Washington DC – The New Rome

The most amazing thing about Washington DC for me was how much it reminded me of Rome – Rome as it once was, that is. All the buildings (around the National Mall especially) were so Roman, with friezes and thick columns (in a strange mix of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) rising up above grand sets of steps. Huge domes in the middle, reaching skyward towards the gods, pregnant with glory. Full of the symbolic grandeur of Rome (and ancient Greece before it). Pale stone, clean and imposing, shining in sunlight. Huge lettering on the outside, massive doors for entry.

I Love America

I love America and I love Americans. I love coming to The US and I’ve been coming here since 1987 which was my first trip away with Ciara – to the great capital of the world, New York City. The heat in Hell’s Kitchen in July was tough. I remember that small room in Brian’s apartment and waiting for the fan to turn again and breathe its sweet momentary coolness over us. But the city blew my mind and I’ve been back many times since. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

On Airports and First Impressions of DC

On Airports I used to describe Heathrow Airport as ‘the worst place in the world’. That was when I travelled a bit for work and I’d often be sent through Heathrow. That was the time when you had to walk over two roads and into another county to get to the specific far-away-as-possible little terminal (that we christened Paddyland) to get to flights home. I wasn’t comfortable in airports generally that time, it wasn’t just Heathrow.

The Lobby, Du Pont Hotel, Early Morning

I’m sitting in the lobby of the Du Pont Hotel at Du Pont Circle, Washington DC. It’s the first morning of a few weeks in Trumpland. It’s early, very early. Jet lag. I think jet lag is a good term because the time zone your body thinks it’s in lags behind (in my case five hours behind) the time zone you actually inhabit. And you’re caught in the middle – a laggard. Neither here nor there. Hence the early morning writing in a hotel lobby, while besuited briefcased men and women power walk out the door towards whatever important issues await their attention in the command and control capital of the world. Also, the hotel provides free ‘coffee’, in the mornings; or more importantly, free ‘hot’ water for me to dunk my Barry’s Tea bag into.

Sport and Fiction 3: Not Art by Péter Esterházy

Not Art, like all good sports fiction, isn’t about sport and in many ways it isn’t even a novel. It’s a piece of autofiction by a man writing about his mother. A mother who is besotted by football and by one practitioner in particular, the great Ferenc Puskás of Hungary. Esterházy is an interesting character, coming from an aristocratic family, and considered a major European novelist. His brother was a professional footballer and Péter himself played a bit.

Good Friday, 2018. Reminders of Dermot.

The day has greyed over from the sunny frost of early morning when I go out to the car. A discomfort in the cold northerly wind, its bite on my face. I don’t close my coat. Colum phones just as I am parking on Cove Street, and we talk a bit about work. He’s trying to contact Eileen to call up to her before he heads home to South Kerry. Which is a reminder of Dermot, not that I need one. I’ve been trying to write something about his funeral – only four days ago, which is as impossible to believe as the fact that he’s gone. Trying and failing; the words – nebulous to begin with – wisping to nothing somewhere between my mind and my useless fingers on the keyboard.

Sport and Fiction 2: The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder

This is one of the most interesting sports fiction books I’ve read. Like the best books in the genre, it isn’t about the sport in question at all – well it’s about a few elements of it: ritual, memory/nostalgia, and repetition. These are key elements of all sport and some of the reasons why we watch and participate in sport. They shouldn’t be underestimated.

Super Bowl LII – Aw or Awe?

There’s an old story about John Wayne. Probably apocryphal. John played a Roman centurion in the movie The Greatest Story Ever Told, an American film from 1965 produced and directed by George Stevens. John had a small role as did many other famous actors. All he had to do, at the end of the film, after Christ was crucified, was to say the affirmative line: ‘surely this man is the son of God’. Stevens wasn’t happy that John was putting enough into it so he asked him to put more awe into the line. So John (on the zillionth take) said: ‘Aw, surely this man is the son of God’. And that’s the way I feel about the Super Bowl.

Sporting Moments Number 2304, Johnny Sexton Drop Goal or Why We Watch Sport

We watch sport, and we participate in sport, because of emotions. Because we want to feel and to show emotions and sport facilitates that – it permits that. Which is no mean feat, especially when it comes to men showing their emotions. Where else do you see people gasp and shout and scream and laugh and cry themselves hoarse and not a person around them bats an eyelid?

Listen to the robin

As I write this, the robin is singing outside. The sun is slanting up over the hedge. I can hear a rook on the roof. I heard a lot of robins in Dublin too last weekend. It’s time. The days are lengthening. We have daffodils and snowdrops and crocuses. It’ll be Lá Fhéile Bríde in a few days. Listen to the robin. It’s worth your while.