The Guardian has a wonderful article about Seamus Heaney on the occasion of his 70th year of livin’ la vida literary. If you want to learn something about savoir faire, read his account of what it was like to suffer a stroke while visiting playwright Brian Friel and his wife:
Heaney reports his instinctive Ulster sang froid, saying: “My sense of humour was intact as they were carrying me down.” Almost everyone involved in getting the bulky, 6ft figure of Heaney down the stairs had been involved with the Field Day theatre company, and many of the group had recently suffered minor illnesses. So now, with his natural detachment, Heaney made a joke. “It’s the curse of Field Day, I said. But within an hour I was in the ambulance.”
“The trip in the ambulance I always remember,” he says, “because Marie was in the back with me. I just wrote about it three weeks ago. To me, that was one of the actual beauties of the stroke, that renewal of love in the ambulance. One of the strongest, sweetest memories I have. We went through Glendorn on a very beautiful, long, bumpy ride to Letterkenny hospital.” There, they did a scan, he continues. “And the woman who was doing the scan – this is Ireland for you – the nurse said, ‘I believe you were at Friel’s last night.’ Her uncle had been at the party. So this is Ireland,” he repeats, with satisfaction. It’s certainly Heaney’s Ireland.
I have all of Heaney’s books of poetry, read aloud by the man himself, loaded into my iPod. I know what I’m listening to on the commute to work.