Monday 19 August 2019

This Man's Life: Varadkar, Hamlet's lover and humiliation of ice-skating with a child

Pamela Anderson as 'CJ' in Baywatch
Pamela Anderson as 'CJ' in Baywatch
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

You know you're getting old when you take your young daughter ice skating for the first time in her life - and she is giving out to you for holding onto a toy, if life-size, penguin to stay up on the ice while she moves around like a future world figure skating champion.

This was all courtesy of Tesco Mobile Ireland at Dundrum town centre last Wednesday night at Dundrum on Ice. Emilia, three years old in February, in her coat and gloves, was full of smiles and determination as she made her delightful way across the ice. All around her, adults and much bigger children were whizzing around at a much faster speed, but she was undeterred.

She was doing it her way, at her own pace, refusing to be part of the pack, a true individual with a bright pink Skye from Paw Patrol hat on. I only wished I could have been the cool daddy for her.

The ice-cold reality was, however, that her daddy fell on his well-fed derriere several times. Despite her pronounced, uber-cuteness, Emilia had scant sympathy for my public humiliation before her. She laughed her little lungs out at me a**e-over-head on the ice. She took to ice skating so naturally; for me it was fiendishly complicated.

Post-ice skating, I got her a baby Santa Claus toy. She asked me where was Baby Santa's daddy. In the North Pole I said as we made our way home. In her bed that night, as I wrapped her up in her bed clothes, I told her about how the baby Jesus would arrive on Christmas Day and how he'd be wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And before I could get to the part about the angels from heaven announcing, peace on earth and goodwill toward men, etc etc, Emilia told me that she hoped the baby Jesus wouldn't be cold in his stable; and he could have some of her blankets. When my angel finally fell asleep, her gentle words made me recall something from my own childhood - what the narrator said in the 1966 version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas: "He puzzled and puzzled 'til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!"

****

Pamela Anderson asked Leo to pull up his stylish socks last week and ban fur farming in Ireland. Ten years ago, I was in Los Angeles to meet Ms Anderson. I hung around LA for a few days waiting on the call to be summoned to meet her. To relieve the boredom - and more probably, in a thinly-veiled attempt to boast about my impending meeting with Miss Baywatch - I text various people that I am about to interview Pamela Anderson in Los Angeles and what would you ask her? Celia Larkin thinks it is a joke and rings me. Once she ascertains that I am serious, Bertie Ahern's one-time girlfriend of 15 years says I should ask her about her make-up regime. Grainne Seoige and Lorraine Keane text roughly the same questions. Miriam O'Callaghan says to ask her something about American politics; Guggi something about art; Rebecca Loos something unprintable. Eoghan Harris rings to say to ask her about beautiful women and intelligence. Nigella Lawson texts one word: "Ophelia." I am bemused. (As I often am, to be fair). I text The Domestic Goddess back: "What about her?"

"Ask her about Ophelia. Does she want to play her one day?"

The phone rings by the bed. When I pick it up, it is the nice woman who works for Pamela to say that Pamela will do the interview at her home in Malibu the day after tomorrow. I have another 48 hours to kill in La La Land. I decide to text The Goddess again. I ask her why she wants me to ask her about Ophelia. Somehow I am baffled at the connection between Pamela Anderson and Hamlet's lover. Or even the thought of Pammie dying a beautiful and poetic death like that portrayed in Millais's painting of Ophelia.

"What was behind my asking if she wanted to act the role of Ophelia," Nigella said over a series of texts, "stems from my wondering whether she had that cutie insecurity thing. Was she like those old Hollywood starlets who petulantly sighed about not being taken seriously? I certainly wasn't interested in hearing her views about anything, but I thought it would be interesting to know whether she was pleased with the gig she'd got herself, or if she secretly wanted to be respected and admired and actually thought herself an artist, an actress."

With lots of time to kill before my big moment with Pam, I go for a long walk on Sunset Boulevard. Along the way, I go into an internet cafe and Google Ophelia. I then email poor Nigella again: why the question about Ophelia. The Domestic Goddess, in Belgravia, replies to me in LA almost instantly.

"To be fair, Barry," she writes, "I was minding my own business walking down a street to go into a meeting, when I got a text from you saying 'I am going to interview Pamela Anderson. What shall I ask her?' I wish I could have given you a question of rare brilliance and perspicacious wit, but the pressure rather stumped me. Irritating, but there it is." After all that, when I finally met her at her California home two days later I didn't ask Pammie about Ophelia.

Maybe the next time I meet Leo Varadkar I'll ask him about Pamela. Or Hamlet's lover.

Sunday Independent

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