Staking a claim to Bram Stoker’s birthplace

The page from the journal which lays the foundation for the character of Renfield in Dracula

Dracula author, Bram Stoker died in London in April 1912, but an undiscovered diary shows his early years in Ireland had a profound influence on his writing.

Prefer audio?

Listen to Dacre Stoker talk about the journal below.

He has been described as “one of the least known authors of one of the best known books ever written”. To mark the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death in April 1912, great grand-nephew Dacre Stoker will publish ‘The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years’, a hitherto forgotten diary of Stoker’s personal writings.

The journal reveals first-hand the real Bram Stoker – a man with a witty sense of humour, a great social awareness and a fledgling writer, who had leanings towards romantic prose – a genre not traditionally associated with the creator of arguably the most gruesome and ghastly literary character ever. Read more

Safety in the Skies – How safe are we in Europe?

When was the last time you thought about airline safety as you boarded a plane?  Probably never.  But if you’re unlucky enough to live in Russia or Africa, the chances of meeting your maker as a result of an airline disaster are greatly increased.

According to the latest statistics from JACDEC (Jet Airline Crash Data Evaluation Centre) as reported in the latest edition of Aero Magazine, flying has become safer than ever with civilian air traffic fatalities down from 829 in 2010 to 428 in 2011.  In fact, taking to the skies has never been safer, since the 2nd World War.  However, Russia and Africa remain areas of major concern.

The majority of accidents stem from aircraft which are no longer being built.  Back in August, a new record was set by a Russian manufactured Antonow AN-12 which was 48 years in service.

Most accidents occurred on short haul routes, under 500 km.  In fact, 100 per cent of passengers who travelled on a long haul flight arrived safely at their destination.   The improved safety record can be attributed to better flight control systems and the establishment of a better safety culture in more countries. Read more

The landscape may be cold but Scandinavian crime writing is hot

The landscape may be bleak, the weather cold and uninviting. But Scandinavian crime writing is hot at the moment and none more so than that of Stieg Larsson, celebrated author of the gripping Millennium Trilogy, which at last count had sold more than 27 million copies worldwide. The first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has captured the global imagination and that of Hollywood producers and is one of the most anticipated movie releases of the year with its Irish debut slated for December 27.

Starring Daniel Craig, as Swedish journalist Mikael Blomqvist and relative newcomer, Rooney Mara as punk, bisexual, computer hacker cum private investigator, Lisbeth Salander, the plot revolves around the hunt for Harriet Vanger of the powerful Vanger clan, who has disappeared years earlier. Her uncle, Henrik Vanger, a Swedish industrialist, is convinced that she was murdered by one of the family. It’s only when Salander discovers a link between Harriet’s disappearance and a series of murders some forty years earlier that the threads of the plot really come together. Read more

Freed from the shackles of party politics, what would an alternative cabinet look like?

Extreme times call for extreme measures and that’s just what happened this week, when Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti (“Super Mario”) set up a technocratic cabinet to pull Italy from the jaws of almost certain economic catastrophe.  To say it’s a radical move is an understatement.  With no politicians on board, his cabinet consists of academics, CEOs, diplomats and business professionals.  Some have criticised the move, saying it will be extremely difficult for Monti to pass unpalatable measures to deal with the financial crisis through the Italian parliament.  Others have given the appointments a guarded welcome citing the severing of ties with the banks and the independence of cabinet as crucial at a time when Italy’s polarised society needs to pull together.

So, freed from the shackles of party politics and the ever-present barometer of the polls, what would a non-political Irish cabinet look like?  Here are my suggestions for just some of the portfolios. Read more

The most iconic image of the 20th century?

In the week that Vietnam ratified the Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption, paving the way for Irish couples to adopt from that country once more, images of Kim Phuc immediately raced through my mind.  As a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl, her photograph was beamed around the world and to this day, remains one of the most memorable  and iconic images of the 20th century.

Taken by Pulitzer Award-winning, Associated Press (AP) photographer, Nic Ut, the image was so powerful, so vivid and so haunting, some would argue it influenced the course of the war in Vietnam.

It was June 8th, 1972 in the small village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam. Some days earlier, the village had been captured by North Vietnamese forces.  Kim Phuc (full name Phan Thị Kim Phúc) and her family had joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese forces and were preparing to move southwards towards safety.  However, a South Vietnamese airforce pilot mistook the group for enemy North Vietnamese and dropped a Napalm bomb on the small village, with devastating consequences. Read more

Four Seasons by Candlelight at the NCH – a real treat for the senses with true cross-genre appeal

The Four Seasons by Candlelight, National Concert Hall
Saturday, 5th November 2011

Performed by the Mozart Festival Orchestra and directed by David Juritz

It was the meeting of old and new.  Against the modern backdrop of the National Concert Hall, the Mozart Festival Orchestra performed a selection of the finest Baroque music, in authentic 18th century period costume.  The audience of young and old delighted in the evocative candle-lit style setting, which transported them back in time to enjoy classics from Bach, Handel, Mozart, Purcell, Charpentier and Vivaldi.

World-renowned trumpet soloist, Crispian Steele-Perkins delivered a delightful performance of Handel’s “Trumpet Suite in D Major”.  In a distinct change of mood, young soprano, Ruby Hughes performed a truly bewitching interpretation of Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament” from “Dido and Aeneas”, an operatic work based on a slow descending baseline, which created a wonderful, haunting ambience.  A varied program of Baroque classics followed including well-known pieces such as Mozart’s “Eine Klein Nachtmusik” and Bach’s “Air on the G String”. Read more

I was shocked. This was the first time in ages that I experienced quality customer service and a retailer who didn’t want or try to rip me off.

At Vision Express this morning with my 14-year old daughter, she got her annual eye test as well as a supplemental retina examination (we have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in the family which is a degenerative eye condition).  The last time I was here, I left the premises €280 lighter.  Teenagers with deteriorating eyesight and fussy tastes in designer eyeglasses are an expensive business.

I was delighted to hear that she didn’t need a new prescription this time around.  Obviously, her sight has settled down somewhat since the last test.  But with my husband having given me the cost of a new pair of glasses, I was already scheming and plotting of ways to spend it. Yes, some retail therapy together with a toasted Chicken Caesar bagel would indeed go down well on a Friday morning.

I went to the desk to pay.  But before doing so, asked the sales guy for a hard case for her existing glasses.  He produced a lovely Converse-branded case, with a couple of shammies – just what a teenager wants.    Mmm, I thought to myself.  The euros are clocking up.  He then politely informed me that the eye test was half price at just €13.50.   First pleasant surprise of the day. Read more

“The Snowman” by Jo Nesbo – It’s a real page turner which keeps you guessing ’til the end

He has been heralded as the next Stieg Larsson and the comparison is worthy.  Jo Nesbo’s latest crime thriller, “The Snowman” is a dark, gripping, gritty and ultimately rewarding work, which leaves the reader crying out for more.  His fifth novel to be translated into English, the story is set against the cold, bleak and desolate backdrop of the Norwegian landscape, focusing on the mysterious disappearance of several young mothers and subsequent hunt for a serial killer.   The investigation, led by Detective Harry Hole is an intricate affair, punctuated by moments of graphic violence, taut suspense and several layers of plot, which seamlessly weave their way through an utterly absorbing narrative.

Hole, is a flawed character, battling alcohol addiction and with little in life except a fleeting ex-partner, a young stepson, which makes him reflect on what might have been and of course his career.  In many ways, Hole is reminiscent of Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch character. Read more

What the Presidential Election tells us about ourselves

It’s only been three days.  But I’m already in withdrawal.  The events of the last week of the Presidential Election were truly compelling and told us a lot about who we are as a people.  For me, it was reminiscent of the 2007 general election.  On the cusp of the worst economic disaster in the history of our young state, we re-elected a party, whose misguided and catastrophic fiscal policies over the previous ten years had brought us to our knees.  I wondered and worried whether on this occasion we could see the writing on the wall and make the courageous rather than the easy choice.

While more than 1 million of us ultimately decided that elder statesman Michael D Higgins was the best candidate for the job, questions still remain in my head about why someone who so clearly mis-represented their position before the people, still got over 614,000 votes.  Surely, honesty and transparency are some of the most basic traits we can expect from our First Citizen.   And what does this episode in our electoral history say about us a people? Read more