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Hello you legends,

I’m writing to you from a Cafe Nero at Heathrow where I’ve just landed from Dublin after one of my monthly trips home to see my parents. The whole of Dublin city is reeling today after a horrific event in which a man targeted a nursery and stabbed a number of young children and their carer. The event sparked a tidal wave of rage and riots from a very small number of men, who on hearing a rumour that the attacker was an immigrant, proceeded to burn out a number of double decker buses, eleven police cars, and a section of the Dublin tram called the Luas. Shops were broken into and looted, videos appeared on social media of inner city Dublin in flames.

Today I’m thinking of those young kids and their families, the teachers and staff in that nursery and all the police and council workers who were trying to do their jobs in really frightening circumstances. The irony underpinning all of this fiasco is of course that Ireland is a country of emigrants, me being one of them. To add to the irony, It was a Brazilian man called Caio Castro Menenzes who was the first to apprehend the attacker, by jumping off the motorbike that he was doing deliveries on and whacking the attacker with his helmet. He said of the rioters,

“It looks like they hate immigrants. Well, I am an immigrant and I did what I could to try and save that little girl”.

These rioters are being called ‘thugs’ in the news reports. It would be easy to cast them off as scumbags and ignorant racists, but as soon as we dismiss them, we are exercising our own ignorance. You have to try and understand people, not dehumanise them.

I’ve never wanted to be on social media less, for the way it polarises people, the way it eschews nuance for shock value. It’s a fucking shit show on there. As a weird sort of act of resistance against how social media makes me feel, I’ve started writing letters to my Mother in Dublin. It’s everything that social media is not. A slow, analogue, ritual that forces one to stay in the present. There’s a beauty in the process, the sentences taking shape from the end of my pen, the commitment to the sentence as it is, without the benefit of a delete button. I like to close off all my devices and enjoy the ritual of it. Put nice music on and give myself half an hour to look between the window and the page, to write whatever thoughts float into my mind, and to see it as a document of me, here in this moment. And that’s just the writing part. Receiving them is such a buzz! Seeing my mam’s handwriting, hearing her voice in the words, you are able to say things in a letter that are much more difficult to say out loud. I keep her letters in a shoebox. I’m so glad I have them.

In one week it will be December. A time of sending and receiving cards and presents and awkward office parties and tinsel and faux cheer. Christmas is the only time of the year that I miss being religious. I miss my childhood trips to church, getting to belt out hymns with a crowd of people in a room with fabulous acoustics. Gloria in excelsis! Come on it’s a banger! To pre-empt my need to sing, three weeks ago I joined a choir. I think it might be something to do with being forty five years old, but I’m not questioning it, I’m going with it and I’m bleedin loving it. There is something SO profound about singing in a room with people. The first time I went, I was shitting it, I didn’t know anyone and I hadn’t read sheet music since school. It felt so good to unlock that part of my brain again and remember. It felt good to have to focus on the parts, and to learn them and it felt good to SING. But most of all to sing together in a circle and for all the harmonised parts to click into each other and just the buzz of it. I couldn’t stop smiling. I go every week now.

There will be a community choir performance before Christmas to look forward to, ( I’ve come a long way from my crowdsurfing days  ) and two more of my Before Midnight dates in Bristol and Brighton. There is a trip back to Ireland to Dingle this time to present the wonderful Other Voices TV show, and there are Christmas parties galore. I’ll be releasing an end of year special episode of Changes, dissecting 2024 with one of my favourite comedians, and also a really really powerful episode of Changes focussed on loneliness, which I thought would be pertinent to release in the lead up to Christmas. I wrote a whole article on loneliness last year that had a huge reaction from people. You can read it here if you’re interested.

I’ll be back in Dublin for a noisy Christmas and then for the first time ever, I’ll be DJing in Dublin for NYE! Before Midnight is coming to the deadly new venue Silo in Dublin and I’m bringing Irish national treasure Panti Bliss for the evening to add a touch of glamour and fun to the proceedings. There’s still tickets so if you want to buy your loved one a gift of a night out dancing, or if you just need to know you’ve a good night out nailed before you enter into the stress of Christmas, you can do that HERE.

And last but not least, to begin the process of writing my third novel I’ve gone back to writing lessons. Back to comprehending prose, dissecting plot, learning writing tools. Trying trying trying to exercise patience, which is, I’m learning one of the biggest characteristics needed to be a novelist. ( It’s a work in progress for me ). In the meantime my most recent novel is called The Mess We’re In. It’s about music, and growing up in a new city and pertinent to the start of this newsletter, it’s about becoming an immigrant. I’d feel like an eedjit trying to sell it to you so here’s what other people said about it.

Annie Macmanus writes with remarkable verve and wisdom, and in Orla she has created easily my favourite character of recent years. Tender, hilarious, sad and ultimately hopeful... I love this book. - Louise Kennedy

Perfectly evokes that heady mix of thrills and heartbreak we experience as young Irish newcomers trying to find our own London. I enjoyed it so so much. - Graham Norton

I adored this. I think in twenty years it will be just as vital - a historical document, saying, "Yes, this is how we lived." Beautiful and messy - Karl Geary

The book is so, so good...It's so beautifully written. I could have read on and on, I was so sad when it ended. - Joanne McNally

If you like the sound of The Mess We’re In for a Christmas pressie you can get your hands on it HERE.

Now, that’s enough self promotion for today. Thanks so much for listening, reading, dancing, giving a shit about any of the things I put out in the world. I’m sending youse all my love.