Saturday 24 June 2017

Brendan O'Connor

Wine drinking has become a hobby

Mid-life crisis: Can we talk about my drink problem? 

I'm looking for a drink. Join the queue says you. But this is the bigger picture we're talking here. It's another one of those ageing things. Like the reading glasses and the wondering if you should start listening to jazz and doing the garden. So anyway for those of you who don't know, which was me until recently, drinking is an aspect of the midlife crisis. And I don't mean not being able to handle the devastation of a hangover any more. That's old news by now. This is a far more existential issue. What to drink?

Simon Coveney: Adversity to deal-making has not helped his cause

Simon should be everything we want in a new Taoiseach 

Does all of this not make you a bit nervous? It was seemingly all over bar the shouting in 24 hours. Leo hadn't even officially popped his head up. His supporters - the choreographed, coordinated choirboys - had done it all for him. It was as if he was just watching, waiting, as the plan unfolded, as they came out at staggered intervals, each one taking him closer to the coronation. It seemed to show an utter disdain for the process that Fine Gael had put in place to choose a leader, to end it before that process really began.

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In God we trust, but Garda and charities not so much 

Trust is the glue that holds our society together. High levels of social and political trust lead to social cohesion and democratic stability. Ireland has seen a dramatic fall in trust for many of the institutions that traditionally held life together here - the Church, the media, the Garda, charities. In general, trust has been hugely eroded and displaced by the recent convulsions in the world - the online revolution, social media, fake news, Trump, Brexit, the rise of extremism and the increases in transparency which have laid bare corruption and incompetence across companies,...

WALKING ON DUN LAOGHAIRE PIER: There has been a sharp drop in belt tightening in the last five years — and it has been driven by younger people and by Dubliners

Our Ireland is changing: gradually, and suddenly 

You wonder when the change comes, will it come suddenly - a tipping point, but a tipping point we've been building up to for years. How will the country change? Two ways, as the man said: gradually and then suddenly. And the sudden will hit us before we know it. The future is gathering out there. It's Leo and Macron standing together. It's the Citizens' Assembly; however it might have diverged in views from the country at large, it represents some kind of rump of new thinking. And the future is a younger generation who are unlike you and me and their parents; who are...

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: Tom Burke

The people, the leader and the sun 

The build up to today's big event has been huge. It began with an announcement on State TV, which was followed up by daily reminders to the people. The people spoke of little else for a whole week. They are generally a hard-working people who are easily pleased, and, quaintly, they still believe what they are told by many of the instruments of the State. So even though they had been lied to before, they didn't question it when they were told it would be sunny on Sunday.

Clash of personalities: Peter Boylan (pictured) and Rhona Mahony have been at the centre of the great National Maternity Hospital debate Photo: David Conachy

The Peter and Rhona show overshadows real issues 

This is Ireland. So it is perhaps not surprising that it came down to personalities. In one corner is Rhona Mahony, a feminist icon for Mna na hEireann, or a pushy, over-ambitious, self-regarding woman, depending on whom you listen to. In the other corner is Peter Boylan, an attention-seeking troublemaker or the only person left in Ireland with any integrity, with the calm and stillness of an experienced medic - again, depending on whom you listen to.

Traditional: Despite the best efforts of internet and cable TV, 78.6pc of Irish people identify as Catholics

In defence of Catholics and also of Catholicism 

At Mass last week the priest made an interesting point. He was saying that people have to have a reason for their faith now, an explanation for it, a story of why, if you will. What was interesting was his reasoning as to why the congregation needed a reason, a story to tell. It is, he said, because Catholicism is no longer the dominant ideology in Ireland. It didn't sound like he was saying it with regret. He was just stating a fact. It sounded like he had adjusted to this new reality and he was telling us, the congregation, that we needed to adjust to it too.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Washington for St Patrick's Day Picture: PA

Sure what can we do about it? 

If the original Easter was happening now we probably wouldn't bother with the resurrection. We might do the crucifixion all right, because if there's one thing we like more than nailing ourselves to a cross, it's nailing someone else to a cross, particularly anyone with the gall to go against the grain and try and tell us a few home truths. But then we'd probably just shrug our shoulders, and figure, "Well. He's dead now. Nothing we can do about it." Fatalism. Literally.

Stock photo: PA

'Miracle is real thing' shocker 

Easy now. Keep her steady there. And we were doing so well. We had learnt the biggest lesson EVER in caution, and the run of ourselves, and the losing thereof. And we have been quietly determined never to let it happen again. We even managed to ignore little telltale signs of recovery. We just kept our heads down and kept paying off our debts. The word boom, which used to be generally regarded as a good word, became a curse word in Ireland. We listened to naysayers and economists and the like with a reverent respect. Because experience had taught us the guy or gal with the...

Attacks: Flowers placed on Westminster Bridge, London, after the terrorist incident last Wednesday Photo: Victoria Jones/PA

A week of two terrorists: One good and one bad 

There were certain reactions permitted last week. Others were not allowed. The permitted reaction to the death of Martin McGuinness was one of sympathy and respect. Unless you were a direct victim, or a relative of a direct victim of one of the many ingenious murders that McGuinness carried out in his day. Those people were allowed their say. And everyone politely nodded and understood that they felt the way they did. They would say that, wouldn't they? They're too close to it, too emotionally involved. They can't see straight about what a great man he was, because they are...

There's no point in thinking too far into the future because we will never know what’s in store

Brendan O'Connor: I've a pain in the face from talking 

So it turns out I'm not the only one with a pain in my face. I mentioned here recently about the neuralgia or atypical odontalgia, or whatever it is that has had my gums and teeth on fire on and off for the last 20 years. And of course we all think we are individuals, but really, there is nothing unique about us. It turns out that face pain is some kind of modern-day plague. And thank you to everyone who wrote to me with the various things you and your loved ones have tried, and to tell me what worked and what doesn't work.

Warren Beatty and host Jimmy Kimmel on stage at the Oscars after the mix-up. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Wily Warren Beatty and the universal art of ass-covering 

Like many of you, I initially put it down to Warren Beatty's legendary alleged vanity. It wasn't just the way he examined the card for a moment before passing it off ungallantly to Faye Dunaway so that she would be the one to make the wrong announcement. It was the way he then hogged the mike to explain, exactly and forensically, why it wasn't his fault. The Moonlight people had already been denied their moment in the sun, and now Beatty seemed to be compounding it by stealing their moment again to cover his ass.

They're back: Cranes as seen from the sixth-floor balcony at the New Central Bank building on Dublin’s North Wall Quay last week are one of a number of possible signs that the recovery really has kept on going, as Enda Kenny has always insisted. Photo: Frank McGrath

Life's not perfect, but a bit of confidence is a big plus 

Norwegian Air announced flights from Ireland to New York and Boston last week. The first tranche of 5,000 flights sold out in six hours. Norwegian Air thinks it's their fastest launch sale ever. Admittedly this first tranche were at a knock-down price, but still, we can only assume that a lot of them were sold to people who decided on impulse to take off to the US, or people who were thinking of a trip and took this opportunity to commit. There's no doubt that things like this give us the heebie-jeebies a bit. We still look back and laugh nervously at that era when Irish people would fly off to New...

Man in waiting: Leo Varadkar. 'Star quality is an indefinable thing... and Leo has it right now' Photo: Gerry Mooney

Are the 40pc 'dinosaurs' ready for a gay taoiseach? 

For many there is almost an inevitability about Leo Varadkar becoming the next leader of Fine Gael and thus, all things being equal, the next taoiseach. Even Leo himself seems to feel that momentum. We have heard very little out of him about his actual ministerial job over the last few months, but we have heard many leader-style pronouncements out of him, about the direction of the party and the government. At times he seems to speak as the de facto leader of Fine Gael, or as if he in some way embodies the party.

To be a Puffa Man or not to be a Puffa Man, that is the question

You can't compromise on some things 

As you get older your life becomes a series of compromises. If you have traditionally seen yourself as deviant, those compromises are more difficult. But equally, as you get older, and especially when you come into your forties, you also get more and more set in your deviance. So it's a balancing act. I think the trick is to give in on the little things that make life easier, and to keep up the fight in your head and your heart on the important stuff. Key to this is the ability to distinguish between what matters and what doesn't.

Brendan O'Connor: Mixed feelings on finally getting diagnosed 

Pain is black art, according to one of the handful of various dental specialists I've been seeing. And as much as I put it off I eventually had to go to a practitioner of the black arts. Imagine if you have a toothache for 20 years. That's pretty much where I'm at. And while there's been various work done by various guys, and while I've seen the tooth-grinding guy (bruxism, such a great word), we have not got to the bottom of it. It is atypical, they say. There is no pathology. Sometimes I suspect they are saying very gently that it is in my head. Sometimes I wonder whether it is in my head. Do I...

Donald Trump Photo: Evan Vucci

Michael D should be the one to invite Trump over 

It is fair to say that at this stage in our obsession with talking about Donald Trump as if we matter, that we have become like a bunch of priests. We are high on our own sanctimonious finger-wagging. We surely reached some kind of peak tut-tuttage last Thursday when we managed to get indignant about the fact that he may have conflicts of interest around his business. We paraded various academics out in the media to tell us why Trump should sell off all his assets. (Factoid, the last outsider and scourge of the elite who became president, Jimmy Carter, didn't sell his peanut farm.

Going for a spin: it can be hard to find the perfect bicycle

Giving in to the comfort of submission 

She got me a bicycle helmet for Christmas. This was like her buying a present for herself. It was a bit like a man buying a woman sexy lingerie. She wanted to see me in a bicycle helmet. I put it on and pranced around the room and she seemed happy. Of course if this was a fantasy life, she would have given me the helmet, got me to put it on, and then we would have walked outside to where there was a new bike with a bow wrapped around it. My real present.

Christy Dignam and Glen Hansard (left) perform outside the Apollo House in Dublin City centre

Homelessness is complex, and not just for Christmas 

The occupation of Apollo House could not have come at a better time. After the year we've all had, a bit of idealism warmed the cockles of our hearts at Christmas. From Trump to Brexit to new politics, we were stumbling out of 2016 feeling disillusioned, disenfranchised, even disgusted. And along came Glen Hansard and Home Sweet Home to reclaim something for the people, to remind us that this land is our land. And better still, they were reclaiming something from Nama/the banks/faceless receivers.

Minister Leo Varadkar Picture: Tom Burke

Blessed Saint Leo of Limerick 

Pilgrims have been flocking to Kilmallock in Limerick to see an apparition on the side of a house. The mysterious image, which appears to be Leo Varadkar, was first reported on Thursday night and since then people have been saying the Rosary at the site, lighting candles, and appealing to the apparition for salvation. St Leo of Varadkar, as he is known to the faithful, is the patron saint of South Dublin, gyms, the Electric Picnic, marriage equality and the media.

Brendan O'Connor: 'Motivational speaker Tony Robbins crept inside my head'

He says he's not my guru - but he is 

I'll admit. I was vulnerable. It was a confluence of events. I seem to have this kind of mini-nervous breakdown before each TV run. "It stems from the fact that you are not as good as you want to be - that's really what nervousness is", Leonard Cohen says. So five days before airtime, I was slightly paralysed by stress, locked in a negative loop and worrying myself into a state whereby I thought I might stop functioning. I basically wanted to take to the bed with the radio.

It appears there has been what Flann O’Brien would describe as a transfer of the 'mollycules'

A public apology for being a man 

I am ashamed to say I am sick. I mean that literally. I am ashamed. Men in general are embarrassed to admit they are sick. Unless they have something serious. But your common or garden cold or flu or virus? No man dares to try to claim victimhood on that. My current malady started with a head-cold of some kind. But for me the central issue with a head-cold tends to be that it gets into the gums and they become worse than usual. I am, as you will know, a martyr to the gums, not that I like to mention it. Even very expensive and protracted surgery recently has failed to solve the...

Being paid to find out you're an asshole 

If you haven't seen Gomorrah, the Naples-set gangster series, you should watch it. I'll warn you though. It's grim. I'm watching Season 2 of Narcos right now and it feels like a light-hearted romp after the darkness of Naples. Gomorrah is grim through and through. Even when people are not being murdered and betraying each other, even when they are allegedly enjoying the spoils of drug dealing their lives are grim. They live in cold houses with lots of Versace-esque gilt on everything. There is no joy in those homes.

STAYING POWER: Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he will be around for a reshuffle and another few budgets; Michael Noonan is seen as Kenny’s brain. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Enda and his mojo are going nowhere for now 

The clamour started again last week. The same handful of backbenchers no one has ever heard of, and one or two more Fine Gaelers without jobs in government, stepped up to say Kenny had to go. The "and Leo must take over" is silent in that sentence. The media is only too happy to jump on this because the media likes change and the media likes Leo - Leo is like them, all modern and metropolitan. So Kenny is written off. Might make it to just after the Budget, might make it to the New Year, but ultimately doomed.

New Order performing on stage at the Electric Picnic

Maybe I'm just better off not being cool 

I went to the Electric Picnic for the first time on Sunday. Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't slum it. A bunch of us chipped in for a driver to bring us down and collect us and I was home tucked up in bed by 1am. Indeed, to add to the bourgeois nature of my festival experience, before I headed down, I supervised a child's birthday party in a soft play centre that was hell on earth. The Electric Picnic was actually an oasis of calm after the kids' party.

Apple: 'When I hear Tim Cook talk in his soft, creepy tones about this affront to his 'values', I have to laugh' Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Beneath the hoodies, they are all the same 

I don't buy Tim Cook for one second. I don't buy him anymore than I buy any of these 'making the world a better place' merchants in Silicon Valley. We are led to believe that the Silicon Valley guys are different to previous generations of captains of industry, because they wear hoodies and they are geeks, possibly slightly on the spectrum. But in fact anyone consumed with the notion that progress is all, and progress untramelled is the sole driver of humanity's future, is more dangerous than any Rockefeller.

Brendan O'Connor: I have now discovered that two half stones make a stone

The poignant end of the two-week holiday 

I was devastated leaving my mother's house last week. Despite the fact that the sun was briefly shining, it felt like summer was over. I actually found myself close to tears driving away. It was only the end of the first week of August, but the holidays were over, I was heading into a few weeks of intense work, and the annual gathering of the family of origin - that is as annoying as it is fun - was over too. I guess I'd also been with the kids pretty constantly for two weeks, and we were all close in that way you get.