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

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