“Who long for rest, who look for pleasure
Away from counter, court or school
O where live well your lease of leisure,
But here, here at Penmaen Pool”
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, Penmaen Pool, 1875)
The Good Room. In 1970s and 1980s Ireland, many middle class homes had one. A sacred space where access was limited and only open for visitors and special occasions such as Christmas. Ours had a patterned carpet, a large fancy coffee table and a three piece green suite with orange cushions. The coal box was the colour of gold and there was a large painting of a lady in a fancy ballgown. Artist unknown. There was also a small selection of suitable photographs. In 1983 we had wooden cabinets fitted, perfect for displaying the numerous pieces of Waterford Crystal that my parents had won over the years. If you looked out the window you could see the river Barrow and the ruined Red Bridge. A sight that’s dear to my heart but a cold landscape, matched only by the temperature of the room.
This old rail bridge which spans the river Barrow is located upriver from New Ross town. The area is dangerous. The slope to get up to the tracks is steep and has loose stones. The track continued east from there where it joined with the Dublin to Wexford line near Enniscorthy. Services ceased in 1963, but the link onwards to Waterford continued for a while longer. I remember annual excursions to Waterford, returning via the Galley – a cruising restaurant. The goods trains ran until 1995. The last one went on fire. To the right of the bridge is the Mile Tunnel, an unlit and damp spot. If you got to the end, you came out at the entrance to Rosemount Stud. Walking through the tunnel and across the Red Bridge were rites of passage for teenagers in New Ross. One particularly memorable trip was on the night we finished our Inter Cert. Cans and flaming torches aided our passage.
“I waited until my mid twenties to leave what I considered a stifling quiet in New Ross; at certain times of any day you could let an empty bottle roll down North Street and watch it tumble all the way to the middle of either South or Mary Street depending on whether some loitering skinhead kicked it at The Tholsel.” (Frank Sheehan)
One thing that stays with me from those days is calling into the shop owned by Frank’s family (Moran Brothers). I spent ages there reading a Beano summer special. But I didn’t have enough cash – it was out of my price range (30p+) and I only had 10p. He generously gave it to me plus a sherbet dip and said the 10p would do. This must have been 1981 or so.
Our Philips 3-in-1 stereo was kept in The Good Room. On Sunday afternoons, my mother would usually go in there and read the newspapers. We got the Sunday Press and Sunday Independent. A record would go on the turntable; during 1982 and 1983, Reflections was a popular choice. “Original instrumental hits” with a special mention for Brideshead Revisited, The Deer Hunter Theme (Cavantina), Annie’s Song, Midnight Express Theme plus Chariots Of Fire. Sometimes I would just sit in there and do homework while the music played. Geoffrey Burgon’s Brideshead Revisited is an inspiring start – as Peter Barnes eloquently put it: “When my parents watched this, I would cease my studies and come out just to listen to the theme. Then, back to the books. Newly inspired.”
Chariots Of Fire is redone by library maestro Alan Hawkshaw under the moniker of Hawk & Co. Purists were very unhappy at the time but I was none the wiser. In the mid 1990s I started to buy KPM LPs and marveled at the talent of the Hawk, Brian Bennett, Keith Mansfield, John Cameron. Then there’s a brief interlude from Blood, Sweat & Tears, the 1st Movement of Trois Gymnopedies, a piano composition by Erik Satie. This links into track 4, Bob James’ plaintive Shepherd Song and then the stirring Flame Trees Of Thika theme by the enigmatic Video Symphonic. A single release from 1981 and directed by Zack Laurence. And then, maestro of the panpipes, Gheorge Zamfir and an edited version of The Light Of Experience Theme. BBC2. It’s quickly followed by Vangelis’ angelic Cosmos, the signature tune for Carl Sagan’s unforgettable series. “Who speaks for Earth?”
Friday 11 June 1982.
Larry Holmes v Gerry Cooney.
One of the most eagerly anticipated boxing matches ever. As it wasn’t starting until 3.00 or 4.00am (can’t remember which), RTE 1 decided to screen The Deer Hunter once the Late News had aired. In those days, closedown normally took place around midnight so this was a rare treat to watch TV through the night. Quite a few schoolboys stayed up and most of us in two channel land watched The Deer Hunter. Unfortunately the movie broke down half way through and RTE re-screened it the following night. The fight wasn’t bad either.
“This album accompanied us on a camper van holiday through France and it really set the atmosphere so it instantly brings back lovely memories . Magical.” (Vogue Singer)
The mixing is hot and each track follows quickly. After John Williams’ bleak Cavantina, in drop Fleetwood Mac and the feather oar blades of Albatross. The ubiquitous Theme From The Life And Times Of David Lloyd George or Chi Mai – one of the most common BBC 45s – bleeds into Francis Lai’s austere Main Theme From Bilitis. Close your eyes and let the past flash through your mind. Unfortunately the sound of clapping interrupts as we’re treated to a live version of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, as performed by The Shadows.
Belfast man, James Galway, drops the impressive Annie’s Song – a true 1970s staple – while Giorgio Moroder’s stupendous Love Theme From Midnight Express simply shines, soundtrack to a cult movie for us teenagers during the latter part of the decade. The sultry sound of Santana stands out, the expertly-played Samba Pa Ti. As we move to a mournful climax, it’s Acker Bilk’s Aria wringing out the tears, Andreas Vollenweider’s emotional Hands And Clouds and finally’s ABBA’s heavenly Arrival. And I am back in my bedroom, thumbing through a 1976 issue of Woman & Home – there were loads of them plus sewing magazines all dumped in the wardrobe. “I want this to be played at my funeral, while my ashes being scattered in the wind. It isn’t the end. It’s my ‘Arrival’.” (Marrs 101)
Reflections eventually came out on CD in 1990. A sequel to the original album emerged in 1983, titled Imaginations (Further Reflections) but this has never had a digital release. I still remember a promo 7″ featuring excerpts while record shops were given a poster that said “TV advertising plus you playing this single in the store will ensure massive sales.” They weren’t wrong, as hundreds of second hand copies lie in discount bins and charity shops all over the world. Meanwhile The Good Room still stands; it’s now used as the main living space. For many years, my parents seemed frozen at the same age but now, time has caught up with them. They have not become old all at once, in fact it has been happening slowly over a span of many years. It just took me a while to notice.
Vangelis – Theme From The Cosmos (Heaven & Hell)
ABBA – Arrival
Lest we forget
Francis Lai – Main Theme From Bilitis