Black and white and best read all over

I am prepared to bet that many of you readers who have shelled out €2 for this splendid newspaper today, and every day of the week, indeed, have not the foggiest notion of how to read a newspaper properly.

That is a fairly harsh and judgemental statement which, in all fairness, I will now completely justify.

My opinion, as always on this page, is based on years of research and, again as always, will be supplemented by a wholesome yarn which hopefully ye will enjoy.

Is that Okay?

Right. It is certain that nearly all of you will read Page one’s headline stories from beginning to end, and even those whose prime interest is in sport will diligently peruse the other news pages within (where my friend Catherine Shanahan’s scoops are always required reading) before devouring all the sports reports and statistics.

The features section and the business pages (enlivened these days by the off-field forays of Munster rugby stars with one eye on the clock!), will also engage many of you, before you check out the TV schedule for the evening. Right again?

The over-40s,with some reluctance, will check out the death notices whilst hoping against hope that no friend or neighbour will appear there.

The many supplements each week will draw the relevant segments of the market.

This will be especially true each Thursday, when many will be fascinated by the well-being of Denis Lehane’s bull with just one testicle, and some will also want to learn which mighty truths MacConnell is releasing exclusively today. And then, sadly, the majority of you will discard an Irish Examiner whose most human stories ye have missed altogether.

The pure truth, again.

Because there are more glimpses into our mortal realities peeping out through the small print of the columns of classified adverts and notices than are revealed on page one.

Old hacks like myself, down our years, often find gems of stories there.

I recall for example seeing a ‘for sale’ advert in the Roscommon Champion years ago, which read: “For sale, silk wedding gown with train. Size 14. Never worn”.

What a story was there, somewhere?

In this paper, last week, I spotted a legal notice to creditors placed by a company called Wolf At The Door.

I send my best wishes to the proprietors of that firm, and I hope the lupine threat has been banished.

What an imaginative trading name that is.

Elsewhere, over last weekend, in the death notices of a Sunday paper, I was delighted to see I had not lost any friends or acquaintances, but saddened by the reality that no less than three Presentation Convent communities along the west coast had lost the souls and company of three of their sisters who had died on the last day of the month.

RIP to all of them, in an era where there is no longer a flood of vocations to the convents and when, indeed, some convents are closing down.

The passing of the aged nuns triggered a memory of the story from the early decades of the last century, when convent life was spartan, when novices were numerous, and when a London merchant who was a Jew was always welcome in the Irish convents because, being a theatrical wigmaker, he purchased all the lustrous long locks which by convent tradition were shorn from the innocent heads of the young postulants before they were allowed to don their heavy habits and take their first vows.

The wigmaker had died before I pursued the story in the 1980s, but his son told me his dad loved his Irish trips, because he was always welcomed in the convents, and was able to purchase hundredweights of the highest quality hair in the world.

No dyes or colourings or home perms back then for young women whose hair glossified and curled in Europe’s purest environment, along the coasts and islands of the West and South.

That is how I learned that the wigmaker used the luxuriant blue-black locks from the head of some Irish novice nun to create the wig which Elizabeth Taylor wore as Cleopatra, on the set of the epic movie, Antony and Cleopatra.

Richard Burton, of course, played Antony, they began one of the most passionate love affairs of their era when they met on the set and, according to my source, they were not acting at all in the love scenes, because his father told him later there were times when the cameras had to be turned off!

The pure truth yet again. Where else would you get it but here?

As I said above, you should read every inch of every page of this or any other newspaper, to get full value for your money.


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