Saturday 23 March 2019

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 He had brought so much stress on himself by being so old-fashioned, and muttering hopelessly outdated phrases such as, "Neither a lender nor a borrower be," or, "A penny saved is a penny earned."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.

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: Soul sisters 

Feuds between sisters are well enough known: the movie stars Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland maintained a sisterly quarrel all their lives. The writers Margaret Drabble and her sister A.S. (Antonia) Byatt only meet - acknowledging each other with a formal nod - at funerals, never having patched up a family difference. Among the notorious Mitford sisters, Jessica was a Communist and Diana was a Fascist (and the mother of Desmond Guinness, who saved Georgian Dublin from destruction): throughout their adult lives they were not "on speakers".

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: Vive la feminism 

Feminists all over the world clamour that "more women's voices must be heard". More women's voices in science, on business boards, in academia, in the media, and, above all, in politics. However, no feminists I can trace have praised the French Presidential candidate Marine le Pen as representing an advance for women's voices in politics. As Marion Anne Perrine le Pen has led the National Front party, and thus "the extreme far right", she is never seen as a role-model for women and she is not supported by feminist groups.

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny: Your funeral, your way 

If anyone plays Frank Sinatra's My Way at my funeral, I'll be mortified in more senses than one - the embarrassment of anyone finding out that secretly I rather loved this mawkish, self-pitying and self-justifying song, composed just 50 years ago. It's shamefully bombastic as it boasts and brags of the ego's achievements in "planning each chartered course", sometimes biting off "more than I could chew": but always standing tall and doing it "my way". It's been called "shamelessly self-mythologising" and "lamentable" by music critics. And yet, I have to admit, it gets to me every...