independent

Monday 21 April 2014

'Ted Walsh is the Shakespeare of horse racing commentating – I could listen to him all day'

what is your favourite... MOVIE?

'Casablanca' has it all: it's a love story set against the Nazi occupation of Paris, and you have two of the great performances of all time in Bergman and Bogart. When I got older I read more about the film, and you discover all the wonderful things around it. Casablanca literally means the white house, and the film is actually about Pearl Harbour and America's entry into the war. It's very deep – it's one of those films that you can watch many times. Book?

'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote. I like books about the real world, and 'In Cold Blood' is a true story – Capote went to cover the trial of these two men accused of killing a family – but it's written in the style of a novel. The author became involved in the story himself. Within 30 pages of the book's opening, here you are empathising with these two monsters – he has you really caring and feeling for these guys because of the poverty they've come from and the trauma of being in the army. Capote wrote about a story in which he himself was a player, he didn't try to conceal the ugly side of it and the facts were laid bare. When I was writing about my family, I wrote with a fearlessness that was influenced by Capote.

ALBUM?

'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.' It's the best album ever made. I don't listen to it a lot now, but when it came out in June 1967 we had a party in our house to celebrate its arrival. I was 15, and we had our friends round, and we played the album non-stop for six or seven hours. My friend Tom Brown decided that all other records were useless in comparison, so he took all my dad's records – Mario Lanza and the rest – and melted them in a pot and poured them down the sewer to honour The Beatles. My dad went crazy the next day when he found out, but for us it was a great liberation from the shackles of our past.

TV SHOW?

I have TV programmes that I don't miss like 'Match of the Day' on a Saturday night, but the one programme that has affected me the most is 'Countdown' on Channel 4 in the afternoons. Me and my wife started to watch it in the '80s. Over the past 25 years, every day we record 'Countdown' in the afternoon and we sit down and watch it when we're eating our dinner on our laps in the sitting-room. It's our little way of snuggling up to one another. My wife has begged me to go on it for the past 20 years but I've never succumbed.

TV PERSONALITY?

Ted Walsh, the horse trainer and racing commentator. He sets the bar for all commentators, everybody else has copied him. I love his knowledge and the way he communicates, the country accent that he speaks with, his love of racing and his passion. He's the Shakespeare of racing commentating – I could listen to him all day.

RADIO PERSONALITY?

Joe Duffy. I love the Ballyfermot accent. He covers topics I love and topics I switch off, but by and large it's just ordinary people on the radio with their pet loves and their pet hates, and sometimes it's funny and sometimes it's sad. If you're in the car and it's on, it's great for breaking up the journey. Joe is very generous of spirit and I like that side to his personality, he's a voracious reader of books, and he's read everything and always has a view.

RESTAURANT?

I would always be looking for a good Italian, and the restaurant that introduced me to spaghetti bolognese was the Coffee Inn on South Anne Street. It used to be the only restaurant in Dublin that served spaghetti bolognese – the spaghetti was 'two and six' but you could get a half bowl for 'one and nine', so if you were down on your luck that's what you'd order. I can still taste the spaghetti they served. These days Dunne and Crescenzi is quite nice, and serves plainish food. I cook every day at home – I love being in the kitchen, it's good to switch off from work.

CITY?

New York. I love it. You know that song, we built this city on rock 'n' roll? Well, we Irish built New York. It is the ultimate expression of what it is to be Irish, we were the ones that went out there with our madness and our energy and our creativity. I love its rock 'n' roll and its great theatre and energy and buildings and streets and restaurants. What a place to live. Every time I go there – and I go at least once a year – when I see the Manhattan skyline on my way in from the airport my heart rises in my chest.

PHOTO?

The first time I took my daughter Nuala to New York, she was quite intimidated by the speed of the place. So I went and I got a disposable camera and I lay down on the ground on 34th Street and took a picture of the Empire State Building. It hangs on the wall now, and every time I look at it I think of that trip to NY with her.

ANIMAL?

We have a golden labrador called Ruby. The only problem is that I love watching the horse racing, and when that's on and I'd have a few quid on Ruby Walsh and I'm screaming at Ruby on the telly, the dog ends up running around like a mad thing and climbing all over me.

PAINTING?

My favourite painting is one I have hanging in my house; it's called The Jazz Player by a guy called Duke. He's a black artist from Louisville, Kentucky, and living in San Francisco now. What's unusual about him is that he paints on glass. He gets old casement windows from buildings that are being knocked down and uses them. My son Rossa lives in San Francisco, and he introduced me to the artist, and I had some of his work shipped back to Ireland. The painting is of Duke's brother, who is a great jazz trumpeter. It hangs over the fireplace in my home – and it reminds me of my son.

Peter Sheridan's latest book, 'Break A Leg: A Memoir' is available in bookstores now.

Irish Independent

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