Tuesday 24 September 2019

This Man's Life: Echoes of Churchill up on the rooftop restaurant of the Marker

The rooftop of the Marker Hotel
The rooftop of the Marker Hotel
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

We went to the zoo last Saturday afternoon. I thought I was getting away from the royal wedding. My wife had other ideas. She was, it transpired, following it on a live feed on her phone.

As our four-month-old son in my arms saw a baby elephant for the first time, my wife was showing me the live television images of Prince Charles walking yer wan Meghan Markle down the aisle of St George's Chapel. As our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter was cooing over the seals being fed, my wonderful wife was able to tell me in beautiful tones that this was not the first time that Chuckie had walked a bride down the aisle on her wedding day: that rotter Chuckie, who had done the dirty on poor Diana, had walked Mountbatten heiress Alexandra Knatchbull down the aisle at her wedding to Thomas Hooper in 2016.

Despite all this, we had a great day in the Phoenix Park. It was such a gorgeous sunny day that we went for tea in the sunshine on the hipster rooftop restaurant of the award-wining Marker Hotel on Grand Canal Square. Charlie Sheil, the general manager, has done a fabulous job. Coverage of the royal wedding was still on mobile phones everywhere, even at 200ft above the ground. Apropos of the never-ending royal shindig across the sea in Windsor, I suddenly felt like Churchill after the British Army's triumph over Rommel's Afrika Korps at El Alamein in November 1942, when he cautioned thus: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Be that as it may, the Egan family enjoyed great food and great views across the city and out to sea and beyond. My little daughter was able to point out yonder Killiney, where we had gone for a picnic in the park the night before, and where, mercifully, there was as yet no royal-wedding-watching on mobile phones.

On the way to the Marker on Saturday, U2's One came on the radio in the car and my mind was drawn to another wedding, and the first time I met the singer of One. Booterstown, Dublin, January, 1992...

Communion is all but finished at the Church of the Assumption on Booterstown Avenue, when a young fella called Bono takes a couple of steps en route to the altar. (Some might say this young fella called Bono missed his calling as a priest when he became the singer with U2.) Then suddenly Bono does a double-take when he realises the priest, Fr Denis Carroll, has already left the altar. Bono, wearing his sheepskin coat much reminiscent of the one Wolfie wore in Citizen Smith, returns to his seat. Commitments star Maria Doyle Kennedy is singling a cappella. The occasion was U2 production manager Tom Mullally's marriage to Deborah McVey. Afterwards, Bono, Ali, Paul McGuinness and wife Kathy, the Edge and then-wife Aislinn Evans, join Tom and Deborah at the Dalkey Island Hotel for the big do. "I remember her when she was a little girl with curly hair," a local woman tells me of the beautiful bride.

******

I've just finished Bobby Kennedy for President, on Netflix (it's brilliant.) I came away from watching the four-part documentary series wondering not just what a great man Bobby was, maybe even greater than JFK, but mainly: why didn't Teddy seize the moment after Bobby was assassinated (the answer is probably in the word 'assassinated') and pursue the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968, because it seemed in that moment at least that young Teddy could have gone all the way to the White House? After Chappaquiddick the following year, Ted's chance was forever, and rightly, gone, leaving America for crooks like Nixon to do their worst.

In the early 1990s, I met Ted very briefly once, in Boston, at an Irish-American soiree of sorts before or after (I can't remember which: the early 1990s was, and remains, a bit of a blur) a U2 concert. I just shook his hand and said hello and that was it. I heard the story of his father Joe and how he proclaimed himself as Irish to the core. It was, Joe said, a logical outcome of the undeclared war that went back at least 200 years before his birth to the day when a woman named Goody Glover, born in Ireland, was hanged as a witch on Boston Common because she knelt in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin while telling her beads in the "devil's tongue" of Gaelic.

******

I went for dinner with a friend last Thursday night to a well-known restaurant famous for its goings-on during the boom. It was dead as a dodo. Once upon a time on a Thursday night you wouldn't have got in the door for the Bollinger-ed beau monde enjoying their wealth. To be sure it wasn't just a blip, I went to a well-known hotel that, equally, once upon a time, would have been jammers with certain people who I won't name cavorting at the bar - and it was the same as the dead-as-a-dodo restaurant.

Has everyone gone on holidays or has the thrill truly gone? Or it is merely my mid-life crisis kicking in? As the late Philip Roth wrote in The Human Stain: "Nothing lasts and yet nothing passes either, and nothing passes just because nothing lasts." To say nothing of what Roth wrote in American Pastoral: "He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach - that it makes no sense."

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