Monday 16 September 2019

Brendan O'Connor

PORTRAIT OF INNOCENCE: Missing teenager Nora Quoirin. Photo: PA

Brendan O'Connor on the disappearance of Nora Quoirin: 'A special kind of love - and a special kind of loss' 

Who'd be a parent? Take last week. Fifteen-year-old Mikey Leddy from Navan died after he fell from a wall in Puerto Del Carmen in Lanzarote. The 15-year-old was on holiday with his mum and dad, Aisling and Damien. Family holidays are magical times, when families reset and bond and get to know each other again. And then suddenly, in a split second everything changes forever and lives...

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German chancellor Anglea Merkel. Photo: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Brendan O'Connor: 'The G7 back-to-school blues' 

It's back-to-school day at the G7 International School in Biarritz and the class are all somewhat giddy after another exciting summer. The other pupils are excited to have a new boy in the class this year. Swotty Emmanuel and Mrs Merkel, the teacher, have met the new boy already so the others are asking about him. "What is he like?" asks Sloppy Giuseppe. "What do you care?" says Justin the Jock, "You won't be here for long more anyway. I heard your parents can't pay the fees anymore. Does my hair look good? Anyone want to take a back-to-school selfie with me? Hey! I know! Let's...

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Brendan O'Connor: 'Ireland: A picture of happiness' 

We do not say this lightly, but today, the Sunday Independent is calling for this country to leak a picture to some online news websites of all of us together, sitting around a table in a beer garden in rural Ireland, looking happy. We need to send a clear message to the world that despite anything our neighbours or anyone else thinks they may have heard, everything is in order here and the people of Ireland are very happy together. We are united on the domestic front.

Take steps to achieve a healthy gut

Brendan O'Connor: 'Men don't have guts like they used to' 

Will we look back on the era of the gut and laugh at ourselves? I mean, I'm buying into it for now. I'm buying into it wholesale. Right now, denying the fact that the gut is the most important part of our body that determines not only our physical health, but our mental and emotional health, would be akin to being a climate change denier. It's science innit? And you can't argue with science apparently. Until new science argues with old science. We may have to pivot at that point. But for now we need to abide by the Gospel of the Gut.

Jean Vanier spent his life improving conditions for those who are different

Brendan O'Connor: 'What I got for Father's Day' 

I find myself getting prickly when people give me any variation on the old "Gift from God" line about having a kid who is a bit different. It takes many forms. They will maybe make a big show of talking about how cute the child is, how smart the child is. Isn't she doing great? Oh, and it talks too? Round of applause! They will often just do it by ignoring the sister and being all over the different one. Sometimes they will just go straight for the jugular and talk about the great joy it must bring.

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor: 'The mother stages an intervention' 

Butter wouldn't melt in the mother's mouth. She innocently left a few boxes of stuff on my bed when I was down last weekend. She's gradually trying to clear out junk, so now and then she'll surprise you with a bit of junk. As if it was just stuff. But of course it's not just stuff, is it? It's random chunks of the past. Artefacts that cause the past to come flying up from the depths, to remind you of who you used to be, in case you might forget.

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Brendan O'Connor: 'In the world of legal claims and counter claims, remember: personal injury is on the way out, fake shoplifting is in' 

Now that we've all got over our fit of righteousness against Maria Bailey, -the only politician who ever made a mistake, and who is solely to blame for Fine Gael's poor performance in the local and European elections, and who certainly proved right those who say women in the workplace are often the least supportive of their female colleagues - maybe it is time to look at the bigger picture.

Sir David Attenborough (Peter Byrne/PA)

Brendan O'Connor: 'Forty Shades of Green' 

It was all very well when people were letting their kids and David Attenborough tell them how to vote, but the country then woke up with somewhat of a green hangover. It was all great fun at the time, but then came The Fear on Sunday morning. David Attenborough never mentioned anything about €100bn to retrofit our houses. For €100bn, we could build 33 rural broadband projects. Or maybe one children's hospital (You know with computers and everything we will probably end up rounding it off to an even 100).

'There's nothing more productive than hoovering the fake grass'

Brendan O'Connor: 'Cranky middle-aged man with leaf blower alert' 

I could see her face drop when I got out the leaf blower/hoover. You could almost say she looked in pain. "Would you not wait a bit? Give people a bit more of a lie in on a Bank Holiday?" It was half nine, was my attitude. They should be up by now. I'd been up since half six, which is my new waking time these days. I get woken every morning by the gum pain. I'm a martyr to the gums these days. So I was well into the day at this point and I felt the need to do something productive. I'd been lazy the day before due to a vague hangover and I always get this need to sort everything...

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Photo: Joe Klamar

Brendan O'Connor: 'Early-onset Silly Season 2019' 

Environmental boffins have discovered an unexpected new side effect of climate change. "Not only are we getting milder winters, but the actual timing of seasons is changing too," said Prof Norbert Von Nomates, chair of Irish Climate at the University of Utrecht. "Looking at the data over the past 20 years, it's clear the Irish Silly Season is coming earlier each year. For example, last week we saw a story about a deer on the Dart. I wrote a short 'funny' letter to The Irish Times to ask if this is a record, and it definitely is. Usually quirky wildlife stories don't occur until later in May, though...

The Seven days of Gratitude starts off reasonably enough

Brendan O'Connor: 'Gratitude, platitudes and attitudes' 

I'm doing the seven days of gratitude on the old meditation app. I can't seem to remember seeking it out as such. I think the app pretty much presented it to me one day so I went along with it. As you know gratitude is all the rage these days. I think the general idea is that if you fill your head with gratitude there's less room for bitterness, or the gratitude at least serves to distract from the bitterness. What? You thought the gratitude might be more about other people and less about serving yourself? No. Don't be naive. Once you get into the whole wellness and mindfulness area to any...

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...

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor: 'I've finally found the key to success in life' 

I have a new credo, a new key to success. I have found the answer. And you'll never guess what it is. I was reading about Barcelona football club, who have a big innovation unit now to try and improve football. So they have data analysts who are tracking and monitoring the players and trying to make them better, and ultimately trying to prevent injuries before they happen. Things are in their early stages with all this stuff, and the analysts say they are making no huge difference to performance yet.

'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.