Monday, May 31, 2010

On me being cool at the flatlake in 2008

The thing about being "cool" is that really cool people don't know they are "it". I always wanted to be cool, which is why, up until last weekend, coolness cruelly eluded me.

What has always stood between me and my cool self has been an abundance of enthusiasm. An unwillingness to hang back and let people come to me instead of waving my arms about and shouting "Hi! Come over here! This is where the cool stuff is!" It's a lack of confidence, a belief that if I don't signpost myself, people won't see me. Cool people sit in corners and wait for the world to come to them. I can't do that. I am too anxious and unsure of my talents. As a result, I am continuously jeopardising my cool rating by inappropriate boasting (caused by nerves) or chronic self-deprecation. I am actually somebody who is so self-sabotaging it's a good job I have, somehow, managed to employ the services of one of the best literary agents in the world. Otherwise I would be penniless as well as terminally gauche.

However, my low cool rating was in serious danger of being reversed at the Flat Lake Festival last weekend when, at the age of 44, I somehow successfully walked the tightrope of being both cool and yet also true to my squawky, self-announcing inner Morag. I set up a small marquee called The Good Room and decorated it with a sofa, dresser, holy pictures and vintage gewgaws. I put on a Joseph Locke CD and then, with the help of various friends and their adorable children, recruited an audience to come in and watch various impromptu performances. We invited people to Introduce Your Girlfriend to Meet My Mother in The Good Room, to play Getting The Messages for Mammy and meet the Child Who Can Be Seen and Not Heard.

I fed boxty to the menacing and bloody (actor) clowns who were wandering around the lawns of Hilton Park and, under the watchful eye of my beautiful niece Lauren, my six-year-old son and his beautiful red-haired friend Maeve, walked the grounds inviting people to guess how many marbles were in their jar and handing out barley sugars and Good Room badges. I read from Recipes for a Perfect Marriage in a big top in front of people sitting on bales of hay, then the next day took the stage in the Butty Barn with the brilliant Brian Leyden and read a Sunday Tribune piece about my friend's father's funeral, looking up to see that one of his other daughters was, coincidentally, in the audience.

Later that day, I gave tea and biscuits to legendary poets Paul Muldoon, Séamus Heaney and Canadian poet laureate George McWhirter, who turned into something of a Good Room regular with his charming wife Angela. Singing duo The Toblerones entertained us before Donegal storyteller and singer Little John Nee gatecrashed my Afternoon Tea With The Priest, at which Séamus, the actual Clones parish priest and a thoroughly good-natured sport, was the guest of honour. He also put up with (hilarious) abuse from Pat McCabe's alter ego Captain Butty.

On the last evening, playwright John Breen, an unscheduled guest, gave us the first 20 minutes of his new and completely brilliant play. The theme of it was, appropriately, magic, because it was a magical weekend for me and my family. And for the first time in my life, I felt as if I was thoroughly, indisputably cool. Of course I've spoiled it all now by drawing attention to it. Some things just can't be helped.

Sunday Tribune August 31, 2008

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Good Room Father Tony & Co.

Good Room at the flat lake

This weekend folks - come and join us and JOIN IN! We need priests, and pinnies and party pieces. Don't leave me lonely!

If the door is open pop in for a chat and a cup of cocoa and a knit a few lines of Captain Butty’s Christmas gaensai. If the nets are pulled it means that Kate is in her curlers and you’ll have to come back in the morning.

12am – Angelus followed by Good Room Games. Silent Scrabble with the Child Who Can be Seen and Not Heard, Speed Knitting and Getting The Messages for Mammy. Refreshments available from the lovely ladies of Scone Central.

1pm – Boxty with special guest bestselling author Claudia Carroll - she’s really Nicola from Fair City – and she’s bringing her love rival Niamh with her!

1-2 – Bring Your Girlfriend to Meet My Mother. Good Marriage Material certificates and medals for all successful candidates. Clean under your nails lads – you have been warned!

Lunch: Hang Sangwiches and tea on sale from Scone Central as fundraiser for local Scotshouse community centre parish church.

3-4 – Entertainer extraordinare Little John Nee hosts our party pieces. How fast can you say the Our Father in Irish? Can you speed knit? Dance a jig? Sing a nice song? Or simply wiggle your ears or bend your fingers in an unnatural fashion? No matter how big or small, professionally learned, gifted or just plain infantile-but-very-funny- your party piece is – bring it along to The Good Room and add it to our Good Room YouTube Gift List.

6pm – 7pm Afternoon Tea with Mick McCormack and Anne Enright – well just who knows what these two literary heavyweights might end up talking about! Bukes we hope.

7-8pm – Supper and Bedtime Stories hosted by Kate and The Child Who Can Be Seen and Not Heard.

12 Midday: The Angelus followed by mass and Good Room Games.

2-4pm: Sunday acoustic lunchtime jam with The Poetry Chicks, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Clara Rose, Mundy, Lily Allen, Shane McG – and whoever else is nice enough to get down with the “ordinary” people for a parlor sing-song in exchange for a slice of home-made tart and lots, and lots, and lots and lots of love.

5-6pm Priests Tea Party
Including: Folk Hymns with half-a-Toblerone, Johnny Ferguson.
Competitions: Guess The Saint and Spot The Real Priest PLUS Respectable Slow Dancing – Father Tony gets his ruler out and ladies, this is your chance to get up close and personal as the priests once-and-for-all ascertain the official “safe” dancing distance for a sin-free samba.

6-7pm – Supper Storytime with Kate Kerrigan. Kate will read from her latest novel Ellis Island and you can sit back and knit and chill in silence and stock up on Good Room piety before the last night of the Flat Lake goes mad altogether and you make a holy disgrace of yourself.

Friday, May 28, 2010

If women can't age gracefully, what chance have the poor 'aul men got?

I was watching a Marlon Brando tribute on the TV the other night when something really horrible happened. They were interviewing Al Pacino and he had a bad-ladies blow dry. Lifted at the roots. Thinning hair dyed light brown. For my money Al Pacino is, and has always been the ultimate hollywood pin-up. Dark, brooding, scarred, troubled – what’s not to love? I grew up in North West London pining after Italian boys who looked a bit like Elvis. (The Italian catholics only really turned up to mass when there was a party – confirmations and communions mostly, where they swept up the aisle looking fabulous, knocking the serious goody-goody English catholics out of the front pews and making us stand-at-the-back Irish cheer.) I was in love with my next-door-but-one neighbor Luciano Balducci (the name alone!) for years, so it is no surprise that the likes of Al does it for me more than say, a Brad or a Keanu. As far as I am concerned, Pacino is not time sensitive. As he gets older, I get older and he remains attractive to me. Ninety, bald, paunchy – it don’t matter to me. I harboured a small interest in Brando – yes – right up to the end. So imagine my shock when I see that my Godfather pin-up is currently sporting a tan coloured bouffant which, if my mother had come home with I might be polite enough to pretend was okay. Why do men try and look younger? Women do it, and while I mostly think it’s misguided, it is understandable. Older women are made to feel inadequate, unattractive. Grey hair and a failing figure make a woman disappear. It’s an appalling injustice and one which, I hope in the approaching years, I will have the courage to shout down. Men, on the other hand, improve with age. Every woman – and in fairness most men, knows that the majority of them don’t have much sense before they are forty. Richard Gere once said that he was fifty before he knew anything at all. Trying to look younger as a woman is risky. Most people will know you have had ‘work done’ and are therefore just ‘pretending’ which defeats the object surely. Short skirts, vest tops, injudicious use of animal print? It’s all a bit sad – but if it makes you feel better – then you can go for it and many will even respect you for trying. But a man trying to comb-himself-over to more hair or botox himself back to youth is nothing short of full-on madness. Women like grey hair, shaved balding heads and the rugged lines of experience on a man’s face. A man who is trying to look younger than his years is undignified – and lack of dignity is something that an older man cannot get away with. Ever. Dignity, the confidence to be who you are – these are essential attributes for an attractive older man, and are way more important than physical perfection. Which begs the question why is the same not true for women? Why do men not fancy Jane Fonda as a beautiful woman who acts her age over, say Heather Lockyear who looks freakishly younger than she did when she was thirty? In any case, I can only hope that, having shattered my fantasies of him, Pacino returns to form soon and loses the bouffant. Or perhaps, she said hopefully, the hair-do was temporary - for an acting part. Although Al Pacino as Mrs. Doubtfire? Cross-dressing, that’s another dignity-stripper lads. Chalk it down.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

beautiful sat morning in killala. on leo's flip camera which i have just discovered. expect loads more pointless vids.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cool podcast.....

Oh, and here is a link to a really cool interview I did with the gorgeous Jho Harris - Mayo Arts Radio Head extraordinaire. Cyt and paste folks. Cut and paste.

Kate making brown bread

In an act of acute self-sacrifice I have videoed my precious brown bread recipe for others to copy and follow. So, my brown bread fans, too numerous to name - this is for you.
P.S. It's in two parts because I went on and on and on. "That's enough about me - lets talk some more about me."