(Some reflections at an internet cafe in Kuala Lumpur Airport)
The legend is that Dylan Thomas drank 16 whiskies at the White Horse Tavern in Manhattan, announced "I think that's the record," keeled over and died. It's a good story but it's not true, Thomas probably died from an overdose of morphine which a doctor injected into his abdomen to 'help' with his hangover. Why am I bringing this up? Well I was thinking about DT the last few days because one thing about his life that it is true is that he went to a lot of parties, met a lot of writers and drank and brawled in a parody of Celtic tropes that unfortunately is still alive today particularly in the "heroic" alcohol inspired shenanigans of certain Irish actors. A little to my chagrin, my life has been a Thomasesque walking stereotype for the last few days; last night at the charming and well lubricated Profile Books party in London I met 4 writers whose books I very much admire: Roy Foster, Aifric Campbell, Chris Mullen & Garth Cartwright and the previous night, after my reading in Belfast, I went for a session with Dave Torrans, Colin Bateman, Stuart Neville and Gerard Brennan. While I had a blast at the Profile Party it was very nice to drink and ride the zeit with other Northern Irish writers - Ulster in the 70's, 80's and 90's is a lost world that most people in Britain and Ireland would like to forget about, yet whose resonances are continually being played out in the contemporary scene in such diverse places as Rwanda, Tehran and Xinjiang.
Before I go, I should mention the generosity of everyone at Serpent's Tail who put together my journey from Australia to Carrickfergus, Belfast and London with special thanks to Anna-Marie, Rebecca and Pete. One very bitter sweet aspect of this 24000 mile round trip was getting to spend a few hours in Carrick with my brother Gareth who shipped out for Afghanistan on Tuesday night. Go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo aris.