November-December 2003

Rens & I had a fantastic time in South America last month! We were a day late getting there, thanks to an overbooked flight out of Madrid. This meant we spent an unexpected day in that city. Went to The Prado to see the Manet exhibition.

I still can’t quite understand the procedure for ‘bumping’ confirmed ticket holders off full flights. All the passengers who were denied boarding were folk who had started their journey outside Spain……

After the initial annoyance, we were pleased enough to have some money thrown at us, a free hotel and free meals at the hotel for the following day. We had a wonderful two days in Santiago-is that really all it was? Our concert at the Celtic Festival was brilliant! To be playing for 800 excited people in a country you had only ever dreamed of visiting was a rare treat indeed!

After the gig we repaired to the restaurant next door - Liguria - by 3am I had that old feeling of having known these people all my life! It was one of those rare moments...Thanks Antil, Francisco, Tomas and all! We had to get up early as we had elected to travel to Buenos Aires in Argentina by bus! It's a 22 hour tripover the Andes.

Spectacular views and fascinating to see how the rock colour changes but a little bit frustrating not to be able to get out and look. I think I'll have to get back there quick and do the viewing job better, especially as I just found I couldn't change my Chilean Pesos in Ireland.....! Fuck that. God be with the days when Banks were there to offer you a service…..(Reader: Oh yes? When was that.)

The journey finally ended in a huge Metropolis called Buenos Aires. We had travelled with our good friends from the band Kells and especially Sergio, the bouzouki player who had been instrumental in getting us to South America in the first place. We stayed at his parents house in a suburb called San Fernando and were treated as one of the family.

The Argentinian peso has been continually devalued in the last few years – a World Bank edict, I think - and a lot of people have been marginalised and demoted into poverty. Sergio told me of whole families out of work and on the first day, at the Railway station, we watched people dressed in ragged clothing boarding a special train. It had no seats and looked like a cattle train. They were pushing supermarket trolleys and other similar wheeled conveyances. Sergio told me they were going into the city to collect paper which they would later sell to a recycling company for not much. A lot of poverty was on view in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. Something the holiday traveller probably wouldn’t see much of in the city centre.

The week was largely taken up with catching the train into the city (45 mins) and doing interviews and having photos taken. The promotion was wonderful. Every single daily paper had a photo and an interview. Would that you could get that in more ‘advanced’ cities…….. The gig was wonderful. The place was full of interested people and I had managed to get my introductions translated into Spanish. I tried to read it off pieces of paper on the floor, without letting on I was reading it. It was all a great success. A week in Argentina is hardly enough but we had to move on.

Our last night was in Montevideo in Uruguay. We had ‘pulled’ the gig as it had been moved into an ‘Irish Pub’. We do not play ‘Irish Pubs’. However, Rens and I had a great night of eating, drinking and reminiscing about the past! All things we are very good at! Strange how people over there do not dine until very late. I’m told it’s a Spanish thing. We went out to the restaurant about 10pm but it didn’t really fill up till midnight and when we left about 3am, the streets were crowded with Saturday night revellers. Taxi to the airport next morning through deserted streets. Can’t wait to get back there.