Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Good Deed Punished

Last Thursday I had returned from a refreshing holiday in Waterville and was getting myself organised for a trip to France to visit my daughter (who lives near Lyon) and to attend the Leinster/Clermont European Cup semi-final. I was meeting up with some friends there so a few drinks and some fine dining would no doubt ensue. Returning from a walk I saw my next door neighbours getting out of their car. The husband is a tall elderly man who has been unwell and now needs a walker to get around. The wife is a small woman so I went over and gave her a hand to extract him and get him going on his walker. I left them heading up the path to their front door. A few minutes later my door bell rang and it was the wife asking me to help as her husband had fallen down and she needed help to lift him back up on to a chair. I followed her over and found him lying on his side on the ground. He’s a very big man, built like a retired rugby lock. I went behind him and grabbed him under the arms while the wife tugged from the front. It was a struggle. I gave  an extra strong jerk and suddenly felt a searing pain across my lower back. It was so extreme I had to sit down on a nearby seat – letting my man lie back on the floor. After a breather I had another go and somehow we got him upright in a chair. I sat down again and started feeling really faint. Then apparently I blacked out. I came too to find my two neighbours regarding me with some concern. I had been out for a few minutes and the woman had been concerned that I was having a heart attack. I had suddenly become the victim of the piece. I felt extremely weak but managed to stagger home across the road and took to the bed. I dozed fitfully for a couple of hours but awoke in agony with the uneasy feeling that I had done some fundamental damage to my back.     

 My poor alarmed wife managed to guide me into the car and off we went to St. Michael’s A & E in Dun Laoghaire. We were initially told there would be a four-hour wait but when they hear that I had collapsed after injuring my back I was suddenly at the head of the queue. The waiting room was full so I was pleasantly surprised at this eventuality. I was brought into an area with a row of beds, notionally separated with flimsy curtains. A coolly professional nurse did the usual blood test, and blood pressure and followed with the less usual ECG. Then ominously she inserted a cannula – usually a precursor to an extended stay. Things rested so and I was kept entertained listening to a disruptive prick in the next bed trying to get hold of strong pain-killers. “Are you a doctor?” he asked his nurse.  “I need a doctor. I’m in fooking pain”. He had apparently been itching himself all over to such an extent that his body was covered with bleeding scratches. It sounded like DTs to me but he was blaming his mother’s washing powder.    

 Eventually I was brought down for x-ray which was extremely painful as I could lie down fine but getting up involved sheer agony. Then back to the three-ring circus that is A&E. My scratcher was still there, complaining loudly. A concussion victim sat staring blankly from another bed – she’d been in a car accident last week and then got a bang in the head from a heavy door earlier in the day. There was also a very obese woman with a pleasant face who had been suffering from palpitations. Fun times. After about two hours my doctor appeared. A gentleman of the Sikh persuasion complete with turban and nice silver bracelet. He repeated all the tests the nurse had carried out including asking me what day of the week it was and who was the president. I passed with flying colours. After another hour my x-ray results came back and it was revealed that there were no broken or damaged bones – my problem was a severe muscle spasm. I was given some Paracetamol and Diazepam and sent about my business. As I was leaving I passed the scratcher talking to his long-suffering looking father “fooking Paracetamol that’s all I’m getting”.    

 So I’ll survive without any long-term damage. Just a few weeks of extreme discomfort while the muscles repair. I’ve never had a problem with my back before and so am developing empathy for those so stricken. It’s all consuming in its implications as simple tasks (such as putting on your socks) become heroic efforts.    

John P. O'Sullivan

Monday, April 03, 2017

David O'Kane - A Modest Proposal


An edited version of this review appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on the 2 April 2017.  

The Cavanacor Gallery near Lifford is attached to an historic 17th century house that hosted James II during the Siege of Derry. David O’Kane (a son of the current owners) didn’t try to sit out the recession but took his award-winning talents on the road after graduation. Based in Berlin, he exhibits successfully in prominent galleries in Leipzig and Seoul. He is a versatile artist who is best known for his large-scale figurative paintings, often with an uncanny twist, but who also embraces printmaking and animation. His current show is a series of manière noire lithographs based on Swift’s infamous essay A Modest Proposal. These were commissioned by the Salvage Press to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Swift’s birth. These macabre and exquisitely executed works take Swift at his word and present us with the results of his proposal. A splendid dining table is furnished with platters of chubby babies, a butcher’s shop hangs a boy amidst the sides of beef, and Breeders shows a line of coffin-like cots, the latter piece carrying intimations of recent events in Tuam.

 Cavanacor Gallery Co. Donegal
 Tue-Sat: 12-6pm
 Tel: 085 164 2525

 John P. O'Sullivan    

Monday, March 27, 2017

Deepdrippings: Phillip Allen at the Kerlin Gallery

 An edited version of this review appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on the 19 March 2017.

    The term “trippy” was made redundant in the early Seventies but on being confronted by Phillip Allen’s new show at the Kerlin Gallery one is tempted to re-employ it. Gaze into a painting such as Chin Music (Soft Octopus Version) long enough and you’ll find it gazing into you – like Nietzsche’s abyss. Allen is an English artist who has been showing at the Kerlin since 2005. As befits someone who lectures on art he is not afraid to change tack and sail off in a new direction. His last three shows could almost be by three different artists if it weren’t for one recurring feature. The title of the current show, Deepdrippings, suggests Jackson Pollock and the intertwining ribbons of black paint and the splashes  of colour confirm the connection.  Allen’s work however is more condensed, more intimate and intense, eschewing the macho scale of the American. In many of the smaller pieces the image is framed by his trademark thick border of impasto. This draws you into his disorientating cosmic visions where your eyes dance around trying to find purchase amidst the swirling riot of paint.        Kerlin Gallery Dublin.       John P. O'Sullivan

Six Nations Post Mortem

Over the course of the 5 weekends that constitute the Six Nations championships I tipped the winners of 12 of the 15 matches. The three I got wrong all involved Ireland. I thought we'd beat Scotland and Wales and lose to England. Of course we shoulda and coulda in the first two cases but there's a fatal lack of cutting edge in our back line (aside from Sexton and Murray) and we couldn't translate dominance into scores. The preponderance of home results suggest that there's not much between all the teams (excluding hapless Italy) and that England have been over hyped. I have a feeling our season will end well with Munster and Leinster well in contention for European honours. We should have 6 or 7 players in the Lions. Sexton, Murray, Furlong, Stander and O'Mahony will surely go. Best, Henshaw, Healy and O'Brien are possibilities and I'd nominate Zebo as a wild card. Best has an outside chance of being captain but I strongly suspect it'll be a Welsh man. I'll take anyone but Hartley.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Six Nations Prognostications 5 and Post Mortem 4

After the concentrated focus on Cheltenham all week it's a relief to move on to rugby where my engagement isn't financial apart from the odd bet on Stander to score the first try. I missed my week 4 forecast but would certainly have expected both France and England to win easily as they did. I thought Ireland would be too good for the previously unimpressive Welsh side but we managed to fuck it up again for a number of reasons. Henshaw's rush of blood ultimately cost us the match because the momentum was with us and a converted try at that stage would have seen them sag. However, given the amount of possession we had, we still should have won. There is a lack of creativity in the back line - especially at centre. We rely too much on Sexton to create the spark, or Murray. They were both off for periods which set us back. Also, our bloody lineout has gone to the dogs. It's inexplicable to me how O'Mahony isn't on from the start to give us more options. Toner was woeful and deserves to be dropped and Best wasn't exactly hitting his targets. England will murder us in this area unless we come up with something. Regarding this weekends matches, let's get the easy ones over with. Scotland will show that they are not as awful as they appeared against England by hammering Italy. France will confirm my poor opinion of Wales by beating them, not quite so easily. Wales rescued their season by beating us and won't be as cranked up. I had thought we would do a home town job on England but seeing the team I now doubt it. Murray is a huge loss, not least for his cover and tackling but also for his general air of being in charge. Kearney has been poor all season so I'm glad he's gone. His aerial game is as good as ever but after he makes a heroic catch he just charges aimlessly into the cover and the whole thing peters out. Payne is short of game time and I'm not sure a match against England is the place to give it to him. I'd have put Zebo there and added Conway or Gilroy on the wing. Having dropped Toner for being off form Schmidt has still omitted O'Mahony. I'd have dropped Heaslip (where has he been this season?) and rejigged the back row to accomodate O'Mahony. It's beginning to seem that Schmidt has a Leinster bias and that he's reviving that old adage about it being harder to get off the Irish team than to get on to it. I see England winning by about 12 points. I'll be very happy to be wrong as, unlike Cheltenham, it won't cost me anything.