The Edge Summer party: They talked all night of Leo and Enda, seagulls, rain and water
It was The Last Of The Summer Whine. At more than 100 feet high above Dublin, we drank wine and ate food and gave out about the rain and the politicians. [Not an unusual occurrence in this country, I'll have you know, to drink wine and eat food - and give out about the weather and the politicians.]
The night didn't fall from the sky. The ground didn't open to swallow us up. Nor did anyone's hand clutching a glass of wine wither and die. My guests gathered for a little bit of fun and, as Irish people do for a party, they donned the glad rags.
Blaise O'Donnell wore a rather fetching orange dress, which you could possibly see from Gorse Hill. Her ensemble caught the eye, not least when she made her movie-star entrance out of the hotel's fancy lift at 7.30pm. Some people's jaws dropped to the floor. The only sensible thing to do as host was to put a glass of white wine - Solandia Grillo, a blend of Pinot Grigio & Sauvignon from Italy, if you must know - into her dainty hand and walk her in.
Her chaperone for the evening, Jerry Beades of the New Land League, dispensed with his usual outfit of shapeless geansai to don a waistcoat and tie. Celia Holman Lee was in a dress by Elie Tahari, and Gucci shoes. Top model Yumiko Chen wore a silky blue creation by Michael Kors. Michael Healy-Rae, with his teenage son Kevin, wore his signature hat. He needed it because it rained a lot for most of the night.
Lorraine Keane wore a blue number by Tibi from Seagreen in Monkstown ("Jewellery from Aria V, made in Ireland!"); To Russia With Love's charity boss Debbie Deegan came in a goddess-like white and black creation, from her shop In Love, that wouldn't have looked out of place on fellow blonde Ursula Andress before she stepped into the flames in She; Jade Martina Lynch from Big Brother wore something slinky. Vivienne Connolly was in black skinny jeans, an All Saints top and an Alexander McQueen jacket. Viv's ex, TV producer John Norton came with his girlfriend Siobhan O'Connor, and happily there was no awkwardness. Still showing he has the X factor, Louis Walsh looked like someone from one of his boy bands in a denim shirt, and with his Daz-like smile.
Twink, who had been up to her eyes only an hour before making her famous cakes, looked glamorous as she stepped out of the cab and made her entrance.
The party wasn't about saying the recession is over. It still might be a bit too soon for that and many of us have grim personal experiences of financial woes. The party was just a party. It's like that scene in Waiting For Godot when Vladimir asks: "How's the carrot?" Estragon replies: "It's a carrot." Perhaps it's a totally incomprehensible dialogue, or Samuel Beckett could be saying that the carrot is about the very meaning of life. Similarly, it's a party. A meaningless celebration, or the very meaning of existence? Possibly more than anything, though, the party was to say good riddance to the worst summer most of us could remember in ages. A summer that could have been named after a Scottish soul band popular in the late Eighties: wet, wet, wet.
Then something amazing happened last Tuesday night. No - Louis Walsh didn't stop talking. The sun burst through the clouds and appeared to beam directly into the rooftop bar of The Marker, just for us, almost. For the next 30 minutes it was like Twink and Louis Walsh and Ray Foley and Blaise O'Donnell and Aoife Walsh and Valerie Roe and Nick Munier and Vivienne Connolly and Willie O'Dea et al were floating inside the magical coloured shaft of streaming sunlight. Then it lashed rain again, like something out of the Old Testament.
Naturally, the revellers' spirits weren't dampened, primarily because it was a night of enlightened craic and fun, and the odd glass of wine and delicious food. Your diarist had gathered some of the more interesting characters of Irish life in our glorious surrounds of The Marker Hotel in Dublin's Grand Canal Dock. We were especially enthused about the topics of the day - Leo to replace Enda, Miriam to replace Michael D, Irish Water, Cecil the lion, Pippa, Panti, the weather . . .
I asked the group was this the wettest or the worst summer ever?
Peter Coonan: "Oh yeah. But it brought me back to the summers when I used to work at my dad's summer school where it rained all summer and we had to think what we could possibly do [to entertain the kids]. That was 15 years ago."
Tatiana Ouliankina, once of Fair City: "No, because I got away to Spain and France."
Siobhan Cleary: "No, it's always great to be back here."(Siobhan and her husband Joe are based in the US).
Jade: "Absolutely not. It was the best Big Brother ever!"
Paul Williams, crime journalist and author of Almost The Perfect Murder - The killing of Elaine O'Hara, the extraordinary Garda investigation and the trial that stunned the nation: "I come from Leitrim, where it always rains. So one summer is no different to another."
Vivienne Connolly: "I was away all summer. Lanzarote and Marbella!"
John McGuinness of Fianna Fail: "It certainly was a wet summer and was made even more wet and gloomy by the daily Irish Water stories. It was a summer of water everywhere! Thank God for hurling and the black and amber, it's a great distraction."
Lorraine Keane: "No! We were home for most of the summer. Being freelance, we were too busy to get away, and to be honest, we loved catching up with our friends, soaking up the summer, having a glass of wine with dinner."
Louis Walsh: "I was in Miami a lot. But I love Ireland. The greatest country in the world. I think it is a great little country. No pollution. Not too many terrorists."
Terrorists notwithstanding, there were moments of truth and authenticity and unparalleled joy at the party. Joy in human form, Peter Coonan, who played Fran in Love/Hate, revealed great news. He had just got engaged to his beloved Kim O'Driscoll, mother of their darling daughter, Beth, aged 15 months.
I also managed to prise the details of the proposal from the great though slightly reserved actor. "I'd been thinking about it for a while," he revealed, adding that he was going to spring the surprise on Kim last year but decided to wait until Beth was older. Last week was ideal as his future father-in-law, who lives abroad, was home, and he was able to ask him for Kim's hand.
Personally, I wish I had held Marco Pierre White's hand on the night, because the uber-chef's car got stuck in gridlock in Donnybrook and he sadly had to instruct his driver to turn the car around, as he was filming at 8pm. At the last minute, too, Rosanna Davison couldn't make it (gluten-related I imagine.)
Leo Varadkar was on a beach abroad on a well-deserved holiday and was therefore unable to come to the aid of the party. If only he knew as he took in the rays in Barcelona that many of us back in rain-lashed Ireland were thinking of him and his - or indeed our - future, he might have returned in sun-tanned triumph.
"I tell you the next Taoiseach will be Leo. He is a great man. The voice of young people," said Peter Coonan, who will star in Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge which opens at The Gate on September 8. The play's director, the esteemed Joe Dowling, was also with us on the night with his glam wife Siobhan Cleary.
"Without a doubt Leo will be the next leader of Fine Gael," gushed Debbie Deegan. "He has it all. The brains. The looks. The trustworthiness. The warmth. The background. The balls to take Health on. He has what John F Kennedy had - all the bits to appeal to everyone. Charisma is vital. Enda has none, in fairness. My vote will be for Leo for sure."
Vivienne Connolly was just as gushy about Lovely Leo. "I think he's great because it was very brave of him to come out and be true to himself in his position. It shows his capability of honesty in other areas of his life, not just politics. God knows, we need someone we can trust in politics. He comes across as sensitive and shows empathy and compassion. I love him for that," said vivacious Viv sipping an Absolut Pear and Apple Martini cocktail. "He's not just another robot."
As to whether Leo would or not succeed Enda, Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae - who is definitely not another robot himself - was a little less gushy, perhaps. Make that a lot less gushy.
"Enda Kenny is in the exact same position as every other TD standing in this General Election. He may or may not get elected; if he is not elected obviously Fine Gael will urgently be appointing a new leader, that may or may not be Leo Varadkar. If Enda Kenny is elected to the Dail there is every possibility that he could continue for another number of years as leader of that party."
Some might say he was talking through his hat, but who was I to stop the man from the Kingdom in full flight?
"Too much speculation ahead of a General Election is not really time well spent as everything is up for grabs and anything could happen. One firm belief that I have is that Leo's head is getting a little bit swelled for his shoulders because here we are debating whether or not he may be the next leader of Fine Gael and at the same time he is failing miserably in his present post as Minister for Health. Unfortunately, because he is a pet of the media they are unwilling or unable to highlight the fact that he is doing a miserable, hopeless job in charge of helping out the country at present."
John McGuinness, who came with his wife, Margaret said: "Leo is certainly my type of politician. He tells it as it is and represents a new style of politics. The question is, "is the 'system' ready for him?" Leo should read The House Always Wins. It may help his leadership campaign strategy!! Politics needs truth, transparency and accountability but it seems the status quo is preferred. Leos are needed in every party now. It all starts in the ballot box: think before you vote, think ability, country, not tribe.
"Enda's chapter in politics is near an end and the next chapter is already being penned," John continued. "It's now a matter of where and when. Timing is everything. I don't mind paying for services but I object to paying for incompetence, waste and cronyism. If we had all of the taxes wasted how many schools could be built, how much better could we look after the aged and marginalised etc etc? Taxes collected by the 'hard boiled' and spent or misspent by the 'soft centred'. A throwback to my days in a small corner shop selling sweets."
Do people mind paying for water, I asked.
Peter Coonan: "I understand why people would mind because it is becoming the straw that is breaking the camel's back. It has been one thing after another and I think people are getting frustrated."
Nick Munier: "No, I don't mind... I don't mind charging either!"
Jade: "I do mind, yes. It should be a human right."
Michael Healy-Rae: "Yes, as it is set up now, it's wrong."
Lorraine Keane: "When there's so much of it coming out of the skies it seems a bit ridic, but I know how clouds are made so I'll pay for the clean stuff!"
Are you feeling the economic recovery?
Jade: "Yes, slow boom in retail."
Nick Munier: "Yes, we're doing really well with the restaurant. It's hard work still but positive."
Jerry Beades: "No, no and more no as the Government political types dream of four more years of spin and recovery talk. The people are divided; those under 27 have little or no debt as there has been little or no credit for eight years and they are renters, the under 50s are all on the life rafts and sinking slowly and the 50-pluses who were active during Celtic tiger years listening to the Tiger guff, have only their state pension to look forward to for steady income."
Who was your summer crush this year?
Jerry Beades: "Vincent Browne!"
I ask the head of The New Land League would he spend an evening of passion with Mr Browne if it meant that all the poor souls who are in trouble with banks in Ireland were forever freed from their financial problems.
"For one night only with Vincent then!" Jerry Beades hoots with laughter.
Actress Aoibhin Garrihy: "Girl crush: Rosie Huntington-Whitely."
Nick Munier: "Jade."
Jade: "Nick Munier. I love his art."
I ask the face of sexual and emotional liberation in Ireland who does she think would make a better President: Enda or Miriam? "Enda. He is quirky," says Jade.
"She [Miriam] will have to declare first," says Michael Healy-Rae.
Louis Walsh: "Miriam has the outfits!"
Michael Healy-Rae: "She doesn't have to buy the outfits for it, that's for sure!"
Louis, you have the outfits. Would you run for The Park?
"No, no," answers Louis. "I wouldn't like to be under scrutiny. A lot of good people won't go into politics now because of the scrutiny."
Ray Foley: "I'm from Mayo. So I'll probably have to say Enda."
The 98FM superstar does not have the fondest memories of his summer hols this year. "We attempted a family holiday in Spain," he says of himself, his wife and two very young kids, "and it was an absolute nightmare. We were there for a week and I got really badly sunburned. The kids were horrific to deal with. 'Why is daddy glowing? Why has daddy gone thermonuclear?'" he jokes.
How do you feel about the death of Cecil the Lion, and the dentist?
Jade: "That animal needs to be killed himself. Death Penalty!"
Nick Munier: "I find it a disgraceful act of disrespect to hunt a wonderful animal who should be left in peace."
Panti or Pippa?
Jade: "Panti. She has rocked the place and done so much for this country."
Lorraine Keane: "Ah - you can't choose."
It was an night not to forget in a hurry. At 11pm, actor Peter Coonan and Ireland's foremost crime author Paul Williams were deep - make that very deep - in discussion about criminals in Ireland and how they may or not be affected by Love/Hate.
At midnight, with the panoramic view of Dublin seeming to loom more beautiful than ever, Peter Coonan and Peter Devlin were having a debate with Brendan O'Connor and me about whether or not Damon Albarn was the new David Bowie.When I left at 1am (all that slavish grovelling had worn me out), it was all still in full swing downstairs in the bar of the five-star hotel. As I said, it was a great night all right - and not just for the conversational set-pieces either. The food was out of this world. In a piece in the New Yorker magazine last year about Gwyneth Paltrow's dinner parties, rock star Michael Stipe noted about Gwynie: "Once, a duck she was cooking caught fire, and she threw it in the pool."
There was no food in flames or incidents with pools - though The Marker does have a very chic swimming pool - as Executive Chef Gareth Mullins provided delicious Moroccan Spiced Wicklow Lamb Croquettes, Irish Beef Sliders and Tommy Doherty's Black Pudding & Sausage Roll, among many other delish treats. Irish Model Yomiko who together with her husband Iain Conway owns a chain of restaurants, Kokoro Sushi Bento,and Aoife Walsh and Vivienne Connolly and all the other beauties present certainly enjoyed their grub.
How did you feel about the seagulls?
Tatiana: "They scream a lot!"
Jade: "The seagulls rebelled! Cool. I don't like how they killed the dog."
Lorraine Keane: "I've saved a seagull, at least six baby birds and a couple of baby mice. It's safe to say that I am a serious animal lover. It was beyond horrific - it was disgusting. Sometimes social media does good work and this was a time to praise the lord for it."
Jerry Beades: "I feel sorry for the seagulls when political types resort to prioritising seagull agendas you know that the political agenda has become stale. When the politicians get bored the people need to get worried."
Kris Jenner or Caitlyn Jenner - who looks better?
Jade: "Caitlyn. She's had less work done."
Lorraine Keane: "Well, they both have similar wardrobe pieces! I think they both look fantastic."
What was your song of the summer?
Star of the party Blaise O'Donnell: "I can't think! You've put me on the spot. I can't think of the last song I danced to!"
What age are you? 70?
"I'm 28! I feel 100!" she laughs.
Nick Munier: "Club Tropicana by Wham."
Jade: "Selina Gomez, Good For You."
And good for all the free spirited souls at the party too.
It's all about the Equilibrium at the Marker
The Marker recently introduced a new wellbeing concept called "The Marker Equilibrium, it's all about ME" which will feature across all areas of the hotel including the restaurant, bar, spa and bedrooms. This includes a variety of innovations to help provide a feeling of wellbeing for the mind, body and soul. These include the option of yoga boxes to the bedrooms where yoga enthusiasts can enjoy their practice in their room or use the stunning roof top for their early morning practice. The hotel has also devised a running map with different scenic running routes throughout the city and Executive Chef Gareth Mullins has introduced a new 'Balance' menu to the hotel bar starting at €13.00 which is full of options that are nutritionally balanced but don't compromise on flavor.
The Equilibrium package from €289 includes:
· An overnight stay with dinner from the Equilibrium menu (in the Marker Bar) and breakfast which includes an abundance of healthy options including their "protein hit"omlette and their raw juice.
· 10% off the Marker's Lomi Lomi treatments at the Spa & Wellness area
· Guests can also enjoy full access to the Spa and Wellness space at The Marker which boasts a 23 metre infinity pool and Eucalyptus infused steam room
To view the full menu and details on the spa treatments visit The Marker Hotel, Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2, Ireland. t: +353 (1) 687 5100 or www.themarkerhoteldublin.com
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