The God of small things

There’s a moment in the brief exchange between John Cusack and the front-row woman when he backtracks on something she says preventing the interviewer from moving on. Responding to her question on who he would like to see play him in a film, the interviewer deflects from a fairly non-commital answer to ask if she herself is an actor. An eruption of her own laughter ensues. “Ah no, sure I’m just a mummy”. Nervous audience titter. Moving on…

“But you’re not though, are you?”, Cusack cuts in. “You’re not just a Mom”.

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(Not actual size)

She obligingly offers a quick run-through of the cliched litany of more superficial roles being a mother embodies.  Truth bending wizardry, poker-face maintenance, ‘parenting’ guru seeking missile manufacturing, baby-led led gagging reflex suffering, and so on. Nothing new in the rain-checking nor the predictable head-pat towards our ordinary heroes routine.

“Right. I think people spend too much time talking about what they’re not rather than what they are”, Cusack matter-of-factly tails off with a statement so banal on one hand, yet assembled in a way that’s not usually put. A sneaky shoulder-shrug prising open our pat take on things to see how they fall down. One that feels consistent with his knack for convincing off-kilter but on-the-nose pop philosophy of any of the outliers he has played.

And there it is. The moment I manage to steady the giddiness accelerating over days leading up to this evening from sliding into woozy dissonance from seeing him feet in front. Batting chat back and forth with an ordinariness shot through with an easy going passion for what matters. And what matters for many are the low-watt lights along our life’s arc that re-affirm the status of seemingly small things without blinding us with the certainty of big dreams.

In a world of heady obsession with status in the work place, our place along the firmament of social media, embarking on the Next Big Goal, the ephemeral nature of ‘success’, ordinariness is losing its necessary allure. In fact, I’m so ordinary,  all that’s missing in this navel led paragraph is a momentary pause to break through the fourth wall.

Oh there you are.

This John Cusack fella *points towards stage*, he thinks he is just an actor-activist guy. Nothing special. Sure, his is a life less ordinary; he knows it, we know it. He knows that we know that he knows it. But it hasn’t eroded his capacity to inhabit the regular guy with all the attendant dissections of his interior world and occasional flirtations with stretches to the perimeters of it. Relying as they do on the instruments of self-indulgence, wonky optimism, flawed curiosity, and mentoring from music.

*Turns back to the stage*

john cusack professional

Sinn Fein photobombs the professional photo (courtesty of twitter)

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My amatuer photo bombs spectacularly

He is not just the man I might’ve climbed over Dylan Moran to get to. Nor just an actor with enduring appeal. I recognise his characters now as those flickering gangway lights running along my own fanciful flights to cop-on and back over the years. Where lack of certainty is still direction, and being a fugitive from maturity is all part of the cycle. And it matters more what Bruce thinks than your line-manager.  Uplifted, I’m happy to break off from the queue lining up to meet him. To contentedly smile out the door and sing my way back to my frequently out-of-tune but thoroughly satisfying unsatisfactory life.

*credits roll*

(Press play)



“Found them. On my way” (Text to a friend while running to catch a train after losing my car keys)

“Hey” (Via muffled hug with same friend)

Two octogenarians taking in a piece of music dear to them both. The wave of emotion lapping behind their eyes, the crease of their lips threatening to blow it over the wall of their self-control (Meetings With Ivor)

“I can’t beat it” (Manchester By The Sea)

“He loved her that much, he almost told her” (Eddi Reader live – as good a raconteur as an octave-climing enthusiast)

“Please wait while your transaction is being processed” (An ATM)

” @itchybollix follows you” (Twitter)

“Red faces all round as there is a mix-up at the Oscars” (RTE News)

“I am currently out of the office with limited access to my emails” (Boss’s Auto-Reply)

“We are pleased to invite you to attend for interview…” (By post)

“She’s feeling better. They think it was just a virus. Worry over” (By text)

“Problem solved! Payment has been processed” (Email from Netflix)

“While you are away, my heart comes undone. Slowly unravels in a ball of yarn..” (Bjork at 1am as the ground is swept under my wheels)

“27th February” (Calendar)

“01:11” (Alarm clock)

“10:15” (ditto)

“Happy Birthday to you” (She to Him in top tonsil)


Two men and a CD player

The Blue Nile

Ken Sweeney’s new radio documentary on the quintessential Glaswegian band.

Great to hear a nod of recognition to Mark Cagney – the man responsible for bringing them to the radio listening masses of Ireland, including a night-time day-dreaming girl in Donegal with a smuggled transistor radio under her pillow.

Includes some acoustic Walk Across the Rooftops. Rejoice. Collapse. In equal measure.

Why did we ever come so far?


On this day, I fell in love with a song on first hearing. It helped that I was driving. And the sun was shining. And the window down. And we were on our way back from visiting a childhood friend. And she sat quietly before issuing a demand that it be turned up. And I looked at her in the rear-view looking sideways through the window with her small foot tapping at my back. And she looked back at me. And looked away again. And the music took her her way, and me mine. And when we arrived home, the same sun had slid down the back fence as it peeled the last strip of daylight away. And flung it on the earth’s bedroom floor. And finished its striptease before it made way for the moon.

Audience review

Equidistant from the bar and the bogs. That’s us. Strategic. Lined up at the critical spot where we can fully survey the audience while absorbing the sounds with a respectable three-feet radius between us and the next middle-agers. Plus the occasional reveller, though I suspect they’re just desperately trying to locate the toilets. It’s the three of us. Her, him, and me.

First half-hour:

Her: Fairly decent crowd, eh. That’s the good thing about being among our own – we’ll be spared all the cameras and phones in our faces

Me: And everyone looks like someone slightly famous

Him: ‘Nother pint? *waves empty plastic glass*

Me: Nah, thanks. Driving.

Him: What about a coffee?

He’s especially polite when he’s the one on the lash and not the designated driver.

Text from mate over at Beyoncé:  Hey!!! Lovely white clouds covering crokers!!!!

I swear the exclamation marks are a wind-up.

Middle section:

Me: There’s yer man. Erm. What’shisname. Eh no, false alarm, it just looks like somebody.

She: Everyone’s aging alright, aren’t they?

Me: I was just thinking that. And there’s a fair few much older. Although we probably share the same age category in the Census. My rule of thumb is if they are old enough to be my parent, well, they’re super oldies.

She: Andrew (her brother-in-law) will be the same age as Joanne’s (her sister) mother-in-law this year

Me: No way. He doesn’t look it. My mother-in-law is 21 years older than me. Just made it.

He: (back from toilet) Just saw Joe Brolly. Pissed.

Me: How did you know?

He: Erm. The way he was walking?

Her: There’s my old college lecturer *waves at grey-haired man smiling over* Can’t you tell he’s one, sure look at him

We both survey the shorts and sandals ensemble

Me: All that’s missing is the socks. Look! It’s Will!

Her & Him: Who’s Will?

Me: Will! From the Ray D’arcy Show! One of the funniest fuckers on radio


These people have no appreciation.

Final half hour:

We’re joined by another pair of friends. Let’s call them er.. them.

Her: I thought I saw Leo Varadkar there when I was going to the toilet

Me: Yeah, that’s him. He looks taller on the telly

One of them: He goes to my sister’s gym. Says he’s an awful poser. It’s all about being seen apparently

Her: Well, if I’d known it was him, I’d have tripped him

She’s 5ft nothing and the most polite woman in Ireland. But we’ve gotta take her word for it.

He: (returning with another pint) Just saw Aidan Gillen there at the bar

Me: Meh. He’s everywhere. And a bit self-consciously cool, is he not?

He: Well, he was in The Wire

Me:  You’re right *solemn tone* I take it back

The other one of them: I bet ya Leo is taking a selfie so he can check how many people behind recognise him

Text from my mate at Crokers: Phenomenal!

One exclamation mark. She must mean it.

John Grant: You’ve been a wonderful audience

Him:  Yes, we have been

Her: Yes, we’re still up

Him: Without the aid of any mind-altering substances

Her: Well, I had a cuppa tea

Me: And I had some chewing gum

Her to Him: Just think if you weren’t coming back again tomorrow, we could’ve gone to Coppers

Her, Him & Me: *laughs uproariously*

The following morning:

Text from Beyoncé convert: Were we not all lucky not to be poured on?????

You can take the music fan out of the middle-aged crowd……..


This audience review was brought to you in association with the wonderful John Grant from the perfectly intimate surroundings of Iveagh Gardens, Dublin.

Saturday 9th July 2016.

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John Grant takes a moment to welcome Leo Varadkar