Finished Stephen Walker’s excellent and moving account of the battle between Irish Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty in the Vatican during WWII and Gestapo Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler who planned to assassinate O’Flaherty. O’Flaherty set up an escape line and saved the lives of thousands of allies and Jews who were being hunted by the Nazis. I shall be interviewing Stephen in the Falls Library at 5pm on Thursday 28th July about the book, as part of Féile.
18th July. Finished ‘Spirit of the Titanic’ by Nicola Pierce, a sad and lovely novel based on the first person to die during the building of the Titanic, fifteen-year-old Samuel Scott. Féile will be unveiling a headstone at the unmarked grave of Samuel in the City Centre on Saturday 30th July. Guest speakers – Sammy Douglas DUP MLA (East Belfast) and Nicola Pierce. Chair Tom Hartley, whose book, ‘Written in Stone’, brought Samuel Scott’s unmarked grave to the attention of Nicola and inspired her to write her book.
16th July. At the invitation of Liam Cusack spoke at the Trevor/Bowen Summer School in Mitchelstown, County Cork, on ‘My Writing Life’. Was able to attend several other readings: by Anne Clune on the humour of Myles na gCopaleen; and ‘Elizabeth Bowen’s Irelands’ by Susan Osborn, in St Colman’s Church, Farahy.
12th July. Finished Hans Fallada’s ‘Short Treatise on the Joys of Morphinism’. A fictionalised account of his real-life addiction. The disloyalty among addicts reminded me a little of stories from ‘The Grass Arena’ by John Healy.
11th July. Interviewed by Stephen Donnelly, a student currently completing an MA in Public and Political Communication in Dublin City University on the evolution of the Sinn Féin press office/ publicity department between 1982 and 2011.
8th July. Speaking alongside Frankie Gallagher (Ulster Political Research Groups) and Leo Green (Sinn Féin) at a hunger strike event as part of a Sinn Fein summer school in Ballyvourneen, County Cork.
7th July. Interviewed by Malcolm Gladwell, an author and writer with the New Yorker magazine, who is interested in asymmetrical warfare and how revolutionary organisations survive and governments continually misread situations.
6th July. Spoke at the launch of Féile’s summer festival programme 2011 at Conway Mill. Special guests, Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and Carál Ní Chuilín, northern Minister of Culture, Arts & Leisure.
4th July. Funeral today of former BBC Talkback presenter David Dunseith – a real gentleman.
29th June. At tribute night for the late Brian Moore in the Blackbox. Place was packed.
22nd June – 27th June. At the worst Glastonbury Festival ever! The best gigs were other than at the Pyramid Stage. Saw Deacon Blue rather than Coldplay [whom I had seen before] and didn’t go to U2, my excuse being not one of antipathy (well, a lot) but because Two Door Cinema Club from Bangor and ‘Blues Boy’ BB King made me drink too much cider and I needed a rest. Heard U2 from the tent, opened up the flap, saw the downpour and decided to get back into my sleeping bag instead! Also, skipped Beyonce on Sunday night and instead my son Kevin and I went to see Imelda May in the Acoustic Tent. She and her band were incredible – full of energy and vim, their performance simply astonishing. Earlier, had watched Isobel Anderson, also in the Acoustic Tent, who is managed by David from No Alibis bookshop in Belfast. A great voice and a great presence.
Had a great time in the Cabaret Tent, firstly with Mark Thomas (one of the best political comedians I have seen in years] only to be followed by the icing on the cake, Jeremy Hardy.
The worst concert was that by Paul Simon who was on in the Sunday afternoon slot usually allocated to goldie-oldies and was the main reason I was there. Within five minutes he had bored the pants of two of our gang who went back to the bar to drink Pimms! I stuck it out but he just languorously self-indulged with a few old numbers, from the 80s, but nothing from the Simon and Garfunkel days such as ‘I Am A Rock’, ‘Mrs Robinson’ or ‘The Boxer’. Spoilt my weekend, he did.
20th June. Did photoshoot with Tom McCusker (Managing Director, Tennent’ NI) and new Féile director, Kevin Gamble, celebrating our continuing relationship with sponsorship for the festival.
19th June. Interviewed with Maurice Hayes on BBC TV by Stephen Walker on nationalist attitudes towards a united Ireland and towards the union following the results of an opinion poll.
18th June. Spoke at the The John Boyle O’Reilly Society Of Ireland Annual Summer School on the subject – “The Legacy Of The Fenians”. On platform with Deaglán de Bréadún (Irish Times), John Cooney (religious affairs correspondent for the Irish Independent) and historian Fergus Whelan.
15th June. Re-read ‘Southern Mail/Night Flight’, two wonderful, short novels by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and was once again especially exhilarated by ‘Night Flight’, virtually transported into the skies over South America in a fatal storm. From ‘Southern Mail’: “We were lost, on the very confines of the world, for already we knew that to travel is above all to change one’s skin.” As a child the main character discovers the attic and the great timbers “defending the house against we knew not what. But yes – against time. For time was the arch-enemy. It was kept at bay with traditions, and the cult of the past.”
The description of towns and life below from the perspective of the pilot in ‘Night Flight’ are so rich and many that it would be difficult which to chose, and observations on the meaning of life.