AUTHOR and BBC presenter Graham Norton says he would like to return to Ireland to retire, ‘but not to work’.
The popular Bandon man thinly disguised his anger over Brexit, during an interview as part of the West Cork Literary Festival last weekend in Bantry.
Referring to Britain’s vote to leave the EU, he said: ‘It didn’t come from the right, or the left, it came from the stupid,’ adding that he no longer quotes Boris Johnson on his show, because he doesn’t want to give his thinking legitimacy.
He agreed with his interviewer, Skibbereen journalist Nadine O’Regan, at the Maritime Hotel, that US president Donald Trump gained traction because so many people didn’t take him seriously.
And Norton noted there were one or two people in Ireland now, with very dangerous ideas, who should also be ignored.
‘My advice is, don’t retweet them,’ he said, advising the audience to ‘ignore them, even if you are tempted because what they are saying or doing is so outrageous, because you are just giving them a wider audience, and some of those people might think that talk is acceptable, when it isn’t.’
‘Ignore them completely,’ he urged. He received a round of applause for his comments.
But those serious moments were just a small element of a wide-ranging interview that combined hilarious memories of Norton’s childhood in West Cork, with his early career as an actor and comedian, to heading up the hugely successful chat show, and on to his latest career as an award-winning author of two novels.
Back in his Ahakista home for a large part of his summer break from the BBC, he revealed that he is using some of this downtime to write again.
O’Regan, the books and arts editor of the Sunday Business Post, probed Graham on his writing process, and the author said fellow writer David Nicholls had given him advice once to start by tracing out a rough plot. You can change it, but at least you know where you should be going with the story, Norton said.
And he made a number of revelations about his first two best-selling novels. The village of Duneen in his debut, Holding, was loosely based on Durrus, he said, and he noted that although he had included ‘Ross’ sisters in his work of fiction, he had since learned there, in fact, were Ross sisters living in Durrus. ‘I never knew,’ he said, although it was a total coincidence and his characters bear no resemblance to the ‘real’ Ross sisters, he insisted.
He also revealed that he had drawn from his Bandon connection for the locations in his second novel, A Keeper, so readers might spot areas around Timoleague in it. In fact, his mother Rhoda told him a story that inspired his own plot for the novel.
When he referred to the ‘lonely hearts’ advert placed in the Farmers Journal by one of the book’s main characters, O’Regan noted that there were similar ads in The Southern Star for many years – and there still are!
When they spoke of critics, Norton said his mum Rhoda was his greatest sounding board. ‘I would be disappointed if mum didn’t like my books. We both like a good story and the same type of books, so she always reads mine,’ he said.
And he admitted he would be happy to return home to retire, but not to work. When asked if that was because of the difference in salary, he laughed and said: ‘Yes, that would just be stupid.’
He said he likes to spend time in West Cork because while people here recognise him, he also recognises a lot of people here – he might know them as neighbours, or from ‘the tills at SuperValu’ or the bank, but in London, people know him, but he, generally, doesn’t know them. That experience can be quite odd, he said.
Graham also joked that he had once wanted to be a journalist but was rejected by Rathmines College and, in retrospect, that was a good thing – it sent him in a different direction.
He advised young people not to be upset by rejection early in life, because it was the world’s way of weeding out the careers that are not for you.
Graham has a number of other public functions to perform during his holidays in West Cork, not least of all the annual Ahakista August Festival table quiz, which this year moves across the road from its original venue beside Arundel’s to a marquee at The Tin Pub.
He will be joined this year by local rugby heroes, Fineen and Josh Wycherley (Ireland and Munster champions), who will take part in a ‘meet and greet’ outside Arundels before the quiz on August 2nd.
Raffle prizes on the quiz night include the annual two tickets to attend the recording of The Graham Norton show at the BBC, while there are many other generous spot prizes, too.
While the quiz has been sold out since June, there are several other events being held during the bank holiday weekend in Ahakista.
For more, and a chance to win the final pair of tickets to the quiz, see Ahakista August Festival on Facebook.