Read all about it – Alison Healy on slow news days

An Irishwoman’s Diary

Are you nostalgic for that brief golden period in February? Remember when the pandemic phase of Covid-19 looked to be ending and the Russian war on Ukraine was just a threat?

I think it lasted about 43 minutes. There was no need for news editors to scramble for stories to fill the big Covid-19-shaped void.

But there was a time when a news editor just could not find any news. This week 92 years ago marks the anniversary of the day a BBC newsreader solemnly declared that there was nothing to report.

People gathering around their wirelesses for the 8.45pm news bulletin on April 18th, 1930, were somewhat taken aback to hear the very short script. "There is no news," intoned the announcer before soothing piano music was played to fill the 15-minute time slot. This was followed by a return to the performance of Parsifal, a Wagner opera, from the Queen's Hall in London.

Surely an approach worthy of exploration by the Morning Ireland team when faced with a particularly quiet news day?

Of course, there was plenty happening around the world on that April evening, but the BBC was just branching into news in 1930 and was dependent on news agencies for content.

Not only that, but the BBC had also decreed that news had to be of a certain standard, according to Asa Brigg's History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (Vol II). And when "there was not sufficient news judged worthy of being broadcast, no attempt was made to fill the gap".

But if that was a quiet news day, another April day was even quieter. Cambridge computer scientist William Tunstall-Pedoe scanned more than 300 million facts to determine the most uneventful day in history and concluded that April 11th, 1954, was the most boring day since 1900.

The scientist told US radio station NPR that “this particular day was extremely notable for having almost nothing happen”.

Renowned Turkish scientist and academic Prof Abdullah Atalar might beg to differ as he was born on that day. A peaceful general election was also held in Belgium. But other than that, it was an outstandingly dull day for world events.

A quick perusal of the Irish Times on the following day - April 11th was a Sunday – shows that it was also a slow news day in Ireland. “Sailors break window” and “Spare wheels taken from motor cars” were two of the more exciting headlines.

But when it comes to underwhelming headlines, newspapers in Louth seem to have cornered the market. "Man forgot he tried on a hat" from the Dundalk Leader in April 2013 is a strong contender but surely the accolade for the ultimate headline on a slow news day must go to the Dundalk Argus for a story later the same year. "Pavlova stolen" was the attention-grabbing headline on the report of a house being burgled in December 2013.

The meringue-based treat was the only thing the burglars deemed worthy of stealing. It is not clear if they ever got their just desserts.

The foodie felon is not a new phenomenon. Back in 1988, author Karen Stabiner detailed her encounter with a hungry burglar in the Los Angeles Times. He left a trail of mozzarella crumbs in his wake and helped himself to a chicken breast. But the thing that really infuriated her was the bite mark in her much-admired Italian potato tart. He had clearly tasted it, decided it was not to his liking and replaced it in the fridge.

“Somehow this is more of an affront than the pinched property and missing cash,” she wrote, before consoling herself with the idea that he had been in search of dessert and had mistaken it for a cheesecake.

I had an encounter with a sweet-toothed crook many years ago but it was a rare case of a thief unwittingly doing something helpful. A German friend had come to visit at Christmas, and I baked a Christmas cake for him to take back to his family. Unfortunately, elaborate sugarcraft is not in my wheelhouse of skills. I had been aiming for an artistic snowy landscape, but the finished result was more akin to an abysmal avalanche.

Nevertheless, I had committed to sending the cake so, despite my misgivings, the cake was packed into the boot of the car and off he went to stay overnight in Dublin before catching the ferry.

In a bizarre twist, his car was stolen that night and used in the robbery of an Xtravision store. After it was retrieved by gardaí, the only item missing from the car was the Christmas cake.

My dignity had been spared by the sweet-toothed criminals.

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