Sunday 19 May 2019

Bairbre Power: I discovered a calm, almost mindfulness after experiencing a great concert with thousands and then driving for hours on my own

Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

I will know better the next time. I won't just hop into the car with my bags, phone leads and water and take off in a hurry. Foolishly I didn't do 'prep' for a road trip, the way you would print up boarding cards for a flight. I hadn't even synced my phone with the new car's computer. It was a roasting hot day, not ideal for a four-hour road trip, and with all four windows down as I drove down the motorway, it was impossible to hear my music on Spotify, or the woman on GPS for that matter, so I gave up, turned it off and flicked through the radio stations with little luck.

To be honest, I still had the most magnificent music and lyrics spinning gloriously through my head from the night before. Oh, what a night - I spent five of the most invigorating hours I've had for years standing in the jumping arena of the RDS where Paul Simon and James Taylor wowed us until we thought we couldn't be wowed anymore.

But then again, us oldies know the pair so well, and their masterly compositions and compelling voices have provided the soundtrack to so many of our lives. There was one moment two songs from the end of Paul Simon's last ever concert in Ireland when I almost got a bit weepy as I stopped dancing, looked around and surveyed the singing, happy crowds on their feet beside me.

Heads thrown back defiantly, eyes upward to the unseasonably blue, cloudless sky, so many of us were off in our own little worlds, enveloped in a cocoon of happy memories with a song that could have been written for any of us. The truth in the lyrics could have waltzed with us through the decades - from singledom to coupledom, parenthood and now that curious time frame that is midlife when you feel perfectly pertinent and relevant to the world around you, although the marketeers may not quite share your perspective. I shouted out the words of 'American Tune' with the biggest smile, savouring every word.

Many's the time I've been mistaken.

And many times confused.

Yes, and often felt forsaken.

And certainly misused.

But I'm all right, I'm all right.

I'm just weary to my bones.

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered.

I don't have a friend who feels at ease.

I don't know a dream that's not been shattered.

Or driven to its knees.

But it's all right, it's all right.

We've lived so well so long.

Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on.

I wonder what went wrong.

I can't help it, I wonder what went wrong.

Simon played until 11pm, so our dinner reservation fell through, but we seamlessly moved to plan B: an al fresco Base pizza eaten out of the box, sitting outside the shop and washed down with large bottles of Bulmers from the pub next door. More smiles from a now very nostalgic midlifer. I don't think I've drunk bottles of cider out in public since the night Ireland elected its first female President and myself and a crowd of other hacks celebrated Mary Robinson's victory.

Speaking of women, at the concert there was a thoroughly convivial atmosphere fuelled by great music, and all sorts of conversations sprung up. We ended up chatting with two former nurses with Goal, who had led such remarkable, unselfish lives working for others less fortunate than us around the world, and later that night, I couldn't but reflect how different our environments had been when we had listened to Simon and Taylor in different parts of the world.

Next day on a road trip to Cork, I half suspected the two would pop up on radio stations, but they didn't. I reacted with enthusiasm when I finally found Hozier's 'Take Me to Church' and I was so busy singing it with an almost religious fervour that I didn't anticipate how the motorway forked and split in two in Laois. The car kept arrowhead straight in the same lane I'd been in for an hour, while I watched with horror as the M8 for Cork swung off to the left.

Faced with the reality I was putting an hour on to my travelling time, I grabbed the first left turn. The unexpected detour took me through some interesting places like the Donaghmore Famine Workhouse where about 1,200 people from the area were forced to seek refuge. It gave me the shivers and for the next few miles, I was consumed with thoughts of the local hungry waifs, dragging their exhausted and wearing bodies towards the building which, I read later, was regarded as a place of shame and made as unattractive as possible so that its only residents would be those who had lost all hope.

Finally reunited with the M8, I headed towards Cork and tuned into some local radio stations as I moved through the counties. As I drove down one quiet village, I stopped to take a photograph of a graveyard in a very scenic location and, as if on cue, the radio presenter started reading out the parish death notices. It was something I hadn't heard in years and brought me back to my cub reporter days in the provinces.

In fact, driving alone with the radio off most of the time, it provided me with an opportunity to turn off the usual weekend noise in my head and literally smell the roses, or the more agricultural fragrances!

Having at last arrived at my destination, a walk with a friend in the beautiful Ballincollig Woods was pure bliss and I soaked in the soothing sight of the wild flower garden, a real smorgasbord of delicate poppies and cornflower blues.

I was so relaxed I didn't even react when the bounding beagle who had accompanied us on our morning walk had an impromptu brunch and tucked into one of my new favourite shoes from New York.

Another day, I would have cried, but last Sunday I just laughed. I guess this is what happens when you are totally relaxed. I must do it more often, starting with this weekend.

Irish Independent

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