Lockdown 2020

This blog hasn’t been updated in around five years. Time flies. This week, I was able to re-register my name as a domain. I used to own it many years ago but lost it when I didn’t pay the fees in time to retain it.

So the moral of the story – don’t put these things off.

Anyway, I’ve got it back, and that’s led to me sprucing up this site.

Like everyone else, I’m currently on week three of corona virus isolation, with the result that I have a little more time on my hands. I’ll try to upload some content here over the next few days. We’ll see what happens.

Lullaby 1989

Someone sent me a link to this earlier today and watching it again for the first time in 24 years sent shivers down my spine.

I remember this being broadcast back in 1989 – I couldn’t tell you why but I was absolutely captivated. Robert Smith so perfectly captured the sense of alienation and difference that people like me felt. Amazing and spine tingling. It’s still amazing to me that they entered into the mainstream so successfully despite being really really odd. Hard to imagine that happening now.

Later in the year that this was broadcast, I managed to nag my sister Ruth into bringing me to my first concert when the Cure played the RDS. I think I still have the ticket stub somewhere.

It’s common to hear musicians like Robert Smith talk about how significant a moment it was when they first saw Bowie on Top of The Pops as Ziggy in 1972. For me, this was just as significant a moment.

Ender’s Game


A couple of year ago, I met and got to spend some time talking to the American author Orson Scott Card. He wrote one of my all time favourite books – Ender’s Game. A science fiction classic, it’s being made into a movie due out later this year, with some heavyweight actors involved including Harrison Ford.

Card himself made a strong impression on me. To be clear, he holds some political and religious views that leave me scratching my head –  he’s fairly conservative and devout in his Mormonism – but as a writer there’s no doubt that he’s extremely talented.

It will be interesting to see how Ender’s Game is translated into a big budget movie – the main character is a small child and yet it’s a book that deals in quite adult themes. Card has apparently said that it’s a substantial rewrite from his book – but he’s smart enough not to mind. Why should he? A film doesn’t replace a book – it exists alongside the original version of the story.

When I met him, we shared a car ride for a few hours during which we talked a little about his book. I didn’t think to bring a copy along for him to sign, but with no prompting he pulled into a strip mall with a giant bookstore, bought me a copy himself and signed it. As I said, a nice guy. Sense of humour too.


Catching up & soundbites . . .

It’s been a busy couple of months, and as a result the blog has suffered. As a professional writer, blogging is something I only really do if I’m not busy – (the last thing I want to do after a long day writing is write more.) Anyway, with Christmas approaching, I’ve got some down time, so I’m going to post a bit more here.

To start with, here are some clips of interviews I’ve done recently that people might be interested in.

Nick Landers of the FT, on the rise of the celebrity chef

Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, on cutting his hair

Nigella Lawson, on her love of potatoes.

Like most journalists, I record as much as possible when interviewing people. This makes transcribing interview notes much easier, and also means that I can be sure I’ve represented my interview subjects properly. I’ve been doing this for years, and have enormous amounts of audio data on my main work PC. It only recently occured to me that people might be interested in hearing snippets from there. Most of these are tounge-in-cheek excerpts, but if people are interested then I will consider posting fuller versions of these interviews.

Let’s Go Disco – the launch

So on Wednesday night we had the launch of Let’s Go Disco, with a party at the Cliff Townhouse on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Excuse me in advance, but there will quite a few superlatives in this blog post – I don’t see a way around them, and if you can’t express pride at a book launch for a book your very proud of, then when can you?

Around 130 people squashed into the dining room of the Townhouse, quaffed saffron-flavoured prosecco, Hendricks gin and tonics made with juniper-flavoured ice cubes and canapés drawn from the recipes in the book. Three large plasma screens showed off high definition pictures from the book, as well as the video clip Shane O’Neill made especially for the occasion, and the book was officially launched by guest of honour Derek Bulmer.

Adriaan Bartels, general manager of the Cliffhouse Hotel in Ardmore gave the introduction, Martijn gave a touching speech about the project and the importance of the team that lie at the heart of the House Restaurant and expressed sadness that James Rehill couldn’t be there to enjoy the evening with his colleagues.

The speeches were then finished off by the legendary Derek Bulmer. For people who don’t know who Derek is, he was the editor in chief of the Michelin Guide for the UK and Ireland for twelve years and worked as an inspector with the Guide for over 30 years. He’s the guy who decided on giving – and taking away – the much coveted stars that mean so much for the chefs and restaurants that have them. Think of any of the big names chefs in the UK or Ireland – the Hestons and Gordons of this world – he’s the guy who had the final say on awarding them their stars.

Michelin is an intriguing institution, and at a time when there seems to be a new restaurant awards taking place every month, the Guide still has a special place. I got a chance to chat to Derek for quite a while, and I could easily see how he was able to maintain his anonymity for so long – he’s a delightful, charming and totally unprepossessing guy. I would never have guessed who he was.

We are very grateful that Derek agreed to write the foreword to Let’s Go Disco, as it’s the first time he’s done that. Since he retired from the Guide two years ago, he’s been free to talk about his experiences and give interviews but amazingly he said nobody else had asked him to write a foreword.

In his speech he talked at length about his experiences in Ireland, as he came here three times a year for twenty years, racking up significant mileage driving around Ireland and dining incognito. He maintains a fondness for this country and had some very interesting things to say.

So that’s it, the book has been launched and is available to buy. I’ve updated the page on my website dedicated to the book with some photos and details on where it can be bought – for the record you can get it at receiption at the Townhouse in Dublin and the Cliffhouse in Ardmore or from the Cliffhouse website here.

Some preview copies of the book went out in digital form a few weeks ago so there will probably be some reviews or comment in the press about it. I’ll post these up as I find them and try to maintain a web presence for the book going forward. On Twitter, the hashtag #letsgodisco has seen a fair bit of activity in the last few days so if you’re interested, you can go check that out.

Otherwise, please buy a copy and enjoy it.

Electric Picnic 2012

So my first Electric Picnic has come and gone, and before too much time passes, I want to put down some thoughts. First up, it was the first time I’ve camped at a Festival since 1992 (Feile 92!) and while it was great fun, I have no idea why people over the age of 23 or so think camping is a good idea. I seem to be in a minority on this one, as everyone I was with seemed to love it. Anyway . . .

It’s a really impressive festival, with so much going on that actually, you really could spend three days being fully entertained by talks and events without ever seeing a band. I spent most of the weekend at the Theatre of Food tent. (See pics below). But as a big Cure fan, the fact the band was headlining was a big deal for me. They turned in a set that was 3hrs 20mins long, and played virtually all their singles. A smashing night, made all the more fun by getting to hook up with some of the band members beforehand. They say don’t meet your idols, but in my case, it turned out fine. The Cure seem to be a great bunch of guys. I had a brief conversation with keyboard player Roger O’Donnell (clang!!! ha ha!)  about this, remarking how nice it was to grow up with a band’s music as a semi-permanent fixture in your life, without finding out the people behind the tunes have turned into right wing tories. In the case of the Cure, a nicer bunch of rational, liberal leftie atheists you couldn’t hope to meet.

So Electric Picnic was a blast for me. Would I go back? Definitely, but I think I’d probably opt for a B&B instead of a tent.