How to Stay Sane in a Pandemic

With Rory O’Neill aka Panti Bliss

Rory O’Neill is an entertainer, a drag queen, a publican and an activist and I was delighted to welcome him to the webcast. Our conversation meandered around the decimation of the arts and live entertainment, living in a very quiet city to how Rory will be very safe in the aftermath of the apocalypse. You will enjoy this one.

Rory’s book suggestions were:

Healing Back Pain, The Mind Body Connection by John Sarno

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

And on Netflix Rory recommends Project Runway.

How To Stay Sane in a Pandemic

With Samantha Kelly aka The Tweeting Goddess

Samantha Kelly is a social media specialist, a twitter expert, a business coach and the founder of the Women’s Inspire Network which supports female entrepreneurs. She is currently working on the networks event for International Women’s Day on the 8th of March which features a great line up of speakers. https://win21refresh.heysummit.com/?fbclid=IwAR2zJwxqI-3TNPYl6r7dRngy-ZWfM_eftc3IIn5rlV6tv2rldFcEDK6pw3E#

And she is the host of #soberstpatricksday 2021.

If you want a kick of positivity and some ‘can do’ attitude, you will enjoy what she has to say.

Sam recommends Vicky Phelan’s book ‘Overcoming’

Barbara’s book recommendation is The Dutch House by Anne Pachett

Barbara also recommends Summer of Rockets on Netflix

How To Stay Sane in a Pandemic

With Tom Clonan

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.

How To Stay Sane in a Pandemic

Episode 8 : Steve Cummins

Steve Cummins is a comedian and resident host of The Laughter Lounge. He is currently one half of the very successful Zoom Party providing events virtually. See zoomparty.ie

This episode is great fun with references to my arse and a rude story about monkeys. If you need cheering up, this just might do it for you.

Oh there were some book and podcast recommendations too (listed below).

Enjoy!

Steve’s Book recommendations..

Nikki Sixx (from Motley Crue) The Heroin Diaries

Stephen King – The Dark Tower Series

Lee Child – the Jack Reacher novels

Podcast – No Such Thing As A Fish from the makers of QI.

Steve also recommended PodBean a free app for your podcast listening.

How to Stay Sane in a Pandemic

Episode 7 : SARAH CAREY

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:

Non-fiction

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.

Fiction

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)

Cautionary Tales (Tim Hartford, behavioural psychology)

Thinking Allowed (BBCR4)

If you enjoy these webcasts please share the links either on Twitter, Facebook or right here on my website.

How To Stay Sane In A Pandemic

Episode 6 with Terry Prone

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

How To Stay Sane in a Pandemic

Episode 5 with Rebecca Horan

Journalist and Broadcaster Rebecca Horan joined me for the fifth episode of my webcast and had some brilliant book recommendations.

You can watch by clicking the link into YouTube here

Rebecca’s Book Recommendations

Fleishman is in trouble by Taffy Brodesser Akner

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

On the Road by by Jack Kerouac

City of girls by Elisabeth Gilbert

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power

Rafa by John Carlin and Rafa Nadal

Barbara’s book recommendation – Away With The Penguins by Hazel Prior

How To Stay Sane in a Pandemic

Episode 4 with TV Producer, Bill Hughes.

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

The Women – from 1939. Avail on DVD.

The Covid Diaries 7

What is it about baking?

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. 

Kidnap on the Blackwater

26th June 1920

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..

General Lucas

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.

George Power

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.”

General Lucas in captivity

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.

POSTSCRIPT

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.