Nigel Baxter meets Frank Kelly
This might come as a surprise to you, but Christmas isn’t very far away, and with it, all the sounds that make the festive season what it is. Sounds, like Gobnait O’Lunacy calling Nuala ‘Manure face’ and ‘a louser’.
Frank Kelly’s classic Christmas Countdown is one of the welcome sounds of Yuletide, and the man who wrote the magnificent, escalating rant says he still gets a laugh out of it.
“It’s like something written by someone else now to me,” he chuckles. “‘What the hell was that guy who wrote that, that lunatic?'” The venerable actor and writer checks where his particular seasonal contribution sells around the world. “That sells in all the hot countries,” he says, still tickled by it, “all the most unlikely places”.
Kelly, looking forward to Christmas and to turning 77 this coming December, sounds like a man who takes on life with a smile. He’s had his ups and downs, but shows no sign of slowing down, even with the recent news that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Given that he has had a tremor in his hand for two decades, he doesn’t see why putting a name on it should matter a damn.
“One of my daughters was doing psychology at the time, she now has a family of her own, and she was behind me in the bathroom and said ‘Oh… you’d want to get that checked out’. That was the first indication that I’d had that I had a tremor in my hand, I’d never noticed it before because I never looked. So I said ‘Oh, I see.’ I never did anything about it, typical just like me, and it was only when I was in Donnybrook Hospital [for a different ailment]that they diagnosed it. so there you are. But it has never changed my life in any way so far.”
And the way he tells it, it is unlikely to change his life going forward either. True, he was off the road for a brief time, but on the day of our conversation he has received the good news that, having passed a driving test of sorts he is fully capable of driving again and by the time you read this, chances are he will be merrily motoring his way around the place. “I’m fine,” he laughs. “I can do anything I want to do.”
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