Thursday 27 October 2016

Notebook: A look at the week that was

Joseph O'Connor

Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30

Get a grip: Media remains transfixed by Brangelina’s split. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Get a grip: Media remains transfixed by Brangelina’s split. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

As someone who holds in his heart an enormous affection and respect for the USA, the greatest human experiment in the history of the world, I am watching the American election with mixed emotions, from surprise, to vague unease, to shock, to open-mouthed horror, incomprehension, cold terror and abject denial, to, huh, WTF is going on? The first televised debate between Hillary and the Trumpster this week will surely be unmissable viewing. To borrow a phrase from my late grandmother, I hope she cleans his clock for him.

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In last week's biggest news, an actress is getting divorced from her actor husband 'for the health of the family' and would like total privacy at this difficult time, as her fleet of expensive spokespeople explain throughout the international media, with selective juicy leaks about hubby's failings. Oh, and a television programme in which people bake cakes is moving from one channel to another. It's crucial that we stay grounded by paying these important crises a lot of attention. Otherwise we might lose the run of ourselves completely.


On to another sad divorce. I have friends and family members in the UK who are upset about Brexit. I am, too. It's too bad. The Limeys have been having the difficult conversation with us: they still, y'know, love Europe, they're just not IN love. The thrill is gone, apparently.

It is fascinating to see elements of the British establishment begin to whisper about the possibility of running the referendum again (and again) until the result is what the establishment would like. I thought only we in Ireland did that? I truly do wish that Britain had voted to remain. But, in another way, I sort of feel: 'If you really want to go, switch off the telly and close the door on your way out? And, um, don't come back?'

The rest of us in Europe would be better off without these ugly wrigglings of nationalism. I adore majestic London, city of cities, and misspent some of the happiest times of my youth there. If you can stroll the West End as the theatres spill out into those magnificent streets and not feel your spirits lift, you have an answering machine where your soul should be.

My wife is a Londoner and I'm crazy about many aspects of English culture, from music to television, to film and literature. They're the nicest and mellowest people in all the world. But I am bored with having had to listen all my adult life to their governments' stream of complaints about everything that is wrong with the EU. The unending nagging! The only difference between a Rottweiler and a eurosceptic is that when a Rottweiler savages you, it locks its jaws shut.

It is very sad that 17 million voters were blind to the fact that immigration, on balance, is good for a society. It must be horrible to live in a country that defines itself by its supposed uniqueness as opposed to the enriching things that always happen when different peoples figure out a way of living together and learning from one another.

I never thought I would feel this way but I'm glad I don't live in London anymore. That once great metropolis where so many of us found freedom and joy is becoming a city for the rich and the underclass, nobody else.

My son, who was born there, today applied for an Irish passport. I'll miss being the father of an Irish British citizen. But in the end, it's their choice, and their loss.


If the Right would get you down, the Left would break your heart. In its ongoing heady mixture of Trotskyism and aromatherapy, the Labour Party across the water votes to continue running itself like a students' union in a bad satirical sitcom. You can always trust a socialist to put the fun into dysfunctional.

Jeremy Corbyn, who no more wants to be prime minister than he wants to be pope, emerges victorious from a fractious and uncontrollably depressing election campaign, his mantle of ideological correctitude intact, ready to reverse into the non-future that the voters have in mind for Labour now. Theresa May and all Tories must be delighted with the antics and can now return to their project of making Britain what it once was: ie, an arid, semi-Arctic region roamed by dinosaurs and cannibals. God help the British poor.

You know what the UK needs? Mel and Sue to run it. With Mary Berry as Minister for Talking Good Plain Sense. Ah, we can but dream.

Joseph O'Connor is McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick

Sunday Independent

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