a dust bin.” I imagined McCusker adding.

“He’s on great form, he’s dropping everything in, I bet you he got a ride last night.”

“He,” now meaning Tiger, “just needs to get on the range and bang a few in.”

I swear to you but I must have seen about a dozen Graeme McDowells in my travels around the course.

By the time I’d made it back towards the 18th hole (474 yards, par 4) I happened upon another bigger, much bigger, refreshment area, which according to my site map was called the Secondary Village. I slowed to a stroll feeling like Randolph Scott happening upon the town limits of Laramie. I felt I could take my time a wee bit now as the spits of rain hadn’t actually developed into anything. There was a massive big screen out on what looked like a village green with a lot people sitting around and drinking and following the action. Overall this group of people were giving off good vibes. I noticed a top of the line pavilion with its own balcony. It was very classy. It looked very expensive to my eyes. I thought I’d dander over to it and see what the story was. It turned out that it was a Mastercard Pavilion and on close inspection the sign outside it claimed: “Open to all Mastercard Holders” Good old Mastercard, I thought. I’m a Mastercard Holder. They mean me. Not only did they get me a discount in the merchandising shop this morning, but here they were also providing some hospitality FOC (free of charge). The two ladies at reception were very friendly and they said welcome and put a band around my wrist as they asked me where I’d come from this morning. I went upstairs which was incredibly welcoming, homely even, with ultra-comfortable chairs and a floor to ceiling big screen. The crowd were very good natured and really enjoying their golf.

I found a seat and a drink and a bite and watched the screen to notice that my earlier tip of Tommy Fleetwood was doing very well. I’d been correct, Tommy Fleetwood was the perfect name for a golfer. The net result was that he was now only one stroke off the leader, JB.         

I wondered if anything could be made of the ping of the contact the club/putter makes with the ball, as in do the golfers know from this sound if they’ve played a good shot or bad one. If so, could that be taken even further and could someone work out some sort of logarithm or develop an app that predicts the final score from sound of the club hitting the ball over say the first three holes? If so please remember where you read about it first.

At 12.53 Shane Lowry enjoyed a mighty cheer as he teed off on the first hole. 

On seeing Shane Lowry sink yet another long putt on the giant screen on the (secondary) Village Green someone in the crowd said to his mate:  “With putts like that, if I was him I’d be carefully crossing the road tomorrow; his luck is sure to change any time soon.”

At the 18th Hole (second round) a big cheer went up on the screen and in the room as Tommy Fleetwood holed his final shot of the day to go top of the leader board.

“Is the rain just getting that wee bit heavier?” someone offered as one by one the umbrellas started to go up. One of the Sky Sports cameras picked up on this activity and it was flashed up on the big screen. The people on the green seeing themselves (well at least their umbrellas) up on the big screen, started to open and shut their umbrella to acknowledge the attention and pretty soon we were all enjoying a special moment with hundreds of umbrellas, of various styles and a multitude of colours, fluttering like butterflies. Hopefully it looked as stunning out in TV land as it did on the Secondary Village Green.            

Shortly thereafter at 15.10 Rory McIlroy came out to the (adjacent) 1st tee. There was an almighty roar from the crowd that was way beyond the reaction any of the other players received. Most players enjoy varying levels of cheering/applause when they ventured onto the first green; after the final shot on the 18th green or whenever they hit a great shot. But Rory was unique in that he was applauded and cheered the entire way from the tee up the fairway and onto the green for each and every hole on his round. You could work out exactly where he was on the course from the Rory Roar following him around the Royal Golf Course.

There was such an almighty Rory Roar following his final putt on the 18th that I’m convinced that every single person, man, woman and child on the acres of the Royal Golf Course at Portrush in Northern Ireland paused in their tracks to acknowledge his genius.

He had played a blinding round. In adverse weather conditions he shot a 65, which would prove to be the 2nd best round of this year’s competition. If the weather had been on his side, or like it had been earlier in the day when Tiger was playing his round, then Rory most likely would have broken his own course record. But then tournament score cards do not have a column for the “if only” scores. The sad but undeniable bottom line was that Rory failed to make the cut by a single shot. He was gracious and emotional in his defeat as he thanked the crowd and wished Shane Lowry all the very best for the following two days play. 

Shane Lowry went on to win the Open at the Royal in Portrush during a wet July weekend in 2019. He was the first bearded golfer to win the open since Bob Ferguson won the third of his successive victories in 1882. Shane and his bearded caddie, Brian Martin, looked like they’d just happened on a round of golf at the Royal by accident and that they were trying not to giggle too much just in case they were found out. Shane Lowry deserved to win this year’s Open. He consistently played beautiful golf and he took maximum enjoyment from his own playing. That is such an infectious quality: the ability of great athletes, or musicians for that matter, to visibly enjoy their own work.      

JB Holmes who was in the lead the first day was still in with a shout on the Friday and Saturday. However he took a disastrous 87 shots on the final day. To put this in perspective every player had a bad day on the Sunday. But few had as poor a day as JB. Shane Lowry for instance shot a round of 72 the same day. JB finished in 70th place. I make this point not to try and shame poor JB, who was clearly having a bad day, but to confirm that Tommy from Carolina was spot on with his prediction.

Tommy from Carolina had another prediction he shared with me.

“This,” he started expansively, and opening out his arms around the room and pointing out beyond and on to the golf course, “this is all going to put Portrush on the map as an international touring attraction. Everything has been wonderful and so professional, so top class and the local people so warm, funny and friendly that tourists are going to be coming here in the droves from now on.”

After Tommy from Carolina’s first successful prediction, and with my local knowledge, I certainly wouldn’t be taking a bet against him.

So see youse all next year then?
p.s. I should also mention that Departing Shadows, the eleventh Christy Kennedy Mystery, is published by the good people at Dufour Editions on Oct 22nd this year.

Paul Charles © 2019