Sunday 21 July 2019

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: 'Those magnificent men' 

As a youngster, whenever I'd visit that jewel of Connemara, Clifden, my Galway uncle would proudly point out the historic spot when the pioneer aviators Alcock and Brown landed in 1919. As Uncle Jim was a boy when this occurred, it always remained for him a source of awe and wonder that these men had been the first to fly the Atlantic non-stop. They crossed in 16 hours and 28 minutes in a fragile two-seater open-cockpit airplane - then the longest flight ever taken - and landing in a bog just by Clifden.

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Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: 'The Oireachtas proposes revising sex education. But can the full truth about sexuality ever be taught?' 

I am totally in favour of sex education. Generations - including mine - were sent out into the world unprepared for what it might put their way. Girls who grew up in institutions were particularly vulnerable: knowing nothing about sex, they were easily seduced with the promise of love, and were soon on the road either to a lonely and impoverished single motherhood, or a depressing cycle of...

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: Granny knows best 

The "granny grant" suggestion, made by Minister Shane Ross in July, didn't meet with much enthusiasm. He was lambasted for his proposal to give a grant of €1,000 a year to grandparents who cared for their grandchildren on a regular basis. He reckoned this would cost about €70 million a year to the exchequer, but economists said his sums were ludicrously underestimated: the cost could run into untold billions of euro, since all four grandparents might be entitled to claim.

Picture: Nickolas Muray ©. Photo: Archives

Frida: artist of the selfie 

Today, Frida Kahlo is probably the most famous female artist in the world. Although she died in 1954, aged 47, she is truly contemporary: she is the artist of the selfie, since most of her paintings are self-portraits. Even in her own lifetime, she had revolutionised the genre of the self-portrait, bringing not only a dazzling female sensibility and intensity to it, but a narrative of family, nativist culture, costume, obsession with fertility, Surrealism, revolution and religious iconography.

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny writes a 2017 Christmas Carol 

Marley was dead, to begin with. Eoin Scrooge knew that his business partner Marley was dead, as he had consigned the ashes himself to the crematorium. Personally, Eoin blamed Jake Marley's death on not really keeping up with the times, business-wise. He had brought so much stress on himself by being so old-fashioned, and muttering hopelessly outdated phrases such as, "Neither a lender nor a borrower be," or, "A penny saved is a penny earned." Imagine saving, with interest rates the way they are!

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: 'I saw some ghastly dumps while searching for new home' 

All of life's experiences come to an end, eventually, and I knew that one day I'd be booted out of the adorable, if somewhat ramshackle, Georgian flat that I have rented in Dublin's Kildare Street since 1996. The rent hadn't increased for 20 years - it had remained just under €800 monthly - although, on the other hand, there were structural faults with the apartment which mightn't have passed muster with Health and Safety: doors didn't close properly, there was an actual hole in the bathroom floor, the radiators hadn't worked for ages, and maintenance and repairs seemed scanty.

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: Postcards from the past 

It's pleasing to see shops in Ireland still display and sell pretty picture postcards. I hope that visitors are buying and sending them, but the postcard is not a thriving business, worldwide. The American postal service has been charting a progressive decline in postcard sending since 2010. Last month, in Britain, the oldest postcard publisher, J Salmon of Sevenoaks, announced its closure - put out of business by changing holiday habits and the instant gratification of social media. It's reckoned there's been a 60pc decline in the picture postcard over the past 20 years. People are taking more...

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: Diana's tragedy 

It would be an exaggeration to say that I knew Diana, Princess of Wales, but I met her, and it later transpired that she read what I wrote. Or maybe she just read the reports about herself: for she said to the editor of The Daily Telegraph (as he recounted subsequently), "Why can't you write nice things about me, like Mary Kenny?" I suppose I did write positively about Diana because she was a very winning personality, and seemed so unstuffy: she spoke rather simply to me about how she really would have liked to be a nurse, and how rewarding it was to look after people who were...

Mary Kenny

Don't shy away 

I felt sorry for Theresa May during the turbulent month of June because she was so widely blamed for having the wrong kind of personality. The British prime minister had a bad election campaign, seeming arrogant, aloof and unable to connect with people - so unlike her Labour rival, Jeremy Corbyn. She was savaged for not responding more spontaneously to the dreadful Kensington inferno at Grenfell Tower - while Mr Corbyn knew, instinctively, you just go to suffering victims and hug them. It's not Theresa's way. She can't.

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: The town of kings 

Ah, Dún Laoghaire! It seemed like a glittering jewel from the Côte d'Azur in our childhood, whither we would travel on the CIE train, which preceded the Dart, to swim in those fabled Dún Laoghaire baths, and afterwards to partake of an ice-cream at the immortal Teddy's, served by the very dapper Teddy himself. On Sundays, it was my mother's pleasure to walk the length of the Dún Laoghaire pier, there to look out to sea mistily, pondering on the oceans further away, just as in the opening pages of Ulysses.