Happy Birthday Richard Grant Esterhuysen


I’m an actor playing an actor but it’s not inception?

The most famous Swazi actor in the world was born on this day in 1957.  Richard reduced his very Afrikaans last name to a single letter and became Richard E. Grant on his Equity card.

Nobody has ever been luckier in landing their first film role.  Grant was perfect to play the lead in the cult classic Withnail and I in 1987.  He played a tour de force opposite Ian McKellen in Jack and Sarah (1995).

These days he is better known to the world from parts in Dr Who, Downton Abbey and a deliciously hammy part in Season 6 of Game of Thrones in which he plays Izembaro, the impresario, writer and lead actor in the Gate troop of players in the City of Bravos.

Oh we’re all thinkers now, are we? Full to the tits with ideas. You have ideas, I have ideas, he has ideas. Why should my ideas have anymore value than yours, simply because I have been doing this my whole life? Who’s anyone to judge my work? This is my profession, I know what I’m doing! You have no right to an opinion.

Patron of the Arts

Without the Archbishop of Salzburg we may never have heard of Mozart.  Without the sponsorship of Pope Julius would we know of Michelangelo?   Since time immemorial the greatest contribution a rich person could make to society was to sponsor artists.  The greatest accolade must go to the patrons of the arts without whom there would be no art.

Become a Patron now!

The beauty of the modern world is that everyone can now rise to the lofty heights.  Anyone can become a patron of the arts thanks to the Crowdfunding movement.

Here is a perfect example.  The Randomer  A movie being filmed in Dublin, Ireland.  For as little as $10 you can become a backer to the project.  You get to become a creator, an owner of a piece of Cinema.  You can build a legacy.

That may sound a little grand, but think about it for a while.  John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, built a palace a Blenheim, and created a legacy which turned up Winston Churchill to lead Britain to victory in WW2.  A legacy is more about values than wealth.  It is a way  to educate your children and grand children about the values prized by you and your peers.

You may not be able to build Blenheim palace, but you can have a movie poster on your wall.  You can say to your grandchildren, “That movie was made because of my contribution”.  The money is different, but the message is just as compelling.

Buy the movie poster here

Best of all is the personal buzz you get from becoming a patron.  The money you contribute gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.  The more you give the longer the feeling lasts.  So think no further, get funding now!  Put your name in lights, or be anonymous, the choice is yours.  Be a part of something great!

And now I give you a poem from one of the greatest artists in history, both in and out of the ring.  Mohammed Ali, poet laureate of the boxing ring, used this short poem to express the ability of the individual to stand up and make a change that carries all the people.  On this St Patrick’s Day it is worth remembering that he inherited some of his gift of the gab from his Irish Great Grandfather, Abe Grady, from Ennis in Co. Clare.

A poem by Muhammad Ali:






Transition Space

Chez Hans

Transitional spaces can significantly enhance or detract from an experience. Do you recognise your transitional spaces? How do you design your transition to introduce and enhance the drama of your experience?
I was out for dinner at a local restaurant last Saturday and it got me thinking about transitional spaces. Chez Hans in Cashel is more than just a restaurant, it is an experience. The main dining room is in a restored ecclesiastical building, the old Church of Ireland Synod hall. There are no eye level windows, so passing walkers cannot have a look into the restaurant. To get in to the dining area you must commit yourself fully to the experience.
Entry is by way of a square bar room. There is no off putting hostess desk acting as a barrier to entry which is the key feature of high profile American restaurants. The reception in Chez Hans is in the back of the room. You must cross the transition space and fully enter to engage with the staff.
The room itself reeks of age, heritage and class. It is dark in the transition space. Ideal for taking people from hectic, busy lives and slowing them down before they enter the dining room. In the bar area you order a drink and they bring you the menu and the wine list. You can take your time ordering, have a chat and generally relax for a moment.
The staff can set up the table in the dining room for you before you ever enter. You will never know if your arrival caused any fuss. When you arrive at your table it will all be perfect.
The dining room itself is an airy high ceilinged room. It seems bright after the darkness of the bar, but this is an illusion. The dining room light is also muted, adding to the slowing of time and allowing you to savour your meal in pure relaxation.

Disney understand the power of the transition space to enhance excitement. Before you can step onto a roller coaster you must pass through a long entry transition, and generally in a queue. The area you walk through is carefully designed to give you clues about the ride, and to tee you up so that you get the best from your experience.

Waiting rooms are also transition spaces. They are designed to establish the power relationship between the professional and the customer/patient/client. Professional’s waiting rooms commonly display power symbols, diplomas, certificates, professional memberships, photos with high profile personalities.

Medical professionals may have several transitional spaces. A dentist administering anesthetic does not want to return the patient to the entry waiting room, where they might frighten away potential customers. There is generally a second waiting room for those “in treatment”.

A hotel lobby can be set up as a grand space, exhibiting comfort, class and high prices. A budget hotel will have a simple functional transitional space, a place to move through quickly to your room and not designed for guests to display their presence. Some very cheap hotels have a cage or grill, a warning to guests not to leave valuables lying around.

Cinemas & Theaters design the transitional spaces to raise anticipation. The cinema moves you through an area of total darkness into the sanctum of the screen. The transition is almost religious in nature, a rebirth from the norm to the world of magic. Theaters use high design, expensive curtains and sculpture, acres of plasterwork and brass to let you know you are in for a treat.

Think about your offices. When a customer calls, or an applicant attends for interview, what do they learn about your company from the transitional space? Is this the message you want to convey? How do you want clients to feel when they arrive? Do you want to overwhelm them with your brilliance?  Do you want them to feel comfortable and welcome, as though they have come home?  Do you  want to set them up with anticipation for a piece of magic?

What props do you have at your disposal?  Architectural offices frequently exhibit models of previous projects, or concept work.  In colonial times it was common for governors to display weapons on walls as symbols of raw power.  Leo Burnett’s ad agency always has a bowl of apples.  Irish International in Dublin have a bin filled with awards (we win so many we throw them away).  Is your transition space celebrating the past or the future?

Who represents your company at your reception desk?  How do they dress, speak, look etc?  Did you spend more on decorating your reception or your CEO’s office?

Frosty Morning


The first real hard frost of the year came last night. Winter has tightened its grip. But this is Ireland and “Hard Frost” for us is a joke for others. My brother in Canada laughs at our weather forecast which casts warnings of doom and destruction over temperatures that in Calgary would be considered a soft day.

It is 11:15 and the frost has melted and the roads should be safe.

Tonight is Cinema night. I am taking the boys to see the Hobbit: Battle of the 5 Armies in 3D. My daughter is going to the Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 with her friends. I am not allowed in that cinema.

I love the cinema. So many great memories of my own childhood, eating sticky toffees with my brothers and sisters and escaping into that great big screen filled with the wonders of the universe.

We used to go to local suburban cinemas to see old movies or low budget films.  All those cinemas are gone now, converted into carpet warehouses or bingo halls.

For the new release blockbuster movies we went into Dublin City Centre.  Some of those cinemas have survived, albeit following re-modelling into multiplexes.  They had fancy names such as the Savoy, the Ambassador and the Plaza.  They were the height of luxury with crushed velvet armchairs, acres of curtains over cinemascope screens that seemed to go on forever.  We were always on the ground floor in the stalls, and dreamed of the days when we might afford to sit on the balcony and eat Milk Tray chocolates instead of toffees and boiled sweets.

Queues were a vital part of the experience.  The stress and tension, wondering if you would get a ticket.  That sense of fear, wonder and delight enhanced the experience.

In many ways the Cinema experience is quasi-religious.  It is a rite, with its own rituals.  You go into that dark space and are transformed by the experience of the film, to emerge a different person.

The Cold Heaven; by William Butler Yeats

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

What did America ever do for us?

Cranberries?  We should celebrate cranberries?  I think not.  And what is a blueberry only a commercialised bilberry.  We had them already in Ireland.

Then there is Maize, the runt of the grain family.  Maize was responsible for widespread pellagra due to niacin defficiency.  How did native americans ever figure out that soaking the grain in lye released niacin?  So Italians rave about polenta, big deal. You won’t find it in Ireland.

I will say that fresh maize is pretty good, no barbeque is complete without sweet corn on the cob.  And then I guess there is popcorn, which goes perfectly with that other American invention, the cinema.

The potato, that came from America.  And here in Ireland it was responsible for the death of a million and the emigration of 2 million Irish as a result of the potato famine.  OK, Irish cuisine basically doesn’t exist without the humble spud.  Boil them, crush them, mash them, cream them, roast them, sauté, fried, deep fried, dauphin, au gratin, croquette, duchesse, baked, deep fried skins, stuffed, layered, potato cake, potato bread, garfield, rosti, I could go on.

Then America gave us the turkey, which basically means that Americans invented Christmas.  We don’t do thanksgiving, but Christmas just isn’t Christmas without turkey, and cranberry sauce. OK, so there is a use for cranberries, once a year.

Tomatoes.  They come from America.  What would we have without them?  No ketchup, no puree, no passata, so there go half of all the pasta sauces.  And Pizza is not Pizza absent the tomato.  Provencale sauce, practically every other salad, burgers without tomato and ketchup?  Hot dogs?  OK, so we need tomatoes.

Then there is Chili, that came from america too.  Chili, not Chile, which is in America.  This insidious spice has effectively invaded every cuisine from Portugal to China.  Somehow it bypassed Ireland until the 1970’s, and there are still chili free areas in the deep rural areas of the country.

Chocolate, oh yeah, that’s American.  Chocolate bars, chocolate cakes, boxes of chocolate, chocolate pudding, hot chocolate, death by chocolate, mmmmmm.

So there are really some pretty cool things that we got from America.  Oh, and another is the handgun.  Invented in America by Elisha Collier in 1814 and developed by Samuel Colt in 1836 and onwards.  Today I read how a kid on a schoolbus in Florida produced a pistol and shot a 13 year old girl, Lourdes Guzman.  That is one thing from America that I don’t want in Ireland.  Handguns and kids don’t mix!