Monday November 13th, 2017 – Balatonboglar Train Station, Hungary
It is cold. The wind cuts through my many layers of clothing. It’s been another couple of enjoyable and easy days on tour. I arrived in Zagreb on Friday night. Checked into my airbnb and went out for a walk and a bite to eat. Zagreb was hopping on Friday night. I heard a very convincing Croatian Johnny Cash sing in a Russian Irish bar. I’ve had “Solitary Man” stuck in my head ever since.
Saturday morning I went down to the train station again to meet Neil. I sat smugly impressed with my punctuality waiting for his train to arrive. Neil was on the bus. And in Zagreb, like many cities, buses go to the bus station. I sped walked down there and ate a Borek that tasted like it might have once been a sock.
Myself and Neil wandered round town for a few hours before the gig at Booksa. Booksa is bookstore, coffee shop, venue. The kind of place that Neil consistently finds. The Irish Ambassador to Croatia Olive Hempenstall came down to support us. Neil read four poems and I sang for an hour or so. Craig Kierce, a musician friend from New York was in town and he came down too. It was on the quiet side but very enjoyable. Afterwards we all headed to watch IReland Denmark World Cup qualifier.
On Sunday morning myself and Craig and delicious breakfast and Craig drove me into Hungary to the small town of Balatonmagyarod. Mary Murphy lives there. They have a beautiful, beautiful house in the countryside next to Kis Balaton. Mary and her partner Steve were my hosts/minders/tour managers on Sunday evening and Monday morning. This weekend was the feast of St. Martin, it is a Hungarian tradition to eat goose in his honour. Legend has it that failure to do so will leave you feeling unsatisfied by any food for the next year. That’s an awfully specific and cruel punishment. Thankfully Steve and procured the last goose in the village and it was delicious. I played in Zalaegerszeg on Sunday night. The gig was very enjoyable and again, I was surprised at the turn out considering I had never played there before. I did well with Cds.
I slept in an old Soviet military cot. It was perfectly comfortable.
Tuesday November 14th, 2017 – Queen Mary Hotel, Budapest
On Monday morning Mary drove myself and her friend Elona to the train to Budapest. We went along the scenic route by Lake Balaton. It was bitterly cold and windy and really picturesque. I played the back room of Beckett’s Irish bar in Budapest. It was good to see old friends. Dan Swartz made the journey from Szalona. Dan ran Tree Hugger Dan’s a really great book store and venue where I played many times with the Voice and the Verse in the past. It was great to see him. JP O’Malley, me old Dublin friend, who I met at Mr. Dennehy’s in New York over ten years ago was there. Tim Nugenthead another great friend and former New York now lives in Budapest. I’ve known Tim for years but I only found out last night that his dad wrote for Fred Rogers. Like, Mr. Rogers. Maebh Ni Drisceoil from the Irish Embassy came down too.
Having the support of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs on this tour has been a real honour. As well as providing financial support they’ve also been helping out promoting the gigs.
After the gig last night we wound up in a tiny pub with a London name where I fell into a jam session with a Senegalese percussionist, a Peruvian guitar player, a Norwegian fiddler, a Tim and a Craig. Also, Hungarian songwriter Noel Mayer sang me my song ‘May 12, 1916 – A Song for James Connolly’. I have to say I was quite proud to hear him sing it so far from home.
I am off tonight. Then on to Vienna for three gigs, then Prague, then Olomouc, then Munich, then Rees, then…