Monday 20 November 2017

Three women, two sides, and a Rolex watch

John B Keane: remembered on RTE's Sunday Miscellany
John B Keane: remembered on RTE's Sunday Miscellany

Eilis O'Hanlon

'It is almost 13 years since John B Keane died," noted Emer O'Kelly on Sunday Miscellany; but it's still John B's pub in Listowel, "not Billy's, although Billy Keane, John B's son, has been running it now for many years."

O'Kelly first met the "much loved, cantankerous" author one summer in her teens when he wrapped a fatherly arm round her shoulder to ask: "How's the love life, girl?"

She was nursing a broken heart at the time, and told him.

"Yerra, isn't it the way to have it at the time of year?" he replied, unperturbed. "Won't it leave you free for the autumn?"

She's still trying to work out what that meant, but her admiration for Keane has always been profound. She was back in town again on Wednesday for the opening of the 44th Listowel Writer's Week - which, curiously, didn't receive much coverage at all on Irish radio last week - and was hoping to finally get a chance to buy a round.

"John B never allowed me to. Billy's going the same way, but I'll beat him yet."

Sunday Miscellany can be cloyingly whimsical at times, but last weekend's edition was a delight. Rosita Boland contributed an essay on the year she spent as a youngster reading the Chambers Dictionary from cover to cover, and shared some of her favourite words, including 'wabbit', an old Scottish word meaning tired, and the Japanese word 'kintsukuroi', which refers to "the art of repairing pottery with gold and silver lacquer, and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken".

Best of all, there was 'mallemaroking', which means "the carousing of seamen in ice-bound ships". It should be everyone's ambition to drop that one seamlessly into conversation at least once.

Germaine Greer is always a pleasure to hear as well. She was a guest on The Pat Kenny Show last Monday, where, following on from her recent appearance at a conference on women and ageing in Limerick, she was deliciously scornful of women who depilate and Botox themselves to within an inch of their lives.

"We're still finding out how crazy we are," as she put it, with a characteristically refreshing lack of political correctness.

The main subject of Monday's discussion was the "progress of reproductive technology" which, Greer contends, is leading to the "industrialisation of childbirth" and the shoving aside of mothers from their natural role.

Many of the concerns she raises were also touched on by No campaigners in the recent referendum, but it's a pity that they weakened their own arguments on such important issues by tying them into an effort to stop gay people getting married, when the two should be seen as entirely separate.

As to that, there was further proof on Wednesday's Liveline that RTE salaries may be out of touch with the real world, as Joe Duffy countered an insinuation that the national broadcaster had not given equal air time to both sides in the referendum by insisting that "we had a Rolex on it".

Rolexes, is it? A simple stopwatch would've done, Joe.

Sunday Independent

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