Overheard in a pub in Cushendall, County Antrim (55 degrees North, 6 degrees West):
In America, you tell your problem to a psychiatrist. In Ireland, you tell your problem to a friend. He tells all your friends and everyone laughs. No problem.
A pub is not necessarily the best place to get at the facts, but it can be a good place to unearth truths.
The structure of psychotherapy is such that no matter how kindly a person is, when that person becomes a therapist, he or she is engaged in acts that are bound to diminish the dignity, autonomy and freedom of the person who comes for help.
On a weekend of great spectacle – What Torch? What Jubilee? - moments of conviviality illuminate the lived experience on a human scale. Not televised. Not distant. Domestic. Situated in the old back parlour of a terraced house, now a welcoming pub, among friends, including ones just met and perhaps not met again.
The inherent inequalities of spectacle production, evident in events in London (51 degrees North, 0 degrees West) are not present.
On Sunday morning, 30 jobseekers and 50 apprentices were told to sleep under London Bridge where they had to change into their security uniform in public, before working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain. That night they were taken to a sodden camp-site.
In the pub in Cushendall, two guitar players, who honed their skills in adolescent bedrooms on the works of Rory Gallagher, John Lee Hooker and The Eagles Songbook, draw an harmonica player from another room, where traditional and folk music reigns, to add a further blue tinge to the company of a dozen singers, in front of an ancient green range, solemnly hibernating in the early summer heat.
Close. Participative. Human.
Any advice I might have had to offer would be no better than that of a well-informed friend (and considerably more expensive).
As the evening draws to a close, a young man is persuaded to take a guitar. He holds it tenderly and sings in an aching voice, which, though self-aware, is nonetheless genuine and invokes in the company yearnings, longings and awakenings, eased into readiness by alcohol.
Is this art?
And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
But lately there ain't been much work on account of the economy
Is a dream a lie if it doesn't come true?
Is there more for this young man than the distant spectacle?
Against Therapy; book; Jeffrey Mason; Fontana; 1990
The River: song; Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band; 1979