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This Man's Life: The popularity contest of Irish funerals and porn stars in Venice

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‘To the solemn graves, near a lonely cemetery’, goes the line by the poet Baudelaire, ‘my heart like a muffled drum is beating funeral marches’ (Stock picture)

‘To the solemn graves, near a lonely cemetery’, goes the line by the poet Baudelaire, ‘my heart like a muffled drum is beating funeral marches’ (Stock picture)

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‘To the solemn graves, near a lonely cemetery’, goes the line by the poet Baudelaire, ‘my heart like a muffled drum is beating funeral marches’ (Stock picture)

'To the solemn graves, near a lonely cemetery', goes the line by the poet Baudelaire, 'my heart like a muffled drum is beating funeral marches'.

I visited my parents' grave the other day in their lonely cemetery. It was a lovely sunny day.

In the distant corner of the cemetery I noticed what appeared to be a funeral with a large number of people.

I began to imagine how popular that person going into his or her final resting place must have been to get so many people to a funeral. On the way home I started to ponder possibly the grimmest of imponderables: the size of the crowd at your funeral will be largely decided by the weather on the day.

A more profound wisdom later came to me: that the temptation in all to be liked by everyone in life is a big mistake.

Furthermore, as comedian Frank Skinner once pointed out on this subject: "You should be true to your cause, go for life, don't be tentative and remember that the people who you love and who you care for, how many of their funerals would you go to if it was really chucking it down?"

I was wise enough not to bring up this subject with my wife over dinner later that night.

Nor was I unwise enough to reveal the subject matter of the book I am half-reading at the moment: a pronounced and self-possessed fear of emotional commitment.

In The Dying Animal Philip Roth makes the contentious point (which I am at pains here to say I completely disagree with) that heterosexual romantic relationships are somehow "pathology in its purest form".

Roth goes on to say that falling in love is an unhealthy obsession. What's so wrong with falling in love? I hear the whole world ask. Let Philip Roth tell you.

Roth, who doesn't so much sugar-coat his theories as bash his readers over the head with a few blunt sentences, writes in The Dying Animal: "People think that in falling in love they make themselves whole? The Platonic union of souls? I think otherwise. I think you're whole before you begin. And the love fractures you. You're whole, and then you're cracked open."

I think my wife would have cracked me over the head with something blunt - and deservedly so - if I had mentioned this last bit, however much I disagreed wholeheartedly with the theory.

So Aoife, can I just say I love you.

*******

The Irish media is full to bursting currently with articles about going to Amerikay to meet a certain tasteless politician. I have my own tale of going off somewhere foreign to meet a tasteless politician...

July, 1990, a five-star hotel, Venice, Italy: me and porn-star-turned-top-politician La Cicciolina shared some intimate moments over spag bol and wine. That month, my lunch companion had stood naked outside the Italian parliament with radioactive artichokes as a protest against Chernobyl.

Why couldn't Ali Hewson or Adi Roche have thought of that?

The elected representative had offered to sleep with Saddam Hussein in return for hostages in the first Gulf War. Her political slogans included "Vote for a Green from the Red Light District".

"The Pope very big problem, he say make sex not for pleasure but for make children. I say make sex not only for procreation but for pleasure.

"Every day, many, many children in India who have nothing to eat, die and the Pope say no contraception," she said.

La Cicciolina was more animated now than - possibly, or possibly not - at any time in her whole movie career. "We have very many problems in Italy with Catholic Church," she told me. "We have many hypocrisies."

I pointed out to her that we have many hypocrisies with the Catholic Church in Ireland, too.

An iconoclast in its purest distillation, Cicciolina was Alice Glenn on acid: her policy on nuclear energy, she told me, "was to make love under a warm sun". She could have done wonders for the Dail. "I fight for sexual freedom, for education on AIDS..." As Peter Popham tongue-in-cheekily noted in the Indy, "she was a missionary for the new society". (Emphasis on missionary.)

I asked La Cicciolina if being a politician was more fun than being a porn star?

"Yes," she smiled. "My English isn't very good but sometimes people in parliament is more pornographic than my work was pornographic." This, of course, is very true.

Would La Cicciolina really have had sex with Saddam Hussein?

She didn't push me in the Grand Canal. Instead, La Cicciolina chortled and said: "Yes. It was because of the hostages. But I don't think I would like to make many love with him."

Nor Le Trump either.

Sunday Independent