Once a week, I pop into the city centre and wander around the charity shops. Over the years I’ve picked up some interesting books and cds that I might have otherwise missed out on. It’s also handy when I get stopped on the street by those annoying people who try to get you signed up to their charity organisation. I don’t have to feel guilty when I politely refuse by saying, “No, thanks. I already contribute to local charities on a weekly basis.” Recently, however, my visits to what the Americans call thrift stores have produced decidedly slim pickings, and my weekly contributions have declined as a result. I was about to do something drastic like go to a proper record store when I hit paydirt earlier today. The first four shops I visited had nothing on offer. At the fifth, I squeezed my way to the back, past all the old ladies and non-nationals who were looking at the clothes and knick-knacks. I elbowed my way towards the cds, although I paused to let out a pregnant woman pushing a buggy. I spotted the cds in a basket on the counter. It had a sign stuck on the front which read, “ALL CDS NOW 50c.” Brilliant, I thought, they’re trying to get rid of all the crap.
I started flicking through the cd singles and the other rubbish when a light appeared at the end of my tunnelling. Some charitable person with impeccable musical taste must have just dropped off part of their collection. I found albums by such household names as The Durrutti Column, The Barenaked Ladies, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Seasick Steve’s latest, I Started Out With Nothing And I Still Got Most of It Left (The Italian rugby team should use this as their theme song). The one that really caught my eye, though, was a cd by The Lemonheads called It’s a Shame About Ray. I had bought this cd brand new in a three-for-twenty-quid deal in the early 90s. Back then, I played it constantly and it became a firm favourite of mine. At least, I played it constantly for about four years. In 1998 my ability to listen to it ceased abruptly and without warning.
Looking at the interesting cover on the front and the tracklisting on the back brought my mind back to a decade earlier. One of the girls who had been sharing the house I was renting at the time had moved out a few weeks previously. Like most of the people I’ve shared a house with, we didn’t get on too well. To be honest, I was glad to see the back of her. On the other hand, I was on good terms with the landlord. I used to collect the rent from everyone and give it to him or else leave it in an envelope in my room for him to collect. One day the landlord called over looking for the rent. I told him that I had left it in my room for him a few weeks earlier. I presumed he had picked it up while he had been wondering why we were behind. I went into my room and turned the place upside down in case the envelope had fallen down somewhere. I didn’t find it, but while searching I remembered something that had been on my mind around that time. On quite a few occasions, I went to play a particular cd, but had been unable to find it. I had a lot less cds back then, only a few hundred, so I went through them and found that about a dozen were missing. We put two and two together and decided that it was not unreasonable to assume that the previous tenant had absconded with the envelope as well as an eclectic selection from my music collection. When I started thinking about the cds I realised that they had been ones that I’d been playing in the kitchen while cooking and that she had commented favourably upon on a number of times. Among the missing were The Pixies’ Doolittle, Songs for Swinging Lovers by Sinatra and, the one I now held in my hand, It’s a Shame About Ray by The Lemonheads.
“You look like a man on a mission,” I heard the lady behind the counter say, bringing me firmly back to 2009. “Mission accomplished,” I replied as I handed her my new-found bounty. As she went through the cds she remarked that she was not familiar with any on the bands, but that they had “interesting covers.” I agreed with her and told her that the music was even more intriguing. “Seven cds,” she said “That’ll be four-fifty, please.” I felt a little guilty paying so little for such a fine collection, so I handed her a tenner and said that she could keep the change. She was happy to get a few bob more and I was happy to get a bargain. So happy, in fact, that I didn’t even point out to her that seven cds at 50c each comes to three-fifty.
I cycled home and put on the Lemonheads cd. As I listened to it again, I recalled the last time I heard these songs. It was nine months earlier on Saturday the 25th of May, 2008. Now, I don’t have a photographic memory and can name the date of every song I’ve ever heard. I remember the date because it was the day that Munster won the Heineken Cup for the second time in Cardiff. Having been out all day drinking I dragged my friend Henning along to see lead Lemonhead, Evan Dando, play a gig at Dolan’s Warehouse that night. Dando was on a solo tour promoting the re-release of It’s a Shame About Ray. He began the show by singing the album’s thirteen tracks (including the bonus ones) in sequence. I hadn’t known he was going to do this and I don’t even know if he announced he was going to do it. But, about halfway through I realised what he was doing. He finished the album and then played more songs by the band and a load of covers. It was a brilliant gig, even though I can’t remember a lot of it due to the large amount of alcohol that had been consumed throughout the day.
Saturday, March 21st, is going to be another huge day for rugby fans not only in Limerick and Munster, but all over Ireland, and even in Cardiff. This time it’s not Munster who’ll be playing, although many of their players will be involved. On this occasion, it will be the Irish rugby team who attempt to do something that has only been accomplished once before. In 1949, Ireland defeated Wales in their final match to win the Grand Slam. At the last Rugby World Cup, we thought Ireland might win the bloody thing and we were really disappointed when they didn’t. We were even more disappointed by their terrible performances and their lack of passion at that tournament. We approach 2009’s final game against Wales with a sense of optimism and the belief that we have a fighting chance of defeating the Welsh. We know it’s going to be a tight game. We know it’s going to be a tense game. And we know that it’s going to be a close game. We also know that we can lose by as much as a dozen points and still win the Championship. But, the fans and the players want more than that. We want the Grand Slam. And we know full well that we won’t be getting any charity from Wales
In what was one of the most thrilling and tense sporting encounters that I have ever witnessed, Ireland beat Wales 17-15 to win the 2009 Grand Slam. It was indeed a close affair with the lead changing hands a number of times in the closing stages. With less than ten minutes to go, Ireland were holding on to a two point lead. With five minutes to go, Stephen Jones put Wales ahead with a drop goal. Fortunately, there was still enough time for Ireland to get another score. And, with two minutes left on the clock, Ronan O’Gara struck a sweet drop goal between the posts to restore Ireland’s slender lead. Then, in the final minute Ireland gave away a penalty on the half-way line. Stephen Jones, who had been kicking well all afternoon, lined it up. Not a sound must have been heard all over Ireland as the ball left his boot and sailed up in to the air and on target towards the posts. All around the country, everyone let out a collective sigh of relief as the ball failed to make it and a few moments later the referee blew his whistle and Ireland won only its second Grand Slam. The rest of the night is a bit of a blur, although it involved lots of celebrating and laughing and good times. The Irish team returns to a civic reception in Dublin today where there will be more celebrations and laughter and good times and even a bit of confetti