The Session

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One of the joys of Irish culture is our music sessions. You stagger out of the lashing rain into a pub, someone is playing in the corner; you grab a beer, whip out your harpoon or your guitar and get involved. More fun than Disneyland, more team spirit than the SAS; we have never had any problems with the paramilitaries. “We know were you live,” we threaten them, “and we’ll come and play outside your house.”

There is a downside; music is in our blood, they say, but so is cholesterol, and years of clandestine observation has led to the conclusion that there are many hidden dangers involved, and every instrument has its own unique hazards. The Corner House in Rostrevor, and my buddies Alfie, Mary ,Matthew, Claire, Jimmy, Phil and Maria have provided me with the following observational data, and any resemblance to persons alive or dead is right on the money.

Guitar—A gentleman has been defined as someone who doesn’t play his guitar at a session. It is a perilous diversion; if you play it badly the other musicians will hate you; if you play it well the other guitarists—that is, 90% of the other musicians—will hate you. So beware of being mugged on the way home. Bring bandages and antiseptic, and get insured.

Uileann pipes—For some bizarre, unfathomable reason beautiful, exotic foreign women find grotesquely sweaty, hairy, ruddy featured men, maniacally pumping their right elbow, irresistibly attractive. So before rushing out for lessons, stop at the chemist for supplies.

Fiddle—Virtuosos, believing that all others are there only to give them backing, can develop paranoid delusions of supremacy and rush out at any moment to receive imaginary awards. May need sedation. Their “flying right elbow” can cause eye, skull, and dental injuries to unwary neighbours.

Double bass—He-men, they moonlight as lumberjacks and have wrists thicker than a fiddler’s waist, which they could wrench as easily as a chicken’s neck. Luckily they are gentle and easily intimidated. Can get splinters, so bring tweezers and local anaesthetic.

Bodhran—A kind of drum. The instrument of last resort, for those who can play nothing else, and basically an excuse to hang out with the band and drink. These unfortunate individuals are prone to depression, because everyone else, even the guitarists, at worst despises and at best feels pity towards them—that is, “pity we’ve no shotgun.” Bullet proof clothing is advisable, and be ready to borrow the bass man’s tweezers to extract the pellets from your arse.

Accordion—The musical equivalent of an infectious, purulent skin rash, which is a bizarre coincidence as they sweat profusely with the effort required to carry the damn thing and are prone to develop infectious, purulent skin rashes.

Banjo—Suffer from a chronic inferiority complex, but, as they constantly reassure themselves, at least they ain’t guitarists. Hate mandolin players for associated reasons. Are shy with girls and drink too much, so not an advisable instrument for single men with addictive personalities. Usually have domineering mothers, and make particularly pathetic and offensively melancholic drunks.

Tin whistle—Prone to falling forward when stuporous and consequently liable to teeth and palate injury, as the whistle is usually still in position. Gumshields are advised and, uniquely, may improve their appearance.

Flute—Slobber a lot, so other musicians must sit some distance away lest body fluids are inadvertently exchanged. It is stating the obvious that they are usually farmers.

Mandolin—Bags of street cred, but as this instrument is utterly inaudible, the musician often wears a wet T shirt to attract attention. Chronic chest problems are a consequence.

It is indeed a perverse and bizarre world where you need a licence to own a dog yet any fool can play a bodhran. But are we simply avoiding intimacy issues in a fog of wild ceilidh tunes and whiskey fumes? And who wants to be there when the music stops? Do I have to say I love you in a song?

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