Missing You: ‘How can you not be common if you come from Pearse Street?’

Does that make us cosy accomplices or a secret surveillance team? Politics, likewise, are muted: only the frank chatter of one endearing gay cabal, divided between Capel Street and Arizona, mentions current events, such as the death of Paul Daniels and the rise of Donald Trump (presumably unrelated). The programme, though, tends to smooth over choppier connections. Over the course of a year or so, a number of Irish people living abroad agreed to record their Skype calls back home. Take Holly Austin, a young Cork woman in Boston, marvelling with her mother over the fine detail of her wedding cake ornament, before briefly worrying if it is the product of child labour. Expecting her first child, Gemma muses on potential baby names – but nothing common. This provides not only an uncommonly intimate view of the contemporary Irish Diaspora, but, for producer and director Karen Moran, an immensely cost-effective way of seeing the world. But the gift of Skype to a TV show is that everyone seems to speak to us directly – we see what they see. Gemma, the expectant mother in Sydney, puts it best, making a breezy distinction ahead of her family’s long-awaited visit: “Just think, the next time I see you, I’ll be looking at you.”   “But if it was a four-year-old,” she considers, now as dry as a fire hazard, “fair play!” It’s rare to get so immediate a sense of someone’s personality, or relationship. The canniest move of the programme is to forge a fast connection with its audience. Some people, you feel, are aware that they are being watched, like the couple giving a full account of their speedy romance, having met on a Muslim dating site and married 30 minutes after their first meeting, or the brother in Dublin, squirming while his London-based sister proudly displays her baby’s freshly detached umbilical cord. The premise behind Missing You (RTÉ One, Wednesday, 8.30pm) is so simple and efficient, it’s a wonder it has never been attempted before. “We Irish are a restless race,” it offers, as a very upbeat analysis of emigration. How strong can such connections remain, the programme wonders, as though it feels a yearning for more analogue encounters. “How can you not be common if you come from Pearse Street?” brays her mother, Ann, a constant tease. Such rapport seems to shrink away distance, but it also alleviates any uneasy …

BBC Radio: Ireland’s forgotten muse

When Seán Ó Faoláin wrote a programme on Irish literature for Schools Broadcasting during the second World War, the producers at BBC Northern Ireland were reluctant to broadcast it unless they could be reassured that Yeats had personally recommended Ó Faoláin. Even a writer as cosmopolitan as Beckett, when he submitted his English translation of Waiting for Godot to the BBC, received a rejection letter because the script contained “too many Irish inflections and idiom[s].” The BBC was founded in 1922, the same year as the Irish Free State. These broadcasts also taught him to mediate between the local and the global – he learned, in other words, that he could be both a young boy perched on the arm of a chair in Mossbawn and a citizen of the world, listening to speakers across Europe. Samuel Beckett describes listening to Patrick Magee performing in a BBC adaptation of his novel Molloy. This phenomenon became even more pronounced during the second World War when neutrality censors policed print publications that contained news or opinions about the war in Europe. It is this paradoxical nature of radio – its ability to speak to the past and the future, the public and the private, and the local and the global-that makes it a powerful force in Irish writing. Louis MacNeice began writing parables under the influence of radio. Writers were especially drawn to the new medium because it created a platform for the spoken word at a time when print culture had all but erased the last vestiges of oral traditions on the British Isles. Early on, the BBC became an imaginary homeland for those Irish writers who felt increasingly disconnected from the new Irish Free State and yet who wanted to write works that reached Irish listeners. In the first 35 years of the BBC’s existence, Protestant Irish writers came to have a disproportionately large voice, often serving as cultural gatekeepers for other Irish writers who wanted to write for the British airwaves. Radio as a medium has been increasingly forgotten, fading from cultural memory in the same way that broadcast sound fades away. In Seamus Heaney’s 1995 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he credited an unusual source for his early immersion in poetry. “I also got used to hearing short bursts of foreign languages as the dial hand swept round from BBC to Radio Éireann, from the intonations of London to …

Inspiration and other mysteries

Easy to see where those ideas came from. Something in Common was directly inspired by two penfriend relationships, and its opening scene was a direct result of my encountering an unfortunate woman in dire straits, about to throw herself into the Shannon river. I originally intended the choir to be the main focus of the story, with the characters all emanating from it, all known to one another to a greater or lesser extent. There’s a very different relationship in there too, a budding, tentative one, borne of genuine attraction between two good souls that develops quickly into love – I suspect the inspiration for this plotline was drawn from Tony and Maria’s doomed love affair in West Side Story which features in the book (remember the choir?) because this one, I mean my one, is sadly doomed too. Take my latest, The Street Where You Live. They didn’t all react the same – the optimists revelled in the wall-to-wall sunshine, or coped as best they could; the pessimists complained to anyone who’d listen. Then there was the time I went to live for a month on Valentia Island off the Kerry coast, looking for inspiration for my eighth book – and One Summer, when it was published, was set on a little island off Kerry, and featured the small community of residents and a scatter of summer tourists. But a few became more reckless, did things they wouldn’t dream of doing normally. Yes, in Ireland. For some reason, I decided to employ total fiction and set it in a heatwave. I must be mad. Let’s blame the weather for that, and say they just lost the run of themselves in the heat. Sunshine – I mean unrelenting, merciless sunshine – does things to people, doesn’t it? As for specific storylines, I have no idea, not a clue, what inspired the main story of Molly Griffin, house cleaner, encountering a little boy whom she becomes convinced is her grandchild. If someone asked me what inspired that tale, they’d have me scratching my head. As often happens, the characters had other ideas, and the choir was shoved to one side, with only three members and its director playing parts in the story. I’ve always loved stories that are soaked in heat, whether they come to me through the medium of cinema, theatre or the written word. And still I’ve written 14. …

‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’

It’s also the first time I have actually sat in this parlour, instead I’m normally scurrying over the wooden surfaces with a brush or a cloth. Is it saying exactly what it needs to say? On my kitchen worktop lemons nestled in their net, flour unopened, butter out of the fridge and softened, and the caster sugar golden in the light: ingredients ready to become the cake to celebrate the election of a woman to the White House, and to be eaten at the end of a productive creative writing workshop. There were beige and browns, calm and practical with more than a hint of ordinary. His eyes are an intense blue, piercingly so in fact. Is the verb I wrote really what I mean to say? We also returned to work we had already written, seeing it with new eyes. Maybe nothing is right but we still write. And I thought – time and time again – of the importance of meaning what you say, of saying what you mean, of igniting your words with passion for and of good. He’s been quite complimentary about my skin, how unblemished it is, the fullness of my lips. As she twirled and twirled, gathering speed, she felt suddenly free as if somehow transformed and liberated. However, peeping out of the corner was one dark red shoe, shiny and perfect. Mr Holbein is a demanding master and expects a full breakfast, butter to be churned and fresh bread bought at the bakery by 7 o’clock each morning. That joy in knowing that the very thing to do in adverse times is to return to the landscape around us, what smells or tastes provide comfort, a place – real or imagined – in memory. One word came to mind: Love. It was most unexpected. I thought about how awful it is to want to live a life dictated by rules and edicts, yet how much we need boundaries and safety. It’s been nearly two hours now and my neck has long since developed a stiffness and my hat has slipped a little to the left. We examined exact meaning – without any greys – of the verbs we used to give voice. Communcation is minimal; the odd reference to housekeeping or how cold it is becoming. They rarely sit together and their evening meal is served at separate intervals. As our workshop got …

“It is difficult to say something smart about a stupid man”

Labels Born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1944, Ford does not like regional labels and as if to deflect being viewed a Southern writer, he has throughout his life moved about the US with an efficiency few fugitives from the law could achieve. It was funny and – as only Ford can be – scathing with grace. and I’m finding out that old is not bad, it’s good. “I love hotels,” beamed Ford. His humour is becoming sharper, as is his disillusionment. “And I looked at it, wondering what I should write?” In a world going crazy, he has kept his humour and his blunt responses, pleased to admit to his obsessions. As long ago as his masterful third novel The Sportswriter, the book which established Ford internationally, he knew his country was changing for the worse. Richard Ford photographed in Brooks Hotel, Dublin. Ford is forthright, not a person to rile. His father’s death at 55 from a second heart attack, dying in the 16-year-old Ford’s arms, left his mother, then 50, in a state of shock which lasted until her death 21 years later. Ford’s conversational self-discovery is brilliantly enabled by the rhythmic ease of a narrative which articulates male longing, the need to belong and most of all, the importance of relationships – Frank Bascombe, observant, witty and trying to survive, is no tensed jaw loner with an interest in metaphysics. Being an only child made him an observer, curious about people and their actions as well as the politics of relationships It doesn’t seem all that long ago, 2012, since Ford, with his customary wilfulness went and wrote a great American novel, one of the several he has written, and called it Canada. I have his things; neckties, shirts, cuff links.” In the memoir Ford writes: “He would not have thought that 70 years later I cannot remember the sound of his voice, but long to.” Ford’s expression softens and he says: “I do remember his smell.” He says he still has his father’s shaving kit; he repeats: “I have these things” and seems almost vulnerable, not something one would associate with such a strong, capable presence. I can’t understand what made them do that to that book; my, my,” or words to that effect, including “that one looks really horrible, what were they thinking?” Ford is welcoming and seems to be in a great good mood, …

Going Out Guide: The best of what to see and do this weekend

Over the last couple of years, the Weston-Super-Mare DJ and producer has gone from receiving the thumbs up from such heavyweights as Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto and Paul Van Dyk to leading the way in his own stead with a slew of appearances on those trance compilatons which still sell by the bucketload. JC GRUNGE KING Eddie Vedder 3Arena Dublin 6.30pm €91.50/€60.45 ticketmaster.ie Also Sun Cork Live at the Marquee 8pm €86 ticketmaster.ie Lead singer of one of grunge’s most dynamic acts, Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder’s solo gigs are no less visceral. They even got into the festival business themselves, playing a big part in establishing London’s Lovebox first as a club night and then as a festival on Clapham Common and then Victoria Park. For a start, he runs the Running Back label, an imprint which has provided room for acts like Leon Vynehall, Tornado Wallace, Syclops, Redshape and many more. Selected highlights chosen by Tony Clayton-Lea, Jim Carroll, Siobhán Long, Michael Dervan, Aidan Dunne and Cormac Larkin FRIDAY SUPERSTAR DJs Groove Armada Carbon Galway 10pm €10 carbongalway.ie Here’s a statistic to make some readers feel their age: it’s over 20 years since Andy Cato and Tom Findlay first hit the road and began putting together a great run of things. Listen out for that lonesome touch that is Clare music. As a DJ, he’s been found on the decks at such premier league spaces as Frankfurt’s Robert Johnson and Berlin’s Panorama Bar. JC TRAD HEAVEN Willie Clancy Summer School Various venues, Miltown Malbay scoilsamhraidhwillieclancy.com Truly the Mecca for traditional music each summer, Willie week draws to a close with a brace of concerts, sessions, songs and dance steps from Spanish Point to Miltown Malbay and all points in between. Now in his early 50s, Vedder’s shows deliver a mix of Pearl Jam songs, solo material and judiciously chosen cover versions performed on a range of instruments. A must for anyone seeking out new tunes and the stories behind them. TCL JAZZ LAUNCH Umbra Whelans (upstairs), Dublin, 11pm, No CC (tickets via Facebook), facebook.com/umbradublin Also Thursday In 2015, Dublin guitarist Chris Guilfoyle (right) travelled the length of America’s west coast by public transport, writing music along the way. Whether that has changed remains to be seen. AD SL RUNNING BACK TO FRONT Gerd Janson Pyg Dublin 6pm €10 pyg.ie There are many reasons to salute this German mover and …

Richard Ford: ‘No one listens to writers in America. Not anymore’

They stayed at hotels, ate in restaurants and for a while after Ford was born, their routine continued. “Now, isn’t that just the most awful jacket you ever saw? Labels Born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1944, Ford does not like regional labels and as if to deflect being viewed a Southern writer, he has throughout his life moved about the US with an efficiency few fugitives from the law could achieve. “It is difficult to say something smart about a stupid man” and agrees that whereas Frank Bascombe – his by-now immortal Everyman commentator first encountered in The Sportswriter (1986) – eventually got caught up in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a natural disaster, last year’s US presidential election was a man-made one. There is nothing righteous in the way he agrees that his fiction has been proved strangely prophetic. Richard Ford photographed in Brooks Hotel, Dublin. He admits to having stopped speaking to people he previously knew – ‘and thought they were sane’ – on discovering they had voted for Trump Ford learned early in life to watch adult faces, interpret reactions. His writings on the short story form are insightful and based on his intensive reading. I sleep better. But then, why not. Drawn by the pile of books, the man looked at us and ventured we were about to engage in “some serious reading”. It comprises two memoirs, one of each parent, Parker Ford and Edna Akin. Love is his fundamental concern, small wonder he can laugh about the rituals of friendship. Don DeLillo, another great and serious American writer, writes serious and important novels, but there is no doubt about the effort they require. Ford is forthright, not a person to rile. Richard Ford, The Wire creator David Simon and Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole will discuss current US politics at the Borris House Festival of Writing Ideas on Saturday, June 10th. “That story made me want to write, I love Peter Taylor’s work. I’m happier.” Benign menace Do not be fooled Richard Ford is sharp, quick, candid, devastating good company and an exponent of an intriguing variety of benign menace. “I try not to encourage it,” he says ironically and laughs loudly. I sleep better. DeLillo labours, Ford does not. “I have a grandmother from County Cavan, so I’m okay but Kristina [his wife] is against this.” He must be weary of being questioned about Donald …

Teresa Palmer: ‘I got Kung fu kicked in the back’

Teresa Palmer with Daniel Radcliffe in ‘December Boys’ In 2012, she began a thoroughly modern epistolary romance with the actor and director Mark Webber. Shortland’s third feature, a psycho-sexual ordeal from the same sub-genre as Room and Funny Games, follows backpacker and photographer Clare (Palmer) around the titular German city. She has subsequently shared the screen with Daniel Radcliffe (December Boys), Adam Sandler (Bedtime Stories), Sarah Michelle Gellar (The Grudge 2), Nicolas Cage (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Édgar Ramírez (Point Break) and Chadwick Boseman (Message from the King). In 2006, 18-year-old Kampusch escaped from kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil, a communications technician, having being held captive by him in a tiny basement for 3,096 days. It was only after he spotted the Adelaide-born actor on a billboard for Warm Bodies that he realised she’s just really very good at her job. Growing up, I really wanted brothers and sisters, but not having company forced me inwards. An honest mistake? Last April, in a departure from the typical plumped, primped, pickled and pounded shots that appear in magazines, she graced the cover of Vogue in the park with her two boys. It’s a compliment of sorts. And he does that really seamlessly. Months pass, punctuated by failed escape attempts. It was not romantic all. ‘Beautiful visionary’ Not so much as you’d think, says Palmer. Weta workshop had designed sets and costumes and the cast – including Armie Hammer as Batman, DJ Cotrona as Superman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Adam Brody as Flash, Common as Green Lantern, Zoe Kasan as Iris Allen, and Teresa Palmer as Talia Al Ghul – were raring to go. “People have all sorts of opinions and judgments about breastfeeding and all aspects of motherhood,” says Palmer, who generated some ridiculously disapproving headlines for breastfeeding Bodhi when he was two-and-a-half. “Unfortunately that’s the society we live in. You know you’re in the safe hands of a great storyteller. Adam Sandler and Teresa Palmer in the Disney film ‘Bedtime Stories’ “I’ve worked with Cate [Shortland], Mel Gibson and Terrence Malick,” beams Palmer. I had wrapped Warm Bodies and I was looking around for strong women’s roles and wasn’t finding them, when Terrence’s film came along. It was really interesting and challenging work.” It’s odd to catch up with Teresa Palmer in the same week that Wonder Woman has taken a record-breaking $223,005,000 at the box office. That one crazy scene, when …

‘It’s a Corbyn ting’: how Stormzy and UK grime are aiming to get the Tories out

#Election2017 #stormzy pic.twitter.com/8KbOurLCmo— Ellis Hayes (@ellishayes) May 30, 2017 #croydon I love you. Despite building the welfare state, Labour has been an imperialist party from Attlee to Wilson to Blair… There were sister gigs in Dalston and Brighton. It’s been a while since British pop music has felt that urgent. The way they all laugh and cheer. Is this f**king Game of Thrones? I saw some sick picture of him from back in the day when he was campaigning about anti-apartheid and I thought: ‘yeah, I like your energy’. That’s why I like Jeremy: I feel like he gets what the ethnic minorities are going through and the homeless and the working class.” Over in the Boy Better Know stable, Jme posted a photo on Twitter of him meeting Corbyn, as well as encouraging young people to vote, tweeting, “I met @jeremycorbyn today, and explained why bare of us don’t vote.” Rapper Akala (and younger brother of Ms Dynamite) wrote an op-ed in the Guardian saying: “I will be voting for the first time in June and I will – I am shocked to be typing this – be voting Labour. Stormzy says vote Labour! Have you seen that footage of House of Commons? Last Saturday, a Grime4Corbyn gig in Tottenham featured a panel discussion about the links between grime and Corbyn’s politics. They’re all neeky dons! Not a Tory ting.” Housing is a common concern among grime artists, with Stormzy expressing a frustration about his peers being shut out of the housing market, as well as singing Corbyn’s praises and slamming the showboating in parliament: “Young Jeremy, my guy. I dig what he says. Jeremy Corbyn.” As young leaders and naturally political role models, the Grime4Corbyn movement wasn’t a gimmick, but an articulation of how grime reaches both the masses and the underground, and how these are artists are being listened to, and amplifying their voice to make a difference. So why will I be voting now? The Guardian reported: “In the last few days, posters have appeared in the marginal Tory seat of Croydon, south London, featuring a photo of chart-topping grime artist MC Stormzy, claiming: ‘The Tories hold Croydon by 165 votes (that’s literally it) – even your dad’s got more Facebook friends. I am not a Labour supporter; I do not share the romantic idea that the Labour party was ever as radical an alternative as …