Brexit: An Idiot's Guide
How to use this guide: This is not your usual idiot's guide. Normally, an idiot's guide is a guide for idiots.
How to use this guide: This is not your usual idiot's guide. Normally, an idiot's guide is a guide for idiots.
If an alien had landed in Ireland last week and observed what was going on, she would surely not have concluded that we were in the midst of a competition to fill the highest, most dignified...
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...
These are heady times. There are days when you know you are living through the Reeling In the Years of the future, and this is one of those times. We will look back and laugh at what yokels we...
Me and a guy we call the Little Old Man, for reasons that are long forgotten, but possibly connected to Viz magazine, were having a discussion about faith as I headed into work.
Of course our capacity for delusion has always been very necessary to our survival. If the Irish had, at various stages in our history, not been able to avoid the uncomfortable facts and decide that, 'Shure, it'll be grand', the appalling vista of reality might have broken us.
The meditation app tells me to let things go. I am doing the seven days of happiness right now. Day one was practising gratitude. Day two was love and accept yourself. And now we are at day three. Learn to let go.
Our indignation that Donald Trump was coming to Ireland was matched only by our indignation that Donald Trump was not coming to Ireland. Our relief that he was not coming after all was matched only by our relief that he might be coming after all.
I'll admit I find the voice of the woman on the meditation app a bit annoying. In my defence let me say that I could change it to a man's voice but that would be even more annoying. While the woman has a touch of the old vocal fry, it's not that that gets me. It's the earnestness, the positivity. She pretty much says, "Good job!" to me each time I perform the mammoth task of lying there for...
I occasionally take a drink with a man I think you could reasonably say is one of the best bricks-and-mortar retailers in the world. Recently we discussed the so-called decline of the high street and he told me he didn't buy it. "The question I would ask," he said, "is: who is running these shops?"
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...
A lot of men I know are vaguely uncomfortable having read TV presenter Adrian Chiles's interviews about his drinking over the last week.
Maybe it's the slight chill in the mornings, an All-Ireland on us already, or maybe it's just the tropical storm warnings. But there is sense in the air that this magical summer of 2018 is drawing to a close. And there is a strange acceptance of it too.
You'd have to say the build-up to the Pope's visit is a bit different to the last time. There is a dark irony now to that iconic moment when John...
So I have a practice now. I tell people that and they express surprise that I have become a country vet. But those in the know, will know that a practice is what those in the mindfulness game...
You're no one these days if you don't make a list of Budget demands. So here's ours: Firstly, we demand an end to the hated UFC. We realise it can't be ended in this Budget but we suggest gradual cuts until by 2022 it is totally phased out.
Sometimes, when things happen slowly and gradually, in an incremental drip drip, you can fail to notice that the world has gone completely crazy. Each day your tolerance for the insane is pushed a little bit further, the boundaries of your credulity are stretched. Each day, a new normal is created that is only slightly less abnormal than yesterday's normal. So we can fail to notice how surreal it has all become.
Wouldn't it be fantastic if we had the opportunity to have a real, broad-ranging conversation about this country? Wouldn't it be great if we set apart some time and space every now and then to discuss our values, our symbols, our psyche, our dreams, our future?
Come on down right now to crazy Ireland. These prices are never to be repeated. Are you a misunderstood multi-millionaire? Do you get caught for pesky tax in your home country or whatever country you're pretending to live in? Did you know there's no need to worry about taxes? Just come on down to Ireland where the richer you are, the less tax you pay.
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...
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.
'Well I've come so far to get here/ And I've got so far to go/So I'll take what I can get/In matters of the soul'
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.
Typical, isn't it? You wait 39 years for one controversial head of state to come and then two of them come along at once. Though Donald will be hoping that he does a better job of "cementing the historic ties between our two great nations" than poor Pope Francis did.
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...
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.
In the age of instant outrage, we react with our gut and forget about joined-up thinking. We view things fairly simplistically and look for simple solutions. So, for example, we get a Taoiseach who promises that no woman involved in the CervicalCheck scandal will have to go to court.
People tell me I look fit. 'Are you working out?' they ask. I nearly thought Joe Brolly was cracking onto me the other day. I'll admit I was chuffed though. A proper man, a manly, sporty hard man, telling me I looked good.
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.
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.
Before we shoot down the so-called Granny Grant, we should all think carefully about this. It emerged as the grant was fleshed out, very much off the top of the head and over the airwaves, that not only will it be available to all four grandparents of every child, but also to any other relative who looks after children.
We begin this piece with a warning. This article may upset you. As with flash flooding, you may misjudge the depth of this article. It will possibly be much shallower than you think. You may also find that, like the weather, it is simultaneously too dry, while also being too damp. At this point in the article we are issuing a status yellow alert, but this may change, depending on how the piece develops.
I know I'm slightly late with this, but I thought we should talk about the Album of the Summer 2018. I say 'we' should talk about it, but I obviously mean I should talk about it, seeing as I do most of the talking in this relationship.
Given that 2.4pc of the Irish population has now been linked with the Presidency, including the whole cast of Dragons' Den, it is probably no surprise that the field has opened up to some international contenders as well. News broke over the weekend that none other than Donald Trump is thinking of making an Aras bid with a campaign centred around the slogan 'Make Ireland Great Again'.
A funny thing happened to me recently. I put on weight. I don't mean the standard few pounds you put up and down, I mean a few extra pounds, outside that normal range. I mean when you put on the few pounds that you put on all the time, that then tends to fall back off, but it doesn't fall off, and suddenly you realise you've put on another few pounds on top of it. That's a worry. That's a...
Young people reading this will find it hard to believe, but there was a time in this country when the sun used to shine all the time. We had no water back then, but we didn't mind. Because we had beer and cider and gin and tonics in large fishbowls with small gardens in them.
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...
I think we should talk a little bit about dad dressing in summer. Dad dressing is a tricky enough prospect at the best of times but in the summer, it takes on horrendous possibilities. I would like to stress that I do not speak for fashion in general; the views expressed here are my own. So for what it's worth, here are my rules for summer dressing for dads:
Thursday morning had a chilling effect. Suddenly the sun wasn't there. Was such a thing possible? Surely some mistake. The national mood dropped faster than a Dublin reservoir. We reassured each other it was coming back. But it did make us realise one thing, something we had managed to put to the backs of our minds. THIS IS GOING TO END.
I don't want to be stating the obvious. But isn't it amazing? Let's put aside for a moment the devastating effect on agriculture, and gardens, and car washing, and the fact that there are too many people at my beach. Isn't it just magical? Isn't it great to be alive?
Irish people have now permanently changed due to the hot weather, according to startling new scientific research. Professor Chortz Sochsunsantal and Professor Mustapha Muphintop have been monitoring Irish people's brains in the sunshine and they say that after having sunny weather for an unprecedented length of time, Irish people are now fundamentally different.
It is a very Irish row. It even has a name. The Unholy Row. And with the country in the kind of bubble of nostalgia we get into during hot summers, and with it feeling a bit 1976 around the place, people lapped it up.
You have to wonder. Who ever let me be a father? I was never really cut out for it. I always assumed I wouldn't be a father. But you assume a lot of things when you're young and stupid and you're never going to get old, and you'll either never die or you'll die young.
It is probably fair to say that at this point we have well and truly lost the run of ourselves. Technically, we are defined to have lost the run of ourselves when there are five or more days of abnormally high temperatures, maybe above 25 degrees.
It's a sunny day and I don't want to depress you. But I want to draw your attention to some strands of a quiet crisis, some niggling things that keep popping up in various forms that point to an alarming picture. These are things indeed that suggest we should be the last people to be feeling judgmental about Donald Trump's treatment of migrant children, or indeed about our own dark chapters in the past.
Buckingham Palace, Monday morning. As is customary, Charles reports to the Queen to get his orders for the week.
The term 'safe space' can be a bit overused these days, but if ever there was an argument for a safe space it is in young people's mental health services. Those who work in young people's mental health will tell you that many of the children who present to them are not presenting with a pure illness or a simple chemical imbalance or pathology. They are there because of stresses in their lives, things like bullying, abuse, family problems, and increasingly, life pressures that are exacerbated by the online world.
There was something disarming about Rich.
One day before he left the HSE, the day after he got permission to exercise his share options as a director of a US healthcare company, Tony O'Brien announced the setting up of a culture unit in the HSE, which will be led by the head of the HSE Values in Action programme. On reading this, it was hard not to think of W1A, the sitcom about jargon-addled corporate dysfunction in the BBC, where the main character is the Head of Values, and one of the plotlines is the competition to fill the new post of Director of Better, with one of the characters noting that, "We do things well, but we...
I know some people think I'm on the fake tan, or possibly the sunbeds.
We've almost come to the end of the various stages of our reaction to weather. First is shock (it's actually going to be nice? At the actual weekend?) Then denial (It'll never happen. They never get the forecast right.)
Another sign of ageing. They come daily now.
When Philip Roth was living in London, the playwright David Hare used to meet him for lunch, latterly in fast food baked potato joint Spudulike. "He kept trying to persuade me to go to the Middle East," Hare wrote recently. "He thought the fanatical Jewish settlers were hilarious. When I protested that religious zealotry was his subject matter, not mine, he replied: 'I promise you, David, these people are so crazy there's room enough for all of us.'"
It seems like a nice day. It should be a nice day. The indicators are good. The figures, on paper, are good. Temperatures are high, we are told, even though many people can't actually feel it in their own areas, in their own backyard. And while there is a bit of sunshine here and there, a lot of the time it's quite heavy. You could even say that for some it still feels a little oppressive around the place. The air seems pregnant with something. There is an unsettling stillness, maybe a sense of a calm before the storm.
They said the polls were probably wrong. It could be another Trump or Brexit. It would be closer than we thought. And they were right. The polls were wrong. But it wasn't a shy No that was lurking out there, it was a shy Yes. The people of Ireland did not rebel against the liberal elite. We are all the liberal elite now. Or two-thirds of us, at least.
You think you're finished. You think you will do this one thing and then it will be done and you can sit back and relax - but you're never done, are you?
Just when we thought we had changed, that we lived in a new sophisticated country, where you could even have a civilised conversation about abortion, along came John Waters. FOATTUM is gaining currency as the new insult du jour.
It's all getting real for Leo and the guys. The dissatisfaction rate, which is the difference between those who are satisfied with how the Government is doing its job and those who are not, tripled among women in the last month according to the MRBI poll in The Irish Times. So it was 10 points in the negative a month ago and now it is 29 points in the negative. Government satisfaction among...
The Silly Season saw the sun come out so it tried to make an appearance. We barely noticed it had happened until we found ourselves looking at goats in Ennis for an inordinate amount of the main evening news. The camera lingered on various shots of the goats walking around Ennis.
It was gradually dawning on me that most people were working hard to studiously avoid mentioning the fact that I had shaved all my hair off. A female colleague who came out a door and hadn't time to think or compose herself, blurted out, "Oh Jesus, your hair!"
Kicking and screaming is the only word for it. And we thought we'd come so far. We were world leaders in tech and artisan hipster coffee shops. Being gay was not only not illegal any more, they could get married and be the Taoiseach and everything. Your granny didn't even know we had gay men of Indian extraction in the country and we put one in charge. A lot of people weren't even sure if he was any good. But we put him in charge anyway. Because that's how we roll these days. We don't bat an eyelid at change, at modernity. We had even sorted out the North at one point,...
There was great excitement in discotheques up and down the country last night at the news that Abba are to tour again next year. And even better, they won't look all old and depressing.
The country is in awe of Vicky Phelan. But that's no good to her. Neither is the €2.5m settlement this terminally-ill woman got after being dragged through the courts by the HSE and the clinic in Texas which did not spot what were, according to expert witness Professor John Shepherd, obvious abnormalities on the slide of her cervical smear. The money might buy her some more time with her children, and some of it will be there for those young children when they turn 18. But none of it is any good to them, is it? Terminal illness has a way of putting everything else in perspective.
'Dad? What's going on?" the 10-year-old said to me. "I don't know," I was forced to admit, which is a real failure for a parent.
You imagine Leo will be pleased to be in Time magazine's list of the 100 most-influential people. Time may not be the force it once was, and most of us never read it, but we still pay attention to it once every year or two when they make Enda their man of the year or they include Leo in a list along with other influencers like Rihanna, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Donald Trump and Oprah.
The general feeling is that we deserve it. After all we've been through. It got so bad at one point that we were fighting over bread. And on and on it went. We started to think it would never end. It felt as if things had changed for good somehow, and this was how it would be from now on. Never-ending winter.
Sometimes I come home and I'm blitzed. I go through the motions with the wife and kids but they know I'm struggling so they will let me off for an hour. Oftentimes I will be so braindead that I won't even be up to watching TV or browsing the internet. So it's Top of the Pops for me.
There was a fascinating story about Leo Varadkar in the Indo last Tuesday that kind of went under the radar. So Leo is doing some market research among his party members. He wants to understand them better, and see how they feel about things. They are, he tells them, "the heart and soul of our party, and, as someone who came up through the ranks, that is something I never forget".
The mother has a great phrase for former wild men who give up the drink. "Oh, he got sense," she will say witheringly, and strangely disapprovingly. Of course the whole country has got sense now.
At the end of today's sermon I have a very important message on the Diet of Diets front. Believe it or not a lot of people have contacted me to say they are losing weight by just not eating breakfast.
The tectonic plates are shifting. Forces we barely understand are starting to act. As if in concert they started popping up right across the papers last week. It seems we are being softened up and told to get ready for an election.
Obviously many of you have been suspicious about my intentions since I stopped doing my Saturday night chat show a few years ago. Since then it has been difficult for me to appear in public at all without the media pestering me, always with the same question: "Did you give up your Saturday night chat show because you are running for the Presidency?"
I recognise it could be a false dawn, and that you could be reading this snowed in somewhere, as the grandchild of the beast lashes us with more snow, but I definitely noted the arrival of spring last weekend.
Did you have a drink last Friday? In a pub? Was it amazing? Did you set the alarm to go to an early house? Just to savour the novelty of a pint on the most illicit of days? Did you feel set free? In a new Ireland? Did you feel we had finally thrown off the shackles of the Church?
At what point, you wonder, did people decide they needed to see the picture of the alleged victim. What was it? Could they not conjure the images of the various versions of events properly without her face? Or did people need to see her so they could see what type she was? Did they need a picture before they could pass judgment properly and decide for themselves what had gone on?
Kristy Shen is often referred to as the youngest retiree in Canada. In 2014, aged 31, she retired from her job as a computer engineer. She and her partner had rebelled against the idea of home ownership and instead they took the half a million dollars they had saved to buy a house and invested it instead.
Between the Pope coming, and the cold war in full swing, and feminism back, it's feeling like a Seventies revival around here. It won't be long before The Riordans is back on TV and we're all eating Catch bars.
Today, to mark World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, LIFE magazine celebrates with the exclusive first viewing of the Down Syndrome Centre’s brave, moving and rejoicing short film, Same as our Siblings.
I want to talk briefly about art. I hasten to add that it is one of the many things I know nothing about. But I had an encounter with an artist and a class of an epiphany last Monday night at the National Concert Hall. In one way it was the last place I wanted to be, as I was gearing up for the first show in the new run of Cutting Edge and I prefer to be keeping the head down and focussing on work at these kinds of times. But the tickets had been bought ages ago and I love the Gloaming.
It's never a good idea to try to be something you're not to fit in with the hard men.
At this time of year, when we gaze deep into our navels and ponder what it is to be Irish, this great, unique, state of being, we like to make a video, to puff ourselves up a bit to the rest of the world, and tell them how special we are. These videos are what used to be called ads. Ads were about 30 seconds tops and they were an inconvenience that broke up TV shows. Now they are three, four, five minutes long and they are what's called content, and people actually choose to watch them. And the people making them love making them. Especially when they are making them...
Obviously, I rang the mother every day during the great snow of 2018. In fact, some of the days, I might have even phoned her two or three times. To check in with her, obviously. We both maintained this fiction when I would ring. I would start by asking if they were getting on OK. But then we would get down to business.
On the radio on Thursday, Justin McAleese told Sean O'Rourke that you should never get in an argument with his mother, Mary. You could probably broaden out that rule to 'You should never get in an argument with any Irish mother'. And you suspect the Catholic Church is currently finding that out the hard way.
It might sound odd, but when do you last remember Irish people being as happy as they were during the snow? And yes, I know it was a difficult time and a lot of people were struggling. But happiness does not necessarily equate with things being easy, does it?
My family don't like it when I get some time on my hands to read some books. I have no proof, but I know they talk about me behind my back. "Oh God, here we go again. He's reading a book. One of those self-betterment things. We'll have all his crazy new ideas to put up with for the next while now until he gets bored of it."
it brought us all together while it tore us apart. It reminded us that Ireland is a village. It reminded us too of all the great things about us. It reminded us we knock a bit of craic out of anything, while taking it deadly seriously too.
Thank God for the so-called Beast from the East, which brings together two of our favourite things - obsessing about the weather, and blaming something else for all our problems.
I've decided that I need to manage my stress. Not that I am feeling especially stressed out, but you know, I'm not getting any younger, and they say stress is the big killer, so I thought I should address it.
A very well-spoken and efficient sounding lady from the HSE came onto Morning Ireland to tell us that everything was fine. In fact the figures suggesting we had the fourth highest rate of teen suicide were out of date, and the Government is now pumping €5m into loads of new assistant psychologists for young people.
I think we'll wrap up the Diet of Diets because I can sense some of you might be getting bored. And yes, I acknowledge that some of you will be wondering if I'm so bloody intuitive about sensing what the reader wants, how come I didn't stop the diet writing three weeks ago?
We have a lot to learn from our Northern brethren. Not just our quaint nationalist friends, but their unionist brothers and sisters as well.
As Sinn Fein conducted one of its trademark spectaculars yesterday - not a bomb exploded, but a baton passed - there was one man who won't have been cheering. One man was presumably sitting in Armagh, carved out of granite, his eyes and his tongue still sharp and piercing at 81, disgusted, as he has been for years.
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.
We all love a bit of a parliamentary barney, especially when it happens in other countries. It makes us feel all smug and civilised and first-worldy and sophisticated.
A shock new poll today shows that people have had enough of the current news and would like new, different news. As one respondent put it: "The news at the moment has been going on for far too long. Someone needs to do something about it. I mean, Maurice McCabe, what's all that about? Have they not fired everyone at this stage?"
Towards the end of sixth year, for some reason, a weird dynamic took hold in our class. As I remember it, there was an odd atmosphere anyway in those final weeks. Courses had been taught and we wanted to be at home studying for our Leaving Cert. There was a certain arrogance there too. We were the top streamed class and we were nearly finished school forever. They had...
I wasn't holding out much hope for week three of the Diet of Diets. There were two nights out, when actually the completely arbitrary rules of the diet that I make up as I go along only allow for one moderate night out. But the philosophy of this diet is that you have to live too.
It has come to my attention that some of you are thinking that the Diet of Diets is a joke. To those people I say three pounds lost in week two bringing us to a total of five pounds lost in two weeks with little hardship and under not ideal circumstances, what with injury curtailing the exercise part of the equation.
Ironically, it is perhaps a sign of the way the internet has imprinted public discourse that the discussion around social media and digital safety has all the hallmarks of an internet uprising of outrage.
Davos is where the global elite, tech giants and CEOs gather to have concerned conversations about inequality, and 'What will we do about this Trump fellow? He's giving the global elite a bad name', and 'Maybe we need to let some ladies on the board, because they're causing a bit of a scene.'
Damien Dempsey walks out on stage in an unfussy, workmanlike fashion. He's a guy turning up to do a job. He's almost half sheepish. He dedicates the song to all the people who said Shane MacGowan would be dead by the time he was 30, 40, 50 and now 60.
You'd have to admit, we're shameless really. We're ferocious attention seekers, and a lot of the time, we don't care how we get it. Admittedly, we were probably especially vulnerable to a bit of attention last week. It hadn't been a great week here in Ireland, and the national psyche was feeling a bit battered and bruised. We were slightly sad, slightly ashamed and beating up on ourselves.
Leo Varadkar says he is nervous of governments trying to regulate the internet. He feels it might involve restrictions on freedom of speech. And he's probably right, isn't he? Because it's all going so well, isn't it?
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.
People are very fond of telling you that you wouldn't be happy if you were idle. Maybe it's how they keep the system going. By convincing all of us that we would get depressed if we didn't work.
It's that time again when journalists with no sense make predictions for the coming year that will turn out to be wildly inaccurate. But rather than boring you with specifics, we're going to take a wide-angle, bigger-picture view of the year ahead, and we're going to make one single grandiose prediction. It is a prediction based on the wisdom of our ancient tribal elders, the true leaders of the country - the Irish mothers.
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...
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...
He welcomed me and introduced himself as John. We talked for a minute about how beautiful the concert had been. And it had. You could see that even the children were in thrall to the music at times. The choir had added an orchestra this year and it made for sublime moments, moments of transcendence, Christmassy moments.
It's almost impossible to explain what a highlight the Christmas Top Of The Pops was. I guess, like the 1960s, you had to be there.
Not that we're the type to lose the run of ourselves, but, right now, a lot of people are saying: "If this is leprechaun economics, then paint me green and call me King of the Little People."
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...
It was ambitious. It was audacious. One of our most audacious jobs yet. We were going to abandon the children and go for a city break… in Miami.
Before we were even properly awake last Friday morning, we had decided it meant a soft Brexit, barely a Brexit at all really. We were triumphant. Not only had we got what we wanted, but we had, as Fintan O'Toole was putting it by 10am, saved the British from the madness of a hard Brexit.
Imagine wishing your own child would die. Imagine wishing they would die before you. Imagine if you prayed for that every single day. Imagine if she died and you were sad but you agreed it was the best option for her. That's how Sinead McDonnell's mother Mary felt about her daughter's life and death. It's a pretty damning indictment of our society.