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‘Rogue’ by Lee Coffey in Smock Alley Theatre

Leaving the Viking Sheds Theatre in Clontarf on March 11th last year, having seen ‘Dirtbirds’ little did I realise that it would be fifteen months before I’d enter an Irish theatre again. The dry spell was broken yesterday evening when I attended ‘Rogue’ by Lee Coffey on the main stage of Smock Alley theatre. Performed by the graduating class of the Gaiety School of Acting, I was very curious. Having seen Coffey’s plays ‘In our veins’ and ‘Murder of crows’ in recent years, I know that he’s a talented playwright. The director for this show was Tracy Ryan (whose direction of ‘Iphegenia in Splott’ in Smock Alley some years ago was a powerhouse of piece.)
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Let my people vote – the Dublin Bay South by-election

Darragh O’Brien

The Minister for Housing is Darragh O’Brien. He is a member of the Fianna Fail party. Its coalition partner Fine Gael previously held this ministry. Since 2011 Fine Gael has been in power. The two parties formed a coalition after last year’s election (although a de-facto coalition existed from 2016 to 2020). The housing crisis has exploded over the past decade since Fine Gael took office. O’Brien’s predecessor was named Eoghan Murphy – a man whose picture appears next to the word ‘failure’ in my personal dictionary (https://midnightmurphy.com/2019/07/03/eoghan-murphy-a-chocolate-fireguard ) . He was an elected representative for the Dublin Bay South constituency, which is the wealthiest in the land. Fine Gael clearly has its finger on the pulse of the nation when it appointed a rich boy whose granddad Russell Murphy was a swindler accountant who fleeced his clients for hundreds of thousands, to solve the housing emergency. After the 2020 election Eoghan Murphy was relieved of ministerial duties. Some months later he decided that politics was not for him. He resigned his seat. Prompting a by-election for a parliamentary seat in the leafiest of suburbs.

Some important facts about housing in Ireland are relevant here. The cost of purchasing a house in Ireland is out of reach of people on an average wage. In Dublin, the situation is even worse. Unless you are earning a minimum of 70,000eur a year as a single person you can forget about owning your own home. This is deliberate government policy – supply has been reduced to a trickle, while prices soar to help banks and institutional investors. Meanwhile vulture funds buy up entire housing estates and apartment blocks to rent at extortionate rates to tenants. Tenants who because they are spending 50% of their available income on rent are unable to save to try to buy a property. These renters aren’t burdened with tenancy rights of any substance. Every now and then a scandal erupts, and the government pretends to act. The housing crisis continues and purchasing or renting a property in Ireland remains a national disgrace.

As the housing crisis will be front and centre of the coming by-election to replace Eoghan Murphy, I thought I’d look at some the candidates for this seat.

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Theatrical: ‘The Approach’ and ‘Happy Days’

In the final weeks of January semi-live theatre is making a comeback in Ireland.

‘The Approach’ by Mark O’Rowe is being performed live at the Project Arts Centre from the 21st to the 24th January. ‘Happy Days’ by Samuel Beckett is being staged on January 30th at the Olympia. The shows will be streamed around the world. The seats in the theatres will remain empty.

I am currently engaged in an internal debate whether or not to get a ticket for either or both shows. I know that the Mark O’Rowe play would be worth seeing –  having attended‘Howie the Rookie’ in the Civic Theatre in Tallaght before lockdown last year I was blown away by the performance of Stephen Jones in the title role of an incredible play. It may be blasphemous to say it, but I’d be more reluctant to see the Beckett play. Perhaps I lack the intellectual ability to understand his  work? Having seen ‘Waiting for Godot’ in Smock Alley Theatre, I was slightly bewildered at the hype. Samuel Beckett is like the sacred cow of Irish theatre – a lack of appreciation of his work reveals you to be a philistine. I remain ambivalent about him. However ‘Happy Days’ is being performed by Siobhan McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael to perfection in ‘Derry Girls’ so she’d be the main attraction for this show for me.

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Pandemic travel: Venice is calling. October 2020

As this strangest of years draws to a close, I am putting finger to keypad one more time to describe my travels in the time of pandemic. My final jaunt of the year taken before the second lockdown was imposed was to Venice as September turned to October. I will preface this post with my usual disclaimer. While traveling to, and while in Venice, I observed all physical distancing, hand hygiene and mask-wearing guidelines. I observed the fourteen-day quarantine period upon my return to Ireland – which as I have previously mentioned is not that difficult when you live alone. I kept this excursion entirely to myself again, not wanting to hear people’s criticism or judgement of my decision to travel. The only person I was placing at risk by my choice was myself. For the sake of my sanity, I thought my decision was sound.

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My application to become the new Minister for Agriculture.

Phil Hogan

I would like of officially nominate myself for consideration, as the new Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine for Ireland. Granted I have not been elected to public office and have zero experience, but that should be no bar to success in this role. The ministry for agriculture is like a game of musical chairs – everyone should get a go

Dara Calleary

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Day 78, Coronavirus diaries: Back to Life

It appears that life is returning to a version of normal. For this I am profoundly grateful. The drudgery of the past eleven weeks in lockdown, in a flat on my own, hasn’t been too oppressive however. I have been diligent about going for a brisk walk around my neighbourhood almost every day – within the approved travel zones of 2 kilometres, and later 5 kilometres from my gracious abode.

Since day one I have bent the rules slightly, by meeting friends whose 2 kilometre zone intersects my zone. We have taken socially responsible walks, maintaining a physical distance of two metres from each other. This was disallowed, but maintaining the spirit of the restrictions seemed sufficient to me. People living alone were being asked to sacrifice more than people in shared accommodation – whether that be with partner, family, friends or flatmates. Human contact – however frustrating it can be – is preferable to none. Being a person who was recommended to self-isolate because of the diabetes played on my mind. The idea of staying indoors for three months never seemed a viable option. Seeing nobody face to face wasn’t a consideration. As a high risk person, my decision to venture out, while adhering strictly to the lockdown rules for outdoors was at my own risk. It was a calculated gamble, but I was careful. Without a garden or any secluded outdoor space to myself I would have been driven demented had I locked myself indoors for the duration.

With a devil-may-care-Texas-playboy attitude, mixed with a hyper-paranoia about physical distancing, I set sail and explored my wonderful neighbourhood. Dublin as a city – and particularly the Northside – is now a much more connected place for me. I know which streets intersect with others; where neighbourhoods overlap; short cuts to various destinations. And I have taken pictures.

As we head to a further easing of restrictions in the next week or so, you can already see the city activity resuming. There are more people on the streets. Traffic – although still sparse compared to normal times – is increasing. More cafes, and restaurants are opening – takeaway only  of course. This is splendid – although my affection for the Cloud Café on North Strand Road and Il Fornaio Italian in the IFSC restaurant is now unassailable – the two venues that hardily remained open throughout the lockdown, providing my weekly posh coffee and takeaway pizza respectively.

The highlight of my lockdown in terms of places, has to be the Blessington Street Basin. It’s an old reservoir that has been transformed into a nature reserve. It is an absolute diamond of a space, hidden away from too many eyes. I stumbled across it about two months ago. Since then I have been back about ten times – such is the peace and beauty of the place.

An interesting discovery is the realisation that those metal electricity boxes throughout the city have been enhanced by artists, with some lovely paintings adorning them.

These streets that almost felt like they were mine alone, are being crowded again. This is a good thing.

I have had a fairly limited but consistent coterie of companions on my walks – particularly for my Sunday strolls. Sometimes circumstance (and travel restrictions) throws people together. And it can be a wonderful thing.

It is apparent that over the last week an adjusted version of normal life is resuming. It may be linked to the glorious weather I guess. Physical distancing may continue (maybe not judging by the gangs of teenagers on the banks of the Royal Canal each evening). Covid is still lurking like an unflushable turd in the toilet bowl of course. So long as people exercise a degree of common sense, caution and human decency and hygiene, then we’ll all be grand.

Dublin – as Soul II Soul might say – is back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now again. For that I am thankful.

Cinematic: ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

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Recently I have acquired access to Netflix through the kindness of a friend. Diving into TV shows that friends rave about is a temptation that I have so far avoided – it just seems like a commitment too deep. To watch a programme with six series will take an extraordinary length of time. Instead I have been looking at films available on the website. This week I have seen ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Mean Streets’ – both directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Robert De Niro, back when he was a good actor and before he started his more experimental career phase with movies like ‘Meet the Fockers’ and ‘Dirty Grandpa’. Both the Scorcese films were impressive, hard-hitting and violent. I needed a palate cleanser after that testosterone driven sequence of films. Therefore last night I decided to watch a Julia Roberts film – the 2010 adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Continue reading Cinematic: ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

‘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

Day 19: Theatrical reminiscences – ‘Dirtbirds’

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In a different world, a long, long time ago I used to go to the theatre on a regular basis. I had a highly developed skill for sniffing out early bird tickets, deep discounts and freebies for shows. I look back on that distant time with nostalgia and vague melancholy. I am being sarcastic of course. That was only three weeks ago. However it’s like another time zone from a planet far, far away. Continue reading Day 19: Theatrical reminiscences – ‘Dirtbirds’