After my thwarted attempt to visit Stockholm, I suddenly had the entire Easter weekend to myself, and not a solitary plan made. As it was Saturday I visited the Milk Market where I bought a bag of apples, a dozen eggs, a block of gubbeen cheese, a carton of Valencia smoked nuts, a chicken roulade and a cup of Turkish hot sand coffee. After lunch I went online to see what was happening in Limerick. What was this? Two live performances of ‘Carrie’ by the University of Limerick Musical Theatre Society. It was 1.45pm. The matinee began in fifteen minutes. As the Belltable theatre is only a two minute walk from my residence I had plenty of time.
Paying my fifteen euro entrance fee I made my way to my seat. It was towards the back of the house. That wouldn’t do at all. Quickly glancing at the website I saw that the second row had several spare seats. So I moved – I wanted to be able to see the expressions on the actors’ faces.
Ireland and the UK seem to be the countries in the world with the most unbreakable attachment to the pantomime style of theatre – whereby an old fairy-tale is adapted into a musical comedy for all the family; where the performers onstage interact with the audience; where middle-aged men dress up as pantomime dames; where a young hero or heroine finds true love (with assistance from the audience). Targeted at children, there is plenty of topical, adult humour for the grown-ups. Staged from before Christmas to the New Year, it can be an extremely lucrative endeavour, when for a period of several weeks, there will be two shows daily, where former soap stars and TV entertainers can top up their income, or indeed earn enough to keep them in greasepaint for several months to come. The shows staged tend to be the same – Cinderella; Sleeping Beauty; Puss in Boots; Mother Goose; Peter Pan; Aladdin; The Jungle Book; Jack and the Beanstalk; Hansel and Gretel.
My first-time seeing Villagers live in concert was about ten years ago. A friend of mine asked if I’d be interested in seeing the Dublin band. I agreed – going to a concert is rarely a bad way spend an evening. What I witnessed impressed me greatly – soulful, melancholy and reflective music. Villagers can be classified as an indie-folk group but that wouldn’t be completely accurate. The only permanent member of the group is Conor O’Brien from Dublin. In the years since I have seen them / him live many times – from an old church in Amsterdam, to Vicar Street and the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin, to Dolans in Limerick. Last night’s gig was in the Limetree Theatre in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. Having seen them earlier in the summer at the outdoor gig in the Iveagh Gardens, I know that last night’s concert would be more subdued. Villagers’music is wistful and forlorn so there would be none of the braggadocio that is required for outdoor concerts. Last night was advertised as an acoustic set. This wasn’t going to be a Bon Jovi with big hair type of gig. This is no bad thing.
On my lunchbreak I went downstairs to the Spar to buy an apple.
As it was Friday, I decided to get a posh takeaway coffee to welcome the weekend and Culture Night. Noticing a tiny barbershop beside the coffeeshop and needing a haircut I went in, to be informed that only cash payments would be accepted. How very ‘Ozark’ I thought to myself. It’s highly unlikely that money is laundered through that business, but that television show has alerted me to the myriad of ways in which to sanitise money.
I crossed the road to the bank machine.
‘Is it you again?’ roared the man through the open window of his car. He alit from the vehicle, his eyes ablaze, his voice irate.
I stared at him in stupefied bewilderment.
‘You’re after dropping something on the ground.’
He thought I was a litter lout.
‘Thanks’ I replied walking back to the white item. It was a large tissue – the kind I have never used. There was no way on earth I was touching that. It could have cooties. Glancing nervously back at the flustered gentleman I could see he was shouting into his phone. He wouldn’t notice me ignoring someone else’s litter.
The permanent move back to Limerick is progressing. These last few months since I obtained the keys to my new residence have seen me spending more time in Limerick than I have in decades. As I work out my notice on my lease in Dublin, I have been splitting my time – to ease me gently back in to life in m y hometown. One of the habits I acquired during lockdown in Dublin was the consumption of a bowl of porridge every day for breakfast – often accompanied by a boiled egg. In the absence of a subsidised work canteen during the plague, I had to fend for myself. Thanks to the pandemic I finally rediscovered the childhood joy of porridge – this time in the microwave. While I have long been a fan of a humble bowl of oatmeal, the gunk left at the bottom of the pan was off-putting. No longer – two and have minutes in the nukowave will suffice – with no scrubbing afterwards. Kearneys porridge from L’Idylle was my go to brand – featuring frequently as it did on the L’Idylle weekly bonus offers. Upon moving to Limerick, to my horror, I discovered that there was no budget, German supermarket near my house. I ventured to Dunnes where a tube of own brand porridge and a tube of Flahavans were purchased. Both were a vile taste of disappointment – lacking the texture and flavour of L’Idyyle’s version – being, stodgy, bland and flavourless.
May 22nd 2015 is the day that Ireland became the first country in the world where marriage equality was legalised thanks to a popular vote, when 62% of voters said that we were equal.
On 24th May 2015, the day after the count Limerick woman Ann Blake received a text from her brother, asking ‘How’s the morning after the life before?’ This question became the title of the play ‘The morning after the life before’ which subsequently toured the country and the world. I saw this play in Bewleys Theatre in Dublin in March 2018. This year for Limerick Pride, Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick staged the reprisal. As my move home to Limerick will be finalised by next month I thought I’d pay a return visit. I am happy to have done so.
People who regularly read my musings will know that I have limited patience for marketing and PR guff. For example I make a point to avoid any food establishment that styles itself as an ‘eatery’. Adding an ‘-ery’ to the end of a verb does not a noun make. Likewise a food venue advertising ‘street food’ should – by definition – cook and serve the food outdoors. My little OCD heart demands this. When I saw that a new deli was proclaiming itself part of the ‘rotisserie revolution’ my blood boiled as I pictured the cocaine addled PR hack in some advertising agency coming up with this ‘concept’.
Which brings me to today’s launch of ‘Brand Limerick’ – a €1 million campaign by Limerick City and County Council is to promote the city’s reputation on an international scale. The PR firm M&C Saatchi will be overseeing the campaign with input from the students of the Limerick School for Art and Design. This company has previously done branding campaigns for New Zealand, Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, Georgia and others. Continue reading Brand Limerick – Atlantic edge, European embrace→
‘Brief Encounter’ – the 1945 British film directed by David Lean is often cited as one of the most romantic films of all time. Based on the play ‘Still Life’ by Noel Coward, it tells the tale of an extra-marital affair between two middle-aged people, whose relationship is played out in stolen moments at a train station. Continue reading Brief encounter at Limerick Junction→
The town of Dun Laoghaire was the host this weekend, to the Dun Laoghaire Vinyl Festival. While I remember my first ever vinyl record – the 7″ single of ‘The Riddle’ by Nik Kershaw as a child way back in the 1980s, I wouldn’t be a collector of vinyl. I was aware of the festival because I follow an old sociology lecturer of mine from my University of Limerick days – Eoin Devereux – on social media. He announced that he would be interviewing Noel Hogan from the Cranberries, about the recording and release of the Cranberries final album ‘In the end’, after Dolores’ untimely passing. Continue reading ‘In the end’ with Noel Hogan→
Say what? A musical about a misery-lit classic ‘Angela’s Ashes’? How on earth was that going to work? The book told the tale of a young Frank McCourt, whose Limerick mother Angela, and Antrim father Malachy move back to Limerick from Brooklyn during the Great Depression while Frank is just an infant. They live lives of abject misery and poverty in the tenement slums of Limerick, largely because of Malachy’s alcoholism. Dead siblings, hunger, relentless rain, fleas, consumption, outdoor facilities shared with the street, it was an unremittingly grim tale. Eventually Malachy relocates to Coventry, where he drinks his wages and rarely sends a copper to feed his hungry clan. Angela and the children are evicted, and she becomes the ‘housekeeper’ for her sinister older cousin. Frank takes work as a telegram delivery boy who vows to save all his pennies and return one day to America to make his fortune. Continue reading Theatrical: ‘Angela’s Ashes’ – a Limerick tale→