Feeling old? Here’s 21 great reasons for you to enjoy being middle-aged

Irish Examiner, May 8, 2016

“Dye your white hair. I don’t want people to think I have a middle aged son.”

That’s my mother talking. She is past the 70 mark.

“No,” I reply, firmly. “White is the new brown – except when it comes to bread. Brown bread is better for the bowels … as you get OLDER.” I thought the emphasis on OLDER might shut her up. It didn’t… and it didn’t silence the nagging voice in my head saying “she’s right, you’re middle aged… you’re middle aged…”

Webster’s dictionary defines middle age as being between 45ish and 65ish. I’m 49, so I’m over that threshold. I don’t feel middle aged, old or tired. I’ll be very happy to live another 50 years, even if it’s just to annoy everyone around me, demanding my bag be changed or my Zimmer frame be polished.

I am part of the Pope’s Children generation. We were the crowd that emigrated, came back, cheered on Jack Charlton’s men, shook off our National Inferiority Complex (remember that?) and started the Celtic Tiger. Many of us are now redundant or struggling to find our feet again as self-employed people.

Having to start out again is, in many ways, keeping us mentally young, dynamic and hungry – unlike our parent’s generation, who were well settled at this point.

That sounds a bit bleak, doesn’t it? Middle age doesn’t have to be about struggling or settling for what you have. It has plenty of benefits. Here are 21 reasons to enjoy being stuck in the middle…

1 You’re brainier than your kids

Yes, it’s true that we tend to forget, er, what was I saying there? Oh yes, we forget things as you get older. However, science has finally proved that middle agers are smarter than youngsters.

The brain is divided into two hemispheres, with each side specialising in different operations. According to the University of Southern California, young folk use only one side for a specific task, while middle-aged adults are more likely to activate both hemispheres at once. This means we use the full might of our brains to solve problems.

Kids are halfwits. We’re fullwits.

2 You never lost it…

Age is not a factor in being sexy. You can be drop dead hot in your middle years … or just look as if you are about to drop dead. The choice is yours. You can either take care of your looks or go to pot. The March edition of Marie Claire ran a chart of its sexiest men alive. Guess what? It was full of 40-somethings – and a few 50-somethings. David Beckham is 40, Bradley Cooper is 41, Idris Elba is 43, Gerard Butler is 46, Brad Pitt is 52, George Clooney is 54… Need I mention Jack Nicholson? He’s 79 and still has it.

Ladies, ask yourself this question: who would rather a night out with, Orlando Bloom (39) or Jack the Lad? Enough said. Men, there’s hope for us yet.

3 It’s never too late to lose it …

Advancing years bring advancing waistlines and – most horribly of all – moobs (man boobs). The good news for moobsters is that it’s never too late to work on getting fit.

A recent study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found men who keep fit were seven times more likely to have a healthy old age, even if they only took up exercise when they retired. One study shows men aged between mid-twenties and mid-fifties will lose only 5pc of their fitness if they exercise moderately and consistently every week. So throw away your man bras, and get exercising.

4 The older the fiddle…

All the greatest musicians in the world are in advanced years. Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John… OK, forget about Elton (unless you want to look like Anne Robinson’s granny.)

Music and performance keep you young – especially in terms of grey matter. Researchers at Northwestern University in the US have found that musicians aged 45 to 65 excel in memory and hearing speech in noise compared to non-musicians.

That means guitar-strumming oldies are better than youngsters at hearing conversations down the pub – and remembering them. Maybe that’s not a blessing

5 Hair (1)

The appearance of grey hairs can be traumatic for some men. I will happily admit to being depressed as hell when I started to go grey in my late 20s. I began dyeing my locks and only let my natural lack of colour come through when I was fully grey in my late 30s.

The only benefit of going grey young is that you appear to age less slowly than your dark-haired peers. I’ve been white for years and my mates are only catching up on me now. The ageing process is more obvious with them. I’ve always looked old.

Grey hair on a man is (apparently) attractive. Think of George Clooney, John Slattery, Jose Mourinho, Richard Gere… And on women too: Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christine Lagarde…

Silver has become so fashionable among the young that women like (the irritating) Kelly Osborne and Lady Gaga are actually dying their hair grey.

So rejoice in your silvery tresses, or as Tom Robinson (almost) sang: ‘Sing if you’re glad to be grey.’

6 Hair (2)

One of nature’s cruellest jokes is that as men get older, the hair loss on our heads is in direct proportion to the hair gain in our noses and ears. I have often thought of letting my nasal hair grow and back-combing it.

There is nothing good about hair loss. Sure, people will cite Jason Statham, Bruce Willis and Vin Diesel as baldy role models, but they’re all muscly action men. Most men look crap without hair – but there are some solutions. Regaine (Minoxidil) does work for 80pc of men. At very least, it makes your hair look thicker. Then there’s Finasteride, if you can get it.

Hair transplants are not so expensive any more. Gone are the days of the ‘Frank Sinatra plug’, where the recipient’s head looked like a cornfield after being devastated by locusts. Look at Louis Walsh. He had a hair procedure and looks great. Really. And he’s 84. Fair play to him.

7 You’re NOT a technophobe

Are you sick of younger people smugly implying that they are better at technology than you? I am. The phone addicted tweeters and Facebookers seem to think that technology passed us by – when, in fact, we are the generation that invented smart phones and Twitter.

Two of the founders of the micro-blogging site are in their 40s (Evan Williams, Biz Stone). The founder of eBay, Pierre Morad Omidyar, is 48. Steve Jobs was 52 when he launched the iPhone.

Today’s tech happy kids are ‘consumers’ while we are the ‘creators’. Be proud.

8 You don’t need to worry about peer pressure

Be flamboyant… you don’t have to care what anyone thinks about your clothes. Many middle agers like to blend in. That’s why Dunnes Stores is awash with beige, taupe and stone-coloured clothes. And tanktops. And sensible trousers.

Buck the trend and start wearing way-out clothes: yellow paisley, crushed purple velvet, patterned flares… go mad. Why? Because middle aged people have one word at their disposal that youngsters don’t: ‘eccentric’. It’s a great catch-all for ‘eff you’ behaviour – dressing included. You’re now old enough to be eccentric. Embrace it.

9 Enjoy life in the slow lane

Two words: ‘better insurance’. And two fingers to the boy racers who have to pay through their noses for it.

10 You don’t have to live with your parents

As you are middle aged, you probably own a house, and are not on a waiting list for a one-bed box in a back field in Mullingar.

11 You can go to Pilates classes without making women feel uncomfortable

When you’re in your 20s and 30s you can’t really go to pilates or aerobics without having a question mark placed over your masculinity. Or being accused of being a lecherous git.

When you’re in your 40s you have the catch-all excuse: “I have a bad back. It’s the only thing that works”… while continuing to be a lecherous git.

12 Dancing is a weapon

Most of my youth was spent propped against a wall in Peekers nite club in Dun Laoghaire. I was a crap dancer. Sometimes I would get very drunk and attempt to moonwalk, or do the robot dance beloved of Kraftwerk fans. In the main though, I knew I had a better chance of scoring if I stayed stationary.

Now, as I am married and just don’t give a toss, I dance whenever I feel like it (except on the bus, or in A and E waiting rooms). I even moonwalk with abandon, even though I know I look less like Jackson and more like Jack(Nichol)son.

Here’s the best bit: Dad dancing is a great way to embarrass your kids. So use it as a weapon to mortify them.

13 You can be rude to young folk and get away with it

Old people often conflate rudeness with ‘directness’. At a social event recently, my 70-umph mother poked a young journo colleague in the tum with her walking stick. “You’ve put on weight,” she said.

Perhaps she thought her ‘honesty’ might spur him to lose a few pounds. Whether it did or not is moot. I just enjoyed his discomfort. I later heard someone consoling him with the words “she’s getting on and doesn’t really mean it”.

I’m now thinking of getting a walking stick.

14 Specs appeal

You know the advert where Celia Holman Lee squints at the camera and tells us how she has undergone corrective laser eye treatment? Have you thought about getting it? Are you sick of your glasses?

Don’t be. They are de rigeur among young hipster types. In fact, there are many shopping outlets which now sell glasses that have no therapeutic value because specs are sexy. Embrace the short-sighted nerdy look. You’re finally in fashion. In fact…

15 You’re so out of fashion… you’re back in fashion

Fashion repeats itself in 20 year cycles. In the late 1970s, the 1950s were cool. In the 1980s, we harked back to the 1960s. In the 1990s it was the 1970s… and now the 1990s are on the way back. Kids are paying a fortune for new versions of those scratched old Wayfarers you bought on the way to Santa Ponsa in 1992.

All the old clothes that lurk at the back of your wardrobe are now vintage. Just lose that gut and you’ll be way ahead of the fashion police.

16 No more red rags to a bull

The onset of menopause can be a source of depression to many women – but it has some benefits. According to the American College of Gynecology, 85pc of women experience one or more PMS symptoms each month, but after menopause, life is cramp, mood swings and irritability-free.

This is good news for middle aged women. And even better news for middle aged men.

17 You can wash your hair less often

Who the hell would want to be teenager? Raging hormones, spots and greasy hair. You may be old, chum, but at least you don’t have acne, or lank oily hair. In fact, the older we get the less time we need to spend shampooing our locks.

This is because glands below the skin on your bonce become less active during middle age and the scalp accumulates less oil and sweat. The result: older folk can wash their hair less often. Most women won’t admit to this though, as it means less time at the hairdresser.

18 Dangerous sex (1)

Sex is less dangerous in middle age. (Only if you want it to be.) When I was a young chap in the 1980s, the most terrifying byproduct of (rare) sexual shenanigans was a broken back.

“If you ever get a girl pregnant, I’ll break the sweeping brush on your back,” my mother used to say, adding: “and I’ll do the same to her.” I don’t believe she would have, but since that threat was levelled, I’ve never been able to pass a road-sweeper without an odd mixture of sexual desire and fear.

The sex scene is a lot more ‘fraught’ these days. According to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Control, the number of Irish people with STDs has risen sharply over the past decade. The incidence of gonorrhoea increased fourfold while syphilis and chlamydia doubled. Young adults aged 15-25 account for 14pc of all syphilis cases, 39pc of gonorrhoea and 67pc of chlamydia.

Ergo, sex is safer in middle age.

19 Dangerous sex (2)

Here’s the good news: sex in your 50s can be something to look forward to because, for the first time in your life, you have the time and energy to enjoy it. (The days of sleepless, baby-filled nights, and juggling parenthood and work are well gone). Also, being middle aged means your partner has less chance of getting pregnant. You both can enjoy uninhibited romping without the side effects of the Pill (high blood pressure etc).

Here’s the bad news: the menopause can sap your partner’s libido. But help is at hand. Where us men have the little blue pill (I don’t need it, thanks), there is now a ‘pink pill’. Addyi (Flibanserin) is the first FDA-approved treatment for female sexual dysfunction. Woohoo.

20 It’s all ahead of you

Have a goal. Optimism will keep you healthier longer. One of the benefits of middle age is that you’re now officially worldly wise. You’ve seen it all before. The knockbacks you get will have been softened by years of … er, knockbacks.

According to Harvard University, optimism is good for the heart and general wellbeing. So is a good sense of worldly-wise humour. Researchers in Tennessee have found that voiced laughter boosts energy consumption and heart rate by 10pc to 20pc (that’s anywhere from 10 to 40 calories).

So don’t cry over spilled milk. Laugh at it. By this time tomorrow, it’ll be free yogurt.

21 You can always have the final word.

Dad-dancing may be a great way to embarrass your kids, but we middlers have an even more devastating weapon when they’re giving us grief about being old farts. It’s the following statement:

“IT’S ALL AHEAD OF YOU.”

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How I got locked in the Irish Press (in more ways than one)

Press group 1995 sit-in 004 copy

The Burgh Quay 18: The crew who occupied the building after management stopped the presses. I’m third from the right at the very back.

Busking

Red tops: Richard Balls and I busk in aid of the Press fund on Grafton Street in August 1995. This picture was taken by a tourist who posted it to Rich

 

Remembering the 1995 storming of Burgh Quay 

Irish Examiner, 23 May 2015

On the 20th anniversary of the closure of the ‘Irish Press’, journalist DAVE KENNY looks back at its last days, involving a sit-in, a new publication, celebrities, pints, booze, and pubs. The dispute was a breath of fresh air after years of stagnation

“The b***ards are trying to get in!” The former Republican Prisoner raced through the caseroom and down the back stairs, cursing and puffing.

His voice trailed away as we sat, nerves flickering, in the light of the night-town reporter’s TV. I lit a ciggie, convinced I wouldn’t have it finished before the Swat team of security guards swarmed into the newsroom.

“They’ll never take us alive,” someone remarked, drily.

“Oh yes they bloody will,” I replied, fully intending to be first under a desk when the baton charge kicked off.

It was Saturday May 27, 1995 and the presses had stopped rolling at Burgh Quay. The Irish Press had been founded with IRA money and so it seemed fitting that former Republican prisoner, Gerry O’Hare, had gone down fighting at the back door.

“That’s the last we’ll see of him,” I thought. I was wrong, Gerry re-emerged a few minutes later. Management had not ordered a storming of the building. It had been sealed off though. We were now fully-committed to what would be one of the most bizarre four-day sit-ins in Irish history.

It all began on Thursday May 25, when our NUJ chapel went into mandatory session over the sacking of Colm Rapple. The finance journalist had been fired for comments he made in the Irish Times about the management of the paper, which had been founded by Dev in 1931.

The Press workers had laboured in a Dunkirk atmosphere for years, producing newspapers with meagre resources and poor pay (we hadn’t had a rise in a decade). Loyalty to the titles and each other was what kept us going. Rapple’s sacking was the final insult. No paper was produced that day.

Management ultimately refused to engage in a meaningful way. They wanted to liquidate the business, clear their debts and carry on as a company that no longer produced papers. They succeeded in this, but we weren’t going to give up without a fight. We would find an examiner and force Dev junior and Co to talk and walk.

The day after Rapple’s sacking, management ordered us to leave the building. We ignored them. Technically, we would remain at our desks, available for work.

That evening, I took my ‘cutline’ break in the Regal bar on Hawkins Street. I was depressed and scared. I had entered the paper as a copyboy, aged 18, in 1985, working my way on to the sports sub-editors’ bench. I knew no other way of life or work.

I started just as Hot Metal was ending. I remember the smell and the noise of the old caseroom, with its snarly overseer and inky men sitting behind tall, elaborate Linotype machines. I later learned that my great-grandad was the first Master Linotype operator in Ireland. Little had changed since his day. This was a world of archaic work practices – where you could be reprimanded or ‘chapeled’ for touching a page proof without permission.

It also had had its own language. There were non pareils, ems and ens, widows, orphans, galleys and Dragon’s Blood (Google them). Then there was The Stone, where pages were laid out back-to-front. The Stone sub-editor was not allowed to stand on the same side as the compositor/printer and so had to be able to read stories back-to-front and upside down.

Three months after joining, the papers closed and re-opened over a dispute involving new technology. Editorial direct-input computers had been bought, negating the need for the Irish Print Union.

A compromise was reached where stories were written on the computers, printed off and sub-edited by pen. They were then sent to the caseroom to be retyped back into the system. It was an untenable situation. It was also one fraught with danger, depending on the time of the evening and the amount of alcohol consumed.

On one occasion, a story about a famous ballerina “walking into the room and heading straight for the exercise barre” appeared as ‘Famous ballerina wa*ks into room and heads straight for the bar’.

There were also cases of the English soccer team “wearing the shite [white] shirt with pride” and boxers being out for something that nearly spelled ‘count’.

The madness of this solution was not out of place in a national institution with the emphasis on ‘institution’. The place heaved with characters who couldn’t have worked in any other industry.

Most of the milder nut cases self-medicated in Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street. Booze was central to everything. My ‘interview’ for copyboy had been conducted in Mulls and consisted of me buying the chief sub a pint.

Levels of inebriation varied throughout the week – peaking on a Wednesday evening when we had been paid in cash. Work started at 4.30 with our first pub break between at 9.30 and 10pm. There were strict rules about not abusing this privelege. I recall a sub receiving a bollicking for being tardy.

“You’re five minutes late,” scolded the chief sub.

“Well YOU try drinking four pints in only half an hour,” came the reply.

Then there was the hack who fell on ice, breaking his leg, as he walked to the last bus. The next day, colleagues reported that he had broken his leg in two places: Mulligan’s and The Regal.

I remember one evening going for drinks in the Irish Times Club on D’Olier Street at 3am and waking up on a cliff ledge on Killiney Beach – eight miles away – several hours later. A drinking companion was asleep and snoring happily on the sand below.

One particularly bonkers journo was renowned for eating raw fish (heads and all) at the bar in the White Horse. One night he was asked to hold a tenner while two punters sorted out a bet over a soccer result. He ate that too.

This was the world I knew – before the advent of mobile phones, social media and selfies. It was ending while I sat in the Regal on the second day of the dispute. At closing time, I went back to the office. I had suggested the previous day that we do our own newspaper. Those present, including Liam Mackey (of The Examiner), began to write and assemble the basics. I raided the caseroom looking for a masthead and other ‘blocks’ (graphics).

The XPress was born and continued to be published until after the All-Ireland final of that year. It raised much-needed funds and kept us in the public eye.

The paper cost a penny, but the public were generous and money poured in to support the workers’ families. It was sold in bars and on street corners: at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis and the races. Celebs queued up to be photographed in it: U2, Norm from Cheers…

Household names were quoted in it, bemoaning the IP’s fate: Mick ‘Miley’ Lally, Liam Clancy, Joe Duffy, Dave Fanning, Neil Jordan, Bono, Eamon Coghlan, Gerry Adams (when he wasn’t fashionable), the current President, members of the UUP…

Politicians of all hues lent their support, except for one ‘socialist’ TD who told our Chief Sub that we “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery”. This was ironic as he was walking into a piss-up at the French Embassy for Bastille Day at the time.

PJ Mara dropped in a cheque for £250 (not in a brown envelope) and Tim Pat Coogan donated £200 made payable to Mulligan’s. Mackey’s Hot Press connections came in handy. He got a world exclusive interview from U2 for the XPress. It’s still being read online today.

He also brought Jack Charlton’s team to the back door to lend support. Steve Collins was with them, looking slightly confused – as was Jack. Liam later pointed out that there was always some confusion when Jack was around.

“How long are you here, Liam?” he asked through the back door.

“Five years in total,” replied Mackey.

“Five years?!!” Jack was impressed with our staying power, until it was pointed out that Liam was referring to his tenure as a Press scribe, not the length of the occupation.

Brendan O’Carroll arrived too.

“I’ve come to get the solution to yesterday’s crossword,” he said. It may not seem funny now, but it was hilarious at the time.

Looking back, it was hard to believe the support we got. Sky News came to the back door and our protest went international. There was even a letter of support from one of Russia’s leading dissident poets, Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

What made the Press sit-in different to other industrial rows was that the titles were still woven into the fabric of Irish life. They had the power to challenge at a time when politicians and the church still held sway.

We were white collar workers occupying a landmark building. Journalists are an inert bunch. We report on other people’s actions. Now we were taking direct action – and the public loved it. I did too: I was 28 and sticking it to The Man. The dispute was a breath of fresh air after years of stagnation on Burgh Quay.

The 18 occupiers would have given anything for a (literal) breath of fresh air. The roof had been closed off, so there was no access to the elements. The place stank of cigarette smoke, curries and BO. We were manky and one of our number had to be treated for septicemia after cutting his leg in the canteen. The joke was that he got foot poisoning where others might have got food poisoning.

Hot water was cut off. I showered only once, descending into the deserted machine hall to use the facilities. I lost certain parts of my anatomy when the freezing water hit me.

We worked on the XPress and were kept busy with various tasks allotted by the beleagured Mother of the Chapel, Louise Ni Chriodáin. Gifts flooded in and the newsroom resembled BBC’s Swap Shop, with tables groaning under the weight of food, booze, toys, clothes.

There was a steady stream of smokes arriving too. Tom Kitt TD even got off a flight from South Africa to drop in Duty Free cigs to the hacking hacks. Cork looked after us well: Murphy’s made a special delivery to keep us hydrated.

Sleep was always elusive. The newsroom was filthy and there was always the fear of rodent activity. I had worked with a few rats: I didn’t want to sleep with them too. I spent my nights on a desk in the subs area. The phones rang throughout the night and there were 5am fire alarm ‘calls’. The lights flickered non-stop.

The fatigue bred giddiness and irritability, but also forged strong bonds. Since then, I have always looked up, with affection, to Mackey as an older, cooler brother in the business.

On Day Four we were instructed by the NUJ to vacate the building as Labour Court talks were beginning. That night, as Sky News broadcast funereal reports from the back door, we barrelled into the beer. Despite our depression at the impending evacuation we did a chariot race on swivel chairs around the newsroom.

Friends and colleagues left Mulligans and serenaded us from the street below the canteen windows. We sang back. I think I croaked The Rare Ould Times.

The following morning, we assembled in the canteen and waited to be ‘liberated’. I expected a few friends, my girlfriend (now my wife) and others to attend. Then I heard the drumming…

a 1,000-strong parade was marching up to the back door.

I walked down the steps and was absorbed into a crowd of people who would never reassemble under such extraordinary circumstances again.

The Press closure was a coming-of-age thing for me. Even though we failed to keep the papers open, the dispute taught me to stand up for myself. Its biggest achievement was the creation of a single-minded entity in an industry populated by mavericks.

Our unity proved that, despite the outcome, it is always worth standing up to despots. Even if it’s just to irritate and embarass them.

Now, as I look at the industry, I wonder if we exaggerate the importance of newspapers. Our work influences and entertains while the presses are rolling but, once a paper has gone, the earth continues to spin and governments continue to govern.

The Press, like the Trib, isn’t even toilet roll at this stage. Would the public now care if the entire industry vanished overnight?

There are those of us who would – but then we’re still afflicted by the glorious madness of the Newspaper Age. And not one of us is seeking to be cured.

Press Gang, edited by Dave Kenny, will be published this August (New Island books).

ENDS

Embracing the Man Hug

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/healthandlife/relationships/dave-kenny-embraces-the-growing-popularity-of-man-hugs-307167.html

Nostalgic TV and its positive effect on men’s fashion

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/humaninterest/nostalgic-tv-and-its-positive-effect-on-mens-fashion-236185.html

The truth behind superstitions

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/tackling-superstitions-can-be-risky-business-271241.html

Dave Kenny goes under a stepladder as part of his efforts to break every superstition ahead of Friday 13th. Picture: Nick Bradshaw

Bend it like Beckham: tackling Yoga, man-style

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/bend-it-like-beckham-255528.html

10 things politicians wished they hadn’t said

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/10-things-politicians-definitely-wish-they-had-not-said–270345.html

Rik Mayall and the comedians who died before their time

(NB: there’s an uncorrected editing error at end of this piece. Tommy Cooper is talking about his wife. “My missus said to me: ‘you’ll drive me to my grave’. I had the car out in 30 seconds.”

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/rik-mayall-joins-long-list-of-comedians-who-died-before-their-time-271894.html

Busting some age-old myths (Guinness is NOT good for you)

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/busting-21-age-old-myths-235323.html

Why 80 is the new 50

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/healthandlife/yourhealth/80-is-the-new-50-296634.html

The curse of Political Correctness

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/when-political-correctness-goes-wrong–the-biggest-offenders-268771.html

Forget Martin and Roy. Here’s 11 top good cop, bad cop, pairings

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/forget-martin-and-roy-heres-11-top-good-cop-bad-cop-pairings-249124.html

The things we learned this year

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/the-things-we-learned-this-year-217892.html

Colm Murray: a mentor who ALWAYS cut it fine

Sunday Independent, 4 August 2013

Image

Mr Cool: Colm was wise, funny and universally loved.

 

July 1996, and a small, dapper man is marching through the RTE newsroom. It’s the early days of mobile phones and I am about to politely ask Colm Murray where he’s been. I don’t. It’s a stupid question: naturally he has been at Leopardstown.

He is pleased to see me. Colm’s keen, hyper-intelligent eyes always suggested he derived perpetual pleasure from your company. Even if you were barely holding it together and your  synapses were collapsing under the strain of a collosal hangover, which it was on this particular day.

I was a young refugee from the Irish Press. Tony O’Donoghue had created a job for me, sub-editing and sports-reporting on TV’s evening news bulletin. Our weekend team was a rolling roster of Tony, Colm, Anne Cassin and Gareth O’Connor. Gar and I were young hacks around town at the time.

Colm trained me, imparting his wisdom as much by osmosis as deliberate instruction. I tried to sound like him, thwarting my Dub accent; caressing and lengthening sentences, nailing words together to make them fit his unique, lovely delivery style. “Paris St Germaaaainnnnn today…. tasted their …. first …. EVER …Cupwinnerscupsuccess”.

Colm was unflappable and soothing. He was the work-mate equivalent of Neurofen to a partied-out 20-something-year-old.  There were times when he was like a Pulp Fiction-sized shot of adrenalin too…

On this summer day in 1996, I have finished putting the sports section of the Sunday evening TV news bulletin together. Everything is scripted and recorded, bar the Munster and Leinster hurling finals reports.

We split them and disappear with our stopwatches to take goal/point times off the TV and write our respective scripts. They would air back-to-back with Colm adding his voice to the pictures live, rather than as a pre-packaged item.

At 5.55pm, I am starting to get a little nervous. There’s no sign of Colm. He appears, a tissue flapping at his chin, from make-up and picks up his scripts. I relax. Until he asks me a “small favour”. Would I finish his report on the Leinster Final?

“What?”

“If you could just finish it. I’m a bit behind. I have to head into studio.”

“But I haven’t seen the match.”

“Thanks, Dave. You’re the proverbial ‘star’.” And he was gone.

Fear has now gripped me by the sphincter. I run through the corridors to the editing suites, hoping he hasn’t written his timings on a race card which might now be in his back pocket.

“Cut from the bottom,” I implore the unimpressed VT editor. It’s a phrase we use in newspapers and may be the first time it’s been heard in TV circles. “Just give me one minute of video. It doesn’t matter if the points don’t sync with Colm’s voice.”

The next thing I know, I am flying, like Joan Cusack in Broadcast News, towards the output room where the operator is waiting for my video. I fling it at him and, in one, arcing move he slips it into the player. Miraculously, the first report is just finishing and the tape slots seamlessly into the bulletin. We have avoided ‘going to black’ (an empty TV screen), the worst technical sin in broadcasting.

This was so ‘Colm’. It wasn’t that he was foisting work on me: he had a phenomenal work ethic. He was just flying by the seat of his pants. He knew, instinctively, that it would be ‘all right’. If he didn’t think I could deliver the video, he wouldn’t have asked.

He was the coolest man I’ve ever met. He must have just loved speed. In another life he might have been a champion jockey. His slipstream-enthusiasm carried you past the post. He was exhilirating to work with. But, God, did he cut it fine.

I spoke to Tony and Gareth today. They both loved Colm unconditionally and are heartbroken. My father – who retired from RTE in the 1980s (and tried to discourage me from joining up) –  loved him too. They were horseflesh fans.

Even though it’s been years since we worked together, I’ll always remember Colm as a lovely, warm genius of a man. He was professional and generous with his time. He was wise and funny. He made you feel like you were the only person in the room.

Later, whenever I bumped into him on campus, time would concertina. It was like we had just finished a conversation that took place 10 years earlier.

Colm, who was a teacher, could have turned his hand to anything, but he was – and will always be – one of the best broadcasters this country has produced.

Far more importantly, he was universally loved.

RIP.

Things we learned in 2012…

A whole lotta Rosie: Ms Davison got her boobs out for the Germans, but her Playboy shoot was overshadowed by Kate Middleton’s baps being snapped by a pap

By Dave Kenny

Irish Examiner, December 29, 2012

Another year, another notch tightened on the belt. So what did we learn in 2012? Dave Kenny reviews a year which saw two Quinns behind bars, less of us drinking in bars and one Irishwoman raising the bar for Irish athleticism…

We learned that …

A €100k wedding cake is (literally) a moveable feast.

In September, as the good people of Cavan rallied for Sean Quinn and his family, it was reported that the clan had spent €100,000 on a wedding cake.

The spectacular caca milis was flown in from New York for the 2007 nuptials of Sean’s daughter, Ciara. Although Sean was worth €4.6bn at the time, the €250-a-slice cake was charged to a subsidiary of the Quinn Group.

Have the people of Cavan ever heard the phrase ‘let them eat cake’?

No-one could tell ’em like Frank Carson, who passed away in March.

 “A man goes into a chemist and says: ‘Have you got any Viagra?’ ‘Do you have a prescription?’ asks the assistant. ‘No,’ he replies, ‘But I’ve got a photograph of the wife’.”

That the printed word is DOOMED.

2012 saw Encyclopaedia Brittanica publish its last printed edition. More than 7m sets have been sold since 1768. Thousands of unemployed door-to-door salesmen are now out on the streets. Actually, that’s where you normally find them, isn’t it?

We learned that the printed word is alive and thriving in Aengus O Snodaigh’s office.

In February, The Sinn Fein TD became a laughing (paper) stock when he admitted using €50,000 worth of Dail printer cartridges over a two-year period.

‘Inkgate’ earned the prolific leafleteer the sobriquet of  ‘The Wolfe Toner’. One commentator summed it up musically. All together now: “Come out ye blackened hands, come out and type me like a man…”

That northern radio presenters are an innocent bunch.

In November, BBC Radio Ulster’s, Karen Patterson, had to apologise for reading out a prank text about Jimmy Savile.

It said: “I wish everyone would stop criticising Jimmy Savile. He was a nice man. When I was eight he fixed it for me to milk a cow blind-folded.”

That Charlie Haughey was the Weaker Link when he tried to grope a TV presenter.

In October, Anne Robinson told The Guardian that CJ had tried it on with her in 1969.

“I like to imagine he went to his grave with my bruises on his hands after he tried to grope me,” she said. So Charlie came out of the Arms Trial unscathed in 1969, but didn’t fare so well in the Hands Trial…

We learned nothing new about Katie Taylor.

We always knew she was going to make us proud at the Olympics. We did learn, however, that people who abhorred women’s boxing could change their views overnight when there was a gold medal involved.

See you down at the National Stadium?

That we’re rubbish at soccer, but good at making money from it.

After an embarassing Euro 2012, we learned that FAI boss, John Delaney, was taking a 10pc pay cut. He now earns a mere €360,000. That’s €160,000 more than the Taoiseach.

What’s really impressive about John’s salary is that it’s bigger than the combined wages of the Spanish and Italian soccer chiefs. What a world-beater he is.

We make the Germans laugh.

We had a risible Euro 2012, but Ireland’s fans still stole the show with their trademark good humour. A group  from Limerick made headlines worldwide after they unveiled a Tricolour emblazoned with the words ‘Angela Merkel Thinks we’re at Work’.

When the boys got home the German ambassador had them around to the embassy. And they returned unharmed. Who says the Jerries have no sense of humour?

We make the English laugh.

In May, Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown’ Boys stumped the critics and won Best Sitcom at the Baftas. Were the Brits laughing at us or with us?

We have oil fields and are rich beyond our wildest dreams.

The waters off Cork and Dublin are awash with the black stuff. Hurrah! Hump off, Troika, we’re saved!

Actually, we’re not. Ray Burke, a man you wouldn’t trust with his own wallet, signed away our oil rights years ago. Get back in the dole queue, Paddy.

We learned to understand Dublinese.

Thanks to Love/Hate, you can’t walk into a posh pub in Montenotti or Dalkey these days without hearing some yuppy attempting to talk like Nidge or Frano.

 “Gis a bleedin’ pint of Pinot Grigio or I’ll bleedin’ burst youse, youse geebags, youse.”

‘Geebag’, by the way, is Dublinese for ‘windbag’ (from the Irish ‘gaoth/wind + bag’). Honestly.

That pop stars, like property bubbles, can go pop too

In June, Westlife’s Shane Filan was declared bankrupt in England after his property development company (which is based here) went into receivership. Shane filed in England. This meant that his business wings have been clipped for just one year, as opposed to three-plus.

We also learned that he’s a headline writer’s dream. Shane’s ‘Filan’ for bankruptcy. Too easy.

We learned just how much we loved Maeve Binchy.

Fans from around the world attended the author’s funeral in Dublin in August. The only flowers were a spray of special roses placed on her coffin called ‘Rosa Gordon Snell’. Maeve had had the variety named after her husband as a gift.

If that’s not true love…

We learned just how much we loved Barney McKenna.

Barney passed away in April, leaving a banjo-shaped void in Irish folk music. His death marked the end of The Dubliners after 50 years on the road.

He’s now skulling pints with Ronnie and Luke in God’s saloon bar. And probably giving out about the 10c price hike.

That beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

China’s People’s Daily newspaper ran a mammoth photo spread of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un after a US website declared him The Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.

 “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-born heart-throb is every woman’s dream come true,” the paper quoted the website as saying. There were a few red faces when it was later pointed out that the source quoted was the satirical, The Onion website.

That timing is everything when you’re flashing your boobs.

Unfortunately for Rosanna Davison, her ‘tasteful’ shoot for German Playboy was overshadowed by the brouhaha over Kate Middleton’s baps being snapped by a pap.

Worse still for Rosie, Prince Harry then got in on the act and appeared butt naked in a Vegas hotel room. Poor Rosanna, her ‘flash’ turned out to be just a flash in the pan.

That Mick Wallace has a neck like a jockey’s undercarriage.

Wallace TD (Tax Dodger) became everybody’s favourite Pink Pariah when he admitted committing VAT fraud during 2008 and 2009.

Then there was the revelation that, while he was in trouble with the taxman, he ‘sold’ his €500k Italian vineyard to his brother. He still gets to visit it, of course. Mick’s not fond of VAT, apparently, unless it’s a vat of Italian wine.

Mick surpassed himself  in October, however, when he told RTÉ that he once “threatened to hire a hitman to recover an IR£20,000 debt from a building firm”. It’s time he bit the bullet himself.

That, in December, we wouldn’t be able to remember who Mary Davis was.

Clue: she ran against Gay Mitchell (remember him?) and others in a big election during the summer.

That Twink just won’t zip up her gob about her lovelife.

November saw the launch of the ‘entertainer’s’ autobiography, detailing (yawn) the break-up of her marriage. The Sun ran extracts and its readers were treated to the nightmare vision of Twink wrestling in the snow with a ski instructor named ‘Willie’. In terms of sexiness, it’s up there with listening to your mother talk about the night you were conceived.

 “In a weird way, I am writing this book for the women of Ireland,” says Twink. Which begs the question: ‘why?’

That Monday nights won’t be the same without Bill Cullen.

TV3’s ‘The Apprentice’ has been scrapped , his car dealership is up the Swanee, and poor Bill is down to the last of his penny apples.

Bounce back Bill, the country needs you.

We learned that Irishwomen like porn almost as much as teenage boys.

Fifty Shades of Grey, combined with the anonymity of the Kindle, meant that Irish mammies could finally do the shopping, drop the kids off, get the bus to work, and read about bondage all at the same time.

Is there any greater proof that women are better multi-taskers than men?

We learned that rats really do desert sinking ships (1).

In January, skipper Francesco Schettino abandoned the Costa Concordia after it ran aground. Thirty two lives were lost.

Captain Chicken now plans to reveal “the shocking truth” of what really happened that night in a book he’s writing. Initial reports didn’t make it clear what he would do with the profits from his book. You can’t buy a pair of goolies, can you?

We learned that rats really do desert sinking ships (2). Did we mention Peter Darragh Quinn fled across the border to evade a garda warrant?

We also learned that… Dr James Reilly has the bedside manner of a grizzly bear with piles (ask Roisin Shortall). He also has a huge mansion in Moneygall which he and his wife hire out for weddings… while receiving tax breaks for its maintenance.

We learned that the wife of Our Glorious Deputy Leader, Eamon Gilmore, is to get a new job worth at least €92,000 in Ruairi Quinn’s department when her current post with the VEC is abolished next year. No, Eamon had absolutely nothing to do with it.

That property tax enforcer, Phil Hogan, couldn’t stand the heat of the Budget… but he could stand the heat of Qatar. While we were crying into our empty wine glasses, Phil was photographed socialising in a hotel bar. The trip was expected to cost €30,000. That’s enough to reverse the €325 cut to the respite carer’s grant for 92 families.

We learned that Seanie Fitz is still free to play golf. That the US bankruptcy trial of his Anglo colleague, David Drumm, has been postponed by five months to the end of June 2013. That, basically, the wheels of justice move slower for rogue bankers than they do for you and I.

That the days of wine and roses are truly over. Sod the roses, why did Noonan have to  tack an extra euro on our beloved plonk?

If 2012 taught us anything, it was this: that nothing ever changes on this damp little rock in the Atlantic. When it comes to politics, money and natural justice, the Irish still have a lot to learn.

 

 

Reasons to be cheerful (kind of)

Examiner Magazine, Saturday October 27

The clocks go back tonight, marking the official onset of winter. Think of it: weeks of trudging home from work in the dark, with the rain lashing down, and The Worst Budget Ever hovering over your head.

It can’t get much gloomier, can it?

Impossible as it may seem, there are loads of things to be cheerful about as we face into the bleak mid-winter and beyond. It was a struggle, but we’ve compiled a list of them.

The old favourites

With the aid of social media gurus, 2FM’s Rick O’Shea and Storyful’s Gareth O’Connor, we asked 60,000 Twitterers to suggest reasons to be cheerful this winter.

The top replies were: ‘drinking hot port by a log fire, fresh mornings, and being snowed into the pub’. There were also ‘autumn leaves, meaty casseroles, electric blankets, snuggling up, cosy cardigans and Ugg boots’ (seriously).

Facebook threw up a personal favourite: ‘waking up after December 5 and not having to listen to pre-Budget submissions on Mourning Ireland’.

The weather

Whatever you say about Ireland’s climate, you have to admit it’s consistent. Consistently awful. Remember the summer? Of course you don’t. We didn’t have one.

The worst thing about summer is the anticipation that it might turn out nice. This is followed by a feeling of overwhelming despair as you watch the barbecue float off down the garden during a cloudburst.

At least with winter, you know what you’re getting: rain and wind, with the faint possibility of snow. Expect a rubbish winter and every fine day is a bonus.

The good news is that you’ll finally get to wear those Yak Tracks you bought last year. Remember how everyone stocked up on salt and shoe grips and it failed to snow? Snow’s on the way for mid December and February, apparently.

Look on the brighter side

On December 21, New Agers will celebrate the Winter Equinox, known to the rest of us as The Shortest Day of the Year. This means that in less than two months’ time … the days start getting longer again.

Winter TV is better than Summer TV

With the exception of last summer – due to the Olympics and the soccer – mid-year telly is valium for the eyes. This is because schedulers believe we have better things to do in summer than watch TV.

As a result, we’re forced to watch repeats of repeats of repeats on TV3. ‘Ireland’s Dream Debs REVISITED’ has actually been aired twice in the past few months. RTE’s not much better, pumping out US schlock like The Mentalist the same way it used to barf up Mannix repeats.

Now winter’s here and we finally have some good TV on our screens. There’s the new series of Homeland and Grey’s Anatomy to enjoy. And Downton Abbey, among other gems.

We also have The Toy Show to look forward to. Last year, it was watched by 1,528,000 people – the highest viewership of any programme for the past 17 years.

The summer’s biggest TV draw was the Eurovision. I rest my case….

Winter clothes are nicer than summer clothes

You might not agree with that if you’re a skinny young thing who likes to wear revealing clothes. For the majority of us, however, winter attire covers up a multitude of bumps, lumps and saggy bits. Think sloppy jumpers, cosy coats and boots…

Hallowe’en

Everyone loves Hallowe’en. It’s a great excuse to dress up and get drunk at houseparties. Best of all, you can pretend “it’s all about the children” as they roam the neighbourhood demanding sweets with menaces, or setting fire to sheds.

Here’s a Handy Hallowe’en tip: steal half of your kids’ chocolate ‘trick-or-treats’. Stick them in the old Quality Street tin you keep your biscuits in and give them to someone as a Christmas present. Or back to the kids as a ‘special’ selection box.

How’s that for cheery?

Christmas

The good news is that this year Christmas Eve falls on a Monday. This means that most of us will get a decent break: finishing work on Friday the 21st and not returning until Thursday the 27th. That’s if you have a job, of course.

Let’s not be glib. Christmas will be bleak, especially for families on the breadline. However, there is one positive side to it. According to the CSO, 87,100 people emigrated from Ireland between April 2011 and April 2012. Mums and dads all over the country will be looking forward to seeing their emigrant children return from abroad.

Then, after all the usual seasonal rows, they’ll be glad to see the back of them as they head off Down Under again. It’s a win-win situation.

Good news if you’re planning to emigrate:

It’s summer in Australia.

The lunatics are taking over the asylum

Ireland is taking over the EU presidency in 2013. What are the Germans up to? They don’t trust us with our own economy, but they trust us to be in charge of the EU??

Is this some cunning German plan to finally destroy Europe? Are they hoping that the Paddies will achieve what two world wars couldn’t? Possibly.

Beating Simon Cowell

Last November, @BrendaDrumm suggested doing a Twitter-sourced charity Christmas single. Her tweet went viral and, weeks later, over 100 strangers met up in Dublin to record Winter Song. It reached No 1 in the iTunes charts, keeping Cowell and Co off the top spot.

It’s happening again this year, which is brilliant news for all of us who HATE X Factor. It’s open to everyone and is an opportunity to spread a little Crimbo cheer. #twitterxmassingle

Flooding in the west

Winter’s just begun and already the floods have started. Here’s a suggestion: if there’s any repeat of 2009’s Galway floods, we should consider selling the county to the US.

Disney could reopen it as the world’s biggest water theme park and call it ‘Pirates of The Corrib’. Just joking. Sorry.

The Gathering

Ta siad ag teacht! Ta siad ag teacht! We may be penniless now, but next year 100s of thousands of tourists will descend on the Emerald Oisle, ready to be fleeced.

Here’s an idea: let’s seal the borders and mug them. Or if you think that’s too harsh, let’s charge them a €1,000 levy to get out again.

We’re not Greece

No matter how bad things get, we’ll never be as out-of-favour as the rioting Greeks. We Paddies don’t do rioting. We don’t have the weather for it. The closest we’ve come to a riot in recent years was the medical card protest where our grannies waved flasks of tea and umbrellas at Leinster House. For this reason alone, Europe loves us.

2013 may be the year that Greece leaves/is booted out of the Eurozone. This may not break up the Eurozone, but it will break up the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain). We’ll then be known as the PIS. Lovely, isn’t it. We’ll be PIS-poor in every sense.

Phil Hogan

Angry at being told you have to pay tax on your stamp-dutied, negative-equity home? Here’s some news to cheer you up. Phil Hogan has found himself in the septic tank over a property deal.

Last week, a British tabloid revealed that Big Phil lost €100k on the sale of a D4 house he bought in 2004 with a loan from Michael Fingleton.

Now you know what it feels like, Phil.

Cardboard bikes for Christmas

We’re not making this up. An Israeli inventor has created the first bike made of cardboard. Izhar Gafni developed a process that makes it waterproof and sturdy enough to withstand the worst of the Irish winter. Best of all, it will retail for about €20 – great news for the unemployed and self-employed.

But why stop with bikes? We could use the same technology to create fold-up cardboard houses. Thinking of emigrating? Why not take your house with you? The slogan could be ‘The Cardboard Home: don’t leave home without it’.

Failing that, we could just waterproof the cardboard boxes that many will be living in come the New post-budget Year.

Cheer up, we’re all doomed

No matter how bad the December 5 budget is, it won’t be the end of the world. That takes place two weeks later. According to an ancient Mayan prophecy, the Apocalypse is going to happen on December 21.

So cheer up, come Christmas, none of us will be around any more to moan about how miserable life is.

Brownies bag an Emmy nomination for Octonauts

Irish Examiner 10 October 2012

By Dave Kenny

 

Two Irish-made children’s animation series have been nominated for Emmy awards.

Brown Bag Films’ ‘The Octonauts’, and Boulder Media’s ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’ will lead the charge for Ireland at the inaugural International Emmy Kids Awards next February.

The hugely popular ‘Octonauts’, which is made in Smithfield, Dublin, has been named in the Preschool category. It is pitted against nominations from Argentina, South Korea and Norway.

Brown Bag already has two Oscar nominations to its name for ‘Give Up Yer Aul’ Sins’ (2002) and ‘Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty’ (2010). The ‘Octonauts’ – which features the underwater adventures of a team of cuddly animal explorers – was also nominated for Bafta and Ifta awards in 2011.

‘The Amazing World of Gumball’, made by Dublin-based Boulder Media for Turner Broadcasting UK, features the exploits of a 12-year-old cat named Gumball and his family in the town of Elmore. It’s nominated in the Kids Animation category.

Brown Bag Films’ founders, Cathal Gaffney and Darragh ‘Doc’ O’Connell, told the Irish Examiner that they were delighted at the announcement, which was made in Cannes on Monday night.

“We’re ordering in some cake to the office today to celebrate,” joked O’Connell, who directs ‘The Octonauts’.

“It’s been brilliant working on the series, although some of my friends want to throttle me now that their kids have become obsessed with it. They’ve no room on the Skybox for ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Homeland’ because it’s all taken up with Octonauts to appease the little ones.

“The creators, Meomi, have been tough people to please because they have such high standards and are amazingly talented artists. We’ve always had to make sure our socks are well pulled-up in order to make them happy.

“Kurt and Adam from producers, Silvergate Media, have been amazing as well, always ready to work through problems with us. They completely understand when they need to trust us and let us get on with things.

“The head writer, Stephanie Simpson, is great at accepting feedback on the storytelling, so we can find ways to tell the best story visually, without ever compromising on quality. Having the head writer on your side can save a lot of heartache further down the road when you’re in the thick of production.

“One of the proudest moments of my career to-date was watching my little boy dancing to the theme tune when he first heard it on TV. It was pure magic.”

O’Connell’s Brown Bag partner, Cathal Gaffney, was in Cannes when he received the news.

“It’s great for Brown Bag Films,” he told the Irish Examiner, “and a real thumbs-up for the Irish animation industry in general.

“The nomination should be another reason for the government to retain the section 481 film and TV tax incentive scheme beyond 2015. Failure to do so would pose a serious risk to our ability to compete effectively for new business.”

Section 481 offers tax incentives for foreign producers to make films and TV programmes in Ireland. The Octonauts is made here by Brown Bag Films and produced by Silvergate Media for the BBC. The programme  is watched by millions of children around the world.

Brown Bag’s most recent Disney series, Doc McStuffins, has attracted almost five million viewers and debuted here last week. It’s already the top-rated pre-school show in the US.

A second season is already in production, while its version of Irish writer, Niamh Sharkey’s, Happy Hugglemonsters will air for Disney Junior in over 150 countries this autumn.

The 2013 International Emmy Kids Awards Gala takes place in New York on February 8.