Come on you Reds June 11 2015
I am writing this entry in-between grabbed moments while on a photo shoot on my Emerald Isle. I have brought the weather with me - clear blue skies, twenty degrees in Athy are rare but very welcome! I am here because, on the strength and success of my Essentially Irish book, Hidden Ireland have asked me to produce a coffee table book. It’s a long old road from first polaroid to bookshop so I’m afraid you'll just have to wait till Spring 2016 to see the finished product. Being in Ireland is pure joy in itself but this time I have the enviable job of visiting and staying in some of Ireland’s finest hotels and guest houses and will be again half a dozen more times this year.
I have little interest in the beautiful game though it has always loomed large in my life. England's leading soccer franchise has long enjoyed a special and historic place with Ireland that long predates Roy Keane. The first Irish man to play professional soccer anywhere was Belfast man Jack Perden who played for the then little known team Newton Heath. Seventy years later, from the same city, the most gifted and beautiful boy, George Best (22 May 1946–25 November 2005) followed in his footsteps.
That a preponderance of Irishmen, (31 from the North, 32 from the Republic) have worn the United colours through the years only goes some way to explaining the attraction. While every fan has his or her own personal epiphany, there are moments that remain landmarks for all. In February 1958, on the darkest night in Manchester United’s history, when the team plane crashed at the end of a Munich airstrip, three of their first-team squad were Irish. Ten years later, on the greatest night in their history, more than a quarter of the first eleven were Irish, and one of them, the peerless Best, was the hero of a better hour. Supporters of a certain age have invested the demise of the Busby Babes in Munich with the same significance that others accord the assassination five years later of John F. Kennedy.
I grew up in an Irish house hold where the Sacred Heart & Match of the Day were equally revered. I wrote to Bobby Charlton when I was eight and received back a signed photograph. Sport breaks down boundaries so when I took my Indian boyfriend home for the first time the only thing that he and my father had in common was they were both fans - which was to be the beginning of a long relationship where they would call each other after many a match. Six years later at our wedding the old fella said, while waving a scarf, that that was the only reason he'd let him marry his daughter!
Our living room was often a gathering place to watch a match and when my son was born, the poor babe was often woken to the roar of a goal. When aged five or six he came home from school one day and suggested he might like to support a team nearer home (cannot bring myself to say the C word) he was asked if that was the case where was he going to live?!
My dream of a house in the South of France was realised eight years ago and while it is still a delight it has often been a cauchemar, for truly, ownership of a second home is the preserve of the likes of the Beckhams. But never one to be deterred by being unable to afford something, au contraire, it is my motivation. Like many restoration projects, it has been a labour of love and has evolved over time. This spring has seen the fruition of the biggest project of all so this summer we will no longer have to steal favours but will finally swim in our own pristine piscine.
Nicole de Versian was the creative director of Hermes and her garden in the Vaucluse hugely inspired my planting. I have attempted to tame nature and in the depths of wild countryside have created a manicured oasis with a five hundred year old gnarled olive tree from Spain that looks as if it has been there forever. A single cypress tree and fifty balls of lavender - interspersed with balls of stone and box which will all mature into an homage. I hope!
The house has always been available to rent to selected guests and friends, but it only gets the odd enquiry given it has never been officially advertised. Two weeks ago, I had an email from a busy, high-powered exec in Scotland who works in the corporate entertaining world specialising in sporting fixtures. There followed, as often do, a ricocheting of emails and finding out about each other - you know, ‘women's talk’. I told her about my current project, she me on the forthcoming event at Old Trafford. The banter continued; like a courtship we exchanged snippets. I told her of my travails in my French garden, she sent me pictures of her black tulips and bemoaned how hard it can be being a working girl. Curiosity piqued, three or four emails later, I find out she is organising a forthcoming charity match between Manchester United legends and Bayern Munich all-stars. She wanted to stay at my house when I planned to be there and her budget was a fair percentage below the going rate but, always up for a barter, we brokered a deal and shook e-hands. Conversation continued and I told her of my son's obsession with United (wisdom comes with age) to which she wondered if I would like a free ticket or four for said match! Would I?! It was like a gift from the gods 'cause there's not much a Mum can do for a seventeen year old that gets appreciated.
I am no athlete, I shall not be bounding up Carrauntoohil.
Rugby nor Camogie hold any attraction, swimming is my thing so cannot wait until school is out and I can get back to that lap-pool in the South. But this Sunday, I will definitely be glued to the box watching the match, straining to see my boy as he is presented to Ashley Cole on the pitch at half-time. Fortune really does favour the bold.
In between gadding about Southern Ireland and the South of France I'm pleased to report the Antique trade is alive and kicking in South London despite my absence. So lest ye forget my day job is still trouver and vendor of nice things do keep an eye on the 'ol website or better still venture down to Langton Street where the delightful, very helpful & knowledgable new girl Charlotte Adler will be very pleased to sell you these six vivid green chairs just in time for summer.