Radio: Joe Duffy’s crime time brings smiles all round

Review: ‘Liveline’, ‘Bowman: Sunday: 8.30’, ‘The Ryan Tubridy Show’, ‘Moncrieff’

Talk to Joe: listeners have to wait a full five days before hearing  Liveline’s first crime horror story of January

Talk to Joe: listeners have to wait a full five days before hearing Liveline’s first crime horror story of January

 

It’s a seasonal landmark, as sure an annual marker as the first cuckoo of spring or leaves of autumn. But as 2016 unfolds, listeners eagerly awaiting Liveline’s first crime horror story of January have to wait a full five days before hearing the traditional tale that signals the end of New Year revels and resumption of normal service.

On Wednesday’s edition of the RTÉ Radio 1 show Joe Duffy speaks to John, a barman who fought off three armed raiders in the Tallaght pub he works at. By any measure it was an ordeal. At closing time the masked men burst through the door only to find their way blocked by the barman, who held his ground despite being hit on the head. After “the longest one minute and 20 seconds I was ever standing on my feet fighting”, his attackers fled empty-handed.

The violence he has endured is terrifying: John tells how two of the raiders kept urging their larger accomplice to “put him down”. Despite this John’s story ends up being strangely exhilarating. Duffy initially greets it with sighing and tutting, but as the scale of his caller’s defiance emerges – John, a former prison officer, was determined to stop the raiders getting at the teenage lounge staff – the host gets positively excited. So uplifted is Duffy by John’s heroism that he doesn’t even admonish him as he recalls telling the raiders to “get out the f***”.

The reality of the ordeal dawns only when John reveals the procedures he faces for injuries to his eye socket. And when Duffy asks if his caller would have fought so tenaciously had he known they were carrying guns, John sounds hesitant. Even so, the effect is more gripping than the usual Liveline tales of rampant lawlessness, even if it’s shocking in its brutality.

Later, when a caller named Eileen recounts how a conman tried to scam her over a reward for a lost wedding ring, Duffy still has a chipper air, particularly when it emerges that his spirited caller – whom he calls “petal” – turned the tables on the would-be swindler by bringing in the Garda.

All in all it is a distinctly upbeat edition of Liveline. So much for tradition: is nothing sacred?

In a year of high-profile anniversary celebrations, John Bowman draws attention to another landmark event oddly downplayed at RTÉ: its own establishment. January 1926 saw the inaugural transmission by 2RN, the first incarnation of the State broadcaster, and Bowman: Sunday: 8.30 (RTÉ Radio 1) trawls the archives with typically evocative results.

There is, for example, something thrilling about hearing Douglas Hyde’s opening address on the station, albeit through the crackle typical of broadcasts of the time.

As the presenter remarks, 2RN’s director Séamus Clandillon quickly realised that “you can’t please all the people all the time”. Although the station was a shoestring operation, with Clandillon effectively operating every aspect except the studio, he was clearly a canny institutional operator. Jazz may have been the soundtrack of the era, but 2RN kept on the church’s good side by instead airing school choirs and, in its more risque moments, John McCormack records.

That the presenter goes on to play a tune by the jazz cornettist Bix Beiderbecke shows how far morals have plummeted at RTÉ since then.

The Ryan Tubridy Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) is a reminder that radio can still bring stories to life in a unique way. Tubridy hears from Ruth Fitzmaurice, who as well as raising five children cares for her husband, Simon, who has had motor neuron disease for eight years. Fitzmaurice wrote a moving, beautifully poised article about her life with Simon in The Irish Times last week, but on air a different side comes through.

Far from being downbeat Fitzmaurice is almost effervescent. She laughs as she remembers blaming an early symptom of Simon’s illness – a “floppy foot” – on his car’s stiff clutch. She also has laconic tips: “If you get a bad diagnosis, don’t go to your favourite restaurant afterwards.”

Her manner is all the more striking in the light of her husband’s condition. He is unable to move and can communicate only by using an “eye-gaze computer”. When she adds that “even his blink has got quite weak now” the effect is heartbreaking.

Tubridy handles all this well, the tone of his questions matching his guest’s subtly shifting mood, such as her admission that she can’t bear to look to the future, preferring to “live in the moment”. Even before coming on air, Fitzmaurice says, she didn’t know if she would be “bawling my eyes out or laughing my head off”. Anyone who hears her shattering testimony will know how she feels.

Moment of the week: Henry McKean shows an ugly side

During his daily report for Sean Moncrieff ( Newstalk, weekdays) Henry McKean tackles the issue of whether good-looking people get better seats at restaurants. But he appears to agitate regional tensions when he interviews a Carlow woman on the matter. “Do you feel that Carlow people are attractive?” he asks. “No,” comes the abrupt answer. Rather than diplomatically move on, McKean asks why. “Is it the gene pool? Is it the weather?” His guest clarifies that it’s because small-town people are less concerned about appearance than city folk. Lucky for McKean, who nearly ends up in the soup.

radioreview@irishtimes.com

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