Mum, Dad, and I pulled into the car park at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children at around lunchtime. The three of us prepared to plod the familiar walk to St John’s Ward. I paused just before entering the hospital, and let my parents move a few steps ahead. I looked out over the car park, and breathed in deeply. I knew this would be my last breath of fresh air for a long time. ‘Ben?’ my mum called, from beyond the hospital doors. I turned. ‘I’m coming,’ I said.
‘I thought the press coverage of the 2000 election was horribly biased against George W. Bush’, says John. ‘It was clear as a bell that Bush had won the election and that Gore was trying to steal the election with the help of the ultra-liberal Florida State Supreme Court. As the controversy over the elections dragged on and on, I became more and more disillusioned with how the media was covering it. The breaking point for me came when I was watching TV and a viewer commented that Bush should concede. Concede? Concede?! The votes had been counted multiple times and he had never been behind! That was the moment I decided to create a conservative website…
It’s nice to get away from it all. Last March, my dad announced that he was slipping off to Killarney for three days to the annual Chartered Accountants in Practice conference. Thinking my cries would be in vain, I pleaded with him to take me too, so I could get a break from my satisfying-yet-tedious year-out home-bound book-writing.
Well, we had the book launch just under two weeks ago and copies have now started trickling onto the shelves. It was quite a thrill to see it in the Irish Biography section of Waterstone’s the other day. I felt like saying to the other browsers around me: ‘Hey – THAT’S MY BOOK! I WROTE IT!! WHY AREN’T YOU BUYING IT??!!!’
AROUND EIGHT O’CLOCK, it starts to get crowded. I’ve been sitting here, with my bottle of Miller and my Newsweek, for quite a while. In this Connemara pub, I couldn’t look more like a blow-in if I had orange ears and five eyes.
But that doesn’t matter. I know, because I’ve been coming to Paddy Coyne’s in Tullycross for years, sitting by the fire in the cosy front room. I still smile when I see the sign over the bar: “No Credit Given to Women” (beside it there is one that reads simply, “No Credit”). Wednesday is the best night here.
As I finish my beer, summer tourists are drifting in – a French family, an English family, some Italian students . . . They come in the front door and go out the back, brushing past the nonplussed locals. Some of the locals get up and join them. Different accents and languages are heard in the queue to leave. Everyone (except children) pays €5 to walk out of the pub.
Outside, there is a small blackboard with “Smoking Area” chalked on to it, and a sign pointing towards the “Beer Garden”. Tonight, however, there is no beer garden. Under the hanging baskets and the old beer ads, there is a stage.
‘There were two big influences in my childhood that made me want to become a writer’, he begins. One of these was ‘an alcoholic schoolteacher’, in Bill’s primary school in Waterford, who used to get Bill books to read: ‘It was very difficult to get books in the country at that time. I was born in ’32, so I’m now talking about [the late ’30s and early ’40s]. We didn’t have a county library then, and the National Library, they didn’t send a van around…’
‘I think this is crap, basically,’ John Douglas said to me. The ex-English teacher and I were sitting at opposite ends of the kitchen table in my parents’ house in Connemara, Co. Galway. It was well into the night, and we both had copies of the second draft of my book, Two in a Million, open in front of us. This was the third night in a row that John had come to the house to go through his ‘notes’ on my draft. He was currently cutting into a section where I apparently sounded like ‘Prince Charles describing his day’.
Two in a Million describes what it’s like to live with a life-threatening illness, to undergo a life-saving procedure, to recover slowly and try to live normally as a student in Dublin. Told with humour and honesty, this is a remarkable story.
And this is why Snape is the most remarkable hero in the Harry Potter novels. Dumbledore once told Harry that it is our choices, far more than our abilities, that define us. Though his love was also the greatest pain of his life, Snape chose to honour it, and saves everybody.
Perhaps that is the finest achievement of director Bryan Singer’s 2006 movie Superman Returns – showing us Superman’s pain. How do you find problems for a guy who can stop bullets? Superman’s greatest challenge isn’t kryptonite, it’s being Superman – bearing that responsibility.