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A nostalgia trip with Cillian Murphy

Brendan O'Connor


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Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy (BBC)

Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy (BBC)

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Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy (BBC)

I felt I had eased through turning 50 fairly seamlessly. If only because I was too busy to think about it too much. I had outsourced it to some time in the future, when I would mark the occasion and maybe dwell on it then.

But even if I didn't celebrate it much, it happened. It happened inside me.

The day came and went and then I was 50. Something shifted. But I was OK. I know some guys who don't like turning 50. These are mainly guys who were fitter when they were younger. So they start feeling old at 50.

I was never fit. I did not have glory days of sporting prowess to look back on wistfully. So that takes the sting out of it a bit.

One thing I have noticed in the past week, though, is that I am feeling slightly nostalgic.

For example, I've become a big devotee of Cillian Murphy's BBC6 music programme in recent days.

Murphy does occasional stints on 6 Music, and many of the podcasts are up on the BBC App. It's a Sunday afternoon kind of show which styles itself as Cillian Murphy's mixtape.

It wouldn't be the worst thing to listen to with a lazy hangover.

He basically plays a really eclectic selection of music, and chats a bit about the music in between songs, maybe sharing a nugget of info, or explaining why he loves something.

So for example, he might play a song by the mysterious groovers Sault, and he might comment that the band don't like to share too much autobiographical information because they believe that "overexposure is detrimental to how people listen to music", and then he will chuckle wryly and say he seconds that, and then he'll play a 16-minute number from Fela Kuti and tell us we should stick with it even though the singing doesn't start for ten minutes.

Or he'll play a reasonably obscure Beach Boys track and then play three songs by people who are influenced by the Beach Boys.

I don't know at least half of the music he plays, but I stick with it all.

You kind of trust him that it'll be good. It's a very simple concept and he doesn't try too hard. It's just a guy who is passionate about music playing good music and chatting a bit about it.

I think part of it is that Cillian Murphy and I come from roughly the same time and place and background, and I think the show brings me back, and reminds me of people sitting around in Cork, maybe some of them stoned, and random music being played, and people hitting each other with unexpected tunes to try and give each other a little buzz, with something odd, or weird, or new.

So there's a weird element of nostalgia in it, nostalgia for a guy I didn't know playing music I don't know.

Nostalgia, or more correctly, sentimentality is one of the "seven true distractions in life", according to Kevin Barry's Night Boat to Tangiers, the others being death, lust, love, grief, pain and, lastly, avarice - "all the things that drove them nuts", as a friend of mine put it succinctly about the two main characters.

I had started the book and abandoned it recently, but I finished it off over the last few days.

Again I think it was a kind of nostalgia. I obviously didn't move in the same circles as Charlie Redmond and Maurice Hearne, but all the same I felt I knew them.

They were drug dealers and no-goods in one way, but there is a softness and a sadness to them. The perfectly executed Corkonian language and textures of the book are exquisite and it was, for me, in lots of ways like getting into a warm bath of nostalgia.

But what really got me is their friendship. It is, on one hand, fierce and violent, but it has, on the other hand, a tenderness and a love that verge on the homosexual.

I knew those soft, sweet-talking but dangerous Cork guys. And sometimes I got on well with them despite everything that separated us, because my softness amused them and sometimes entertained them.

Kevin Barry isn't from Cork, but he was immersed in it at a time, and he and I shared a time and space and context back then too. And that's it.

You can't deny your formation. You get drawn back into it so easily. By a couple of characters in a book, or a mixtape. And then, for a second, you realise that you were so young then and you're 50 now and it was all a long time ago.

Sunday Independent