Out of the Miry Clay – Part One

As promised, my first offering of a story on here.  This started its life a few years ago as something completely different and spun off in a direction that threatened to turn a little crazy!! Long story… maybe I’ll tell it one day. 

All you need to know for now is that the guts of it came from my love of Dublin and the way it has altered over the years I have been going there. I thought it would be fascinating to look at it through the eyes of an artist whose hobby it is to draw its changing face.  It is also about music and art, creation and destruction.

Several of my stories seem to involve Dublin and New York, and troubled people. I think that’s because I am fascinated by twisted beauty, twisted ideas, twisted emotion.

“Out of the Miry Clay” contains all that and more. The title comes from Psalm 40 (and came to my attention by U2 with their song “40”).  I loved the words because they made me think of places that seem broken and dangerous and impassable. Not just geographical places, or physical places. But places emotional, spiritual, ethical and moral. If we flounder in a boggy pit but have something we believe in, someone to trust, we’ll find our way out.

I am adapting the original story for this blog and will post in instalments.  I’ll be making those changes – sometimes –  completely on the fly so this should be an interesting experiment.  One I hope you’ll enjoy.

I’ll post a chapter at least once a week and maybe more. Please let me know your thoughts as it goes along (comments please!!) and feel free to pass a link to my blog to anyone you think will be interested.

Out of the Miry Clay

“Are you sure this is where you wanted to go?” the taxi driver asked as we pulled up at the end of the quay.  It was a very insalubrious place, dank and dirty, almost god-forsaken.  But this end of it, at least, had nice paving and somewhere to sit.

“Yes, this is fine,” I said, hauling myself and my huge bag out of the car and fumbling for my purse.

I tried to ignore the look on his face – which was saying he thought I had a slate loose – and the way he was looking me up and down as if to figure out why I wanted to come here, where there was a whole load of nothing except dirt and noise.  And it was freezing to boot.  I ignored it because I was used to it by now, and I didn’t care.

And anyway, I wasn’t the only one here.  We had passed a crowd outside the builders yard, a small gaggle of five or six people armed with cameras and pens and hopeful expressions.  Like faithful, guards they were always here, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rock band whose studio was right on the edge of the water.  They had been my company for a few years now.  And sometimes my subjects.

My hands were numb but I managed to get my money out and paid the driver the 12 Euro fare (Seamus O Shaughnessy the badge on his dashboard said, and gave no indication that he was a highwayman who robbed people.  Shameless O Shaughnessy was more like it).  That was another thing that had gone up along with all this new development!  The price of everything.  He bid me goodbye and rode – sorry, drove – off up the street, leaving me standing among the whole load of nothing.

To be fair though, it was coming along, and it was about time because work had been going on here for forever, it seemed.  Down the other end was a little block of cafes and a Spar (somehwere to get sandwiches and drinks at last!)  and apartments looking out onto  the canal dock. Up here, the side of the canal had been paved and there were a couple of benches from which to look out over to the other side… to watch the boats go by and to check out the ever changing skyline over there.

More new buildings had shot up. Mmm, this would keep me busy for a while.  I took a seat, and looked out over the water. Last time I was here I had had to fold a jacket up on the floor and sit on that, but at least it had been warmer then, back in July.  I remembered sitting here and loving the feel of the sun on my face, and the noise of the seagulls from above.  They had seemed to be laughing at me as I sat there with my pad, staring out at the scene in front of me, trying to capture where they lived and what they saw every day as they reeled overhead.

Now, five months later, the week before Christmas, there were benches to keep my bottom off the icy cold ground and that was so welcome as the bitter chill cut through me, through my coat. I took out my pad and pencils and lay them out on the bench.  I couldn’t start to draw right away.  I had to sit first, to feel the surroundings, take in the sight of the cityscape, drink in the atmosphere.

Behind me, from beyond the building that was almost the only original thing left in this street, I heard shrill squealing.  That usually meant that the rock band had arrived – one or more of them.  I glanced at my watch.  Half past two.  Mmmm, it was late. It was probably the lead singer then – Conor.  He was always late and they always squealed louder for him.  It sounded like one of those squeals.

As the noise of excited banter drifted around the corner, I picked up my pad and flicked through it.  Five years of Dublin passed before my eyes, the docklands changing beyond all recognition in the strokes of my pencil.  In there too were the characters that stood outside that building.  All nationalities and ages and shapes and sizes.  All walks of life.  Dressed in tee-shirts in the summer and wrapped in fur coats in winter.  Always with glazed eyes and wide smiles. Sometimes crazy, sometimes still. But constant in their patience.

And sketches of Conor too.  Stepping out of Mercedes, Jaguars… even once a Volkswagon, which seemed funny for a cool rock star.  Him with long hair (sometimes black as coal, sometimes kissed with an auburn glow, sometimes streaked with crazy reds and blues that set my pencils a-jumping!).  With impenetrable black goggle glasses, and sometimes with unshaded clear eyes (I once searched for an hour in Easons to find a pencil just the right shade of green).

Maybe I would go around and see what the scene was like, capture it today.  I wanted to see what he looked like.  My drawings were as much a measure of his changing aspect as they were of Dublin’s and I was curious now.  Now that I knew he was there.

I heard his voice – unmistakable, deep and rich.  Making a joke as he always did, and the sound of the crowd laughing in response made me smile. He chuckled, and I wondered if he was wearing shades today or not.

Yeah, I’d go around and see. Keep my distance though.  No harm in having a look.