Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hammersmith Irish book fair (and some rugby)

Made the trip west today to catch the Irish book fair at Hammersmith. As well as enriching my personal library with a few second hand Flann O'Briens and a Spike Milligan to add to the nascent collection I attended two highly entertaining readings by the writers Billy Keane and Patrick McCabe.

Billy Keane, son of the famous John B. read amusing snippets from his book The Last of the Heroes, a semi-biographical novel of family life in rural Kerry, which went down well with the assembled throng.

As a wearer of many hats - raconteur, wit, publican, columnist, ex-solicitor and Kerryman - Keane seems to have incorporated his experiences into his writings. Of particular note was his observation that the ideal training for a writer is to work behind a bar. That way people tell you things (in some cases depending on the level of alcohol consumed some very intimate details of their personal lives), you hear the local gossip and get to know all sorts of colourful characters. Then you can base the characters in your novels on them. Maybe I should jack in the legal research and get a job at my local.

Being conscious of the time Billy was keen (no pun intended - well, actually, yes it was intended) not to overrun so as to let the punters catch the Ireland v Scotland Six Nations rugby match. He was after all "officially" at Lansdowne Road (not at a book fair in London) to cover the game for his column in the Irish Independent.

Although I am somewhat familar with the writings of both John B. and Fergal Keane, I hadn't seen any of Billy's work. However I was suitably impressed by his readings and impromptu wit that I joined the queue of elderly women to purchase a signed copy of Last of the Heroes.
"Have we met before?" he asked as he signed his best wished on the title page. I have to say I was flattered, but have to think this over for a second. I've certainly never been down Listowel way. Did I offer him condolences at last year's All Ireland final? Had he seen my picture on the site? Maybe he'd stumbled across it by accident when looking on Google for information on the REM sleep patterns of armadillos. "I don't think so", I replied, but I did mention the blog and mooted the possibility of writing a glowing review of the book - so watch this space!

So unlike Peter Canavan and "The Gooch" Cooper, there was no bad blood between the Kerryman and the Tyroneman on this occasion.

Next up was Pat McCabe, author of many novels, two of which - The Butcher Boy and more recently Breakfast on Pluto have been made into films. McCabe displayed his writing skills and his flair for accents, not to mention acting prowess through various readings from his works.

Having scrapped my original plan to catch some of the Australian Film Festival at the Barbican, I made an early exit to a local alehouse for the second half of the rugby match - the one that Billy Keane was supposed to be covering for the Indo. So courtesy of the BBC, I was transported virtually from an overcast Hammersmith to the pissing rain of Lansdowne Road to witness Ireland's hard earned victory in a tense match. Despite Andrew Trimble's valiant attempt to strike a blow for Ulster the game was to remain tryless. So, nice try Andrew - even though it wasn't!
How fitting it was for the last Six Nations match at Lansdowne Road before the action switches to Croke Park next year, that the game should end with Ireland on course for the Triple Crown and possibly the Six Nations title.

1 comment: said...

Lovely piece.Up the Kingdom