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Radio: Few reasons to be cheerful with seasonal slim pickings

OH, post-Christmas radio, I'm struggling to think of an apt metaphor with which you could be described. Shall I, for instance, compare thee to an unloved coconut eclair left non-gobbled at the bottom of a Quality Street tin? Or can I, instead, liken thee to that final chunk of festive ham mouldering away at the back of the fridge?

Neither image really nails it. Plus I'm making myself feel a bit ill (and I'm slightly concerned that I might be misusing "thee").

I guess you could say that after the feast, comes the famine. Except the feast itself wasn't all that bountiful to begin with. Look, what I'm (basically) driving at, is that pickings have been slim this week. Even slimmer than usual in what is, traditionally, a notoriously super-slim period.

In terms of live broadcasts, News-talk proved itself one of the biggest seasonal slackers. Those tuning in on Saturday and Sunday were "treated" to the sound of a station snoozing away on auto-pilot, with tedious "Best of..." clip shows completely dominating the schedule.



Cardboard

Even those who physically hauled themselves out of the scratcher and into studio were finding it hard to fill the long, lonely hours with lively chat. Take Myles Dungan. On Wednesday's Today with Pat Kenny he devoted almost 20 minutes to a discussion of cardboard. Cardboard! Well, bottles, too, to be fair. And cans. And the assorted waste and detritus of Christmas. But mainly cardboard.

Valerie Cox had been dispatched to a recycling centre in Wicklow and had returned with a (refreshingly cardboard-free) report that was largely composed of the soothing sound of smashing glass. Repak's Darrell Crowe, who managed to sound a bit like the chap who leads tours of the Springfield box factory in The Simpsons, was in the studio to discuss the shamelessly crowd-pleasing topic of "cardboard inserts".

"Here's the insert from the likes of a selection box," he said at one point, presumably holding aloft a cardboard insert (possibly with a flourish, it was hard to tell).

Given the non-visual nature of the medium, this presented Myles with a bit of a problem. Should he attempt to describe what Darrell's cardboard insert looked like? Should he, instead, hope that listeners would use their imaginations to conjure up an approximation of the object? Either way, it wasn't exactly going to be the stuff of sexy radio. In the end he opted to stay quiet, thus forcing us all to imagine cardboard. It was one of those weeks.

Elsewhere, we were being encouraged to turn our end-of-year frowns upside down and cartwheel about the garden in celebration of the boundless wonderfulness of life (going forward). On Saturday, Claire Byrne hosted what was, apparently, the third edition of an "annual programme which began when we realised that Ireland's economic woes might be with us for some time". I'd somehow missed the previous two editions. A good thing, too, as the title alone -- Reasons to be Cheerful -- was enough to make me want to gnaw my own foot off.

The programme's aim, Byrne said, was "to find the hope and happiness that the Irish are renowned for as we head toward the new year". Innocuous enough stuff, on the face of it, with a panel sharing "their thoughts on staying positive" and discussing treasured objects that made them happy.





As soon as Fr Alan Hilliard started talking about how current "turmoil" has "brought us back to what we have... and the things that make us who we are", however, we were into drearily familiar territory. I'm sure you know the narrative at this stage. There's a silver lining to this cloud of recession. It has chastened us. Taught us the error of our uppity ways. Returned us to a purer state where we can reconnect with our authentic "Irishness" (as very narrowly defined).

I suddenly found myself longing to hear more from Darrell Crowe and his cardboard.

At least he's recycling something other than dreary national myths.

Monday's Curious Ear ("Good Day at Blackrock") may have been a repeat, but it was a welcome one.

With Cathal Murray telling the story of a long-postponed journey to Mayo's Blackrock Lighthouse, the place where his grandfather, a lighthouse keeper, had been swept to his death by a freak wave in 1937. The body was never found, but the pilgrimage (movingly-described) sounded like a kind of resolution.