Sunday 19 May 2019

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor swims in Dublin Bay in July. Photo: David Conachy.

Brendan O'Connor: 'Summer is a state of mind' 

I'm starting to realise I have some form of seasonal affective disorder. I literally became a new person last weekend. Just like that, something changed in some subconscious place, in some sub-atomic, sub-cellular way. It was like my very genes shifted. I think I know the exact time it happened. The sea was flat and clear and blurred in with the sky on Good Friday morning. And a slight shimmer seemed to hang over it. It was like a scene from Excalibur. A Good Friday swim always feels like a baptism, but this was special. I got out and everything had changed. Or I had...

Oprah Winfrey (AP)

Brendan O'Connor: 'Passive Aggressive? Can't hear you!' 

I'm not one for labels, but I think I've identified a new form of anxiety and I think I have it. I have Anxiety-Book Anxiety or ABA. This is a condition whereby you become troubled by all the self-help books landing in the offices of a newspaper on a daily basis. You worry for the people involved. As each one arrives you wonder if this person has done something special that will set their anxiety book apart from all the others, and if not, will this all end in disappointment for them? Indeed, you worry that they might be feeling anxious themselves about how crowded the market has become.

'Mother's Day ... what's it all about'

Brendan O'Connor: 'Mother's Day is getting a bit tricky, isn't it?' 

Well, this is tricky, isn't it? Mother's Day? I mean, what's all that about? A pat on the head for the little women from the patriarchy? A pat on the bum, more likely. 'Good girl. Here's some flowers from the petrol station. Well done for putting your hopes and dreams on hold indefinitely while you give up the best years of your life to rearing my children so that I can climb the corporate ladder and cycle around with other lads in tight clothes at the weekend. Now run along and do it for another year. Unless I remember our anniversary, when we commemorate the day you were sold...

'We have a fondness for the rasher sandwich and crisps and red lemonade'

Brendan O'Connor: 'Irishness - off the top of my head' 

Secrets and lies. Crisps and milk. Underage drinking. Don't tell my mother. Being afraid of what your mother thinks - when you're nearly 50. Being crap at GAA. And indeed all sport. A difficult thing in this country. Making the most of the bit of good weather. Imagine if it was like this all the time, we'd all be so much happier. Shame. Uncomfortable with confidence. Bless me father for I have sinned. A long cream doughnut. The first 99 of the summer, obviously. Upgrading to one with crushed Oreos on it for 2018.

'A glass of wine coupled with cheese and no children for another hour'

Brendan O'Connor: 'It's sad that this is my idea of excitement' 

I was entranced by the huge glitterball pizza oven. I suppose I was a bit overstimulated anyway from everything. The woman who was waiting for her pizzas out of it caught me looking. "It's exciting, isn't it?" she said. She was grinning ear to ear, practically doing a dance. I was relieved to be able to express my enthusiasm openly. We agreed we were pathetic, but we also agreed this was the best thing that had happened in our tiny lives in a while. I bet she didn't even want pizzas, did she? "I have a cooked chicken as well", she said breathlessly.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Brendan O'Connor: 'Happy Leo-day to everyone' 

Ireland 1979. An innocent country. There was no contraception, divorce or gays that anyone knew of, though people had their suspicions about certain members of the theatrical community. It was the kind of country where a Pope could still get a good welcome, where the currency was a pound and it was worth the same as the English pound. We thought we enjoyed slightly strained relations with the UK in those days but, in reality, we didn't know the half of it. We liked to blame them for 800 years of oppression, but we were happy we had got out from under their influence since we...

'I half-talk to the family, half-watch TV, half-consider Airbnbs in Italy'

Brendan O'Connor: 'Oh lads! I took two weeks off for Christmas' 

Monday was a day of wonder. Wondering if this was really my life? Do I really do this? Do I really get up at this hour? In the pitch dark? Can I really swim in this pool in the dark like a caged animal, not like in the sea at a reasonable hour in that amazing weather and light we had over Christmas, with the sea carrying me along like an effortless superman? But I struggle along against the heavy water. And then I walk to work. I walked for pleasure over the holidays, roaming around chatting or listening to podcasts, bouncing along in new bouncy proper runners I got. So why does this walk...

Teacher Dawn Croke, who died when she was struck by a pick-up truck

Brendan O'Connor: 'Her name was Dawn Croke' 

Her name was Dawn Croke. She has been called a tragic young mum, a beauty queen, a hero, and she was all those things. But remember that her name was Dawn Croke. And it is scant consolation today for her family or her two young children, for those who loved her, or for the community in which she was embedded and to whom she contributed so much, that Dawn Croke is a hero. But in times to come, whenever they remember her name, her heroism will console them.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Brendan O'Connor: 'Minister Zappone, what if now is a dark chapter?' 

It's probably unfair, but don't you find yourself innately suspicious of people who are always picking up awards and making keynote speeches? Most of us feel, rightly or wrongly, there are two types of people in the world. There are workhorses and show ponies. The workhorses are the serious people who keep the show on the road in organisations and have no time for going around making speeches and hustling to get awards, while the show ponies put their primary focus on public perception.

Michael D Higgins

Mischief played a part in this pointless election 

We knew there was something going on by the six o'clock news last Friday. And it was confirmed in the nine o'clock news. By six o'clock the turnout in the north inner city of Dublin was 10pc. In Jobstown by 9pm, an hour before the polls closed, just 9pc had turned out. In west Tallaght by 9.15pm about a quarter of people had voted. Turnout all over the country seemed to heading for a record low. Did Gavin Duffy and the two other millionaire businessmen not strike a chord in Jobstown? And with half of the electorate in general?

‘Brace yourselves, but I think I’m getting into moccasin-style loafers’

A man's life story is told through his shoes 

You can mark out the stages in a man's life by his shoes. One of my first big growth spurts was when I decided to stop wearing brothel creepers. It was a difficult decision to make, and it felt a bit like going straight, but deep down I knew it was time. If you're Larry Mullen or Gavin Friday you can maybe keep wearing creepers, but for those of us who live in the real world, there comes a time where it no longer works. And god knows I didn't need the height boost of big crepe soles.

It's very difficult to please some people

The subtle art of making other people happy 

Niamh Horan is somewhat of a guru to me. She devours books of all kinds, but her specialist area is the upper end of the self-help ouevre. Not that she reads every "love yourself" book out there. She focuses more on the ones that have 'New York Times bestseller' on front of them - the ultimate badge of respectability for self-help chancers, and indeed for literary chancers. Whatever it is about the rest of us, if we see 'New York Times Bestseller' on the front of a book, we make a presumption of quality. Somehow if it is good enough for the readers of The New York Times, it is good enough...

'Do you really want the worry of a house sitting in a remote area of Spain'

How I became an expert on foreign property 

Don't get me wrong. I binge on all the must-watch quality TV. Succession is gilt-edged high-end trash with plenty of laughs, and Sharp Objects is a hypnotic, creepy classic. But sometimes you just want pure, unadulterated low-involvement bubblegum, and that, for me, right now, means A Place in the Sun in all its various incarnations - summer sun, winter sun and, of course Home or Away, where the 'contestants' make the no-brainer choice between buying a dusty Tudor cottage in the rainy Lake District or a condo with a pool in sunny Florida.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims from the Popemobile as he makes his way around the gathering at the Phoenix Park. Picture By David Conachy.

Brendan O'Connor: Did the Pope's visit signal the beginning of the end? 

Like many of you, we had the papal visit on TV in the background all weekend, dipping in and out of it when we were around. An English person in the house, with the clarity of an outsider, eventually pointed out what he found oddest about it. It was the fact that there was this kind of reverential, respectful coverage of the visit, but then, every time it cut to commentators, they had to discuss child abuse. But then, it was a weekend of contrasts and incongruity.

Pope Francis speaks during the Festival of Families at Croke Park during his visit to Dublin. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Pope gets a belt of the crozier 

Pope Francis, you would have to say, looked a bit shook as he got up to speak. It had all been going reasonably well up to now, warmth all around at the airport and the Aras, and then, the Pope got the equivalent of what used to be known in this country as a belt of the crozier. He was effectively called out from the pulpit, in the most polite and respectful way, by an 'intrinsically disordered' man half his age. Pope Francis may have won many people over on this visit. But perhaps Saturday, August 25, 2018, will be remembered more as the day Leo Varadkar won us over. It marked his...

'Dinner for one involves a plate and some cutlery, if I'm feeling civilised'

When my wife and children left me... 

Thursday was Mexican day. I hadn't planned it that way but I was walking past a burrito place on the way home. I never have a burrito really. And I do love a good ole mess of a burrito. So I decided it was Mexican day in my house. And no one was going to argue, because they were all away, and I could do what I wanted. Now the only question was lamb and chorizo or beef. Hmmm. Difficult one. I know! I'll have both. Because I can do what I want. And if they're both nice, it'll be Mexican night on Friday as well.

Brendan O'Connor. Photo: Andres Poveda

Why I'm 'donating' my archive 

After much soul searching, and having consulted with my family, I feel that the time has come for me to ''donate'' my archives to the State. I would like to see it go to the National Library, or maybe they could put it with the Book of Kells in that room in Trinity. While it might not draw the same queues as the Book of Kells, I feel there would be a certain initial flurry of interest, as former friends, girlfriends and people who no longer speak to me come in for a gawk. We would need an indexing system of course, so people could access material relating to themselves quickly and easily.

Leo Varadkar sent a letter to Mr Martin on Friday seeking talks on extending the deal
Photo: Getty Images

Brendan O'Connor: An Taoiseach, mindfulness and the Politics of 'Likes' 

It's easy to see why Leo likes new media more than he likes the pesky old media. He has said as much himself. The old media is obsessed with the story over the truth; even the political hacks are more interested in titbits of gossip. Whereas new media, like Facebook and Twitter, does what it is told, largely. If you want to put out a message - anything from a picture of you filling a dishwasher to a statement on something less important, like politics - you can put it out directly on social media, where it won't be mediated or distorted by mischievous journalists.

I could open a barber shop that is also an avocado shop, called Avahaircut

What would I do if I were a millennial? 

Do you ever wonder what you would do if you were a millennial? In terms of a job? I think it's a good exercise to do, just to ascertain how much of a dinosaur you are, and how long more likely to be remotely relevant. And also to make sure you're not stuck in a rut, that you could survive if civilization collapsed in the morning and we all had to start again. If you can easily think of what you would do if you were, say, 25, then you are clearly still employable and you might still have a hope when the robots take over all the jobs our generation does.

SYMBOLIC ROLE: President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina. Photo: Tony Gavin

Isn't it time for us to have a president with a disability? 

Finian McGrath floated a brilliant idea last week. He was out talking about the presidency on a few occasions. Obviously he said the usual guff that everyone has to say about how amazing Michael D is and what a fantastic job he has done. You are contractually obliged to say that if you are going to go on to suggest that Michael D shouldn't be the president for 14 years. McGrath went on, in various places, to say that actually even seven years is a long time to be president, that five years would be enough, and furthermore that it would be "boring and stale" to put Michael D back in without...