Friday, 19 June 2009

BBC Radio 4: Gold Among the Dross of Media Entertainment

If you can access BBC Radio 4 in your corner of the world, do so, I urge you. If you enjoy quality on the radio, here is the place to find it. This morning, Friday 19 June, at 9.00 am, I listened to a wonderful old favourite programme, broadcasting in the same format since 1942, "Desert Island Discs. Kirsty Young, the presenter, was as always, conducting a gentle exposition of the life, times and character of the great Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer of the 20th century, Denis, Lord Healey. Oh, if only we had men like him in government right now. But let me not digress.

I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for the man, the programme, along with some quotes he made that had me laughing out loud. They also provided a glimpse of the wit and wisdom of the man. He may be 92 years old, but as we say here in the North, he's not lost his marbles one bit! When asked what he thought of Margaret Thatcher, (one time Conservative Prime Minister),then and now, he replied that she was an awful prime minister, "because she wouldn't listen to anybody who didn't share her views" and "Nobody ever listens to her now, poor thing, I feel sorry for her. I gave her a hug the last time we met..."

Lord Healey's choice of music included Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, so he was a man after my own heart. The format of this programme allows the "castaway" (interviewee) to take three special items to the island, along with the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I knew I had just discovered a kindred spirit when Lord Healey opted for the Faber Book of English Verse, a huge big box of chocolates and the Cavatina from Beethoven;s String Quartet No. 13 in B Flat Major.

This programme has stood the test of time, BBC Radio 4 is uncompromising in delivering a quality service, and after listening to Lord Healey, my day is brighter. Thank you sir.

All details of this and BBC Radio 4's other splendid offerings can be found on the BBC Website. Give your intellect a treat and listen.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Belfast Racists

There have been very few times in my life when I have been ashamed to call myself Irish - but this is one of them. I am deeply ashamed that people in my home city of Belfast could attack a group of Romanian families with such racial hatred and ferocity, that they were forced to flee their homes. Here we go again. Ah, but why does it not surprse me? As a Catholic child, I had to do a bit of fleeing in the past, before the Troubles with a capital "T" became an ongoing saga of murder and hatred.

The shame deepened when I heard one man, speaking on Radio 4 yesterday, with an accent much like my own. He declared these Romanians to be "parasites who should go back to their own country." I felt a little bit of hope when another man from the same working class area that housed the evicted families, state that this was the work of only a few racists. For God's sake, does nobody learn anything from 30 years of terror, mayhem, prejudice and bigotry?

Shamefully, I must accept that it would appear they have not. Is there some dreadful flaw in the Northern Irish psyche that impels people to attack those who are different? If what has just taken place is anything to go by, then the answer must be "yes." But I thought I knew that my people were good, kind, benevolent and welcoming, for the most part; therein lies a glimmer of hope.

Many of those Romanian families now just want to go home, and who could blame them? I have to conclude that the place I called "home" is so contaminated with inhumanity and intolerance that it is best avoided. Which is a great pity. To the good people of Belfast, and there are many, I extend my sorrow that they have been tainted by the few. Let us hope they can quash the evil in their midst. Let my doubts ast to this happening be unfounded.