If Covid-19 is almost gone, can Dermot Bannon be far behind?

February 27th, 2022 2:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

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NATURE is healing. Across the land, workers return to their offices, children gambol around schoolyards and stadiums are packed to the rafters again.

Ashen-faced creatures with creaky joints climb gingerly aboard gym treadmills with great trepidation.

The hit Friday night standup series Bad News With An Taoiseach has mercifully been cancelled and soon, masks will no longer be compulsory outside of healthcare settings.

But surely the greatest sign yet that life is going back to normal is the return of Room To Improve.

Yes, on Sunday evening Dermot Bannon, the Patron Saint of Glass, was back on our screens at long last, this time struggling to keep a project on track in the midst of a global pandemic, spiralling building costs and a potentially career-ending altercation with some wood grain.

RTÉ has marked Sunday night as its homegrown drama slot so it’s kinda funny that one of the biggest hits in this space is essentially a reality TV show about people agonising over kitchen tiles. But it’s proof that drama can be found in the smallest of places, even if the beats and tropes in this particular show are beginning to feel a little old hat. In telly terms, it feels a bit like a 1970s lino kitchen that could do with a bit of a makeover.

But we’re all still hooked.

Remarkably, Bannon came in under budget on the project, largely thanks to some shrewd shopping around by the homeowners. It was a sight that would have made Sean Fleming proud.

At a broader level, though, it appears that even after over two years of lockdowns and lifestyle re-evaluation, the Irish obsession with property hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s just come back as an even more virulent strain.

As well as utility rooms and walk-in wardrobes, we now want expansive home offices, lockdown-ready gardens and feature windows that go on for acres, wrapping artfully around double-height extensions that make a three-bedroom semi in Lucan think it’s the flipping Pompidou Centre.

We want bigger kitchens with underfloor heating and ample marble countertops on which to mindfully massage sourdough.

We want to see the grain, feel the grain, become at one with the grain of the kitchen cabinets. We want our homes A-rated, triple glazed, quadruple roofed. Ideally, we’d like the house to rotate with the sun and ‘let the light in’ 365 days a year.

We want to do daft things like flip the living space upside down and inside out so you can watch telly standing on your head and enjoy deep sleep in well-ventilated catacombs that burrow down towards the centre of the Earth.

David McWilliams often refers to the ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ in Irish society. I often think about all those people tuning into shows like Room to Improve and Home of the Year, mostly younger people who might be living at home with their parents and struggling to even dream of buying or even renting a place of their own. Does it not drive them absolutely demented? Is it any wonder they are looking for radical alternatives when it comes to how they might vote? And meanwhile, all the insiders – myself included – are happy to pass away our Sunday evenings hypnotised by the reverie of this property-themed La La Land.

Disney taking the Mickey

SPEAKING of which, I read during the week that Disney is launching a themed community in the US. It’s called Storyliving by Disney and I’m not talking about some theme park you visit for a day here – these are master-planned desert communities intended to ‘inspire residents to foster new friendships, pursue their interests and write the next exciting chapter in their lives.’

These developments will be designed by ‘Disney Imagineers’ and the first project ‘will welcome homeowners of all ages and will include at least one section expressly for 55+ residents’ and a club membership with exclusive Disney programming.

We all know that some builders in Ireland have been responsible for Mickey Mouse jobs over the years, but this is really taking the mickey. Maybe there are themed communities we could consider ourselves here in Ireland? Could we offer high-rise apartment developments themed around Bosco’s Box? Or rural eco-village communities inspired by Glenroe? And why not ditch city life entirely, fill up the camper van, and join the Wanderly Wagon Trail out west?

Blink ... cos I miss it!

AS regular readers of this column will know, even as I wander the Eastern shores of the Irish Sea near my home on Dublin’s northside, my mind is often veering West. I’m always plotting the next trip home to the Red Strand to refill the cartridges. Before Christmas, I decided to splash out on a physical embodiment of this connection. I am now the proud owner of a West Cork lighthouse chart made by Dara Campbell of which shows all the major lights from The Bull to Ballycotton, each one programmed to match the timing of the real thing. I love it. I became obsessed with these charts as a kid when I saw one of them on the wall of one of the pubs in Union Hall (Casey’s maybe?) and now I have one in my living room to help keep the connection strong.  So this past week, I’ve been somewhat comforted to see all the lights flashing in sequence, in some symbolic way protecting all those I hold dear at home, as Dudley, Eunice and Franklin arrived in (always in alphabetical order of course) to batter the coastline.

You see, you can take the man out of West Cork ….

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