Tuesday, January 13, 2009
-that's me after the "big win" 2001 World Champion Oyster Shucker - 3.5 pints o'the black stuff"
The music was fine, and reminiscent of any bar in Ireland! Two fiddles, flute, and tin whistle, Borhan, and the occasional sing song, and vocal story. I might add that the Kelly's oysters are perfect right now - firm, salty crisp, minerals - reminds me of the air at the cliff of Moher. Pendy's Starfish Sessions are providing a little something you don't see in every restaurant or bar, a bit of fun, and the sense of community. Just getting together for some tunes, and light conversation is what we need to make it through the cold grey of January. Spring is on its way, it'll just be warmer on Monday nights.
In the middle of it all I was asked to provide a song - actually sing, which if I did come through, would sound more like "caterwauling" (my daughter has disallowed me to sing at an early age...) That reminded me of a story from Ireland, 1996, the first year I attended the World Championships of Oyster Shucking in Galway Ireland, as Canadian Champion. www.galwayoysterfest.com
The contest is of 30 local, Galway oysters, shucked as fast as you can then judged for cleanliness. The fastest time overall wins, and it pays to have the fine balance of speed & nice looking oysters. Each nation participating, has to run their own national contest.
Canada's is in Tyne Valley PEI, the first full weekend of August. I run a cottage party after the contest - you are all welcome - if you can find it.
The US has their contest in October, at the St.Mary's Fairgrounds in Virginia. I recommend the line dancing.
In Ireland they have the national contest only two days before the Worlds - make for a busy weekend, especially for the poor sod who wins...but they stay in fine form.
After the event, the crowd moved to Rabbit's Bar, along the high street, and is the residence of John Rabbit, a wonderful gent who can entertain you for hours with stories, and direct you to whernever you want to go in Galway. (mental note, when you visit Galway, stop in at Rabbits, ask for John and go from there)
I grabbed a pint (or 5) of Guinness and just enjoys the evening continue. The place was wall-to-wall with folks from the festival, and contestants from other nations.
In the back, I head a bit of music coming from the courtyard. I went through, and entered the garage where there was a wee group of folks playing music, a gent singing, a bartender pouring pints from a single tap on a 4'bar, and a group of people all listening in. Wonderful.
It was great enough to be there to shuck in a contest, but to stumble upon an almost secret back room music session/sing-song. That was the icing on the cake.
I just stood there in the corner, soaking up the atmosphere, while song and story were passed from person to person. After about 30 minutes of this, the bartender threw it out.
"And now to the Canadian in the corner!"
"Wha'?" half disbelief, half fear fell over this Canadian, as I do not sing at home or in the shower, and I do not know any songs, or carry any sheet music with me, I blanked. I couldn't think of a thing.
"Sorry, I can't" I said
The bartender gave me one of those bartender stares when you've been naughty.
"Sing, I don't know any songs." I replied
"Not even Twinkle-Twinkle?"he sneered.
Now, I have totally blanked. I couldn't even thing of any words to anything, not even to my thoughts at the time. Blood rushing to my head, I blurted "Nope, not even Twinkle-Twinkle."
As they passed me over I learned a lesson, and vowed that the next time I had to go and Compete, I would learn a song to sing.
The next year, I spent 2 months listening to Peter Street from The Irish Descendants.
Great, fun song. I still don't know the words...thank god they I didn't get asked that year.
When you next have an inkling to visit Ireland, make sure you go with a song in your heart, and the lyrics in your back pocket!