Making the Point

I came across a child of god
He was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going
And this he told me

He might have indeed been a child of God but he was walking along Merrion Row. Wearing a suit. Two-piece, two sizes too big and yet to see the inside of a dry cleaners. “Bummer man, it’s the job, have to wear it,” he shouts in our direction. Yeah sure. Hope he doesn’t sit near us. We got the gear. Hair everywhere. Eskimo jumpers, drain pipe denims (or dungarees – cool), tie-dye t-shirts with Rory Gallagher or Phil Lynott on the front. Clogs or Adidas basketball boots. And, of course, the black duffle coat.

Five busloads of us at £4 a head. “How’s it going head?” asks The Suit, who sat beside us. Okay man. There are some cool women who now think he’s with us. He opens up a large bag, whips off the suit and throws on denims that have more rips than the shower curtain in Psycho. He’s more relaxed now and announces: “I’m gonna get wasted this weekend man.” But what about stopping them building the nuclear power station? “Ah fuck that man. Rock n’ roll! I’m gonna get outta me box.” The old bus driver (40) shoves on an eight-track cartridge of Big Tom and the Mainliners, plumes of thick diesel smoke billow from the exhaust and we’re out of it.

I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm
I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band
I'm going to camp out on the land
I'm going to try an' get my soul free

First stop, Rathnew County Wicklow. The driver says 20 minutes and not a minute more. Into the pub. The locals look bewildered. We’re asked our ages. Some fool says he’s 20. “Sorry over 21s only,” snaps the owner. Those with moustaches or beards survive the cull. The Suit produces ID and he’s alright. Guinness is your only man. One of the locals asks where we’re heading to. We tell him of our plans to stop a nuclear power station being built. He smiles, points out the window and tells us that first we better stop the bus from leaving. Six people don’t make it. The guitars are out and we get stuck into ‘Bullfrog Blues’. ‘Going to my home town, don’t care even if I have to walk’. They will.

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

We arrive at Carnsore Point just in time to catch the last song from The Atrix. Treasure on the Wasteland. Saturday morning and we’re on walkabout. The sun is shining and the place is beautiful. Some Germans are skinny dipping. We’d love to join them but hey we’re Irish.

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning

Ireland’s first Anti-Nuclear Power Festival is well organised. There’s a huge marquee and three or four smaller ones. We wander in and out of seminars with titles like: Centering the Self; The Hands of Healing; Energy from Within; Life Forces for a New Age. We haven’t a breeze what they’re talking about but it sounds cool.

Some people in a seminar are passing an orange to each other using only their chins. Far out. Nearby some women are rolling across each other on the ground. The Suit appears from nowhere. He’s stoned and says he wants to join in. He’s winking at us. We’re outta there. We’re hungry and stumble across the true meaning of manna from heaven. A marquee with loaves of bread from floor (well grass) to roof. Some sort of collective are providing the best sandwiches we’ve ever eaten (vegetarian of course). Fifteen pence for one the width of your arm. Tea is 10p.

Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it's the time of man
I don't know who I am
But you know life is for learning

Drink is the next priority. Nothing on site so we start to walk the two miles to the nearest pub. On the way we cadge a lift from a dude in a green battered Hiace van. He drives like a maniac and talks like a manic. “I’m on the organising committee. Driving everywhere man. Picked up Christy Moore this morning. Going to collect Billy Roche Band.” Cool. He drops us at the pub. Thanks. “It’s cool man.” He gives us a V sign. Hiace Man.

We can’t get in to the pub. No one can get in to the pub. The owner has put a counter across the entrance. Inside there are six packs as far as the eye can see. Stacked floor to ceiling. There’s just enough room for himself to reach behind. We decide to carry a few back to the site in case we miss any action. Naa. If we drink them now we’ll be carrying them back anyway. Stagger back. Hiace Man and the Billy Roche Band nearly mow us down. The numbers have seriously swelled by now. 10,000? Speakers are on the main stage. John Carroll (not cool) from the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Professor Robert Blackith from Trinity College (really cool, long hair, long goatee beard). Petra Kelly from the soon to be German Greens (extremely cool).

The group names are the best. The Tagoat Mummers. The what? And the politicians. The Socialist Workers’ Collective Solidarity Action Campaign, the Communist Party of Ireland (Marxist-Leninist), the British and Irish Communist Organisation, the Workers’ Solidarity something. The Trotskyist thingymejig. The Left yokey. They all need members just to carry their banners. The Suit is shouting at them. “Where’s the fuckin’ music man. ROCK N’ ROLL!!!” He gets the most cheers.

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

The music begins in stereo with the torrential rain. Ah the duffle. Everyone crams into the big marquee and Clannad are on. The diddley-eye music is cool. Maire Ni Bhraonain is cool. Jim Page (no not Jimmy) gives us ‘Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette’. He’s American and we want to be him. Were you in Woodstock Jim? Were you in ‘Nam? What do you think of Easy Rider Jim? We break into our Midnight Cowboy routine: “C’mon, c’mon I’m just walkin’ here.” And then it’s: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? I don’t see anyone else here?” Jim is impressed. We’re impressed.

With all the rain the site has turned into the National Ploughing Championships. They’re jumping and rolling around making mud slides. We’ve seen a movie like this. Ten years after? We go for sandwiches. There are none. We see The Suit with soup. “The Harrys have grub man!” The wha’? He points to a big yellow American bus. In the midst of the chaos the Hare Krishnas are playing music and smiling. Not talking just smiling. We get soup and they tell us they love us. We love them too. Some fucker has stolen the tent poles! Peace and love my arse. We prop it up as best we can. We use the latest issue of Hibernia to soak up the water. It must have been a bumper issue. The gale force wind howls. What a day. Blown away.

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration

Everyone is in a state of shock after the storm. The place is in bits. Litter and muck everywhere. Volunteers are asked to help collect rubbish. We get plastic bags and wander around. Bodies everywhere. More seminars. An announcement is made reminding us that the last mass in the local church is at 12.30. We look at each other. What? The local parish priest has noticed that no long-hairs have appeared at the earlier masses. Another reminder. Then a suggestion that some of us should go and make things cool with the locals. The long-hairs will parlez with the natives. We shouldn’t bring our peace pipes though.

And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

Rumours abound that the locals are not happy with the carry-on at the site, which has a Marian shrine on it. They’re worried about our ‘health’ after the storm and want to come down to help us out. We’re not having it. They’re our parents. They decide to come anyway and march on to the site in their Sunday best singing hymns. We’re having our own march, carrying stones down to the sea to build a cairn. They aren’t too impressed with the skinny dipping and the praying breaks into a fever pitch. But they’re the ones who will be living next to the power station and they’re really worried about it. For a while it looks like we scare them more than a power station. There is so much traffic coming in that the area is becoming gridlocked. Volunteers are requested for traffic duty, and we’re definitely having a bit of that.

We approach Hiace Man and we tear off across the fields. Tony and I are dropped at the pub and told that the roads are now one-way only. Far out. We’re standing in the road pointing and the cars are following our directions. Cool. A dude from Galway puts together a four-skinner. Now we’re telling the Guards it’s a one-way system. “Right so, son. Good man.” All right! There’s a roar of motorcycle engines and they pull up beside us. “What’s your problem?”, asks Kawasaki 750. Be cool man, it’s a one way system. You have to go that way, we scream across the noise. “You’ll be sorry pal, if you keep that cool shit up. We’ll go whatever way we like.” That’s cool too, we say. And off they roar to be met by the locals.

Lambs to the slaughter. Look what happened to Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda man. Hiace Man appears and tells us to stay there until the end. Everyone is leaving and we decide to skip the bus and stay the night. Anyway the pub is open again and we’re getting free pints. We say goodbye to everyone and thank them for coming. They thank us for having them. And then it gets very blurry.

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil's bargain
And we've got to get ourselves
back to the garden

Monday morning. The festival has hit all the newspapers. Radio and television. We’re famous. There’s a huge picture of The Suit in The Sunday Press. His Higher Executive Officer will be impressed. Only a handful of people left on the site now. There are mountains of rubbish bags strewn about. Someone says we should do it again next year. Maybe there’ll be no need for it next year.

“Don’t be stupid,” shouts Hiace Man, still in the driver’s seat. “They’re not going to give up. This country is going down the tubes. The politicians are all on the fiddle man. Big business is paying them. And the church is the same. They say one thing, but do the opposite. We’ll be back here next year ‘cos people are never gonna find out what’s really going on. If they ever did there’d be a revolution.”


© Fergus Cassidy 1998

* Lyrics from ‘Woodstock’ by Joni Mitchell