The dogs did not have much walking yesterday; just one, half the length of those they have enjoyed every other day. We were meeting Vola for an early lunch at the Thatch, a pub I had never set foot inside until yesterday. The pub is run by members of Vola’s family, including Michaela, the granddaughter of Cousin’s friend and my partner in literary jaunts Anne who died two years ago. I last saw Michaela about the time she transferred from primary to secondary school, so it took me a few moments to realise who she was.
Vola started talking about the Van Morrison shows in Bellaghy yesterday. She hadn’t been, but she said there was a great buzz and so much traffic that the town came to a standstill. Cousin and I took note and turned up for tonight’s gig an hour and a half early. Even so, most of the parking spaces were full. It was a beautiful evening, the day had been hot and sunny. We sat outside with some drinks; Diet Coke for Cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon for me and watched and talked as the place filled up. Is there anyone you know, I asked her. She looked around her. No, she said but I think that man is Patrick Magee, the Brighton Bomber.
Time passed quickly. We finished our drinks and headed for the Ladies just before the announcement to ask us to take our seats. Very good seats as it turned out. Back row by the aisle, with a perfect view of the stage. We watched as the roadies completed their work.
Two minutes to seven and the band strode in stage. I have to say the band because I don’t know the musicians’ names, but they were amazing. All played multiple instruments. If Van the Man had had to pull out for any reason they alone would have been worth seeing and hearing. The keyboard player, who we guessed was the band leader, and the percussionist were the first to make my jaw drop.
The keyboard player introduced Van Morrison and the audience took to its feet as he walked to the mike. It’s a small venue, some two hundred seats. I had wondered if it might be too small for the sound, but it was perfect. They kicked off with St Dominic’s Preview and for the next eighty-five minutes we were royally entertained. My expectations were surpassed. Finally, The Belfast Cowboy left the stage. Again the audience took to its feet clapping and whooping, and once we were up he came back and launched into Gloria. The band and audience threw everything at it, and when Van Morrison left the stage again the band played on, each member having his or her own few minutes in the spotlight.
When the lights went up, we weren’t the only ones to remain in our seats for a bit longer, letting the moment last. It was somehow a surprise when we went out to find it was still daylight. A farm vehicle trundled past the Homeplace. Some audience members lingered to drink and enjoy the evening. We drove back by country roads talking about what we had just seen and heard.
I came home with my head full of Van Morrison’s music and in my bag, a very special present from Cousin; a signed copy of Lit Up Inside.
I’ll have to make it up to the dogs today.