pat ingoldsby

Pat Ingoldsby is an Irish phenomenon. Poet and playwright, people of my generation also knew him from his children’s TV programmes such as Pat’s Hat.

His poetry is wonderful: simple and honest, the poems vary from hilariously funny to painfully sad. He is one of my favourite poets, and my favourite of his books is called “Welcome to my Head: Please Remove your Boots”.Ten or so years ago, Pat withdrew from the Irish mass media. He set up his own publishing company, Willow Publications, and appointed his cats to positions of authority such as CEO and Head of Accounts. He sells his books through a small number of bookstores in Ireland, and also sells directly to the public on the streets of Dublin.

His books carry a note that they are protected by the “Bratislava Accord 1993, section 2 cre/009 manifest-minsk”, the terms of which allegedly protect his book’s content from being included in school textbooks, examinations, elocution classes or anything with the word “Arts” in it.

My mother and I came across him on the corner of O’Connell Bridge in Dublin, when I was over there in October. He was sitting on an upturned milk-crate with his books laid out in front of him. In his trademark Drizabone coat and wide-brimmed hat, he looked comfortable watching the world hurry by. I was star-struck: “That’s Pat Ingoldsby!” I whispered to my mum over the traffic noises. I tried not to stare too much as we walked past to cross the bridge. Then I came to my senses, and retraced my steps.

Shyly I stood before him, pretending to look at the titles of his books. He caught my eye and I asked if he had a copy of “Welcome to my Head”. We got talking and I told him I was a huge fan. He was such a lovely, gentle man, speaking about his books as if they were his children. I introduced myself to him and he said “God, I’m delighted to meet you Máiréad”.

He was charming to my mum. When I told him she was about to celebrate her 80th birthday, he gallantly told her she only looked 64 (later she complained he was three years out as the lowest number she’d been quoted so far was 60).

I bought one of his books and he signed it for me. Mum took a photo of us standing there on Westmoreland Street, and I shook his hand and said goodbye.

If this had happened to me after 25 October, it would certainly have been included in my 40 Amazing Things To Do This Year. But it was about ten days too early. I will have to include it in the Twenty Or So Amazing Things I Did Last Year.

Willy LitFest

Yesterday I participated in the Williamstown Literary Festival. On stage. As a competitor.

I didn’t mean to: I thought I had volunteered to read out some other person’s work, but apparently I had put my name forward to read my own piece. Later it was further clarified that I would be reading out my offering as part of the People’s Choice Awards, to be voted on by the audience on the day.

I spent the day at the festival, sitting in on lectures and workshops. The “Writing Food” talk by a local celebrity chef got the gourmet juices flowing, and now three of his books are on my must-have list. I was ravenous afterwards.

The “Sassy In The City: Writing The Modern Woman” lecture was given by a beautiful young romance writer with glossy curls, a great handbag and a handsome man waiting in the wings for her. Even though she was talking romantic fiction I got quite a few tips from her experiences. A couple of very elderly ladies in tweed and tight curls sat in the front row and muttered quietly to each other, shaking their heads and wondering aloud who this Bridget Jones was that the writer kept referring to.

Back in the Meeting Room of the Mechanics Institute, the wooden plaques around the room lauded past presidents of the Ancient Order of Druids and past Grands of the institute itself. A small group collected for the People’s Choice Awards and eleven local writers, myself included, stood and read out their personal pieces. I was the youngest entrant by far, except perhaps for the fresh-faced writer of teenage books whose perfect skin and long glossy auburn hair would have made me envious were he not a bloke.

One of the front-row ladies from the Sassy lecture, a sprightly 80-year-old local woman, stood and read a beautiful and poignant recollection of a Scottish friend, written for his funeral. A younger woman in grey snakeskin drainpipes gave a spirited rendition of her perfectly phrased and rhymed epic poem about the Aussies’ favourite horse, Phar Lap. A fashionably-dressed silver-haired woman from the University of the Third Age read out a lovely and amusing piece written from the point of view of a bonsai with a high opinion of itself.

My turn came. I stood at the top of the class, it seemed, and read out a version of my Chengde story from China. I was nervous and I know my voice shook a little at times. It is so different when you are seeking validation of your own words: I might as well have been standing there pleading for them all to like me.

I didn’t win of course: the bonsai lady deservedly picked up the first prize. Early this morning when I awoke I realised I’d had no chance – I didn’t even give myself top marks in the vote. I had misread the instructions and on my own ballot paper I had placed myself third, beneath the bonsai woman and a fellow writers’ group entrant.

Maybe next year.

Top Eight Books for Future Leaders

Imagine your child, your god-child, or perhaps a child you know will become the leader of the free world, can only ever read ten books in their lifetime. What would those books be?

Thanks to all who contributed to the experiment. I received some wonderful lists from people, many of whom also gave their reasons why they chose the books.

In the end, we didn’t have a full top ten. There was a handful of books who were nominated a number of times, and a clear number one book. But the rest of the books nominated make such a great collection that I have listed them all here. Click here to buy any or all of the Top Eight from Amazon. Enjoy!

Number 1 – four votes
Animal Farm by George Orwell

Nominated by:

Nick Lawrance
“Read this book firstly as a fairy tale”
“Then to be read a second time immediately after The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, as an allegory of how power corrupts and all that”

Mairead Doyle
“This book can be read again and again in life to appreciate its many layers”

Katea Downie

Joint 2nd
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nominated by:
Manu Pillai
Katea Downie
Mairead Doyle
“The ultimate cautionary tale for our times”

Joint 2nd
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

Nominated by:

Nick Lawrance
“Because mental health problems are just health problems”

Eileen Kershaw

Mairead Doyle

Joint 4th
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Nominated by:

Sam Evans
“Read this book and you won’t have a great view of humanity; like no other book it reveals the human cost of wars and why they should never be fought”

Mairead Doyle
“Probably the best war book ever written”

Joint 4th
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Nominated by:

Bres
“A modern Australian flavour”

Sam Evans
“An Australian masterpiece, amazingly written book about two poor families in western australia that suffer catastrophies but live on – wonderful use of Australian rural language”

Joint 4th
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Nominated by:

Katea Downie
Katharine Haines

Joint 4th

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Nominated by:

Katea Downie

Mairead Doyle
“A powerful story about growing up in an imperfect world”

Joint 4th
The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama

Nominated by:

Manu Pillai

Sam Evans

“Helped me get perspective – I think I’ll need to re-read this every few years to keep its messages fresh”

Other Nominated Books (Title, Author, Nominated by)

100 Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Suzanne Parsons

A Shropshire Lad
AE Housman
Katharine Haines

A Well Dressed Gentleman’s Pocket Guide
Oscar Lenius
Orlando Gibson

Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy
Sam Evans

Art of War
Sun Tzu
Manu Pillai

Between You & I
James Cochrane
Orlando Gibson

Bhowani Junction
John Masters
Hayley Burchill

Bible
Reference
Lesa Campbell

Black Beauty
Anna Sewell
Louise Beechey

Black Dogs
Ian McEwan
Bres

Bonjour Tristesse
Francoise Sagan
Katharine Haines

Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
Manu Pillai

Bridge to Terebithia
Kathrine Patterson
Alison Crimmins

Brotherman
Herb Boyd & Robert Allen
Orlando Gibson

Captain Correlli’s Mandolin
Louis de Bernieres
Louise Beechey

Catch 22
Joseph Heller
Nick Lawrance

Catcher in the Rye
J D Salinger
Katea Downey

Change the World
Robert E Quinn
Dean Campbell

Computer Programming for Dummies
Reference
Orlando Gibson

Crime & Punishment
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Louise Beechey

Danny, Champion of the World
Roald Dahl
Nick Lawrance

Definitely Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand
Alison Crimmins

Dracula
Bram Stoker
Nick Lawrance

Elizabeth – Red Rose of the House of Tudor
Kathryn Lasky
Kathryn Fridman

Endurance
Alfred Lansing
Sam Evans

Famous Five or Secret Seven
Enid Blyton
Eileen Kershaw

Fast Food Nation
Eric Schlosser
Katharine Haines

Howl’s Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones
Kathryn Fridman

I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith
Katharine Haines

I, Coriander
Sally Gardener
Kathryn Fridman

If This Is A Man
Primo Levi
Katharine Haines

In Praise of Slow
Carl Honore
Katharine Haines

In Spain
Ted Walker
Annette Doyle

Journey to the River Sea
Eva Ibbotson
Kathryn Fridman

Les Miserables
Victor Hugo
Louise Beechey

Lord of the Rings
J R R Tolkien
Sam Evans

Lyn: A Diary of Prostitution
Lyn Madden
Annette Doyle

Maid of Buttermere
Melvyn Bragg
Louise Beechey

Martin and Malcolm and America
James H Cone
Orlando Gibson

Master and Commander
Patrick O’Brien
Hayley Burchill

Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy
Louise Beechey

Midnight’s Children
Salman Rushdie
Mairead Doyle

Mr God This Is Anna
Finn
Mairead Doyle

Northern Lights
Philip Pullman
Kathryn Fridman

Noughts and Crosses
Malorie Blackman
Mairead Doyle

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Ian Fleming
Nick Lawrance

Oxford English Dictionary
Reference
Orlando Gibson

Parade’s End
Ford Madox Ford
Hayley Burchill

Pilgrim’s Progress
John Bunyon
Hayley Burchill

Pole to Pole
Michael Palin
Katharine Haines

Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
Various
Louise Beechey

Rachel’s Holiday
Marian Keyes
Annette Doyle

RHS Gardening Manual
Reference
Hayley Burchill

Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare
Katea Downey

Schindler’s Ark
Thomas Kenneally
Mairead Doyle

Sophie’s World
Jostein Gaarder
Bres

Teach Yourself Chinese
Reference
Orlando Gibson

Teach Yourself Spanish
Reference
Orlando Gibson

The Butcher Boy
Patrick McCabe
Annette Doyle

The Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx
Nick Lawrance

The Constant Gardener
John le Carre
Suzanne Parsons

The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Mitch Alborn
Bres

The Horse Whisperer
Nicholas Evans
Annette Doyle

The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini
Suzanne Parsons

The Lady Grace Mysteries – Assassin
Patricia Finney
Kathryn Fridman

The Lonely Planet – India
Lonely Planet
Annette Doyle

The Lost World of the Kalahari
Laurens van der Post
Katharine Haines

The Mousehole Cat
Antonia Barber
Louise Beechey

The New York Trilogy
Paul Auster
Bres

The Once and Future King
T H White
Katharine Haines

The Piano Tuner
Daniel Mason
Hayley Burchill

The Prophet
Kahlil Gibran
Annette Doyle

The Reader
Bernard Schlink
Nick Lawrance

The Silent World
Jacques Cousteau
Louise Beechey

The Star of Kazan
Eva Ibbotson
Kathryn Fridman

The Treatment
Mo Hayder
Annette Doyle

The Worlds of Chrestomanci – The Magicians of Capriona
Diana Wynne Jones
Kathryn Fridman

Time Bandits
Michael Palin & Terry Gilliam
Orlando Gibson

Twinkle Annual

Eileen Kershaw

Veronika Decides to Die
Paul Coelho
Annette Doyle

Vile Victorians (Horrible Histories)
Terry Deary
Kathryn Fridman

Voyage of the Dawn Treader
C S Lewis
Nick Lawrance

Winnie the Pooh – Complete Collection of Poems and Stories
A A Milne
Mairead Doyle

Women’s Room
Marilyn French
Annette Doyle