Least favourite thing about Cork: Sometime ago, I flew into Dublin from Berlin late one evening and got the air coach to Cork. It was sometime close to midnight – I remember, it was November. The bus arrived in Cork to a wet and dark and deserted Patrick’s Quay at 2.30am. Passengers were dropped off on the quay side, with no shelter from the elements, no security, no bathrooms, no taxi-rank, no connecting bus service, no information – and then the bus drove off into the night. That’s all fine and dandy for us Corkonians who may have had a family member waiting to collect us, but I encountered a fellow traveller, a woman who was not from Cork, she had 2 children, 1 in a buggy and luggage dangling. English was not her first language, she was just standing there alone, 2.30 in the morning, on a cold wet quayside. Welcome to Cork! She was looking for the River Lee Hotel – she’d be still there, only that I escorted her along the quay and across Patrick’s Bridge, where she got a taxi on Patrick’s Street. Welcome to Cork, like!
One thing you’d change about Cork: Access to a city is its lifeblood. It is essential for the commerce of a city, the citizens and the hinterland of a city. An effective, functioning airport literally puts a city on the map. I would endeavour to increase flights in and out of Cork Airport. I’m not sure who is responsible for funnelling all flights through the bottle neck hell that is Dublin Airport, but I believe Cork representatives should fight our corner, lobby hard and insist on getting flights to and from Cork. Make Cork an Irish regional, national and international hub.
I would consider offering the former old now disused terminal to Ryan Air free-gratis.
When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up? I was never that small – and I’m still waiting to grow-up. I never really had a career plan, or a desire to be anything other than what I am at any particular time. I guess I will go to my grave wondering what I will be when I grow up.
Tell us about your career progression to your role today: I don’t have a career path. I live each day as it comes. When I look back and I join the dots, it might appear that I am following a path, but in truth, I just follow my heart from project to project – I’m a big fan of let your heart be your guide, and hopefully your head will make sense of it all.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do? Every day is different. Every day has new challenges, new worries, new accomplishments, new successes and new failures. It is that variety that brings spice to my life.
What motivates you? I’m like a small farmer or an old time shopkeeper (I grew up in a small corner shop, and I come from small farmer stock). I don’t differentiate between work and life, so motivation doesn’t really define my day-to-day. This is what I do, I enjoy what I do and there aren’t enough hours in the day.
But if you mean, what fires me up? Well, I think it’s important to identify the issues of today that might be the scandals or the shame of the future. I really have no time for pointing the finger of what-about-ery, but I do believe future generations will look back on our times with outrage on the conditions of Direct Provision.
What advice would you give your 15 year old self? I’m never the best for giving or taking advice. But it seems to me that life: art, politics, entertainment, commerce, career, ambition, religion etc is all about creating enough white noise to conceal the very real fact that we are on a ball of dirt flying around the sun at 1,000 miles an hour and none of us are getting out of here alive. Life is all about living. Life is all about people. We are all centre stage in our own personal narrative and each individual’s narrative is bespoke, unique and personal. But the fascinating aspect is that we are also bit-part characters in the narrative of others and others may cast us as heroes or villains in their narrative – but best ignore that and live our own narrative as best we can.
If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing? I haven’t had a ‘job’ since 1984. Back in the recession of the ‘80s, the job crisis was what the housing crisis is now. There were no jobs – simple as that. Half the country was unemployed, the other half was on an ANCO course. The job market was bleak – and I guess partly inspired by the whole punk thing of my formative years and partly due to the times I lived in, I learned to just make my way by making it up as I went along. I’ve been making it up as I go along ever since. I wouldn’t recommend it as a career path, but I wouldn’t change one iota. But if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I’d be doing something else and that’s the nature of making it up as you go along.
What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date? Whenever things go south in my life, and life has the tendency to go south every now and again – well, I look in my corner and there’s Fiona O’Toole and those close to me, and those I trust, and they’re encouraging me to keep on going. That’s a magical feeling.
I’m healthy, I’m happy and I’m blessed with family and a handful of reliable friends – and at my age that’s some achievement.
Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life? In order of importance, I would say Fiona O’Toole, my parents, my aunt Kit and uncle Jack. Then it spreads out among various siblings, cousins and relations – and I am lucky to have a handful of close friends who have proven themselves to be discrete in times of adversity and I tend to rely on them.
What is the life dream now? The dream is to keep on dreaming.
How do you switch off? I have no interest in switching off. The doctors can switch me off when the time is right.
What is your favourite place in Cork? I have a little room where I ‘work’. It’s cluttered and not big enough to swing a cat, but It’s my happy place. That room is my favourite place on the planet.
Outside of that room, walking the streets of downtown is magical: Paul Street, Oliver Plunket Street, Patrick’s Bridge, North Main Street. I love to go for a wander around the town with my dog – ‘doing Pana’ – the old people call it. Maybe it’s the sing-song sound of Cork people talking, but sometimes walking the streets is a bit like being in a musical.
Do you have a favourite quote or motto? I’m laughing when I say that my favourite quote is from one of my own plays, ‘The Cure’. “When the chemistry goes in a relationship, there’s nothing for it, but take more chemicals!” But seriously, my mother instilled 2 words of wisdom in my life: “Never trouble trouble unless trouble troubles you,” and “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
From a very young age, growing up behind a shop counter, my mother insisted that we would not listen to nor share gossip. Consequently, I have a great capacity to talk about nothing.
When are you at your happiest? When I’m sitting alone in my little room with my head full of characters. The truth be told, everything I do: the books, the plays, the documentaries, the readings and performances – are all about providing space for me to sit alone in my room with my head full of characters. I often think that if I had my way, I would do nothing else. But then again it’s the yin and the yang of life – I guess the privacy I crave feeds off my need to socialise – one provides space for the other. I guess I’m an agoraphobic who loves to socialise.
What is your hidden talent? I have a charm with animals. That’s the truth. More specifically with dogs. Even the most feral of dogs seem to calm down around me. I received my 1st dog when I was 12 years of age, and I have always had a dog ever since. Truthfully, I’m hopeless when it comes to training dogs. I often think my dogs train me. But maybe that’s my charm with dogs, maybe they instinctively realise that I’m struggling with life and I’m as confused as they are?
What might we be surprised to know about you? 2 things. I have never lived in a house with a garden, yet I am extremely green-fingered and passionate about plants. I have a fascinating array of plants.
And 2 – if I stand on Patrick’s Bridge, and I look up to the red city of Gurranabraher, I can identify who owns the various flocks of pigeons flying around above the city. For example, Michael Crane’s pigeons will rise up from mid-way along Cathedral Road, Dalton’s pigeons will rise up by the Parochial Hall. I can stand there looking on almost mesmerised and watch them swirl. Mad really as I’ve never owned pigeons. I often dream that I would love to have a pigeon-loft of my own. I dream about building an elaborate pigeon loft, something that looked like the Taj Mahal or an old gothic cathedral with turrets, something totally elaborate, it would be a pigeon palace rather than a pigeon loft. Pigeons feature in a lot of my writing.
As a kid growing up, our streets always had a lot of pigeons because of McKenzie’s seed suppliers, around the corner on Pine Street. Maybe my fascination with pigeons has something to do with that. I did have one pigeon when I was a kid and nursed her back to health in a shoebox – and maybe that experience imprinted something in me?
Anything else you’d like to share with us? Culture night is such a special event. It’s the one night the city throws open its doors to all comers. It’s a family night. I think it’s fantastic that the mammies and the daddies and the kiddies and the babies take ownership of the streets and make the city their own. This is not about merchandising or marketing, it is a genuine celebration of our city by and for the citizens of the city. Culture Night is a highlight in my calendar.
Name and position: Cónal Creedon. I’m a dog walker, a novelist, playwright and documentary filmmaker.
Age: 60 and a 1/2
Lives: Cork city
Family: Married to Fiona O’Toole. We have a very strong sense of kinship. Our understanding of family is a close-knit gathering of siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins and a core of close friends.
Pets: A 12 year old Border Terrier who sometimes answers to the name of Jude.
Favourite thing about Cork: For me, Cork is now, was then and ever shall be home. I am so blessed to feel a visceral sense of encouragement among my own in my home town. That sense of people stretching out the hand of support and saying ‘Dowcha, Cónal’.
That sense of being wished well with what I’m doing is a very privileged place to be. It’s an honour and means so much to me and I don’t take it for granted. I guess what I love most about Cork is that sense of feeling comfortable among my own.
Least favourite thing about Cork: The idea of getting a bus from Cork to Dublin Airport to get a flight out of Cork seems bizarre to me, especially as we have such a nice airport here in Cork. Busloads are being ferried from Cork to Dublin airport every hour, it just seems wrong.