Daniel O’Donnell, our honky-tonk space pixie, is back

This year’s potato crop? It’s of Daniel grappling with a cow’s teat in a milking parlour. Having watched a lot of Hammer horror films, I initially assume that this is where their journey will end, but then we see preview footage from next week’s episode. They not only have an ancient standing stone in the garden but, more impressively still, a fancy banister that once belonged to Annie Lennox. This basically means that Daniel O’Donnell, our main export outside of sadness and alcoholism, has been nationalised. This was a bleak country before broadband. I’m presuming she didn’t feed Majella at all (she did feed Majella). Neither Daniel nor Majella look like they know how they got there. Stay cool, Nancy At the first B&B, Nancy is already going out of her mind. “But we’ll have none of it here.” Things to come Thankfully, they take our advice and dial it down for the rest of the programme. Daniel and Majella Zorbing at Tralee Bay Wetlands Later, they return to Nancy’s kitchen for breakfast. Nancy loses her shit. When Majella worries about getting points for speeding, Daniel references the points he got on Strictly Come Dancing. The series begins with them coming off an Aer Lingus plane, pronouncing that it’s good to be home, and, in a moment of modern madness, squeezing each other’s arses. Nancy’s B&B doesn’t have broadband to this day. I’m very broadminded. “Sweet dreams are made of this,” they sing to Annie Lennox’s banister. Daniel and Majella on a pedal boat. There may have been a sedative in one of Nancy’s “famous pies” Moments later they’re in the back of a vintage car with Nancy sitting between them, quaffing champagne and singing The Rose of Tralee. As I’ve said, I’m a man of the world. They go to a local dance, where Daniel sings a few tunes, and then they all do a dance called the “slosh” that everyone outside the D4 Dublin media apparently knows all about. Frankly, Majella has the patience of a saint He is the King of Country, after all, with all the constitutional power that that implies (he can dissolve government, pressgang vagrants into service and veto plots on Fair City). Daniel and Majella’s B&B Road Trip has moved from the defunct UTV Ireland to the national broadcaster, RTÉ. Daniel, Majella, Nancy and the locals begin discussing regional varieties of the “slosh” …

Daniel O’Donnell, our honky-tonk space pixy, is back

Nancy does not stay cool. When Majella worries about getting points for speeding, Daniel references the points he got on Strictly Come Dancing. “I wasn’t going to give you a key because they were asking me what side of the bed you sleep on and I was going to creep in tonight,” she tells them. We get a montage of things to come in the series: Daniel skiing. One in 10 of the region’s young? Let’s find out. There may have been a sedative in one of Nancy’s “famous pies”. Neither Daniel nor Majella look like they know how they got there. Daniel and Majella on a pedal boat. “Nancy always has the kettle on and slices of her famous pies ready,” he reads. “Now don’t be shy, I’m only a boy from home,” he says to the cow. The series begins with them coming off an Aer Lingus plane, pronouncing that it’s good to be home, and, in a moment of modern madness, squeezing each other’s arses. Having watched a lot of Hammer horror films, I initially assume that this is where their journey will end, but then we see preview footage from next week’s episode. Then Lorna and Noel dress them up in beekeeper outfits and make them fetch honey from a hive, which Daniel and Majella just accept as the sort of thing that happens to them. This is more like it. “Nancy is a massive fan of a singer and she’s been to see him in concerts too.” Après Match TV review: acidic nostalgia and dark observations New ‘Top Gear’ review: now with more charm, less xenophobia Dancing with the Stars: One set of rules for Dancing Des Cahill, another for everyone else “I wonder who that could be,” says Majella through gritted teeth. ADVERTISEMENT Daniel’s people (the Tuatha de Danann, probably) rarely touch modern technology or iron or the ground, so while Majella drives, he contents himself with reading files on the B&B owners aloud in his sweet, ironic drawl. “Sweet dreams are made of this,” they sing to Annie Lennox’s banister. “Stay cool, Nancy,” we shout, as Daniel and Majella pull into the driveway. As I’ve said, I’m a man of the world. It’s good to be home, and, in a moment of modern madness, squeezing each other’s arses Since the last series, Daniel and Majella have been off foreign, where they’ve undoubtedly caught …

The Pearse sisters: a family at war

She was also appointed sole executrix of their mother’s will. She decided to pursue a case against her sister Margaret through the courts on the grounds of the maladministration of their mother’s will. Whatever relationship existed before their mother’s death was irrevocably destroyed following the reading of the will. Over the years, Margaret rarely spoke in the Dáil or Seanad but was outspoken on contemporary political, social and cultural issues in her public addresses/speeches which she delivered around the country during the 1940s and 1950s. Mary Brigid questioned and was often frustrated by the legacy of the Rising. She was a formidable, well educated, intelligent woman who could have achieved success in any career she chose. Soon after the terms of the will were disclosed, Mary Brigid sought legal advice because she was unhappy with its terms and Margaret’s appointment as executrix. Two years ago we began researching Margaret and Mary Brigid Pearse, sisters of Patrick and Willie, who were executed for their roles in the Easter Rising of 1916. Mary Brigid was a musician, teacher, actress and author of short stories, children’s stories, and dramas, but did not agree with her family’s political activism. “Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters” is the opening line of a song which presents a candy-coated, rose-tinted-glasses view of sisterhood. In 1954, Irving Berlin wrote the song Sisters which appeared in the film White Christmas. ADVERTISEMENT When their mother died in 1932, Margaret assumed the role of matriarch of the Pearse family, honouring the memory of her brothers at State and social events. Many of the famous (or infamous) sisters alive today have built successful careers on the basis of close relationships with their sisters; Kim, Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian are undoubtedly the most adept at playing out every aspect of their sororal relationship in the public eye. Margaret was a teacher, Irish language activist and politician who shared Patrick’s educational vision for a bilingual education system and his political vision of an independent Irish nation. Mary Brigid’s main grievances were over property, rental income, the royalties from Patrick’s literary works and the ownership of his unfinished autobiography. Whether it is the build-up of years of resentment from childhood, sibling rivalry, a clash of personalities or just plain old-fashioned hatred, a falling-out among sisters can be particularly nasty. Instead, she relinquished her personal ambitions and aspirations and embraced Patrick’s philosophy that viewed …

Driven by dementia: Kate Beaufoy on The Gingerbread House

So when I sent the novel to Black & White it was with no real expectation of the book being published. The novel is as much her story as it is that of her mother and grandmother. Initially, Katia was a literary device – a bit like a Greek chorus. Life and art feed on each other like Ouroborus: to record one is to nourish the other. The first draft came out in a rush. Then came the guilt, in manifold forms. katebeaufoy.com If I had been a photographer my guess is that I would have reached for a camera, a sketch book if I had been an artist. The strength of my feelings shocked me, the way I was shocked by what I had written when my mother, Hilary, died 30 years ago. It was written from experience, but fearing that the personal pronoun would compromise its objectivity, I introduced a third character – an omniscient narrator in the form of the carer’s 14-year-old daughter, Katia. That was pre-MacBook; the pages of the exercise book I then used to set down my thoughts and impressions are dense with ink-black script, unstructured, unedited. When I took Beaufoy as a nom-de-plume it was because I was embarking on an historical novel based on letters written by my grandmother, Jessie Beaufoy. Guilt for feeling inadequate – that I couldn’t be a real woman because I couldn’t manage to do what women have done uncomplainingly for centuries. Perhaps it’s time to look out that journal I kept at the time of my mother’s death, transcribe into a Word document those sentences that tear stains have not rendered quite illegible, and put some shape on that stream-of-consciousness manuscript at last. To my surprise, they were passionately keen to take it on board. I wrote the first draft of the book 10 years ago. The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy is published by Black & White. On one level it is an apologue; on another, a polemic: but on every level it is a clarion call to people to look at what is happening to us and to our loved ones, because the problems that have arisen with the advance of the ageing demographic are not going to go away. At the time of Hilary’s sudden death I was an actress. But as the narrative developed, so too did Katia’s character. I was riddled with …

Après Match TV review: acidic nostalgia and dark observations

The opening episode depicts a nation – and a station – divided between two events: the 1979 All-Ireland final between Kerry and Dublin, and the arrival of Pope John Paul II to Galway where he pronounced, “Young people of Ireland, I love you.” In reality, those events happened a couple of weeks apart (who would go up against JP?) but the Après Match team treat them as roughly equivalent religious experiences. The sheer unlikelihood that Après Match would become a national fixture has always suggested that the RTÉ Sports Department was ahead of its time – even as the comedy dissection of its sports broadcasting provided by Barry Murphy, Risteárd Cooper and Gary Cooke gleefully suggested the exact opposite. “Don’t have that fifth pint before driving,” urges a road safety ad. “If you do, keep one eye closed.” ADVERTISEMENT The team, moreover, recognises the freshness of spontaneity – some of the commentary has the enjoyable plunge of an ad-lib – but the guiding joke is an acidic nostalgia for the good old, bad old days; for an Ireland under the thumb of the Church, where De Valéra “plays the harp like never before!” and a sermon from a disciplinarian priest on Night Light compares boys to eggs: “They could do with an occasional bashing.” That’s a standard line in national self-abasement, with the familiar bitterness of a post-Catholic society for a backward past (“He’s laid out like a fella who’s just seen a same-sex couple kissing!” says one pundit of a downed player). Presenting The Sunday Game beside a Cumann Lúthchleas Gael insignia as big and imposing as a stop sign, at a time when the RTÉ logo still looked like it had sprawled directly from a St Bridget’s Cross, perhaps he knew that these days – like the cutting-edge graphics of a digital watch – were numbered. When an obsequious line of worshippers at the Pope’s feet includes the mention of a Bon Secours nun, your ears prick up to hear mention of the order at the centre of last week’s discovery of infant remains in Tuam, and your temperature rises. The funniest material is in the margins, where lengthy ad breaks of static images and perfunctory announcers look touchingly, mortifyingly authentic. The past might be a trove of comedy, which Après Match mirthfully extracts, but it also unearths much darker material too. “One day, we’ll look back on …

Illuminating our complex relationships with things

Not just the Mermaid Arts Centre, Wicklow County Arts Office and the Ballinglen Arts Foundation, though all were constructively involved, but also some 180 individuals who collaborated in the making of Kidney’s immersive installation, A Metamurmuration, and dancer Laidain Herriott, with whom she made a video work, Skimming Stones. Duality and opposites turn up throughout her work: movement and stillness, chance and design, particle and duration and stasis, repetition and change. The structures are uniform and utilitarian, as near as possible to blankness, with just faint signs of wear and tear. The things we are drawn to acquire reflect and express our personalities and more: our ideas about ourselves, our aspirations and perhaps our limitations and delusions. As with the show, the publication draws on and documents a lengthy working process involving many other people. Visitors to Metamurmuration were put in exactly that position: to make your way through the space was to negotiate a forest of tiny suspended felt forms. That is pretty much what is going on in the storage facilities Hackett explores. ADVERTISEMENT People visit to see and sort their stuff. When did our world become quite so full of stuff? As for self-storage, the clue is surely in what it is called. Line is prominent, and as Maeve Mulrennan notes, her way of painting is close to drawing. It is easy to disparage consumer, materialist culture. Mausoleums of Precious Belongings (Self Storage): Fiona Hackett Municipal Gallery, DLR-Lexicon, Dún Laoghaire ***** Two shows at DLR-Lexicon neatly dovetail. Catherine Delaney’s Then Again gathers unwanted clothing in a vast, unruly heap. It may be personally precious to someone and more or less worthless to everyone else. Fiona Hackett’s Mausoleum of Precious Belongings (Self-Storage) offers a glimpse into the contemporary phenomenon of storage units. It is also close to dance in that it is so closely based on repeated movement and variation. Her paintings are process-based rather than representational. Each illuminates our complex relationships with things. People acccumulated possessions as never before, but their lives were still punctuated by moments of decisive change, such as moving home, marrying, having children, divorcing, quitting a business and family bereavements. In each case the bare facts broaden into a complex story. However bland and anonymous, discarded clothing evokes the absent person who once wore it, and that absence is always slightly fraught and uneasy. It blossomed, Hackett notes, in the US in the …

Frank McCourt and the pitfalls of popularity

His writing abounds with recurrent cliches and stereotypical characters formed from a medley of literary, theatrical, cinematic and musical performance traditions, which provide a framework by which McCourt’s experiences are organised and given meaning for an international audience to understand. Dance your dance. I had found my argument and the birth of Frank Confessions took place under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. It is now, of course, possible to historicise the era in which McCourt’s writing brought him international fame and great popular success: a period that looks increasingly remote and alien to us. Margaret Eaton was educated at the University of Derby and the University of Nottingham. Frank Confessions: Performance in the Life-Writings of Frank McCourt, by Margaret Eaton. Teacher Man followed in 2005 as a memoir of McCourt’s teaching career. He inspired his own wave of populism. McCourt’s address to an audience of eminent academics on that April evening in New York was the “light bulb” moment that shaped the trajectory of this book. McCourt’s writing having been tainted by the “popular literature versus Literature” debate among the literary hierarchy must surely have enhanced this bewilderment. When I spoke with Frank McCourt at the 2007 American Conference for Irish Studies, he was astonished that anyone should want to write about his “miserable, Irish Catholic childhood”. Similarly, the Frank McCourt Creative Writing Summer School Programme at Glucksman Ireland House, New York, offers students the opportunity to fulfil McCourt’s nine-word lesson: “Sing your song. Available from peterlang.com. By utilising performance, McCourt is able to emulate elements of writing and corresponding themes that had been offered previously by Dion Boucicault, James Joyce and Sean O’Casey, thereby forging a link with Irish tradition. McCourt was aware of how self-fashioning produces supposedly cliched Irishness, and made fun of his “Mega-Mick” status. The sheer volume of sales substantiates that readers respond powerfully to memoirs. Frank Confessions seeks to attract new readers to McCourt’s writing and other performances, while offering a new perspective on the dynamics of remembrance to those who believe they have heard it all before. Yet, this skill has been the pitfall of his phenomenal success. Tell your tale.” Of course, the timelessness and permanent value verified by these “after lives” makes us ponder anew the popular literature versus Literature debate. Perhaps the problem for academic critics is the elevation of ostensibly “low art” into a populist culture that assumes what …