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.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Sound Of The Sub-Blurb

For your delectation and delight, and hopefully your cash, here's the full blurb. Isn't marketing whizzo?

If you think you know Ireland, this book will make you think again.

Each year on St Patrick’s Day the eighty million people around the world claiming Irish ancestry celebrate their spiritual homeland. Millions more don leprechaun hats and swallow pints of Guinness in an annual global high-fiving of all things Irish.
Charlie Connelly was one of them. As a Londoner claiming Irish roots he thought he knew what Ireland was all about. After all, he’d drunk in Irish theme pubs. He even had a bodhrán.

Then, when he was least expecting it, he went to live there.

Our Man In Hibernia follows Charlie’s adventures living among the Irish. In an engaging and frequently hilarious tale - we learn why Barack Obama is an Irishman, how a tree stump can draw legions of visitors from across the land and why being on a pig’s back is a desirable thing – Charlie contrasts the clichéd shamrock-strewn image with the reality of life in modern Ireland.

In addition he delves into his own Irish roots to unearth a shocking yet essentially Irish story with repercussions that resonate even today.

Written with Charlie’s customary wit and charm Our Man In Hibernia is a tale of emigration, love, language, people, history, faith and the occasional pint.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A Peek Into My Private Hell

Ooh, look, here's me in the Irish edition of today's Sunday Times. And guess what? I'm shamelessly plugging the book. Don't let the picture fool you though, my head is actually bigger than that in real life, and my legs are even shorter.

Fortunately the misspelling of 'ukulele' in the subhead isn't mine and it's spelt correctly in the bits I wrote. Phew. For anyone lucky enough to miss it, here's the text:

The week begins with me hunched and whimpering over the page proofs of my new book. This is the final editorial stage of the process when the publisher sends me the manuscript formatted as it’ll appear on publication so I can make any last minute tweaks to the text and, hopefully, spot any glaring errors. Actually the glaring errors are fine, it’s the ones that just glance indifferently at you that are the problem.

The knowledge that this is the last I’ll see of the book before it appears in the shops also means the goblin of chronic self-doubt is at his most taunting. “For the love of Elvis,” he giggles in my head, “the whole thing reads like it was written by a twelve year old for whom English isn’t even a second language”.

It’s far too late to delete the lot and start again so I note down a list of minor alterations and e-mail them to my editor in London, hoping that books written in the style of a twelve year old for whom English isn’t even a second language will be the next big thing after Stieg Larsson.

People keep commiserating with me over England’s exit from the World Cup. I was born and lived in England until moving here a couple of years ago but I’ve never been a fan of the national team. I’m not really sure why: maybe my lifelong relationship with Charlton Athletic is a purely monogamous (if largely unrequited) one.

Hence I was able to enjoy a deliciously inventive German performance rather than having to be talked in from the window ledge like many of my compatriots. If there is a positive from England’s capitulation though, the thought of a distraught James Corden is a very pleasing one.

My editor Zoe e-mails me back. ‘Many thanks for your swift work,’ she says. The self-doubt goblin – let’s call him Trevor in an attempt to make him seem less sinister – immediately whispers, ‘swift work, eh? Not good, not excellent, her only comment is about how quickly you did it. She thinks it’s rubbish.’.

Zoe goes on to tell me that the proof-reader is a Dubliner who said she’d really enjoyed the book. As it’s about moving to Ireland and my developing relationship with the people, places and culture here I’m hugely relieved to hear this. Trevor has had me convinced I’m going to be run out of the country by an angry mob within hours of publication.
This Tuesday it will be exactly two years since I arrived in Ireland, in the rain and just in time for the recession to really hit its straps (I tell people I moved here for the climate and the strong economy). Things I have noticed in particular include how often people use the phrase ‘at this stage’, and the pleasingly high number of folk who thank the bus driver as they’re getting off. If you thank a bus driver in London there’s a good chance he’ll pepper-spray you.

I think I’m assimilating reasonably well, all told. I knew I was developing my inner culchie when I heard a financial report on the radio mention the Hang Seng and it didn’t sound right without ‘-idge’ on the end.

There are two ukuleles on my desk this week. This must mean I’ve been thinking. I love my ukuleles. All, erm, sixteen of them (they’re all different and all utterly essential. No, they are).

Unfortunately my enthusiasm outpaces anything approaching talent by a considerable distance, but seeing two here on my desk is I think a positive sign of productivity: my girlfriend once told me she can always tell when I’m thinking because I start playing the ukulele. She thought for a moment and added that I don’t play the ukulele much.

The week ends with an unexpected trickle of nice e-mails arriving from people who’ve enjoyed my books. Writing a book is an odd process. For months it’s just the two of you locked away together until you emerge back into society wearing a navel-length beard studded with animal bones and brandishing a manuscript.

Then it’s suddenly not yours any more, it belongs to publishers, editors, proof-readers, publicists, reviewers, bookshops and finally readers. When a reader takes the trouble to track you down and tell you how much they enjoyed it there’s no finer feeling in the world.

Trevor’s trying to disagree, but he’s finding it hard to make himself understood with a ukulele rammed down his throat.

‘Our Man In Hibernia: Ireland, The Irish And Me’ will be published in September by Little, Brown. Charlie Connelly is @charlieconnelly on Twitter.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Cover Version

This morning I took delivery of a cover proof for the book. It's dead snazzy: the lettering's raised and everything. Proper classy, like. I'll have to stop wiping my nose on my sleeve before it's actually published or it'll ruin the whole illusion.

I think it's a great cover. Eagle-eyed readers of my other books will notice it's a total departure from my last few, but I think it's all the better for it. There had been talk of putting my stupid face on the cover; fortunately that hasn't happened. Someone must have realised that we want to sell some copies.

Now, the best bit about a proper cover proof is that you can bend it in such a way that it looks like an actual book and then swan around the flat with it being all la-di-da. I've never really been one to get that frisson other writers get when they hold a copy of their new book for the first time but, bizarrely, wafting a pretend one around has me donning the metaphorical jacket with leather elbow patches and sticking an imaginary pipe between my teeth.

So, all it needs now is around 100,000 words slotted between the covers and, hey presto, we're in business.

Ooh, incidentally, the Facebook page I set up on Tuesday dedicated to the book has already clattered through the hundred followers barrier (I'll pay for the damage). If you've not 'liked' it yet, you can 'like' it here. I'd like it if you 'liked' it. Like.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Our Man In Hibernia

In the summer of 2008 I emigrated to Ireland. ‘Emigrated’ is a strong word and sounds odd when applied to a mere decampment from London to Dublin, not least when Irish history is riddled with far more distant and traumatic emigrations than mine, but as the Leaving The United Kingdom forms I filed with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs confirmed (I thought briefly about enclosing a photo of my bare bottom and inviting them to pucker up), I’d left one country for another. I am that scourge of the right wing press: an immigrant.

Our Man In Hibernia follows my attempts to assimilate in Ireland, matching the image of the nation I’d gleaned through a couple of dozen London St Patrick’s Days, countless theme pubs and a low-wattage career as a musician on the UK Irish music circuit with the reality of living here. A kind of Driving Over Potatoes, if you like, only with worse jokes.

As well as chugging around the country getting into scrapes and making the usual fool of myself (although I should stress that at no stage did I ever take a fridge with me) I also set about tracing my hitherto unexplored Irish roots. What I found was an essentially Irish story and one that surprised me; shocked me even. It was a story that gave me an idea as to why despite being born and raised in London I’ve always felt drawn to the western side of the Irish Sea and why I am glad that Ireland is my home.

The book will be published by Little, Brown in September this year. This blog accompanies the book: with its regular updates and dispatches from this sleek suite of offices full of nubile and sexy young things, or something, it’s the internet equivalent of pressing the red button on your remote control.

About the author

Charlie Connelly is a bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster. He is the author of nine books including Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round The Shipping Forecast, And Did Those Feet: Walking Through 2000 Years of British and Irish History, In Search Of Elvis: A Journey To Find The Man Beneath The Jumpsuit and the forthcoming Our Man In Hibernia: Ireland, The Irish and Me.

His books have been selected as BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week on two occasions while Attention All Shipping was voted the second greatest audiobook of all time in a Guardian/Waterstones public poll. Audio versions of his books have been narrated by Martin Freeman and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Before moving to Ireland in 2008 he was a presenter on the prime-time BBC television Holiday programme and co-presented the first three series of the popular BBC Radio 4 series Traveller’s Tree. He is a regular contributor to Radio 4’s Excess Baggage and in 2008 conceived, wrote and presented a documentary about Noel Coward’s poetry for the same station.

A popular public speaker Charlie has lectured at the Royal Geographical Society in London and sold out events at the Edinburgh Festival and Glasgow Concert Hall.

He has written for a number of newspapers and publications including The Irish Times, The Guardian, The Times, Irish Examiner, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Business Post and the Financial Times.

Born and raised in south-east London, he lives in Dublin with a large collection of ukuleles while pining for Charlton Athletic.