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Why Sleepless in Seattle star Tom Hanks is really my type

By Eddie McIlwaine

There are 17 short stories, every single one mentioning a typewriter, in Uncommon Type (William Heinemann, £16.99) by two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks. But there would have been yet another yarn in those pages if I had been able to keep a promise I made to the star of Sleepless In Seattle nine years ago.

You see, Tom's hobby is collecting old, retired typewriters and he was seeking - in vain - to lay his fingers on an Irish one.

So, after our paths crossed in 2008, I agreed to carry on the search for a typewriter with a keyboard in Gaelic.

So far, I have been looking in vain. If I had turned up an Irish machine in time, I know Tom would have woven an 18th story around it.

The star of other movies, including Apollo 13, Philadelphia and, of course, Saving Private Ryan, first contacted me by letter that summer of 2008 to tell me he hadn't got a typewriter with a Gaelic keyboard and to ask my help in finding one.

His epistle was actually typed on one of the machines in his collection. He still uses a typewriter for most of his mail in preference to a computer.

That letter to me - with one or two typing errors - concluded: "How does one test the workings of a Gaelic keyboard? What is the equivalent of The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog?"

We haven't given up hope that, one of these days, he and I will find the answer to that question.

Hanks also collects what he calls "rare typewriter sightings", including the Royal on which Ernest Hemingway knocked out at least one of his novels.

In my heyday on the Belfast Telegraph and the Daily Mirror, I wrote some of my best stories on a rattling Remington.

Uncommon Type proves that Hanks has another talent - never mind his genius as an actor.

He certainly knows how to grab the reader's attention with words on paper. Put there, of course, on one of his 60-plus vintage typewriters.

I wonder if he was prompted to become an author by the dialogue on some of the lesser film scripts he was offered down the years. I'll ask him next time he gets in touch what inspired him to write.

And I look forward to a second edition of Uncommon Type which he might be prompted to write - especially if an Irish typewriter becomes available.

Emma's fairytale ending for Belfast fans

Emma Watson will star as you've never seen her before at the Grand Opera House in Belfast next March.

Emma (27), who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, will be in a totally different role as Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

But regulars at the theatre won't be admiring the charming actress in the flesh - she is actually playing Belle in an on-screen Disney adaptation of the iconic fairytale.

In fact, this is a sing-a-long version of Beauty and the Beast and there will be lyrics up there on the screen so the audience can join in as the Grand Opera House, just for a change, puts on a big picture.

And fans of Emma will find out if, as well as being a classy actress, she can sing too.

Away from Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast, she is also a fashion consultant and helped create a line of clothing for the ethical fashion brand People Tree.

Emma was named British Artist of the Year in 2014 by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta).

That same year, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill ambassador.

I felt humbled to meet Millvina

An auction the other day of artefact and memorabilia from the Titanic reminded me of a conversation I had with Millvina Dean, who, you'll remember, was, at just nine weeks old, the youngest survivor of the tragedy.

It was an awe-inspiring occasion for me, actually talking to someone who had been on that tragic ship when she struck the iceberg. I felt truly humbled by this.

Millvina's mum and brother survived, too, but her father perished.

Millvina, of course, had no memory of the drama. She was told, though, that on board the liner that picked her up from the lifeboat, passengers queued to nurse her.

She told me she never watched the James Cameron movie Titanic and for years she refused to give interviews.

I was lucky that she relented to talk to me. I'll never forget my chat with a lady who was 97 when she died, in May 2009, after a career as a civil servant.

Memories of 'Mrs T', my mother hen

Eleanor Thompson, who has just died aged 101, was one of my favourite ladies down six marathon decades with her eloquence, charm and sparkle. She was the widow of my first editor, Emil Thompson, at the weekly Larne Times in its heyday.

Eleanor, whom we young reporters always called "Mrs T", was a kind of mother hen to budding writers like me, who joined the editorial staff in Larne in 1957, Roy Lilley, a future editor of the Belfast Telegraph, Robin Walsh, who became controller at BBC Northern Ireland, and many others, including the late Alan Giff.

She was always on hand with good advice as we learned our trade under her husband, who passed away in 1976.

Mrs T and Emil were a happy-go-lucky couple, who were together for 36 years and were a joy to meet.

She is survived by two sons, Peter and John, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Eleanor was born at Knock in Belfast to draughtsman Ambrose and his wife, Mabel.

Ambrose had been chief draughtsman at Harland & Wolff and worked on Titanic.

What happened to the Belfast girls who stole BBC show

Someone has been asking after the Belfast Girl Singers and their conductor once upon a time Kay Simpson.

I remember the choir very well and in particular an electrifying appearance they made on BBC television way back in 1955 when it was still only in black and white.

The Girl Singers stole the show with their version of Moonlight and Roses and it has been a favourite of mine ever since. I used to write the sleeve notes for their vinyl albums and I wonder if there are any still out there in vintage collections.

One LP was called The Lark in the Clear Air, if my memory serves me right.

I wonder now whatever happened to the Belfast Girl Singers.

Former members should get in touch.

Parkinson's planned book on Best could be a winner with the fans

He used to be a TV personality I could have listened to for hours on end and never get tired.

Now I have added Michael Parkinson to my list of people who bore me. Sadly Parky isn't ageing well in my opinion.

However he could redeem himself with a project he is about to undertake.

I'm told he is going to write a book on George Best to mark the 50th anniversary of Manchester United's 1968 European Cup triumph in which the Belfast player starred.

I remember well the night Bestie turned up on Parkinson's show a bit under the weather.

Anyway I look forward to Parky making a comeback (with me at least) with golden words about a great footballer. It might be worth waiting for never mind all those tomes that have been written about George.

How Dean's ditty cheered me up while battling the gales

Have you been caught out in the wet and stormy weather that is depressing us all?

So was I, driving home in a gale and glad to get there.

But the song that cheered me up no end as I splashed my way on my homeward journey was my CD of a little known artist called Dean Friedman singing a soulful ballad called Under the Weather.

This time I'm laying some of the words on you. Go out and buy the CD, Dean and his Under the weather will cheer you up all winter. He wrote it for a friend who was ill and it helped in his recovery.

Under this national rain cloud/I'm getting soaked to the skin/Trying to find my umbrella/But I don't know where to begin/And it's simply irrational weather/Can't even hear myself think/Constantly bailing out water/But still feel like I'm gonna sink/'Cause I'm under the weather/Just like the world

NM

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