Last Thursday was my youngest son’s 19th birthday and as he was painting Cork red, I thought I would celebrate it by going to Dublin, to a book launch in Hodges and Figgis’s commendable book store on Dawson Street. The book Dark Times, Decent Men by Neil Richardson is the story of all the Irish men and women who served in the Allied forces during World War 2. Amazingly surveys are showing that around 230,000 Irish people served in the British forces, never mind all those in the US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand militaries and all that is talked about in Ireland is the Emergency. These brave folk are still not mentioned, air-brushed out of history, 17% of the population, approximately 25% of those in the liable age group. As many fought in this second war as fought in the Great War and all were aware of the consequences, a remarkable and distinguished honour to those brave people.
Neil Richardson is a young historian, maturing well as a writer, he is only 27 with a great future in front of him. His first book was good, the award winning A Coward If I Return, A Hero If I Fall, the story of Irish men in the First War but the maturity in his writing in this book is palpable. He is only 27 years old and writes with the sagacity of a man twice that age. Buy the book and give it to yourself as a Christmas present, you could not do better for 20 euros. While I am at it also buy Edna O’Brien’s attempt at a memoir, Country Girl. Not really a memoir as we know it, but more of a stream of remembrances, half autobiographical, half tourist brochure but thoroughly worth reading by a writer who has no equal. Buy it for a loved one but read it yourself first and make sure you have a dictionary handy. She widens your vocabulary on every page.
During my one night stay in the Fair City, I packed a lot in. Before the book launch I went with that upcoming star of the boards, my daughter Paddy Jo Malpas, to the first rehearsal of her one woman play which will be performed during the lunch hour, for two weeks at the end of this month at the little theatre above Lannigan’s Hotel, on the Quays, adjacent to O’Connell Street. This play, a story of unrequited love with disasterous consequences, is a very difficult piece to pull off, relying on timing and emphasis in equal measures. If she achieves it, more power to her. She is on stage speaking for 45 minutes, how she remembers all the lines is amazing but she is my daughter.
After the launch, a Spanish meal of Irish proportion in the PYG Restaurant in Powerscourt Townhouse. This was the third restaurant we had tried, the others booked out. So much for economic depression in Dublin, a different depression than we are suffering in the West. Anyway into a taxi for the return to Paddy’s flat where we met the most pleasant young driver it was ever my pleasure to be driven by. Full of young ideas and common sense, we were that deep in conversation that she missed her turn at the rear of the Custom House and she deducted two euros off our bill when she dropped us off. A pleasant interlude in a thoroughly pleasant night.
To round off the evening we visited the local off licence and purchased two bottles of Malbec for the customary nightcap of a Dublin evening. Three hours of delightful, very interesting conversation with Paddy and her flatmate, a budding barrister from Cavan way whose lucid humanitarian thought made you realise it was the young folk of these quarters who forced through the peace process in the North, not the wilful and guilty politicians.
One of the subjects that came up in our wide ranging dialogue was what we thought was the best age of man. The two girls promoted the 20-30 age when they have everything, looks, money, choices, unthwarted ambition and an unstopping zest for life, which I countered with pressures both peer and economic and fears of non-achievement and despondency of the future. I suggested old age and in particular the 60-70 age group where you hopefully are still physically able. Where for the first time in a person’s life you have freedom. Freedom of thought and of action. Freedom of decision and argument, no external forces telling you to be here or to be there, to do this or do that. It is a life of two fingered activity to everyone and everything.
You can sleep when you want to and arise whenever. You can in fact do whatever you want, deaf to curse and disapprobation, unsullied by embarrassment. You are your own man or woman. From a personal point of view, I have achieved more in the last few years than I ever thought I would do in my younger life more than I ever did toiling on civil engineering and demolition sites for 43 years. The one exception of course was the bringing up of six children with all its highs and lows. In this I was just the junior partner with my darling wife, Helen, taking most of the pressures and all of the blows.
Certainly in the last while, the first two fingers of my right hand felt as though they had premature rigor mortis. I have been threatened with legal action by editor, priest and passer-by and the two fingers have remained jauntily erect, undaunted by opinion or threat.
We finished off our conversations with what for me has become my raison d’etre, the subject of child abuse, a subject I have been banging on about for years, until recently being heard. Savile is the in talk and he is important for without him this tip, this top of the iceberg which is swiftly rising out of the dark seas of life would not be apparent. People now want to know and know everything and anything about the black mantle that has been covering the activities of our politicians, policemen and judiciary since god knows when. This story, now with the help of a brave MP and the mainstream media which as suddenly discovered it has some form of bollocks albeit only bollocks in the making, is realising what we so called idiots have been saying for years, that the establishment of the UK is being controlled because of their overriding paedophilic tendencies by someone or something. This story has legs so let us use them and walk all over these abhorrent bastards who unfortunately control our lives.
So that was the end of the woman in the woods and also my lovely night in Dublin. I hope to be back for more.