Saturday 24 March 2018

Murray listeners take tech pledge

On Tuesday morning I turned on Radio 1 to hear massed voices reciting a pledge. "I will abstain from using any mobile phone or screen technology," they said in unison, and later: "I will not log onto Facebook or Youtube or Twitter while at work."

It turns out I was listening to families undertaking the 'Formal John Murray Show Technology Abstinence Pledge'. Some well-meaning parents with well-spoken children were planning to forgo connectivity for a week of Murray Show monitoring and sporadic chanting: "On my honour I make a solemn pledge that I will fully commit myself to participation in the John Murray show technology fast for a full week!"


If I was confused by the John Murray Show, I was even more so by the man bellowing from a balloon at lunchtime on Monday on Newstalk. Oh dear, I thought, they must have finally replaced that expensive Government jet.

It was actually Alan Stanford channelling the spirit of the 18th-century aeronaut Richard Crosbie in what turned out to be an excellent Bank Holiday radio drama, Flights of Fancy.

Crosbie, who wished to shed the shackles of gravity and soar the skies like a bird (specifically: a fat bird with a balloon), was hampered by the limited visions of lesser men, notably his wayward chum Jonah Barrington (played by Frank Kelly). There was a touch of tragicomic poignancy about this hapless adventurer evoking Ireland's "potentiality, her very power to shape her destiny" while simultaneously anticipating the hubristic bluster of the Celtic Tiger.

Dramas are rare on Newstalk and this was a beautifully constructed one which took advantage of radio's strengths (ballooning exploits and burning towns are cheaper to pull off on radio than television).

Bank Holiday weekends are a good time for off-beat programming on Irish radio. Oxygen-sucking stars are off at their country castles or driving their diamond hover cars, expectations are low and good stuff sneaks into the gaps.

On Monday on RTE 1, for example, they aired Irish Pictorial Roastly, only the second episode of a sketch comedy show which first appeared on New Year's Day. It's cleverer, funnier and more absurd than Green Tea, which is on every week, probably because RTE management are distracted by all the mass chanting.

The highlights of Irish Pictorial Roastly included a piece about a "Euphemistic Congress" in which bishops avoided meaningful comment with carefully crafted cliches (it seemed quite apt during the week of the Apostolic Visitation Report), an instalment of Prime Time Investigates entitled 'Prime Time Investigates Prime Time Investigates', and a Book-on-One style reading of a nostalgic memoir in which the son of a property developer recalled his father's rustic ways in a simpler time. "Of course, everything is done on a computer now in Berlin," he sighed wistfully.

Indeed, the Irish are still so obsessed by the past that the face of Michael Collins has begun appearing spontaneously on their bread ... or at least on adverts for their bread.


On Wednesday's Liveline this was revealed to be a marketing campaign undertaken by Johnston Mooney and O'Brien. "We all thought nostalgia was a thing of the past," said Joe. "But it's not really. It's very popular at the moment."

There followed a discussion of Collins which touched on a recent opinion poll undertaken by London's National Army Museum to ascertain Britain's greatest foe. Collins had done very well apparently.

"Is Hitler on the shortlist?" asked Joe, before adding: "He'd run away with it."

Later, in an instalment that Joe himself likened to "the History Programme", a wonderful amateur historian called Margery Brady explained her fascination with the little-known Book of Pottlerath.

This Kilkenny relic was bequeathed to Oxford's Bodleian Library by an English Archbishop with instructions that it stay there.

"The cheek of him!" said Joe, summing up the essential objection to colonialism in four simple words.

On Thursday the Mahon circus finally came to town and airwaves were overwhelmed with tribunal-themed impersonators, clownish politicians and journalists with elephantine memories. Nostalgia really is quite popular at the moment.

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