Back in 1998 and 1999, before I was lucky enough to make my meagre living out of being creative, I was working a computer helpdesk at Anglo American. (For my international readers, The Anglo American Corporation of South Africa, affectionately known as “Anglo” is a huge, multinational mining house.) My hours were long, I worked five days a week, seven ’till six. A good eleven hours. As said, it was helpdesk. I received on average 200 phone calls a day from irate “users”, all of them pissed off because their “computer isn’t working”.
Two hundred people a day, screaming at you, demanding you fix something you did not break. It was a highly stressful environment. Come Friday, I was an emotional, worn out mess. My shift ended at six, and the last bus home left at seven. There was a dark, smoky pub down the road, about halfway between the office and the bus stop.
This is where I found solace on Friday afternoons. Sometimes the pub was full with other Anglo employees, sometimes, it was as empty as Arsenal’s trophy cabinet, but on Friday evenings, I found myself a table under a buzzing, red, Castle Lager neon sign, order myself a draught beer, take out my notebook and pen, and write for an hour.
Just me, my beer, and my thoughts.
The barmaid was a dark-haired girl named Vicky. Vicky played The Cranberries over and over and over. Friday evenings consisted of Castle Draught and Cranberries.
In that period of my life, Dolores O’Riordan and The Cranberries became iconic to me, making an indelible mark on the soundtrack of my life. While the world was thrashing to Zombie, I wrote my first, bad, writings to the soothing ballads of Dreams, Linger, Ode to My Family, and other, less popular and overplayed Cranberries songs. To such an extent that when I left Anglo at the end of 1999, I went and got myself a bunch of Cranberries songs from Napster – remember Napster? – purely to be the soundtrack of Friday afternoon writing sessions. Even as I am writing this, Linger is in the background.
The Cranberries is as much part of my musical identity as any of the 80’s and 90’s alternative bands that kept me sane during those tumultuous years. And the photographer-slash-artist in me even then appreciated such a pretty nose!
So, when about twelve hours ago, I learned of her death, I was really sad.
Go well, Dolores, thank you for keeping me alive, and giving me Dreams.
This Friday, I’ll drink bad draught beer, and do some (hopefully better) writing in your honour.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons – I was not lucky enough to have shot Dolores.)