Category Archives: Books

Weekender in Kilkenny

Kilkenny castle

Last week I was suffering from cabin fever. I have been quite conscientious about getting out and about in Dublin for walks during the Plague, and at this stage I could probably become a tour guide for Dublin with little training – if tourists ever come back to Dublin that is. By last Thursday however my patience was running thin. Would I ever go anywhere again? During normal times this would be the point where I’d log on to the website of Satan’s favourite airline and book a flight on a blue and yellow airplane, to go somewhere last minute for the weekend. Obviously this was no longer possible. I decided a train trip would be a suitable alternative. My destination was to be Kilkenny.

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Culture: ‘Somebody’ and ‘Siam’

The new restrictions to tackle the spread of coronavirus were released last night. As predicted they are an incoherent mess.

House parties are to be limited to no more than six people from outside your household (and these six cannot come from more than three separate households). Meanwhile minimum wage workers in meat processing plants, are allowed to go to work in factories where the recent outbreaks have originated. These workers predominantly work in cramped conditions, living in crowded homes, with up to ten strangers bed-sharing. Schools are re-opening in a few weeks and social distancing guidelines are to be observed. Many children travel to school on public transport. Travel on public transport is to be avoided however according to new guidelines. People over the age of 70 years old are encouraged to stay indoors. However the outbreaks are predominantly among those aged under 45. The leader Fine Gael – Leo Varadkar – didn’t bother turning up at the press conference with the other two equally useless coalition party leaders Micheal Martin and Sleepy Eamon Ryan. Micheal sounded stern like a schoolteacher scolding the nation. As the news was bad, and Varadkar is a PR obsessed snake-oil salesman, he wanted to distance himself from it.  It’s almost as if he thinks he is not a part of government, therefore equally responsible for the shambles of the new guidelines.

‘Siam’ at Chester Beatty Library

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‘Normal people’ by Sally Rooney and Lenny Abrahamson

Aspen label

Last October I read the book ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney over a period of two months. You might wonder why a book of 266 pages would take so long. It’s well written and quite easy to read after all. It tells the simple tale of a heterosexual couple who start a relationship in secondary school in the west of Ireland, before continuing an on-again, off-again friendship and relationship over their university days in Dublin. Continue reading ‘Normal people’ by Sally Rooney and Lenny Abrahamson

A book: ‘The Madonna of Bolton’ by Matt Cain


‘The Madonna of Bolton’ is the third novel by Matt Cain. Having been rejected thirty times by publishers – apparently because the main protagonist of the book Charlie Matthews is gay – it was finally published through a crowdfunding campaign which reached its target within a week. Continue reading A book: ‘The Madonna of Bolton’ by Matt Cain

Bookworm: ‘The Sparsholt Affair’ by Alan Hollinghurst



‘The Sparsholt Affair’ by Alan Hollinghurst is his first book since 2011’s ‘The Stranger’s Child’ and his sixth overall. Having won the Man Booker Prize for his masterpiece ‘The Line of Beauty ‘ in 2005 the expectations every time he releases a book are high. His books are about the lives of gay men, but such is the beauty and power of his writing, they transcend that limiting categorization, and get placed in the General Fiction section of the bookshop. Continue reading Bookworm: ‘The Sparsholt Affair’ by Alan Hollinghurst

Theatrical: ‘The Snapper’ at the Gate


Currently in preview at the Gate Theatre is the stage adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s book ‘The Snapper’. The official opening is on Wednesday 20th June. Theatrical etiquette rules that reviewers don’t review plays until opening night. Preview shows are intended to allow the director and the cast to iron out any last minute issues with the play. I am going to ignore that rule – for the simple reason that I paid full whack for my preview ticket (no freebies for regular audience members). As the show I saw, was the fourth preview performance, if they are not about 99% stage ready by this point then they never will be. Continue reading Theatrical: ‘The Snapper’ at the Gate

Bookworm: ‘After the funeral’ by Agatha Christie

At the age of twelve, I read ‘Cat among the pigeons’ by Agatha Christie. It was the first novel of hers that I’d read. It introduced me to the character of Hercule Poirot – the portly, eggheaded Belgian detective – whose favourite tipple is sirop de cassis – who travels the world, solving murders committed by the rich and infamous. Continue reading Bookworm: ‘After the funeral’ by Agatha Christie

Bookworm: ‘World without end’ by Ken Follett

The weekend passed in a blur. I was reading a very long book.

‘World without end’ by Ken Follett weighed in at a mighty 1,237 pages. I started this about four weeks ago with a slight feeling of dread. Books of this length can be dangerous.

As I am the type of person who will nearly always finish a book once I have started it, tomes like these are threatening. What if it is absolute gash, yet I don’t find this out until three hundred pages in? That’s a long and lonely nine hundred pages left to go. Continue reading Bookworm: ‘World without end’ by Ken Follett

Bookworm: ‘Days without end’ by Sebastian Barry

‘Days without end’ by Sebastian Barry is his latest tale in a series of books about the McNulty family of Sligo. Set over various centuries on different continents these books examine various people in different generations of one family, and how they fare in the world. ‘The Temporary Gentleman’ was about Jack McNulty – working for the UN in Ghana in 1957, as he remembers his ruinous marriage to his fellow alcoholic Mai Kirwan (you can read my take on that book HERE… ) Continue reading Bookworm: ‘Days without end’ by Sebastian Barry