Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I thought that Ireland acquitted herself quite well with the recent IFTA ceremony (Irish Film and Television Awards). The show was a tad long but the new venue of the Conference Centre was much more suitable for an Awards Show with its theatre style seating. However, particularly as the show went on (and it did go on.... for ages in fact), each time the camera panned over the audience there seemed to be rather a lot of empty seats. “Not great for TV guys”!

Where were the seat fillers? Ya wha Gay? Seat fillers? Where were the seat fillers?

You see I am an expert on this subject because a few years ago I was lucky enough to be in Hollywood on holidays and had a fascinating tour of the Kodak Theatre, home since 2001 to the annual daddy of all awards ceremonies, The Academy Awards. It was here that I learned about seat fillers. Americans know how to do events properly. They know that when a high profile event is going to be carried on live TV, a lot of empty seats does not lend the occasion a sense of prestige. Hence the need for seat fillers. And as it’s not just the Academy Awards that uses seat fillers, all major televised award ceremonies do.

A seat filler is a volunteer who will quickly slot into a seat vacated for any reason during the ceremony. So when Tom Cruise heads off for a pee, a designated seat filler is immediately dispatched to keep his seat warm as it were.

This is a serious business. There are strict rules to being seat filler. You have to look the part – so the ideal (read successful) seat filler is usually young (under 35), good looking and ‘svelte’. They must turn up to the event, looking every bit as glamorous as the invited guests. They must then be content to wait in a corridor or back room until required. When they are required to fill a seat, they must do so quickly and quietly. Under no circumstances should they speak to ‘the talent’ (the movie stars etc) unless they are spoken to first. They must not make eye contact with ‘the talent’. Of course it goes without saying they are not permitted to have a camera or to ask for autographs. And as soon as the star arrives back from the loo or fag break, they must steal away quietly back to whence they came.

So, yes you have guessed it, there are agencies who ‘recruit’ suitable seat fillers. I have no doubt there books are full of wannabe actors and screenwriters, the pinnacle of whose careers may well be to sit for a few minutes in a seat which still carries the body heat of their idol!

So IFTA, there is no excuse – get your seat fillers in line for next year!

The Annual Academy Awards take place in Hollywood on this Sunday night and will be screened on Network 2 on Monday at 9pm! There won’t be an empty seat in the house!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Home of Irish Writing Online!

I know that many of the visitors to my Kitchen Table are writers and so I am delighted bring to your attention a great new writing website which has launched called has been created by Vanessa O’Loughlin of Inkwell Writers fame. I jest not, nor do I exaggerate. Vanessa is a literary legend in Ireland and a wonderful support to writers, both successful and struggling. You will see her in person on the home page of where she will address you directly (press the arrow yoke).

But back to business, (is the name burned into your brain yet) has lots of information which writers will find, useful (see the toolbox section), interesting (meet lots of great authors) and perhaps amusing (see Monday Miscellany penned by a struggling but wonderful writer, called Barbara Scully).

Along with listing events and relevant courses, will in the future feature articles on all aspects of writing offering hints and advice. There are guest blogs and an interactive forum.

So, head on over and check it out. But more importantly, visit often as this is a website which will be constantly updated with information writers can’t afford to miss.

Congratulations Vanessa – May God bless her and all who sail in her!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Friday 13th February 1981 was a regular night. I had recently turned 19 and was working for JWT in their head office in Baggot Street. I very likely went for a drink after work – a habit that used to drive my mother mad in the days before mobile phones and microwave ovens. Most Fridays I arrived home to find some congealed, dried out dinner resting in the oven which I had to eat assuring my very cross mother “it’s fine – not dried out all.” She didn’t believe a word and I am sure got a fair amount of pleasure from the sight of my attempting to eat it without grimacing.

Anyway I do know that I was in bed at a respectable hour. I know because I remember vividly waking up at about 2am having had the most horrific nightmare I think I have ever had. I dreamt that I was in the JWT office at 109 Grafton Street. This was an office I had worked in for over a year. It was located at the bottom of Grafton Street just opposite the side wall of Trinity College. We were regularly asked by tourists where they could catch the bus to Dun Log-a-hair (the 46a to Dun Laoghaire stopped opposite).

Anyway in my dream I am working away when I look up to see a bus at the stop on the opposite side of the road. As I look, a huge crack opens in the ground and the bus begins to fall into the gaping hole. I watch horrified as desperate passengers try to escape. Some make it out the doors but there are a group on the top deck desperately trying to get the small rear window to open. It is stuck. I am helpless to assist them and watch in horror. The nightmare was so vivid and the horror so real that I woke up.

I was really disturbed by the image of the desperate passengers trying to escape disaster. I sat up and decided to read for a while in order to rid my mind of the horrible images from my dream. I looked at the clock on my bedside table. It was 2am.

Like the rest of Dublin and indeed Ireland, I woke the next morning to the news of what had happened at the Stardust Disco in Artane. That night 44 people lost their lives in what is still the greatest disaster to have occurred in this state. A further 4 people died in the following days and weeks. Their average age was 19 years, same age I was. The full scale of the tragedy that unfolded in the former jam factory was conveyed by the news images. Blackened young people stumbling out the main entrance, fire brigade and ambulance personnel assisting them in the general chaos. But what struck me most, 30 years ago were the unfortunates who sought escape through the toilet windows, which were barred. A photo of a ladder placed against the wall in an attempt to rescue them was a poignant symbol. Was it their desperation I picked up, as I slept in my bed on the other side of the city?

I don’t know the answer to that. But I know that my nightmare was one of the most vivid and horrific I have ever experienced. As a Reiki Master I believe in the energetic nature of the universe. The energy of horror created in Dublin that night must have been powerful.

In the following weeks, the reality of how huge a tragedy this was for not just the northside suburbs of Artane, Kilmore and Coolock but for the whole of Dublin was brought to life when I found myself dealing with phone calls from bereaved families and friends as they cancelled holidays they were due to take that summer.

30 years on as I go to bed tonight I will remember the 48 young people who lost their lives in Artane that night. They had a future ahead of them on that night in 1981 just like I did. I thankfully am still living mine. They were not so blessed.

May they all rest in peace.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Yesterday I tweeted something reflecting my frustration with the man who may well be our next Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. His reluctance to engage in the leader’s debate tomorrow night on TV3 with the bulldog of Irish journalism, Vincent Browne leaves me breathless.... with anger. He is looking to be elected to the most powerful job in the land at a critical time in Irish history and he won’t go into a TV studio because he has a problem with Vincent Browne.

Vincent Browne’s interviewing tactics can definitely be suspect at times, but he often is reflecting the anger that most of us, the people of Ireland feel at the moment. His late night programme is also now one of the pillars of Irish Current Affairs viewing.

We desperately need to feel that our next leader will have balls of steel and a natural drive to place the good of this country above all else, during their term of office. If the polls are right, we are about to elect Enda Kenny into this office. A man who at best is holding a grudge and at worst is afraid of what Vincent Browne may expose.

Last week this photo of our leader in waiting appeared in all the national papers. It is a brilliant photo and at first glance gave us all a great laugh. But take a close look at it again. Enda is wearing an expression that is vaguely familiar. Yep, it is one worn by President George Bush. That same unsure, rabbit in headlights, shifty look that Dubya often exhibited. The look that says “I’m about to be found out any minute.” It’s a look that inspires hilarity not confidence. And I am not going to even begin to analyse the look on the unfortunate dogs face. That dog is capturing the emotion that many of us are feeling... the sense that it all is going wrong and we are powerless to stop it.

I have no doubt that we will entertain the world if Enda becomes Taoiseach. George Bush did provide plenty of laughs. It’s all very funny when it’s the leader of another country, even leader of the most powerful country in the world. But we are depending on our next Government to lead us back out of this black hole of recession and debt as quickly and painlessly as possible. It therefore it most definitely not at all funny for the electorate.

Which brings me back to Twitter. One of my British twitter friends (@whyjay99 should you wish to follow her), on seeing my Enda tweet enquired if I meant Edna as she had never heard of the name Enda. There followed a lightbulb moment when I glimpsed our future.

That’s where we are going I’m telling you. Our next Taoiseach shall be christened Dame Enda Kenny. The man who, like the antipodean character who describes herself as a Superstar Housewife, thinks he’s a superstar politican! A misguided man who very possibly will sweep into power on wave of votes the likes Fine Gael haven’t seen in years. And he will think it is because we love him. Get your gladioli ready people!

p.s. I should point out that I am not affiliated with any political party! I have yet to decide how I will vote!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

La Le Bride

As I sit here at my kitchen table this morning writing these words, the world outside my kitchen window is bright. The sky is washed in a delicate blue and the newly risen sun is spilling it’s weak light at the bottom of the garden.

Last Saturday, for the first time in months the garden called me back outside. I spent some time cutting back some unruly bushes and clearing dead leaves from the flower beds. As I worked clumps of snowdrops were nodding their tiny, delicate heads in the breeze. Beside them, shoots of were just appearing to break through the earth, infant daffodils and tulips. Birds were busy on the bird feeders. Mother Nature has begun to stir. The energy of life which is naturally drawn inward during the long, dark winter is beginning to surface again; a quickening that heralds new life.

Today, February 1st is traditionally the first day of Spring here in Ireland. The natural world confirms this. It is time for planting and growing. Today is also La Le Bride or the feast of Brigid. St Brigid is the female patron saint of Ireland. But Brigid was also a very important pagan Goddess. She is associated with the hearth (heart of the home), poetry, weaving and smithing. She is an inspiring and timeless symbol of caring and nurturing. Yesterday there was a wonderful (short) article about her in the Irish Times which articulates perfectly why Brigid is relevant today more than ever.

Today is traditionally the day for making a Brigid’s Cross. These crosses, made from rushes were hung over the threshold of the home for protection. Farmers also often hung then in cow sheds for the same reason. We live in the parish of St Brigid in Cabinteely and my children go to the local school, St Brigids National School. Every year the girls in 4th class are taught to make these ancient crosses and so our home is never without one over the front door.

So today, celebrate the return of springtime, make plans for some planting in your garden or your window box soon. And may Brigid (Goddess or Saint) bless your home and all who live there.

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell,
bless every fireside, every wall and floor.
Bless every heart that beats beneath it's roof,
and every tongue and mind forever more.
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy,
and every foot that walks its portals through.
This is my wish today, my constant prayer,
may Brigid bless the house that shelters you.
The photo at the top of the page is of a beautiful stained glass window by renowned artist Harry Clarke which is in our local church. It depicts St Brigid holding an acorn and a lamp, symbols of faith and strength.