Where’s the craic – an extract
This article was a long time in the writing. I lived in Kilburn for four years and witnessed the changes documented taking place over a very short period of time. The people I felt the most for were the older Irish generations – not able to go back, but no longer fitting in with the newly-arriving immigrant communities from the Middle-East, Africa and Eastern Europe. Their custom no longer welcome in the refurbished wine bars and gastropubs dotted along the High Road catering for the new money coming in with the property developers. People who had suffered the pain of one dislocation, only now as they grow old to suffer again.
‘A step or two up the road is The Kingdom. It’s the pub where floor meets heart. Or heart meets floor. We never want to go in, but are drawn like moths to the sound of the folk songs and the late bar license. The nostalgia reeks from the revamped-upholstery. I suppose they thought if they got rid of the old foam and velvet then all the piss and the tears would vanish along with it. No way. Not while they’re all still singing the old songs in the clothes that came with them in their suitcases in the sixties. And it’s catching. Before you know where you are you are singing ‘Country roads take me home’ like your Dad, and drinking too many vodkas…. And later, after the band has finished up, someone starts reciting a poem and manages to get through to the end with no more than a little prompting. He’s said the same words two or three times a week every week for the past forty years. It’s his mantra that keeps him connected to his place. If he stops saying it, then everything he holds dear will disappear and there will be no point. The floor next to the entrance to the Ladies toilets will open up and he will fall through, returned to the earth. And when it’s time to leave, you come out, you feel sick. Sick that you went in there. And sick of the poetry that you’ll know you will hear again. And again.’
Published in Fortnight magazine November 2007, a Northern Irish arts publication.