Friday, 26 November 2010

Why I'm Staying

A couple of nights or so ago I watched His And Hers again, one of the best Irish films you’ll ever see. It’s a beautifully made documentary, crafted from the simple premise of Irish women talking about the men in their lives. These are good, honest, warm, articulate, hardworking people, from those starting out in life to those looking back on theirs. Here’s the trailer to give you an idea if you’ve not seen it:

I watched the film while still digesting the Irish government’s ‘four year plan’ designed to help get the country back on its feet. Minutes after it had finished I saw Ireland’s Minister for Finance tell a television interviewer while trying to justify the measures, “let’s face it, we all partied”.

I didn’t. I wasn’t here for the boom years: with characteristic timing I reached the platform just in time to watch the tail lights of the gravy train trundling into the distance.

My partner didn’t either. She didn’t take on any of the stupid credit being practically forced on her and didn’t take on a mortgage she’d have no chance of repaying. She has no debts despite being made redundant and now only working part-time. She was sensible. Still is. Well, apart from her questionable taste in men, obviously.

The women in His And Hers were most likely sensible too. Good people. Honest people. People not involved in shamelessly reckless finance and nod-and-a-wink brown envelope cronyism. Yet these are the people being forced to clean up the financial mess in a way that those most responsible for it patently and wilfully aren’t.

The Irish government should be made to sit down and watch this film in an attempt to restore at least a smidgen of reality to their cloud cuckoo land detachment from Ireland and make them see the kind of people their actions are vigorously and unfairly ruining.

They keep talking about the ‘national interest’ but with their ridiculous salaries – Brian Cowen earns [sic] more than Barack Obama – and chauffeured limousines they no longer have any idea what the nation is. Even I have more of an idea of what the nation is than they do and I’ve only been here a couple of years. If there’s anyone utterly lacking a mandate to speculate upon the nature of the national interest it’s them.

One conclusion drawn from the measures is that it will force people out of the country and we’ll see the kind of mass emigration of the eighties and beyond all over again. Some people wonder whether perhaps that's even the intention.

Well, I’m not leaving. I love it here. I love the fantastic friends I’ve made and I’m proud to live here. The actions of the corrupt and greed-riddled few who are wriggling off the hook of responsibility thanks to a complicit, spineless and breathtakingly inept government don’t represent me and they’re not going to push me around, let alone push me out of the country.

I’m staying.

I’m staying for the people who’ve made me so welcome, I’m staying because Ireland is better than this and I’m staying because my ancestors were forced to leave and I’m buggered if I’m letting that happen again.

I’m staying because I’m proud to live in a country alongside the kinds of people you see in His And Hers and the kinds of people who can make films like His And Hers.

I’m staying because I’m angry and I’m staying because I’m determined not to let the country I call home remain in the hands of incompetent goggle-eyed hayseeds so dizzy with spin they have no idea what’s true and what isn’t any more, let alone how to fix their legacy of destruction.

I’m staying because I have faith that there are people far better equipped to fix the country than someone so ignorant, so crassly out of touch that he can look the nation in the eye and say, “let’s face it, we all partied”.

I’m staying.

Anyway, ‘party’ isn’t a verb.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

It's All Relative

Those of you who've read the book will know that my ancestry is largely comprised of poverty-stricken guttersnipes living in parts of slums that even other slumdwellers would look down their noses at. Both sides of my family have generations' worth of London dockworkers stretching back to the mid-nineteenth century. We were dock labourers, ships' launderers and even hull scrapers. My maritime legacy has always been so far down the hierarchical ladder that it's within hailing distance of Davy Jones's Locker itself.

Until now.

The book gave me a taste for genealogy and since I finished it I've set about trying to complete other branches of the family tree. And yesterday I made a startling discovery. My paternal grandmother's family came from Scotland, the coast of Ayrshire, and I've been tracing them back as far as I can. Now, when I reached my 5xgreat grandfather John Ritchie from Saltcoats, I found that he is responsible for one of the greatest maritime legacies in the world.

In 1791 his brother William Ritchie gave up his little shipyard in Saltcoats and travelled over to Belfast, where he began a shipbuilding business on the banks of the Lagan. It went so startlingly well that his brothers Hugh and John, my ancestor, went over to help run and expand the businesses. Directly as a result of these three men's work, Belfast became one of the world's great shipbuilding powerhouses of the next two centuries.

Their first ship was launched on July 6 1792. It's name? The Hibernia.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Next Handcart Leaving At...

There are occasions living here when I feel as if Father Ted was actually a fly-on-the-wall documentary. They're thankfully rare, but when they come along they are well worth the wait. The last 24 hours has produced two of them, and they are belters.

Conor Lenihan is the Minister for State with special responsibility for Science, Technology, Innovation and Natural Resources. The Science Minister for short. Ol' Sciencey Trousers, if you like. Actually, he's probably not known as Ol' Sciencey Trousers, but you get what I mean.

Either way you can imagine the disbelief in Ireland last night when it emerged that he'd agreed to launch a self-published anti-evolution polemic by a man who says his book is "unceremoniously unashamedly and unmistakably going to expose the fiction of evolution".

So, that's the Irish Minister for Science launching an anti-evolution book. A little bit like the health minister appearing at the launch of The Booze, Fags and Kebabs Diet,or the Sports Minister turning up to endorse Sit On Your Arse All Day And Night, It's Great!

Now, since the story broke to widespread incredulity Mr Lenihan has pulled out of the launch (saying that he'd agreed to go because the author was a personal friend and constituent). Rumours that he will be launching If The Earth's Round How Come Australians Don't Fall Off? and If We're Descended From Monkeys, How Come There Are Still Monkeys? over the next couple of weeks are as yet unconfirmed.

Then this morning the Taoiseach Brian Cowen appeared on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, roughly the Irish equivalent of the Today programme. You can hear the interview here but it's not what he says that has had the nation talking this morning, rather how he says it. At first I just thought it was a case of 'morning voice', but he definitely sounds a little...refreshed.

His party Fianna Fáil are in Galway this week for an annual pow-wow called a 'think-in', where many think that the Taoiseach may have taken the time away from Dublin as a chance to, ah, enjoy himself well into the night. He's since claimed that he was suffering from congestion, leading one leading member of the Irish Twitterati to posit this morning that she's "going out to get absolutely congested tonight".

So, a science minister cavorting with anti-evolutionists and a new euphemism for a night on the sauce. It's been an eventful 24 hours in Hibernia.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Public Image Limited

The publicity bandwagon is creaking into gear and look, there's me running behind it trying to attract its attention so it'll stop and pick me up.

This afternoon I shall be droning on about myself on Sean Moncrieff's show on Newstalk from 2pm, and tomorrow morning I shall be up with the lark and the burglar alarm from that house where they've gone on holiday and the alarm's been going all night to show my pasty, whiskery face on Ireland AM on TV3 some time just after 7am. Yes, 7am.

After that, if I'm not a sleep-deprived zombie, I shall be on Phantom FM at around 3 o'clock and then of course it's launch time at the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar at 6.30, then afterwards in the Stag's Head where we've reserved the upstairs bar from 8pm to make me feel extra important.

Then on Thursday - note how the publicity dept have allowed me the whole of Wednesday to recover from the night before - I'm on Ray Darcy's show on Today FM.

Cor, eh? Cor!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

See Y'all Soon Now, Y'Hear?

Could there be any more enticing prospect than watching Charlie Connelly read a book out loud? When that book is the epoch-defining literary milestone of Our Man In Hibernia the answer can only be a resounding 'yes, there are many more enticing prospects'.

Despite this, Charlie is insisting on going ahead and reading a bit of Our Man In Hibernia out loud in the fabulous and well-appointed Gutter Bookshop on Cow's Lane in Dublin's fashionable Temple Bar at 6.30pm on Tuesday September 7th and invites you to join him.

Reading a book out loud isn't the only tantalising prospect: Charlie will no doubt top and tail the reading a book out loud with some lame jokes and totally unconvincing self-deprecation too, but fear not, the event will be populated by lots of young and groovy hipsters like yourself and bursting at the seams with the kind of fascinating and beautiful people *you* want to meet.

So, be the first to celebrate the publication of OUR MAN IN HIBERNIA. It's a cracking read and you're all in it. Bring friends: they're all in it too.


It's the hottest date in Dublin this summer. Don't miss it.

*the reading a book out loud bit won't take long, honest.

Afterwards we shall be repairing to the upstairs bar of the Stag's Head, Dame Court, 5 minutes from the Gutter Bookshop. They're reserving it 'specially'n'everything from 8 o'clock.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Alabama Leprechaun

This is good. Really, really good.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Minding My Language

Last week marked the second anniversary of my arrival in Ireland. Somehow in the past two years I’ve avoided both being turfed out of the country by officialdom and chased into the Irish Sea by an angry mob. Long may that continue.

Like most Londoners I always had that snooty assumption that everyone else had an accent, not me. I was soon disavowed of that of course and two years on it’s clear that my time in Ireland has had a tangible effect on my speech. My nasal cockney whine has been diluted, nay, improved by a number of words and phrases that I’ve absorbed without even realising. Things that, when I do visit London again, will have everyone from friends to bar staff looking at me askance.

The top ten things I'd never said before two years ago are:

1) Using the phrase ‘at this stage’ when I mean ‘now’.

2) Referring to more than one person collectively as ‘lads’ no matter what their gender make-up may be.

3) Saying ‘sorry’ instead of ‘excuse me’ when trying to attract the attention of a stranger.

4) Saying ‘how’re ya’ or ‘howzigoin’’ when in the past I’d have just said ‘hello’. I’ve also been known to ask ‘whats’s the story?’

5) Using the word ‘grand’ instead of ‘good’. I’ve surprised even myself by occasionally using the phrase ‘powerful stuff’ in the same context.

6) The word ‘after’ is inserting itself into an increasing number of sentences, such as, “I’m after heading into town”.

7) Using ‘will ya stop’ instead ‘my goodness’, ‘golly’ or any other instance of affirming assent or expressing surprise.

8) Where once I’d have said, ‘great!’ or ‘brilliant!’ I now hear myself saying, ‘mighty!’

9) When people ask how I am, I reply ‘oh, happy out’ or ‘there’s not a bother on me’, when before I’d have just said, ‘fine, thanks’.

10) I knew I’d really arrived when I mentioned my mother in a recent conversation. For the best part of four decades I’ve referred to her as ‘my mum’. Suddenly she became ‘the mammy’. Sheesh.

There’s no way back from this, is there? Even if I watched every episode of The Bill back-to-back and dined on nothing but whelks and jellied eels for a month my speech would betray the fact that I am no longer a Londoner. I still sound a bit like one, but now my accent and phraseology seems to lie somewhere between Dublin and London. At the moment I've identified it as a point a few miles south and east of the Isle of Man, but it's slowly encroaching further west with each passing year.

Cor blimey. An' no mistake.