When it comes to the UK, Ireland and the EU, I feel I've been in at the beginning. I was a student in Paris in 1963 when Charles de Gaulle uttered his famous "Non!" to the UK joining what was then the EEC (and which effectively halted Ireland's membership as well).
The Christine Keeler portrayed by the actress Sophie Cookson in the current BBC TV drama doesn't look at all like the Christine Keeler I met in the 1980s. By then, Christine seemed a poor soul living on a council estate in Chelsea. She had no money. She had lost custody of both her children, by two marriages. You could see that she had once been pretty, even beautiful, and with a fabulous body: but she now seemed worn down and almost bedraggled. I felt sorry for her.
I know that snoring can cause conflict in marriages and relationships, because I've heard people complain about it. "I have to sleep in the spare room - his snoring is intolerable!" "We've tried every remedy - but the snoring goes on… awful!" But now I have discovered that it can prompt tensions even in friendships. And the revelation hasn't been a pleasant one for me.
Next month marks the centenary of one of the most popular, well-loved and yet sometimes neglected of Irish geniuses - the late Percy French, songwriter and painter. Who hasn't heard of 'The Mountains of Mourne', or 'Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff', or that whimsical ditty about the West Clare Railway, 'Are You Right There, Michael?'
So it's five more years of Boris Johnson: and probably five more years of Irish social-media bitching about a terrible, right-wing Tory government. Fintan O'Toole was, predictably, leading the troops with his comment immediately after the result: "As a friendly outsider," tweeted Ireland's public intellectual, "can I just say Britain and England are better than Boris Johnson?"
Christmas, 'tis said, is all about families. But here's a family theme that has always fascinated me. Is your personality affected by the number of siblings you have? Are big families more competitive than smaller families? I've been reading through the 2019 editions of that peerless publication, the Dictionary of Irish Biography (from the Royal Irish Academy), covering the years 2003 to 2010: lives of prominent Irish people who died during those seven years are described in these Volumes 10 and 11. And it's striking that many individuals who showed distinction or leadership came from larger families, which I would define as six or more.
Is this to be the most expensive Christmas on record, as predicted? Well, that's good for the retail trade, and they have to make a living, too, though the whole Black Friday event strikes me as artificial. It's an American import which has very little meaning on this side of the Atlantic. In the United States it has authentic roots - linked with the shopping after the annual Thanksgiving festival. But we don't do Thanksgiving festivals, so why should we do the specific shopping day that goes with it?
After the atrocity at London Bridge last Friday evening, much electioneering was - rightly - suspended for a day. But the disclosure that 28-year-old knifeman Usman Khan had served a jail sentence for terrorist offences will very likely favour the Conservatives, at least in the immediate term.
A new museum opened in Dublin in September this year, MoLI, at Newman House, 86 St Stephen's Green. If MoLI brings to mind lusty Molly Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses, that's the whole idea: Joyce dominates the publicity and even content at the new Museum of Literature Ireland, and the MoLI-Molly word association is intentional.
I am very disappointed with Queen Elizabeth - not Olivia Colman in The Crown - but the real one residing at Buckingham Palace. It has been announced that no longer will she wear real fur. Under the guidance of her dresser (and new BF) Angela Kelly, any fur that appears on royal garments from now on will be "fake fur", or "faux fur" as the fashion industry calls it - not liking the word "fake".
What is the best outcome, for Ireland, in the British general election? "A Boris majority," says a London source close to the Irish Government. "But only a Boris majority in the short term. That will give Westminster the power to proceed with the Brexit deal. We wouldn't want a Johnson Tory majority in the long term - that would be too right-wing. What Ireland absolutely does not want is a hung parliament. That would be the worst of all options!"
When Parnell died, he was described as "the uncrowned king of Ireland", not just because he was widely revered, but because he had changed Irish society, setting a template for parliamentary democracy. Something similar could be said about Gay Byrne. His funeral yesterday was akin to a state mourning.
Autumn is the season for book prizes and awards, nationally and internationally, and these often highlight themes expressing the zeitgeist - the spirit of the age. But let me turn to storylines arising in a less literary genre: the 40 winning short stories and vignettes of memory appearing in the 2019 Anthology published by the popular Ireland's Own (with a foreword by the novelist Cathy Kelly).
Back in the days of the Suffragettes, some women were opposed to females voting - the novelist Mrs Henry Wood led an energetic ladies' anti-suffrage movement. They claimed that politics was too squalid, and women were too sensitive, to participate in such a lowering endeavour.
There's a long tradition that 'we do not speak ill of the dead' (de mortuis nil nisi bonum). But need that always be true? When I learned that Ulick O'Connor - writer, poet, playwright, athlete, lawyer, Renaissance man and general provocateur - had died, aged 90, my first reflex was how much I had disliked him. He could be so rude and aggressive.
Actresses - yes, some women in the performing arts still prefer not to be called 'female actors' - and songstresses often avail of cosmetic surgery. Looking younger than they are is part of their job. So it isn't surprising that Debbie Harry, the American singer, actress, songwriter and model, now aged 74, has compared facelifts to a flu injection - just a regular procedure. In her profession, it is.
Most of us, I think, are admirers of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish ecological crusader. She often reminds me of the young girl saints we used to learn about, in convent schools, back in the day. These young saints were teenagers with a vision who took on the powerful with determined zeal, and often at the cost of personal sacrifice.
Renée Zellweger's portrayal of the legendary star Judy Garland - Judy - which appears in cinemas from October 4 brought to mind my own memory of meeting that great and tragic legend, shortly before her death in 1969.
You could tell she wasn't well. She was off her food. One eye looked sort of wonky and her movements were slow and reluctant. She was sleeping a lot, curled up in ball. She seemed awfully needy, like a baby. Yes, there was definitely something wrong with our pet cat, Pussolini.
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