Saturday 24 March 2018

Brendan O'Connor

Two more pounds down in week 4, which brings us to nine pounds lost

I am not being ruled by my gut any more 

There are those of you who are saying that the Diet of Diets is not an original diet and that it is actually based on the big new fad in losing weight - the two-meal day. And I'll concede you're right. Fitness guru Max Lowery is the poster boy for the two-meal day, but everyone from Brian O'Driscoll to 5:2 guru Dr Michael Mosley practises this style of eating. It also obviously contains the notion of intermittent fasting. For those of us who think the 5:2 version of intermittent fasting is a bit extreme, this is a more leisurely version.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Fergal Phillips

My tell-all book on life with Leo 

Leo Varadkar never really wanted to be Taoiseach. In fact, friends say he looked as if he had seen a ghost (Enda Kenny) the night he was elected leader of Fine Gael. His partner was openly weeping, and not with joy. These are just some of the crazy claims I will be making in a new tell-all book about life inside Leo's Fine Gael. For the first months of the Varadkar regime, I enjoyed unprecedented access to Leo and his inner circle, though he denies ever having spoken to me and claims not to know who I am.

Joan Didion... 'this was a woman who was clearly not that clued into her own truth'

When a five-year-old on acid is gold 

It was hilarious at the time, but it stuck in my mind and niggled at me afterwards. I was watching The Centre Will Not Hold, a fabulous and revealing documentary about the writer Joan Didion. She was talking about Slouching Towards Bethlehem, her reportage essay about the dysfunctional underbelly of the hippie scene in Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s. The documentarian, who is her nephew Griffin Dunne, asks her what it was like when she was in a room with a five-year-old child who was on acid, a famous vignette from the essay. "Well it was..." she says, and then...

Sunrise over Co Tipperary. Photo: Getty

From darkness into light 

Nine months ago, in a different time, in a different country, Simon Coveney told me in an interview about how he was walking across St Stephen's Green one day when a man came up to him and spat in his face and said something like, "I hate you and I hate what your government is doing to this country." It was one of the things that crystallised in Coveney's mind that there was something very corrosive about the divisions and the anger in Irish society and that made him decide he wanted to bring people together again. And this was a central part of the pitch he made to become leader...

The water is so calming and reflective, it's like climbing into the sky

Swimming with ghosts to find home 

It's nice to visit with the ghosts now and then. I had been determined for a while to swim with them. If you walk down past Poul Gorm in Glengarriff and head left along a beautiful woodland path you will come to what my mother calls the Point. And I like to think that the uncles, the mother's brothers who loom over us all, used to hang out there and swim on long, lazy summer days in different times. I guess I felt that by bathing in these same waters there would be some benediction or baptism, or maybe even absolution. Or maybe it would just be good to wade into the waters...

Reshuffle: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with newly appointed ministers Heather Humphreys and Josepha Madigan, plus new Tanaiste Simon Coveney outside Government Buildings, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Despite what they say, it was a good week for Leo 

Does anyone else think Leo had quite a good week? As it ended, he was parading one-and-a-half shiny new female ministers and Micheal Martin was writing love letters to Europe about his best frenemy. Indeed, last week seemed to bring Micheal and Leo closer than ever. Shane Coleman and Stephen Collins, two shrewd commentators who don't mind standing outside the herd, were predicting the Government could last a lot longer than everyone else is assuming.

Brendan O'Connor: A bit of great advice from a wise man 

At the end of a party last weekend, when everyone had a few drinks on board, I ended up talking with older, wiser people about the key rules for life, the things we had all learnt. We went over our ups and downs in business life and personal life, and I was pushing my usual simplistic thing that it's all about luck. To an extent, it's about how you deal with the stuff that happens to you. But mainly, none of us can avoid the vast forces that change our lives, those things we call good luck and bad luck. My mother, who is the font of all wisdom on these things, has two mantras on...

Dossier: Kate O’Connell highlighted offensive statements by Barry Walsh.

Brendan O'Connor: Toxic chat on internet is starting to affect real life 

The Late Debate on RTE Radio One is somewhat of an overlooked gem, at its best anarchic and brilliant. The sometimes confrontational, always righteous and rigorous nature of host Cormac O hEadhra, along with the fact that it is tucked away at 10pm on Tuesday to Thursdays, seems to create a safe space for people to be a bit more authentic than they might be elsewhere - a bit crankier, a bit more direct. It also forces people who disagree about things to sit down and face each other and listen.

RETURN TO FORM: U2 perform during their ‘U2: The Joshua Tree Tour’ at Croke Park in Dublin last July. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne

Out of the humbling comes a triumph 

U2 released three versions of their recent single You're The Best Thing About Me. The real clue was, weirdly enough, in the acoustic version. Acoustic versions of songs can either feel like an incredibly intimate view into the heart of a song and a singer, or like bad busking. But this was different. And a few listens confirmed it. There was no doubt about it. It might not have been their greatest song ever, but there was a certain swagger to this version. It had some echoes of those acoustic B-sides U2 used to do around the time of The Joshua Tree. And it made you realise what had possibly...

I keep a skinny wardrobe and then a fatter one

Everyone feels free to mention my weight 

People feel free to comment to me about my weight. Anything from, "Jesus, you've lost some ton of weight" (fat guys), to "Don't lose any more weight now" (women of a certain age). I know I should take umbrage in the current climate. But I don't bother. Wouldn't it be worse if they were saying, "Jesus, you've put on some amount of weight", or, "My God man you're enormous". The comments are meant well. They are complimenting me. And the people who don't know aren't up to speed with the latest rules.

Chilly winter water is a slight shock

Wild man's mini mock epic in 20 minutes 

The people who have just got out tell me that it's not too bad today. It's warmer than it was during the week. The sun was on it yesterday they say, so it's warmed up. I always tell people after I get out that it's not so bad. This is because after you've been in it it doesn't seem so bad. And also, what else are you going to say? They need all the encouragement they can get. It is much more daunting before you get in than afterwards, when you have conquered it. So you can afford to be magnanimous afterwards, with that sense of achievement in you.

'The problem with spin is that it is out of fashion. If Leo’s spin people are so smart, they should know that authenticity is all the rage now.' Illustration by Tom Halliday

Brendan O'Connor: In an age of authenticity, why choose spin, Leo? 

Ironically, the spin unit that is supposed to buff up the Taoiseach is already damaging him. He and his people are actually finding they have to spin the story of the spin unit now. The Taoiseach was nearly caught during the week saying that he had personally appointed John Concannon to the job of head of the spin unit, but he quickly corrected himself to saying that he had merely asked if Mr Concannon would be available to be appointed to the job.

Cartoonist: Tom Halliday

Brendan O'Connor: Why we should give Millennials a tax break 

Footage and photos from Liam Cosgrave's days in power provided a sharp contrast to today's Ireland. Lots of grey men in grey suits, no country, we might smugly imagine, for young men (though Cosgrave was a young man when he entered the Dail); and no country for women, young or old. Contrast that with our shiny present, and a young, attractive Taoiseach in Lycra with an approval rating of half the population, according to last week's Irish Times poll.

'Even Santa looks stern when he is looking over a half-pair of glasses'

Now I can see the benefits of my glasses 

The glasses are becoming an issue. They are welded to my face these days. I have actually become convinced that what they assured me wouldn't happen has happened. Using the glasses as a crutch has made the eyes get lazier. And now they just refuse to read anything on their own. And things the eyes and me might have made an effort with before, we don't bother now, we just get the glasses out. I have become dependent. They have got their claws into me. If the end of the world happens now, even if I survive, I'll be useless. Because I won't have my glasses. And there won't...

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath

Just put us down for 90, Leo 

It's back-to-school time for politicians. The long crazy summer-school season - whereby those who can't function outside the political bubble can stay in it, but in a more 'fun' way, by listening to speeches by off-duty economists about what Willie Clancy would have thought of Brexit, before getting book recommendations from Paschal Donohoe at the bar afterwards - finished up during the week, and will now be replaced by think-ins and away-days in preparation for the real thing.

Seek out the things that feed your soul, like music, singing and bouncing

Mid-life crisis: Something to remember me by... 

I was listening to uplifting self-helpy podcasts, with Americans, who sounded tanned and toothy, telling me how to feel better. I lulled myself to sleep with them at night, thinking they might have some secrets as to how I could snap out of my mood. But they were making me feel worse. Because before they got to the solutions, they kept talking about the problems, and in a really judgmental way. And I was usually asleep by the time they got to the solutions. I may as well have been trying to put myself to sleep listening to a tape that just repeated "You are a piece of sh*t".

STREET MEMORIAL: Flags, messages and candles placed after the deadly van attack on Las Ramblas, one of Europe’s most famed boulevards. Photo: Manu Fernandez

Will we always be one step behind agents of chaos? 

I was looking at dead people on Las Ramblas presumably before their loved ones even knew they were dead. In my defence, I stopped looking once I realise what it was. Many people's understandable response to anything these days is to whip out the phone and start filming, and then post it. Presumably people feel that it is important to document these things, to show people the true horror, to bear witness. But then, you wonder, does it spread the virus of 'terror'?

Damore suggests Google should make software engineering more people-oriented. Stock photo: Bloomberg via Getty

That Google heretic might have a point 

It is widely accepted that we need to have a conversation about men and their limitations. And, thankfully, that conversation is happening. It has been widely accepted, for example, that if there had been more women in charge in areas like banking and finance and property, the financial crash would not have been as bad as it was. It is widely accepted that an overdose of testosterone, of a particular type of man, and not enough people with different perspectives and skills, caused the madness that led to the crash.

A new tip is to eat real food, plenty of veg and generally food that is made from scratch

Mid-life crisis: Taking control of my life again is not easy 

I'd be the first to admit I've been a bit lost since I gave up the diet. The Taylor Made Diet was more than just a diet. It was a way of life. There was something cultish about it. The delivery would come every two days - the kids would say "Dad. He's here!" and I would methodically take the stuff out of the bag to see what I was having for the next two days, and then put the cartons in my corner in the fridge, set apart from everyone else's food. No decisions about food. No shopping. No thinking. Eat the food.

Wine drinking has become a hobby

Mid-life crisis: Can we talk about my drink problem? 

I'm looking for a drink. Join the queue says you. But this is the bigger picture we're talking here. It's another one of those ageing things. Like the reading glasses and the wondering if you should start listening to jazz and doing the garden. So anyway for those of you who don't know, which was me until recently, drinking is an aspect of the midlife crisis. And I don't mean not being able to handle the devastation of a hangover any more. That's old news by now. This is a far more existential issue. What to drink?

Simon Coveney: Adversity to deal-making has not helped his cause

Simon should be everything we want in a new Taoiseach 

Does all of this not make you a bit nervous? It was seemingly all over bar the shouting in 24 hours. Leo hadn't even officially popped his head up. His supporters - the choreographed, coordinated choirboys - had done it all for him. It was as if he was just watching, waiting, as the plan unfolded, as they came out at staggered intervals, each one taking him closer to the coronation. It seemed to show an utter disdain for the process that Fine Gael had put in place to choose a leader, to end it before that process really began.

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In God we trust, but Garda and charities not so much 

Trust is the glue that holds our society together. High levels of social and political trust lead to social cohesion and democratic stability. Ireland has seen a dramatic fall in trust for many of the institutions that traditionally held life together here - the Church, the media, the Garda, charities. In general, trust has been hugely eroded and displaced by the recent convulsions in the world - the online revolution, social media, fake news, Trump, Brexit, the rise of extremism and the increases in transparency which have laid bare corruption and incompetence across companies,...

U2 kick off their world tour of the Joshua Tree in Vancouver, Canada Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

All that Enda can't leave behind 

As U2 kicked off their The Joshua Tree world tour in North America this weekend, Taoiseach and avid air guitar aficionado Enda Kenny has announced that, inspired by the band, he has decided to go Stateside again this summer for one final revisiting of past glories. Enda's All That You Can't Leave Behind US Tour will kick off in early June and take in several cities, but the Taoiseach is remaining coy about any further dates, or whether the tour will continue into Europe. "Enda played a few small venues in Europe recently, but there is talk he might like to go back to Europe and do some...