Once again Ireland surprised me, this time an Irishman, to be precise. Last August, as part of the competition for the best salon in Ireland, I did a hot towel shave in front of a photographer for the Irish Times newspaper. Their well-known journalist Conor Pope had the honour of surviving his time under my knife and shortly after we were declared the winning salon.
Conor Pope is one of the most popular television journalists in Ireland. As so often happens, he is also a very kind and grounded person. One morning I was walking next to the Irish Times, and I noticed him on the other side of the road. He was in an obvious rush. However, he heard my “Hi Conor!” and turned and ran across the road to greet me!
After the usual small talk, he said “You wrote on Facebook that you have great news you still can not reveal, tell me the secret, is it about you being a speaker in the seminar in Zagreb?”
I said, “No, no, something much more interesting…”
Conor offered “Now that you’re a celebrity reporter, come over one day and I will take you on a tour of our newsroom”.
I answered “I’m not a celebrity reporter yet, just a blogger but I would love to accept your invitation. Unless you are just being polite in the way you Irish are, where you say something kind, without any real intentions of acting on it?”
Conor laughed and said “Of course not! Really, whenever you want, just let me know!” So, as soon as the following week, Conor freed some time for me.
The Irish Times head office is located in the city centre, a few steps from the famous Trinity College. After I received my visitor card, my host came down to the front desk for me. Our first stop was the seventh floor, where their canteen is located. I just loved the beautiful terrace that stretches the entire length of the building. The roof terrace overlooking all of Dublin. When I asked about the parties they have there, Conor said that it is very rare because of the safety issue, someone drunk might fall off the building. It makes sense but it’s a pity, the view is breathtaking.
I joked, “It’s too bad that Dublin is not tiny bit more beautiful, then the view would be even more spectacular!”
Conor is a great guide and he posed for a photo when I asked him (read: I pointed with my finger where I wanted him to stand), he photographed me when necessary, held my jacket and bag and he revealed a number of interesting facts about the history of the Irish Times. He has worked for The Irish Times for 20 years!
Jokingly I asked him: “And no one fired you in all those twenty years?”
Luckily Conor has a great sense of humour. At one point, while we were in the newsroom I asked him “Does anyone smile in this place?” “Not so much” he said, “we are very serious!”
We descended floor by floor, to human resources, the editors, the marketing department, recording rooms and conference halls. One floor is reserved for students of journalism, my host is one of their teachers. Each floor has a different colour scheme, from purple, pink, blue, red but each is similar. A lot of people at their desks, focused on whatever they are working on.
Only occasionally someone raised their head and looked curiously in our direction with an obvious question mark above their head “Who the hell is she?” On the floor where all the main editors have their desks, Conor said “We have to be particularly quiet here”. “So now is the time for me to laugh and maybe shout to announce my presence?” I asked.
Conor introduced me to his fellow journalists. Of course I can’t remember any of their names because I was a little nervous and excited about being there. His colleague said something interesting about Conor, I couldn’t decipher a word, so I just smiled and we moved on in the tour. I learned that one editor in particular takes a special place in the history of the Irish Times because in the very Catholic and conservative Ireland of the sixties, seventies and eighties, the Times was the only liberal newspaper in the country. No doubt, a lot of people at the time must have been ungrateful about him holding his position. Definitely worthy of respect.
At one point we were 2 meters from the main editors meeting, discussing and agreeing the topics which will be published tomorrow. Several of them turned at the sound of Conor’s whispers, and I felt like a total outsider. Conor was relaxed, in his natural environment. He described his working day and said that very soon he would need to run to RTE, the national television network, to the television show he is in every Monday. Even though he was in a hurry he didn’t rush me, he was intrigued by my story as much as I was intrigued by his.
The alarm beside us sounded briefly and I said “That’s because they heard my laughter, it activated the alarm”. With a smile he agreed with me.
He brought me back from the ground floor to the top floor, and we sat to have a coffee in the modern cafeteria. It was his turn to ask questions and hear stories, he queried me on everything, why I moved to Ireland, asking how I got the idea to start writing a blog, admiring how popular I am.
I asked him why he thought I was popular and he said “Well, obviously, you have lots of followers on Facebook, whatever you post gets attention and hundreds of likes, it’s fascinating!”
He is interested in the profile of my readers, whether they live in Ireland or Croatia. When I told him about them living in all parts of the world he said that it is extremely rare to find people doing extraordinary things, standing out from the crowd and daring to try. Such people, he said, deserve recognition. I was very flattered, it was a big compliment.
The visit ended with the story about haters, his warning that I have entered a world in which some people, whatever you do, write or say very bad things about you and that there will be many of them along the way. He said how important is not to worry about such things. They are part of the burden of being a public person.
In the end we took a couple of selfies together, overlooking the city we both love before we went our separate, busy ways.
Scientists mark that day in January on the calendar as the most depressing day of the year. Well, if that is a depressing day, I’m willing to have all of my future days equally depressing.
Enjoy the photos J