I am collecting sketches for my new book, An Urban Sketcher’s Galway. Being January, I try to identify indoor locations with big windows. This plan is working: there are far more big windows than I had ever realised. One of them is in Papa Rich, an Asian-fusion type restaurant in the centre of town, and it looks out over Galway Cathedral, the River Corrib and the canal. Yesterday I sat down to a bowl of something Vietnamese, noodly and spicy and started sketching.
The evening before, my son Paddy, who is seventeen, came home from school with a tale of woe.
“It was awful today,” he said. “We had to meditate in religion class. “Now leds,” the teacher said, “it’s better if ye have your eyes closed. It works much better with them cloooosed,” [I’m trying to imitate the very rural Galway accent Paddy gives her in the telling.] “Then she sat opposite us, staring at us. That was bad enough but the worst bit was the piano music on loop. And my back is killing me from sitting against the wall.”
“Just think of it as an excuse to do a bit of day-dreaming,” said Paddy’s dad.
The meditation piano music must have been on special offer this week because Papa Rich restaurant was playing it too. I sympathised with Paddy and I tried to memorise the boring tune of plinky-plonky synthetic piano music so I could compare it with the one he’d had to meditate to, but luckily I wasn’t able to commit to memory. I took rather a long time to do my drawing and the track wasn’t changed in almost two hours. I was going nearly as mad as Paddy (“just as you think it’s going to end it starts again” he said) but I felt a bit guilty for taking up a table over one little bowl of noodle soup, so I wasn’t going to ask them to put something else on. Then again it was a long way until dinner and the restaurant was far from full so maybe I should have relaxed a bit. Besides, I actually had some ear plugs with me, but I was just too lazy to take them out.
I saw Galway Cathedral (or, to use its proper name, Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed Into Heaven and St. Nicholas) for the first time in 1991 shortly after I arrived in Galway. It was built on the site of the old Galway gaol in the 1950s and I have to admit that although it may not be my cup of tea in terms of design, I do love painting the green coppery roofs. I also like painting the seagulls that are always soaring around above it but I think they’d be doing that whatever design the guys had come up with. And I found out a while ago that the towers were inspired by Islamic minarets.
Eventually the very relaxed staff in Papa Rich saw the back of me. Not for a second did I feel like I was outstaying my welcome and they were all very nice about the finished sketch, too. What’s more, I am happy to award the spicy Vietnamese noodle soup top marks on every count.
The river raged as it raced past. It’s the fastest-flowing river in Europe, I hear. It boils and churns in its fierce winter state, and the white foam on top of the wave crests seems to try to climb back up the river. You really don’t want to stare into that water for too long. By contrast the canal next to it was like glass, or nearly so.
I’ll be back…and I’ll actually bother to take my earplugs out next time.