Friday mornings, between 6.45 and 6.50 am, he drives across the moor. The car, a small Vauxhall hatchback, is heavily laden. Large red canvas bags fill the rear of the car. Cymbals from a drum kit rest on top of the bags. Presumably, after work each Friday, he joins companions to be the drummer in the band to which he belongs. After a day’s work, it must demand stamina to go to play a gig.
In 2013, an RTE radio feature recalled the times of late dances in Ireland. The interviewer talked with men who had played in bands in the 1960s and 1970s, those who would come home from work and wash and change before getting in a van to travel a couple of hours to a hall or hotel where they would be playing. One venue held a regular dance from ten until four, another went on to five or six, people travelling home in daylight. One band member recalled regularly arriving home at seven or eight in the morning and washing and changing before heading out for the day’s work.
The Vauxhall only carries the drum kit on a Friday, late night gigs are the activity of weekends. Did people have more energy in former times?
Revellers now might spend all night at clubs in their home towns on Friday or Saturday night, or on holidays in the warmer climes of places like Ibiza, but they will then return to their homes or to their hotels and sleep until the afternoon. If you drove through the streets of most towns in the early hours of a weekday, people would be scarce; the days of dancing until dawn seem long past.
Have we lost our staying power? How many people now would go to an all night dance on a regular basis and then go home to change for work? Perhaps they were sleepy at work, perhaps bosses were less demanding, perhaps they were just fitter.
Maybe fitness is the difference, people used to manual work all day and then driving, or sometimes riding a bicycle, to a dance hall, were presumably considerably physically stronger and presumably possessed far greater stamina than most of us today.
How it felt to work all day, and then to play in a band, or to dance all night, before going to work the following day, shall for evermore remain one of life’s imponderables. The man in the Vauxhall has far more energy than I ever possessed.