Saturday 24 February 2018

Me, Myself and I: Paul Howard, Author

Paul Howard
Paul Howard
(5) Humphrey
(1) PG Wodehouse
(4) The Death Star
(2) Paul with Muhammad Ali in a hotel lobby in New Jersey in 1992
(3) Fake sheepskin coat

Me, Myself and I

The book that changed my life

It's hard to pick one but discovering PG Wodehouse (1) as a teenager was a huge deal for me. Later, I read Damon Runyon's 'Guys and Dolls', which is my favourite book of all time. Then, later still, my friend Enda McEvoy introduced me to George MacDonald Fraser's Victorian anti-hero, Flashman. I think I could happily go on reading that lot on a continuous loop and never read anything else for the rest of my life.

The quote that keeps me sane

My wife, Mary, recently taught me Subh Milis by Seamus O'Neill. "Bhí subh milis, Ar bhaschrann an dorais, Ach mhúch mé an corraí, Ionam d'éirigh, Mar smaoinigh mé ar an lá, A bheas an baschrann glan, Agus an láimh bheag, Ar iarraidh." ("There was jam on the door handle, But I suppressed the anger that rose up in me, Because I thought of the day that the door handle would be clean, And the little hand would be gone.")

The best advice I've ever received

From my father, who received it from his father (my grandfather grew up in Scotland, so it's best imparted in that accent). "Find out what way the crowd is going, son, then run like hell in the opposite direction."

The film I've watched again and again

'Star Wars'. We had a VHS copy of it that we recorded off the TV. Me and my brothers used to watch it at least every second day during our school holidays. As a consequence, we all know it off by heart.

The song I want played at my funeral

'Here Comes The Sun' by The Beatles.

The scent that evokes pleasant memories

Baby food in jars.

The piece of furniture that will become an heirloom

An old, battered-looking, 1970s-style, leather chair, where I tend to sit and do all my reading.

The picture that is worth a thousand words

It's a photograph of me with Muhammad Ali in a hotel lobby in New Jersey in 1992 (2). I love it because, well, he was and is my hero. I also love it for my quite astonishing lack of dress sense and my Deirdre Barlow glasses. I think even Ali looks like he doesn't want to be seen with me.

The item that takes pride of place in my wardrobe

I have a fake sheepskin coat (3) that probably looks more expensive than it is but actually cost me only $50 in a sale in Macy's in New York. I was walking up Columbus Avenue a couple of hours after I bought it and I was followed and harangued by an incredibly cool black man, who kept shouting, "Hey, Old School! Gimme that coat. Shit, I got to have me that coat. You Old School – that's what you are. Shit!" It continued for four blocks. I was deeply, deeply proud.

The sentimental piece of jewellery

My wedding ring.

The gadget that I can't live without

There isn't one. I would happily go back to 1982 if I could and have no gadgets at all. Life was simpler.

The item I'd save in a fire

The Death Star (4) that my parents bought me for Christmas in 1977 and which I've somehow managed to keep in pristine condition.

The characteristic I like most in myself

I'm a bit of a softie.

And least

I'm a bit of a soft touch.

My first kiss

The summer of 1984. In the Gaeltacht. Leaning against a farm gate in Muirioch, just outside Dingle. It was after a ceili. It was lashing rain. I had to run all the way back to the house before the cigire arrived to check I was home and the other lads sharing the house had eaten all the brown bread. Didn't know her name and never found out. I was put on a train home the next day for speaking English.

The last time I cried

In the car last week, listening to Ronnie Drew sing 'Nora'. The line, "Our dreams, they never came true, Nora, our hopes, they were never to be," always, always gets me. Don't know why.

It was the best of times

My wedding day.

It was the worst of times

Losing people close to me, especially my mother.

The person I call when things go pear-shaped

Mary. And when she doesn't answer her phone, I just keep ringing.

My death row dinner

Cheese. And pile it high.

Pet peeves

I have hundreds. I don't wish to sound like a crank, so I'll give you two: People who queue beside you instead of behind you. And restaurants that insist on seating you at the worst table – next to the toilet, in the window, next to the drafty doorway – even though the place is otherwise empty. Okay, one more, people who park right beside you in an otherwise completely empty car park and then manage to bang your door when they're opening theirs. Okay, I'll stop now.

My four-legged friend

Humphrey, our three-year-old, wonderfully affectionate but terribly stubborn basset hound (5).

'Downturn Abbey' by Ross O'Carroll-Kelly (aka Paul Howard) is in bookshops now.

Explore the world of comedy writing with Paul Howard, Pauline McLynn and Damian Corless at 2pm tomorrow at Smock Alley Theatre as part of the Dublin Book Festival. Entry is free but ticketed.

Book at

Irish Independent

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