On Friday 10th February I purchased a monthly pass for the Omniplex 13 screen cinema in the Crescent Shopping Centre in Dooradoyle. As it is awards’ season, the quality of films showing on the big screen currently, is higher than the dreary superhero blockbusters which predominate over the summer. At 15 euro per month (with a minimum three month subscription) to see all films showing, I would need to see five films over the next three months to break even (it is ten euro per film if you pay as you go). It turns out I had quite the cinematic week, taking in the following films.
The flight to Tenerife was chaotic. It was a sold out flight, and the passengers were a youthful demographic. I am not saying they were all feral but there was a sizable number who seem to have been dragged up. After a spot of turbulence I decided to avail of the facilities. The agitated, young man in front of me in the queue starting banging the toilet door shouting ‘Will you hurry up, I’m dying for a slash!’. I recoiled in horror. The occupant was a companion of his and the expletive laden response burned my ears. Everybody seemed to order multiple mini bottles of hard liquor for the flight. Being far classier, I demurely sipped my bottle of flat warm Diet Coke, while reading ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan. I ordered pasta for lunch estimating a twenty minutes delivery time. I took my insulin injection at what I thought was a reasonable time before food would arrive. One hour later there was no sign of it, and the food trolley was still far away. I was starting to feel poorly so I invoked the help of the lovely Clondalkin girls beside me who fed me a Kit Kat. ‘Are you alright love? My sister’s s diabetic. It’s a SCOORGE.’
My friends collected me in the rental car and we made our way to the villa in Adeje on the south west of the island, which was to be our home for the next five nights. Four days before our arrival I had received an email from booking.com informing me that due to an ‘electrical fault’ at the property our reservation had been cancelled. No alternative was offered – leaving us without a place to stay mere days before departure. With four of us in the group I was stressed – booking rooms had been my job. Thankfully AirBNB offered a few alternatives. Several were managed by a character named Oksana however – the same charlatan who had cancelled our booking.com reservation. Avoiding all properties managed by her, I located a beautiful house with a pool, only marginally more expensive than the previous place. That evening we dined on steak – mine as always, rare – and met a Scottish couple. They had been a couple for a few years – she’d been widowed three years earlier and this was her first subsequent relatrionship. We consumed a few beverages with them.
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.
Thousands of years ago (meaning February 2020) before the hated Plague had restricted our lives so drastically, I visited Rome for the first time. While I was there, I took the FrecciaRossa hi-speed train service to Naples so I could travel to the outer edges of that city to see the archaeological site of Pompeii. This had been a dream of mine since the age of nine years old when I was taught about it in school. It fascinated me – the idea that a town was frozen in time after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius two thousand years ago. It exceeded my expectations. However, my regret was that it was a day trip – there was so much to see and do in Rome that I didn’t have time to explore the rest of Italy’s third largest city Naples. When my friend suggested an early autumn jaunt back to Naples, I was all over the idea like eczema. Flights were booked, accommodation sorted and on the 7th of October we travelled from Limerick to Dublin to begin our journey.
I felt very responsible. This being my twenty second foreign trip since the start of the pandemic meant that international travel was quite routine for me. My friend hadn’t travelled abroad since late 2019 (when we visited Ukraine) so was understandably nervous. I tried to place myself in her shoes. We’d work it out.
As I sat in Dublin Airport waiting to board my plane to Bergamo, I had a thought. If I’d checked travel dates when booking my foreign trips six months earlier, I wouldn’t have travelled to Naples one weekend, returned home, only to go back to southern Italy the following weekend. I’d have stayed in Italy. Sadly, this was only a thought, so there I was again – sitting in Departures, waiting to board a Ryanair flight.
Upon arrival in Bergamo I realised why my hotel was so cheap – it was out in the countryside – and as my flight landed at 10.30pm I had to take a taxi there – there being no public transport at that hour. The driver was a sleazy grifter. He didn’t look like one, but he changed forty euros for a five-kilometre trip. In these situations, it’s not worth arguing. I paid the money and swore not to take another taxi this holiday. Arising at 7.30 I started planning my return journey to Bergamo Airport for my 11.50am flight. Sipping a strong coffee, an awkward fact presented itself. It would be quicker to walk from my rural B&B than to take a bus. Also 40 euro cheaper than Uber was telling me the 5km journey would cost. It seems like I had misjudged by driver from the night before. This is after all the most expensive part of Italy. The early morning stroll to the airport was scenic and rustic until I reached the motorway. I could see the airport in the distance, but how to safely traverse six lanes of traffic. A kindly Italian farmer pointed me in the direction of an underpass (he saw me looking bewildered from his tractor). Onwards to Lecce.
*UPDATE* June 1st 2022 – the following post is from 2018. Last year for Pride, some male managers dressed up in drag – remotely. I shudder to think what this year will bring.
The rainbow flag fluttered proudly in the breeze as I approached the office. I entered the building. Someone had been busy overnight. The lobby was festooned with rainbow flags and balloons. Gay Pride had reached the Wastelands and my office was celebrating.
As the pandemic (or at least the lockdown) draws to a close, the theatre world is back with a vengeance. It was with great anticipation that I attended Chaplin’s Bar this evening, where in the upstairs space Judder Theatre is staging the one act play ‘The Great War’ by Neil LaBute.
Judder Theatre has been producing plays since 2018. After the two year plague, this is Judder’s first production since the world reopened. Originally its plays were staged in Doyles, before moving to its present home upstairs on Hawkins Street. The upstairs theatre is a comfortable and intimate space – the audience is like an observer in the room immersed in the action, rather than the distanced onlookers in a more traditional. For a play like ‘The Great War’ this is very effective.
The lights come up. A man and a woman emerge onto the stage and sit on the sofa. From the first words it is clear that this is a couple at war. Or to be more accurate, this is a soon to be ex-couple. In the process of obtaining a divorce they decide to bypass the lawyers for an evening, to decide among themselves, how to split the marital estate. There’s one, rather overwhelming problem however – they cannot stand the sight of each other. As they down hard liquor, barbs and insults are traded. They lament the nine years they have wasted on this broken relationship. Nothing is off limits. Bitterly condemning each other for squandering each other’s youth and beauty, neither seems ready to forgive or forget, using this meeting as yet another chance to tear a strip off each other.
It’s hilariously funny. Anyone who has endured a breakup will identify with the frustration and regret that is on display here – although perhaps not to the same vituperative effect.
To complicate matters, they have two children. How will the decisions they make on their future affect the boys? I won’t give any spoilers but what they reveal to each other about their thoughts and feelings isn’t precisely what the marriage guidance counsellor would consider mature or responsible.
The couple is played with relish by Gertrude Montgomery and Vincent Patrick. The onstage chemistry between them is electric – although you’d be in fear for them with the toxic atmosphere and brutal insults. Funny, sharp and with great timing they are a very effective couple in conflict.
Directed by Shaun Elebert this blackly comic play runs until Saturday at 6.30pm in Chaplin’s Bar on Hawkins Street.
In May 2008, Democratic Unionist Party MP Iris Robinson gave an interview to the Stephen Nolan radio show on BBC Northern Ireland. In it she expressed sorrow that a gay man had been beaten almost to death in a homophobic attack in Belfast. Homosexuality was still an ‘abomination’ to Iris however, but homosexuals like murderers could be forgiven by accepting Jesus. She had a lovely NHS psychiatrist, who worked with her who could help those suffering from the ‘abomination’ to be cured. To say that the interview caused a reaction is quite an understatement. Universally condemned for her religious and homophobic extremism, neither Iris or her political party backed down. Her party colleague Ian Paisley Junior (son of the Reverend Senior who in the early 1980s campaigned against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the north with the catchy slogan ‘Save Ulster from sodomy’) supported Robinson. Iris’ husband Peter Robinson – then the First Minister of Northern Ireland remained silent – possibly too busy shouting ‘No, no, no’, at any questions being posed to him.
She later stated in parliament that “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children” (although she later claimed that this direct quote had been misinterpreted. )
The BBC started doing some investigation into Mrs. Robinson’s background and in January 2010 a Spotlight documentary was released which revealed that throughout the previous year’s controversy, 60 year old Iris had been conducting an extra-marital affair (I’m assuming said affair was ‘torrid’) with a 19 year old named Kirk McCambley, and that she’d been using her political influence to get loans approved for him to open a cafe. Iris checked herself into a psychiatric unit and announced her retirement from public life.
The flight to Kiev from Dublin lasted 3.5 hours, and was a typical Ryanair experience. When you are trapped in the air for that length of time they can try the hard sell at their leisure. We were greeted at the airport by Vladimir – the representative of the letting agent whose apartment in city centre Kiev we were residing for the weekend. He drove us to our abode. It was 11pm. We needed a cocktail and headed to N::B Cocktail Bar (thanks to Google maps) which has to be the loveliest bar I have ever visited. It is just off the Maidan Nezalezhjnosti (Independence Square) and is a cosy yet luxurious and refined placed with the best signature cocktails on the planet.
On January 10th 2003 I was dancing on a podium in a nightclub, in the city of Melbourne, the state of Victoria, in the country of Australia. The tune that I was dancing to was the smash hit earworm of a song called ‘Asereje’ (or ‘The Ketchup Song’ for the anglophiles) by a trio of Spanish sisters, who formed a band called Las Ketchup. Needless to say their time in the spotlight was brief – but intense. This song was the biggest one-hit-wonder since ‘Macarena’. It had a moronic dance routine where you moved your hands, arms and hips in synchronicity with the tinny beat. I was in my twenties. I was on holidays, in the height of Australian summer with my friends from Ireland. We were in a gay club. Of course I knew the lyrics – not that there were many of those mind – and the routine. This…