Category Archives: Wexford

When the Cureheads invaded Ballsbridge

It had been hot all week. On Monday 10 July 1989 I was woken by powerful sunshine. “Five days to go” I thought to myself. The Cure were playing in the RDS the following Saturday and I couldn’t wait. I had been to a handful of concerts before but this was the big one. For the previous two months I had been playing Disintegration every night. My favourite way to absorb it was via headphones as I drifted off to sleep.

After a televisual diet of Wiseguy, Snub TV and Degrassi Junior High, Friday afternoon finally rolled around. I left work at 3.00pm and went home to grab my gear. Bus Eireann’s New Ross to Dublin service was taking off at 4.50pm and this quartet of Cure fans were determined to get on board. We touched down in Busáras at about 8.00pm and were met by some friends. Some unimpressive fast food followed. We then toyed with the idea of checking out Bartley Dunnes [none of us had actually been there at that point] but eventually decided on heading towards our base in Sandymount.

Some pints were consumed outside O’Reilly’s pub on Seafort Avenue and additional food supplies purchased from the 7Eleven. The remainder of the Friday night passed by in a haze of smoke, The Smiths on the stereo and some interminably long-winded party game called Personal Questions. We eventually crashed at about 3.30am but none of us could sleep – presumably due to the mounting excitement. Instead we made a quick trip to the nearby beach to welcome in the dawn and watch the tide go out.

Saturday was another glorious day. At times like these I really wish I had the foresight to carry a camera. Thankfully some people did manage to capture the moment. Here is a marvellous snapshot of Cure fans taken outside an Inchicore house on that morning of 15 July.

It was time to use the DART for the first time. The morning was spent in and out of record shops like Comet, Freebird and the Virgin Megastore. All of us bought at least one record. The Fall’s Seminal Live and The Wedding Present’s Ukrainian Peel Sessions were among my purchases. There was no turntable in the apartment so we spent the afternoon listening to Japan and The Sugarcubes on cassette. At about 4.00pm the preparations began. The black clothes went on and the front room was turned into a mini hair-salon. Let the backcombing begin!

By the time we left for the RDS the conditions were extremely hot and sticky. We walked up Sandymount Avenue and almost wilted. Black-clad, mascara-streaked and hairspray-soaked temples. Then we reached the top of the road and gasped. The Curehead army was marching through Ballsbridge. Our time had come; this was our day. We may have been marginalised in our respective hometowns but this was truly a gathering of the tribe. A number 18 bus swung around onto the main road; its occupants stared at us with a mixture of shock and probably pity.

Finally it was time to get out of the searing sunshine and into the fiery, sweaty cauldron that was Simmonscourt. The atmosphere was highly-charged with expectation. I saw a number of guys standing at the side of the arena. They were inhaling Tippex in full view of the St John’s ambulance men. The first support act came on – Shelleyan Orphan – and gave us a competent set, Shatter was the highlight. It was still quite easy to get to a decent vantage point so I made my way towards the front. There were loads of Dead Kennedys Bedtime For Democracy t-shirts. All About Eve came next and Julianne Regan wore a see-through white dress. I thought she looked amazing. Martha’s Harbour and all that.

The Cure finally came on stage to the chimes of Plainsong. Robert Smith sang those immortal opening lines.

“I think it’s dark and it looks like rain.”

A young female goth approached me and asked to get on my shoulders. She wanted to take some photographs. Being a gentlemen I obliged her. The crowd surged forward and I temporarily lost my friends in the crush. I didn’t drop the lady at this point but her dead weight gradually began to have an effect. By the end of Closedown she was thrown on the floor. Sorry again – whoever you are. During A Night Like This I took a breather. The lack of sleep was taking its toll. My mates were at the right hand wall where a guy had fainted and was being stretchered off by paramedics.

It was an epic set. Poppier numbers mixed with brooding epics. Lovesong‘s drift into Charlotte Sometimes was fantastic; A Forest was immense while the “gloom trilogy” of Same Deep Waters As You, Prayers For Rain and Disintegration was thrillingly miserable on a massive scale. We got two encores – a short sharp set of more immediate tunes like Close To Me and Let’s Go To Bed before a longer a meandering seven track sequence of brilliance. Hot Hot Hot was quickly followed by a beguiling version of A Strange Day and the two “Boys” numbers. By the time they concluded with an epic 14 minute best-version-ever Faith (with added lyrics – listen to it below!), almost three hours had passed. I was exhausted. 23 years have passed and I’ve been to hundreds of gigs since then. This is still number one.

We walked back to Sandymount afterwards in a state of quiet contentment and unexpressed awe. Sleep finally came after a few beers. Meagre funds and work commitments (a “proper” summer job in an office) did not permit me to stick around for the following night’s gig. My abiding memory of the Sunday morning is being part a group of dishevelled youths dressed in black frantically half-running through a pre-regeneration Temple Bar and down the Quays. We had a bus to catch. Time to return to civilian life.

Set list
Plainsong
Pictures of You
Closedown
Kyoto Song
A Night Like This
Just Like Heaven
Last Dance
Fascination St

Lovesong
Charlotte Sometimes
The Walk
A Forest
In Between Days
Same Deep Water As You
Prayers For Rain
Disintegration

Lullaby
Close To Me
Let’s Go To Bed
Why Can’t I Be You

Hot Hot Hot
A Strange Day
Three Imaginary Boys
Boys Don’t Cry
Homesick
Untitled
Faith

Postscript
4 August 2016: It turns out that somebody had taken a photograph after all. I’m on the left.

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Photo credits
1) Ryaller, 2) Blogtrotter Revival, 3) Where Were You / Vincent McCormack / Gavin Paisley
4) Jarlath Slattery, 5) Impression of Sounds, 6) Jenny Murphy O’Neill

(by nlgbbbblth)

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What were the skies like when you were young: When Inter Cert English became nebulous

I sat my “Inter” 25 years ago.

For those of you who don’t go back that far, the Intermediate Certificate was the fore-runner to the Junior Certificate. It was replaced by the latter in 1992.

Back then the Department of Education had toyed with a number of different commencement days for the state exams. Monday starts had shifted to Friday by 1984 before eventually settling to Wednesdays when my turn came in 1987. That suited fine as we had four full days to study.

The first day was taken up with two English papers. It had, by then, become my favourite subject and I had high hopes of doing well. All three volumes of Exploring English had been tackled and devoured with relish while I could mentally conjure up the plot of Julius Caesar in reverse. Paper I was, however, the tricky one; this was where a poorly-written essay could throw a spanner in the works and destroy one’s hope of an A grade – the ultimate prize.

As it happened the essay wasn’t an issue. Feeling pleased and confident, I proceeded to Section II and quickly scanned the comprehension piece. It didn’t really make much sense so I read it again with increasing apprehension and a growing feeling of desperation. It was awful and I started to panic. After a few moments I gradually regained my composure and tried to make sense of the words. OK – it seemed like a travelogue; somebody describing an aerial view of Ireland.

“Frisky blue skies”.

“Clouds lying sick and white”.

The writer then described the plane flying over Arklow or Wicklow

“In these moments the country looks wan and exhausted. You reach for the whiskey flask”.

I knew how he felt. Make this nightmare stop.

“Those wan sick clouds, only a few hundred feet above the earth, might be damp souls of little value”.

So that was it. The clouds were meant to represent the shite state of the country. And to top it off we got a stark illustration of the different geographical cloudscapes – Howth (“cherubic”), Dublin (“black umbrella”), South (“flat white”), South West (“cumulus on the boil”), North (“motionless slate”) and West (“hilarious wisps).

In keeping with the chaotic prose the final line is confusingly doom-laden

“You have reached the beginning or the end of creation”.

There were four questions that needed to be tackled.

The first one asked that we sum up the principal ideas in 140 words. One wonders if a single tweet could cover a satisfactory response now.

The remainder dealt with style, mood and word definitions (“anarchy” and “bizarre” among them; how fitting). Throughout the second hour a number of us exchanged forlorn glances and shrugged shoulders in bemused despair. This was a real whiskey tango foxtrot moment.

Thankfully I wasn’t alone in my bafflement. The following day’s Irish Times saw Christina Murphy describe the piece of prose as “extraordinary” and “stylised nonsense”. Numerous complaints had come in throughout the day to the paper’s Examdesk section while ASTI representatives referred to it as “far too precious and unsubstantial a passage for that sort of question”. To this day the identity of the writer remains a mystery.

But that’s not all. The craziness continued when I turned over the exam paper. Have a look at Section III, Part B.

What about this for a great idea? Let’s ask a bunch of 15-year-olds to compose a letter of condolence to somebody who’s lost a loved one. Isn’t it a little early to be imposing such a morbid task on a group of nervous teenagers? The cautionary guideline about not using your own name and address merely added to the oddball dynamics of the paper. At least that question was optional and you’ll note that I avoided it.

1987’s results took a while to touch down – not arriving to schools until the beginning of October. Our headmaster wrote a covering letter to every student’s parents which took a somewhat ungracious attitude to the exam results. He sternly warned us of the pitfalls of dossing during fifth year and bid a curious goodbye (farewell and thanks in quotation marks) to those who had decided to leave or change schools during the summer. In retrospect it’s probably a fitting epitaph to one of life’s more surreal chapters.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Did it taste just as good then?

It was August 1977.  Elvis was still alive. We were on our annual family holiday and like the previous summer, Duncannon was the location.

Back then a Chilly Willy or L’il Devil was the usual cooling-down tipple for my sister and me; either could be had for a mere 4p. My parents tended to avoid the ice lollies and instead were happy with a Choc Ice or a Brunch.

One day I decided that I wanted proper grown-up ice cream. There was only one problem – the newsagents at the bottom of Duncannon’s main street was sold out of Choc Ices. Instead I was offered this:

The first few bites tasted funny and eating the chocolate exterior was a little tricky as the pieces kept sliding off and on to my t-shirt. But dogged persistence paid off and I got to the end – licking the stick with a sense of accomplishment.

In those formative years holidays abroad were very much the exception and only affordable for a handful of people in the town. Like many others our annual getaway brought us to such far-flung places as Inchydoney, Courtown Harbour, Bundoran and Slea Head. One or two weeks of mostly sunshine, daily strolls from our chalet or guesthouse to the adjoining beach and plenty from the ice cream freezer. Back then HB were the main attraction with the likes of Dale Farm a trivial sideshow. Every summer brought a new marketing campaign, a fresh poster with a mixture of old reliables and some fresh débutantes to keep the customers happy.

1979 saw four new offerings. The anodyne Mini Milk, the clumsy-sounding Frogurt, the delightful Nogger and the marvellously exotic Cornetto. At 20p this was an infrequent indulgence. We hit West Cork that year and the sensible / affordable choice was the plain yet tasty Golly Bar. I was also discovering Enid Blyton around the same time so the wrapper struck a chord with me.

We went back to the same place in 1980. Rain drove us into Clonakility one afternoon and into a newsagents to pick up a new Kalkitos. I had caught the action transfer buzz some months earlier and was eager to add to my collection. But what was this? A new and unusual looking ice cream stared back at me. It was the Hiawatha – a hybrid of lemon, vanilla and chocolate in the style of an Indian headdress. A genius move by HB and from a taste perspective, a most delicious concoction.

We stayed in our own county for 1981 and made the 40 mile trip to Courtown on 15 August. This was to be our destination for three years – a busy spot with a decent beach and an exciting amusement venue.

By now HB added a third variety of Cornetto to the range – the mint option – along with two other popular strawberry-fuelled treats.

Funny Feet: the original Freaky Foot.

That-A-Way was a rich ice lolly that once unwrapped could be utilised as a rude gesture. Until it started to melt about 30 seconds later.

I turned 10 in 1982 so my parents increased my weekly pocket money. Just as well – Jumbo had arrived.

Jumbo was a wallet-buster. It was the most expensive item in the range and retailed at a staggering 50p. But it was amazing – completely encased in chocolate with a sweet oatmeal biscuit underneath that stored a thick slab of vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t the hottest of summers so I was able to exist by forking out for one every two or three days and foregoing other confectionery pleasures.

1983 was a different story – July and August were relentless with sunshine which meant that we were constantly parched. From a financial perspective it was easiest to revert to icepops. Enter Dracula and its “mixed fruit” creation that made for a refreshing shot of citric acid and flavouring.

1984 was another scorcher. Two Tribes went to number one in June. We spend most of July visiting the circuit of beaches in Wexford – Duncannon, Booley Bay, Dollar Bay and Carnivan. Top Of The Pops every Thursday night to see Holly Johnson and co. Two heavy-hitters got added to the range – Fat Frog and Feast – the ultimate chocolate ice cream indulgence. Fat Frogs were marketed with a groovy rock’n’roll advert.

Two Tribes stayed at number one until August. I bought a different version for each of the nine weeks. It was dethroned by George Michael’s Careless Whisper in the UK with Neil’s Hole In My Shoe doing the honours over here. Poor old Nigel only lasted a week at pole position before Two Tribes went back on top.

Three years later and we arrived in Lahinch. Tangle Twisters were the new kids on the block, Golly Bars were still hanging in there while Jumbos had been axed due to poor sales. Inflation had driven the top price to 65p. Spotting a gap in the market, HB decided to launch a luxury cornetto. There were two additional choices – Tutti Frutti and Choco Rico – while the mint version was quietly dropped.

Tutti Frutti was the clear winner – rich, creamy and bursting with er, fruit. The drawback – the aforementioned 65p. But by then I had a proper summer job in a supermarket and could afford one every day if I wanted. However my tastes were changing and the music bug had well and truly gripped me. Ice cream had been supplanted in my affections by vinyl.

Postscript: the answer is “Yes it does.”

The posters and wrappers are taken from Luke Keating’s HB Ice Cream Memories Facebook page.
I urge everybody to “like”. Sincere thanks is extended to Luke for granting permission to use this wonderful collection of memorabilia.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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