Sitting at a pavement table, under an awning that held off the persistent cold evening drizzle, with noisy engined boy racers doing circuits of the streets, there were memories of Irish summers looking out of rain spattered windows and going for walks in waterproof coats under the pretence that it had turned out a fine evening after all. The rain was the main reason for not moving, once it relented we would return to warmth and dryness.
From a pub down the street came the voice of a man singing unaccompanied, his vocal range seemed not to stretch very far and hardly did justice to “On Raglan Road”. The song seemed apt for the all enfolding greyness, ‘On Raglan road on an autumn day’ wrote Kavanagh; few days in November would have had such penetrating dampness, the sort of dampness that seems to seep into the bones.
The smell of malt drifted across from the brewery, inspiring a recalling of the story of Tigger in Winnie the Pooh who arrives unannounced and causes perplexity amongst his hosts because they do not know what to feed him. Eventually it is discovered, when Tigger eats the dose that Kanga is giving to young Roo, that Tigger likes extract of malt. Tigger would have delighted in an entire brewery filled with the smells of his favourite repast.
Walking back through the empty streets, the drizzle now reduced to a mistiness, we try to recall Kavanagh’s words; having bought his collected poems only eight days previously, they should have been fresh in his mind. The image of November on Grafton Street is remembered. Grafton Street is a fine place in the spring and summer and can sometimes muster a touch of magic at Christmas, but Grafton Street in November is no more inviting than Kavanagh’s field would have been on short, cold, wet, winter days.
The thought came to mind that we had still stories to share. When the singer began, we knew it was the words of Kavanagh; we might not remember the words, but we could quickly find them. When the whiff of malt drifted down the street, mention of Tigger brought instant recognition.
Are there stories now that people in fifty years time will know and be able to share? Are there songs that will inspire discussions of the lyrics? Or has our culture become so fragmented that the lack of a shared past will make it difficult for people to have a shared present?