If you believe in Heaven, there is one person you are sure to meet there.
Of all artists who ever lived in Europe, one stands on a mountain top looking down on all others.
If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably have left London in 1975 and returned to Dublin :
W A M : Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ((January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791).
My father, Frank O’Mahony, used to listen to Aida occasionally. But he was a Chopin man (and the Etudes left me cold). The trumpets in the grand parade in Aida excited me but I had no interest in opera in those days (1950-1975).
So I knew nothing of Mozart (except from a Swedish film score) until I went to The Magic Flute at the Colleseum (English National Opera) in June 1975. The Queen of the Night (one of the main characters) knocked me out: I’d never heard anything so risky, so extraordinarily balanced on the edge, so scary that I felt threatened by it.
I remember saying to myself: oh my god, how can this carry on… its too much… how can she possible sing like this…
If you know the aria, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you’re lucky: you have it ahead of you. There is nothing like the first time.
It was The Magic Flute that hooked me. I dropped my interest in all other types of music and specialised. I listened to nothing but opera for at least ten years. I saw every opera at ENO and Covent Garden from 1975-1985, and many of them I saw three times. While I was a bus conductor, I went to the gods three times a week. I could bore the pants off you with opera stories.
Mozart was so big an influence on me that I think I might have returned to Dublin if I wasn’t so taken by the prospect of seeing world class opera in London. Domingo, Pavarotti & Carreras were on the menu. Wagner, Puccini, Verdi as well as WAM.
He changed the course of my life, gave me a vision and has repaid all the time I’ve invested in him.
Let me mention two recordings: Edda Moser singing the Queen of the Night aria, and Florence Foster Jenkins singing the same at Carneegie Hall, New York. Find both and you can dine out on the contrast.
Wolfgang, you and John Lennon: two beauties. I salute and thank you both.
If you want a superb haircut, come to Cork.
To be precise, travel to Douglas, to the shopping centre at the west end of the ‘village’. Find the hair salon next to the Stephen Pearce shop, and ask for Eddie.
Yesterday I went in search of a cut. Typical of me, I made no appointment. It was Saturday and the barber who last cut my hair was full. I didn’t even go in. I went to the fancy place, lots of women hairdressers, lots of female clients. But I struck lucky.
At first I thought he was going to wash my hair and then hand me over to a proper hairdresser. I saw he was the only male staff and assumed he was a junior aspiring hairdresser who mainly swept the floor.
He sat me in a very comfortable seat which had a special device that fitted round my neck protecting me and the salon from ‘whiplash’ litigation. He was obviously foreign: his complexion and bone structure suggested he was Italian; his silence suggested he wasn’t.
As he wet my hair, I asked for it to be conditioned. He kinda repeated my words. I wasn’t upset to be facing the prospect of a quiet haircut: some hairdressers love to chat.
Slowly it dawned on me that something different was going on. It was the way he massaged my scalp. I’m one of those people who would willingly go to the hairdressers every week for a hairwash. I love having my hair washed. It’s great to be woken up by vigourous fingers.
He wasn’t massaging me in the usual manner: he was applying pressure slowly, gently, lingeringly. He was taking his time. It was as if he was meditating on the contours of my head. I loved it. I could shut my eyes and it would continue. He was taking his time and I wasn’t in a hurry.
In fact, I wasn’t due on the tee until 1400. This haircut began at 1235.
I’m tempted to write an account of the experience which would be in real time: it would take you as long to read as it did to enjoy. Resisting temptation is the mark of any decent writer.
I found out he was Lithuanian, from Kaunas. He’d been in London for a month and Cork for seven months. He is working in this hairdresser’s because he wants to learn how to cut women’s hair. In Kaunas, he cut men.
He did the whole job on me. He styled me, flamed me and tidied me off. Instead of the unkempt curls, I left with my hair much shorter, falling forward and gelled. I was a new man.
Eddie is simply the best hairdresser I have ever met. (Edwardo is his proper name; his father is Italian.) He spent over an hour on me. It cost 25 euros and I left him a 5 euro tip. He gave me a card with his name written on it.
During that time I embarassed myself by asking if he was from Riga. He was the soul of discretion as he whispered that that was the capital of Latvia. I knew nothing of Lithuania. Eddie knew Londoners were different from Irish people. He likes the Irish.
Three cheers for the foreigners: they can educate us. I am so ignorant, so inclined to think I know things, when all I have is a jumble of impressions and suggestions masquerading as knowledge.
But, if you feel like treating yourself, have your hair cut by Eddie in Douglas. I have acquired a little bit of knowledge.
I have strong opinions about newspapers.
After living so long in the UK, where there are so many newspapers, I think the Financial Times is the best newspaper in the world. It has a brilliant mixure of news, analysis, opinion and culture.
I’ve tried Le Monde and the New York Times. But, to be fair, I haven’t given them a sustained read.
But I am so pleased with the FT that I judge all others to be, at best, in second place. If I was sent to a desert island, I’d has a daily delivery of the FT as my luxury.
The Irish Times comes next. It is bloody good. If you take the whole week into account, I think there is excellent reading in it.
I have a particular bugbear about the fact that the Irish Times wrote no editorial after the Irish Roman Catholic Church’s recent ‘guidelines’ on child protection. The editor remained silent. In my mind that is cowardice, and she has a lot to do to recover from that charge.
But, the only other criticism I make of the Irish Times is that it does not have a weekly column in Polish. There are more native Polish speakers in Ireland than native Gaelic speakers. I expect and want the Irish Times to enlighten the road ahead, as well as report news.
The Limerick Leader has articles in Polish.