Dr Tom Clonan is a columnist, broadcaster, security analyst, feminist and advocate for disabilty and a retired Army Captain. A calm and reasoned commentator, his take on where we are in this pandemic might just cheer you up.
He also has some cracking book, podcast and viewing recommendations which are listed below. Enjoy. And if you do, please share.
Tom’s recommended read : The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
Tom’s podcast recommendation : The Nobody Zone by RTE and Louis Theroux podcast, Grounded especially the episode with Ruby Wax
Tom’s viewing recommendations : Deuthscland ’86 available on All Four.
Mary Coughlan is one of Ireland’s most respected singers with a worldwide reputation. She joined me and talked about her journey to heal and to find confidence through connection with the land and being a medicine woman. Mary is the embodiment of a wise crone. You will enjoy this….
Columnist and broadcaster, Sarah Carey joined me this week for my How To Stay Sane Webcast.
She had some cracking book suggestions along with interesting radio programme suggestions too. And yes, of course, we talked about Bridgerton.
We didn’t get to all Sarah’s book suggestions but she kindly sent them on and here they are:
East West Street by Philippe Sands,
On Identity, Violence and the need to belong by Amin Mahlouf
Dominion, How Christianity Shaped the Western mind by Tom Holland
The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James.
What Sarah called her ‘Spinster Lit’ recommendations
She recommends all the books of Barbara Pym, Muriel Spark and Anita Brookner
She also recommends Nancy Mitford who she says is a hoot.
Other favourites are The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen which she says are one of the most beautiful poetic books I’ve ever read. And other poetry such as Lullaby by WH Auden and ‘What Auden Can Do For You’ by Alexander McCall Smith. And Heaney’s The Cure At Troy
Also recommend On Kindness by Adam Philips, the famous British psychonalyst
Radio and Podcasts
Backlisted podcast – Brings new life to old books. It’s a joy.
Drama on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra -right now listening to Hercule Poirot!
The Archers BBC Radio 4
Soul Music (BBC Radio 4)
In Our Time ( BBCR4)
Delusions (short series on BBC Radio 4 you should be able to find it)
Communications expert, author and commentator, Terry Prone joined me for the last of my How To Stay Sane webcasts of this year…. and what a great guest she was. Not only are there some really great book suggestions but you will learn of the many uses of WD40.
Click the link into YouTube to watch.
Terry Prone’s Full List of Book Suggestions:
Isaac’s Storm Eric Larson Vintage 1999
Working Stiff Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell Scribner 2014
Painted Ladies Robert B. Parker Putnam 2010
Becoming Nicole Amy Ellis Nutt Random House
That’s What SHE Said Joanne Lipman Morrow 2018
Digital Minimalism Cal Newport Portfolio Penguin 2019
Holding Graham Norton Hodder&Stoughton 2016
The Pandemic Century Mark Honigsbaum Penguin 2019
Hidden Valley Road Robert Kolker Quercus 2020
Breaking and Mending Joanna Cannon Profile Books 2019 Published in association with the Wellcome Collection
The Beauty in Breaking Michele Harper Riverhead Books 2020
Group Think Christopher Booker Bloomsbury 2020
A Guarded Life Majella Moynihan, Aoife Kelleher Hachette 2020
Force of Nature Jane Harper Little, Brown 2017
Last Witnesses Svetlana Alexievich Penguin 2019
Here’s the Story Mary McAleese Penguin/Sandycove 2020
The Nothing Man Catherine Ryan Howard Blackstone 2020
The Psychiatrist in the Chair Muiris Houston/Brendan Kelly Merrion Press 2020
Outline Rachel Cusk Faber&Faber, 2014
Our Little Cruelties Liz Nugent Penguin 2020
Three Hours Rosamund Lipton Penguin 2020
Ghosts Dolly Alderton Penguin 2020
Monogamy Sue Miller Bloomsbury 2020
Invisible Women Caroline Criado Perez Vintage 2019
My guest this week is Bill Hughes, legendary TV Producer who has made over 1000 hours of music, arts, entertainment and documentary television since he began his career in the 1980s. He began his TV career in 1985 with the ground breaking MT USA which was the first music video programme in Europe. More recently, his company Mind The Gap Films was behind the very popular ‘Cutting Edge’ on RTE.
Bill had some really great recommendations for your entertainment in books, music and film. Enjoy.
Bill’s Book Recommendations:
The Hearts Invisible Furies, by John Boyne
That Glimpse of Truth – 100 of the finest short stories ever written, chosen by David Miller
Fabulosa – The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language.
And my book choice this week is Lady In Waiting by Anne Glenconner.
Bill’s Listening Recommendations:
The box set of The Collected Poems of Seamus Heaney from RTE
Jessye Norman – Four Last Songs
Passion by Stephen Sondheim
Bill’s Movie Recommendations:
Little Women – the recent version with Saoirse Ronan
This week’s guest is writer and commentator Felicity Hayes McCoy who joined me from her home deep in the heart of the Dingle Peninsula in Kerry. More great book suggestions and an interesting idea for your Christmas Tree.
Today I began a new weekly webcast which will be broadcast every Wednesday at 4:15pm on Twitter and YouTube. This is the link to the first episode with my first guinea pig… sorry guest, Caroline Grace Cassidy.
Some recommendations for books, podcasts, movies and other craic. I hope you enjoy.
What is it about baking? It has been my ‘go to’ activity when stressed for decades. I first realised this about 15 years ago. We were on our way to Bray, I was driving, the kids who were small, were in the back and we were involved in a kind of pile up on the N11. It wasn’t very serious but it was scary. Ambulance men peering in at us through the windows, talking to each of my girls to make sure we were all OK. I was still shaking when we got home. But I went straight into the kitchen and began to bake. I remember my husband being somewhere between appalled and fascinated by my reaction. But when I can’t make sense of the world, I bake.
The magic of turning a bowl of slop into a feathery, fabulous confection is something perhaps deeply embedded in our female bones. It carries with it comfort from our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers. It can bring you right back to your childhood kitchen as you become enveloped in the sweet aroma of cake rising in the oven. And then of course there’s the delicious anticipation of tasting the results of your labours.
Baking also got me into a fair amount of trouble over the years. I became what I ate until I resembled a large cake myself and gave myself diabetes. So, my baking days are largely over, reserved now for state occasions and bonfire nights only. I have replaced regular baking with gin… but sin scéal eile.
However, the next best thing to actual baking is watching the sublime, gentle, Great British Bake Off which finally made a welcome return to our screens recently. Of course, I was always a fan of the Bake Off but this year its return is akin to seeing a hunky fireman coming to rescue you from a burning building. The relief is almost overwhelming. An hour of guileless entertainment that (and a huge thank you to the producers for this) is completely Covid-19 free.
We live in interesting times and that’s for sure. Well, I say interesting because I am trying to remain as positive as possible. But you know and I know, that what I actually mean is stressful. Pandemic life is stressful. We are all getting tired and fed up. It’s worrying and it’s hard. Very hard. All of which is why The Great British Bake Off shines forth like a beacon of light and fluffiness in a sea of our stewed and rancid emotions.
So, it was with great anticipation that I snuggled down on the sofa to begin to get to know this year’s crop of participants. As usual they were a motley crew of quirky but essentially nice people. People for whom the fact that this is a competition is a by the way. They help each other, advise each other, congratulate each other and urge each other on.
This year when nothing is as it was, the Bake Off remains unchanged. Contestants hug and are close to each other. There are no Perspex screens, no oceans of sanitizer, no masks. No mention of corona virus at all except to explain how they had achieved this miracle by the contestants having moved into the Bake Off village for the duration of filming. Oh glory alleluia. It’s like a peek into a nirvana that for now we can only dream of. And all in a pastel hued tent in the middle of the glorious countryside.
The Bake Off is as indulgent as a good Victoria Sponge. The jokes are gently seasoned with some double entendre to add a hint of spice. There is no shouting and bawling. No making a holy show of someone when their best efforts turn out disastrously. And best of all, no tragic back stories designed to make the audience cry.
Anyway, I know that none of this is an accident. It’s all part of the brand but it’s a brand that I not only like but this year feel I need as part of my personal armoury to keep me sane in this mad world in which we find ourselves.
The hour spent watching nice people try to bake, sometimes very ambitious confections is a salve to our overheated heads. And it’s great that they do the baking, so you don’t have to. Lessing the stress of our lives without adding the calories.
One hundred years ago, on the 26th of June 1920, one of the most extraordinary events of the War of Independence began to unfold on the banks of the beautiful River Blackwater just outside the north Cork town of Fermoy.
Fermoy was a major garrison town and the local IRA had intelligence that the most senior officer, General Lucas, had planned a day fishing on the river with two other officers. It was decided to mount a kidnap operation to take Lucas hostage in exchange for IRA prisoners held in Cork jail including Michael Fitzgerald, who was on hunger strike..
The first part of the operation was a success and Lucas along with Colonel Dunford of the Royal Artillery and Colonel Tyrrell of the Royal Engineers were successfully captured by the IRA men who told then they would be held pending further instructions from IRA HQ. In order to make a swift getaway from the scene, the IRA,who had their own car, also took the British touring car and split into the groups and headed away in convoy. One of the IRA volunteers, George Power’s witness statement provides us with a detailed account of what happened next:
“Lucas and Dunford held a brief conversation in a strange language, subsequently discovered to be Arabic and, at a pre-arranged signal between them, they sprang simultaneously on Lynch and Clancy. The attack was so sudden that the I.R.A. officers were at first taken at a disadvantage and almost disarmed before they realised what had happened. In the melee the driver lost control of the car, crashed into the ditch and rendered himself unconscious. It was, therefore, an even fight between the two British and the two I.R.A. officers.
The struggle between Lynch and Lucas was particularly severe, as both were strong-built, well-trained men, about six foot in height. In the first onslaught Lucas had got on top of Lynch, making frantic efforts to wrench the gun from him and had all but succeeded when the door of the touring car gave way. They both rolled on to the roadway, still struggling, until finally Lynch wore down his opponent and the General shouted: “I surrender”.
Meanwhile, Colonel Dunford and Paddy Clancy were fighting desperately, with Colonel Dunford on top; he had almost succeeded in throttling the I.R.A. officer when Lynch turning round, took in the situation at a glance, shouted to the British officer: “Surrender or I shoot.” but Dunford ignored the command and maintained his grip on Clancy’s throat, whereupon Lynch fired at and hit Dunford in the face, making him collapse over his opponent.
Once those in the leading car realised that something was up, they turned back. It was decided to release Tyrrell in order to attend to his comrade Dunford and one of the IRA volunteers was dispatched to fetch a local doctor. George Power also left the group to make his way immediately to Dublin to report to Michael Collins and Cathal Brugha.
In the end Lucas was held for about four weeks before he escaped or was released by the IRA.
As the granddaughter of George Power, I have been forever familiar with this story as it was one I heard many times growing up and it fascinated me. Not only did it seem to have a relative happy ending, unlike most of the stories from that period but I was also told that when free, Lucas had stated that the had been “treated like a gentleman by gentlemen.” Apparently, the IRA had sourced his favourite whiskey and made arrangements for him to correspond with his wife in England. But I always wondered if the story had become imbued with a fairy-tale element over the years: something added perhaps to protect my childish ears from the harsh reality of the situation.
But a new website, launched by the Lucas family is testament to the fact that I hadn’t been told a lie.
This website was introduced by Ruth Wheeler who is General Lucas’s granddaughter, in a letter last week to the Irish Times. www.chtl.co.uk will feature letters written by Lucan in captivity to his beloved wife who gave birth shortly after his kidnap. These letters are being released daily from 18th of June until the beginning of August. The website describes this story of the kidnapping of General Lucas as one that “unites both Irish and British sides in a shared celebration of humanity, humour, respect and basic human kindness. It is an extraordinary, true story.”
I am really delighted that the Lucas family are sharing these personal letters with a wider public because this story something special and provides us with a reassuring example of man’s humanity to his fellow man at a time of such horror and violence.
I am sure that George Power or General Lucas couldnot have ever imagined that one hundred years on from that fateful day on the banks of the beautiful river Blackwater, their respective granddaughters on either side of the Irish sea would take such heart and pride in the story.
If you have any interest in this period of Irish history I highly recommend visiting the www.chtl.co.uk website. Along with the personal letters of General Lucas quite a deal of background information is provided. All in all a wonderful treat to read every day.