Katy Hayes | The Sunday Times | Aug 2 2015
Lord Sewel has resigned from the House of Lords in Britain after being filmed snorting and cavorting. He was also filmed wearing an orange bra with a black leather jacket, which might be a good look if you are a 20-year-old honeypot into hip-hop, but is strictly not for the over-thirties. The moral of the story is obviously not to be snorting coke with fivers — cheapskate — or indeed cavorting with prostitutes.
Sewel was the chairman of the Lords’ privileges and conduct committee, which upholds standards of behaviour among peers — a detail that totally busts the irony meter. Since the “sex party” was in his flat in Dolphin Square in London, he might have had a reasonable expectation that, since this was the privacy of his own home, it wouldn’t end up on the cover of The Sun. Alas, those days are gone.
There is a general learning moment in this latest episode of the great British political sex comedy: we should behave at all times in a manner that we would be happy to have broadcast on the Nine O’Clock News, since we are constantly under surveillance.
It is happening everywhere, including the sanctuary of your own castle, or London flat in Lord Sewel’s case, or suburban house in my case. I have been known to wear an orange bra within the privacy of my own home. I’m not proud of this. Thankfully there are no pictures.
Nonetheless, I do live under a substantial surveillance regime. My kids are pretty much permanently onto their pals via Skype, so anything that gets said in the playroom gets broadcast to a selection of Dublin teenagers, and some further afield, as a number of their pals’ families have emigrated. Basically, we are broadcasting to several continents.
I was unaware of this fact until one day I went in for a particularly colourful tirade, along the lines of “whoever the duck left their underpants on the bathroom floor when I had a visitor coming is dead meat”. One of the teens started to make elaborate side-to-side hand gestures to get me to stop talking, but I thought he was doing the Macarena. Apparently their pals had been listening to my rants for months.
And when the other kids have their laptops in their kitchen or somewhere communal, their parents can hear everything as well.
So now, when I go into the playroom in a parenting fug, I am conscious that we have an outside broadcast unit installed. and am a much better person for it. I never yell, and hardly ever curse. I pretend to be a very nice mum altogether; sometimes I even bring them in hot drinking chocolate. Until I signal them to turn the machines off, then I let rip.
A husband of a friend of mine who is given to similarly vociferous outbursts used to tell the kids to shut the windows so the neighbours don’t hear. Now he has to tell them to shut the Windows. And the Android and the Chrome.
I have a bunch of girlfriends I go running with, and there was a time when a lady in a race might consider slipping discreetly into the bushes in the Phoenix Park if the queues for the toilets were too long, but no more. There is always somebody lurking with an iPhone whose life will be made complete simply by putting your bum on YouTube and getting a million likes. So we just stand obediently in the two-mile long queue for the Portaloos, like good patient people.
And oftentimes when I’m out walking my pooch, I see people looking around after their dog has done his business to examine the level of surveillance. They spy a string of teenagers on a wall all armed with phones, so they clean up after their dog, because they’re afraid that they’ll become a dog dirt internet sensation.
As kids, the priests were always reminding us to be on our best behaviour as God is everywhere and watching us all the time. We thought they were talking rubbish but, lo, it has come to pass. It’s just a different god.
Why scruffy would have been smart
Not only has Aoife Maguire been found guilty of conspiring to hide accounts from the Revenue along with her two Anglo Irish Bank co-defendants, she has also had to listen to her defence counsel describing her in unflattering terms. He told the court she was a “person at the bottom of the rung” and a “form of gofer”, as well as “a minion, a small person”. So he was basically saying: “My client is an eejit. Let her off.”
Maguire didn’t look at all like an eejit going to and from court. She was smartly dressed and coiffed, and looked the picture of efficiency. In fact she looked like a candidate for the US presidency. Shouldn’t she have worn a cardigan backwards or something?
Abbey needs to get its act together
There has been surprisingly little audible grumbling following the appointment of two candidates from the National Theatre of Scotland to the joint artistic directorship of the Abbey Theatre.
When Fiach MacConghail departs the role in 2016, he will have been in the position for 12 years. The previous three incumbents — Ben Barnes, Patrick Mason and Garry Hynes — held the job for just 13 years between them. Traditionally, the job has been filled from the pool of directors and producers in the Irish theatrical community. One candidate gets plucked from the group, and is landed with the opportunity.
In retrospect, we should have seen this coming when the Arts Council and the Abbey jointly commissioned a report to check if the theatre had “world class” status. Does “world class” mean “not Irish”? Furthermore, three British-based experts were selected to deliver their verdicts. Between MacConghail’s lengthy tenure and now this outside appointment, a generation of Irish theatre makers has been denied the opportunity to provide a leader for the Abbey.
Art is moving increasingly towards presentation in non-traditional venues, although paintings by John Lavery, Paul Henry and Jack B Yeats showing in a Wicklow ditch is clearly taking things to a new level. They had been stolen, of course, but any PR agent would have killed for the publicity.
In other site-specific news, Pals, from Anu Productions, is returning to Collins Barracks for two months. At the Enniskillen Beckett festival, Adrian Dunbar will present Ohio Impromptu in the middle of a lake. The audience takes a 40-minute boat ride to see the 20-minute play. Meanwhile, restaurant-goers, tired of having dinner served on slates, have launched a campaign: We Want Plates. Let’s see if theatre-goers start a campaign: We Want Seats.