Cut by the bald prima donna

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The Independent Online
Part of the ritual of modern life consists in appearing on television. People will make the most frightful fools of themselves in order to do so, for to fail to do so is to render oneself electronically invisible and to be cast into the outer gloom of those who merely watch, as opposed to those who appear upon, the box.

I do it from time to time, out of sheer vanity. The money is dreadful, on the perfectly fair assessment that no one should be paid extravagantly for the privilege of parading his own ego before millions. The buzz is considerable. It took me some time to come down to floor level after I had completed the recording of The Birthday Show, an emission of RTE, the Irish television service. The format consists in presenting three persons, in the ambience of a grown-up night-club, whose birthdays allegedly fall within the week of transmission.

My own falls on 16 July. I always celebrate it with a garden party. The host on our television show is Shay Healey, an eminent Irishman whose principal enthusiasm is for Country and Western music. He asks what was my favourite birthday party and I am tempted to say it was my second, in 1945, when the Americans, by way of celebration, successfully tested the first atomic bomb at Almagordo, New Mexico.

Figuring that in the current political climate any such remark might be taken to be downbeat, I settle instead for my 21st which, so far as I can remember, was when I belatedly cast aside my virginity with the enthusiastic co- operation of a stunner who is now, I believe, a professor of oriental languages in London. 'Is that all there is to it?' said she after, being as virginal as I.

'Yes,' said I. How was I to know?

Last year was my 50th, when I threw a bash at Killiney Bay. 'You swore off love at that point, didn't you?' said Shay. 'I did not,' said I. 'I swore off falling in love again, but I'm still in love with the same blonde I was then.'

At this point the conversation took a swerve for the worse. Women generally acknowledge that men are at their best after 50, said actor David Kelly, whom you may remember as the supremely incompetent Irish builder in an episode of Fawlty Towers.

This is only the truth. A gentleman who has passed the half-century is less likely to offer unwelcome advances in a taxi and is probably capable of paying for a decent dinner. How far this gets you, I would not know, for I have not made a pass at a woman in over a year. There may be some inherent contradiction here, as Marxists and Jesuits would have it; what is the point of being at last unobjectionable if you cannot take advantage of it?

I may never know.

WE WENT on the skite following this episode, I still giving out left and right. My friend Oliver Caffrey, who has played polo off the back of an elephant ('The King of Siam always wins; he is given the small, fast elephant; we are given the big, fat ones') took myself, his gorgeous wife and Finnegan to a hostelry known as Mr Pussy's.

I must say, the food is execrable, but that is not the point in these establishments. It is the clientele that you favour with your attention, not the cuisine. Mr Pussy himself dropped by our table. He is a hirsute person weighing in at about 16 stone and favours revealing frocks with severe decolletage.

Opposite us were several rock stars and actors, which is about par for the course now for any joint in Dublin where the food is inedible and the wine ingestible only at the certain price of early- morning retching. As I happen

to be suffering from a cracked

rib, the consequence of tripping down stairs in a disco at three in the morning, I could do without it. Throwing up with a cracked rib is no fun, as anyone could tell you who has endured it.

'And who is that damned transvestite over there?' I snarled at Finnegan (the person in question, sporting a bright orange wig, being the only looper in sight who had not favoured us with attention).

'That is not a transvestite,' said Mary. 'That is Sinead O'Connor, our bald prima donna, as you recently described her.' Well, how am I supposed to know one rock star from another?

BACK to my beloved Kinsale for a few days' lunacy. They now have an up-market bakery and a few expensive B & B establishments, which were not here when I decamped. It is pleasant to see hard-earned prosperity descend at last on friends and neighbours. Even the drunks look relatively well-off these days.

Pulled in at the White House, where you get the best steak in Ireland. Michael Frawley, proprietor, wants me to call in next month to vote in the council elections, which coincide with the European business, on behalf of Fianna Fail, the Republican Party. I will, of course, do so. Last time I voted here it was for myself, as Conservative and Unionist candidate. One day I will be able to explain why Unionists and Republicans like one another and cordially dislike those who come between them, but not yet.