As if in defiance of the passing of the summer solstice more than three weeks ago, the clear blue sky allowed the light to linger; after 10.30 and not yet dark. The cloudlessness brought a chill bringing a mist over the roadside fields. Like a plane flying through patches of cloud, driving was at one moment a staring into an impenetrable wall of greyness and then suddenly perfect clarity.
Late evening radio is a lottery; sometimes banal airtime filling, sometime repeats, sometimes serendipitous moments when a masterpiece is suddenly revealed.
RTE Radio 1 had a documentary hour. A feature on Dublin Orangemen veered between infuriating and odd. One person suggested that much ecumenism was in defiance of Church of Ireland doctrine, a tenable position if one wished to argue it, but it seemed to be tied to ideas that union with Britain somehow upheld Protestant identity. Another interviewee expressed a preference for the flag of Saint Patrick over the tricolour, seeing the red diagonal cross as affirming unionist identity.
Protestant they may be; evangelical they certainly were not. A man of very strongly evangelical views in the parish recently expressed bewilderment at the Orangemen, “Why would they reject ties with a country that has some Christian foundation in preference for remaining with one of the most immoral countries in the world?” It did seem odd; Church of Ireland identity deep in the Irish midlands is more clearly defined and more respected than the secular pan-Protestant identity north of the border where equality legislation granted Roman Catholics their own church identity and lumped everyone else together under the identity ‘Protestant’, regardless of the fact that the differences between churches were often considerable.
The Orangemen were followed by the gardeners: a feature on a community garden in Dublin’s south inner city. People with character and grit talked about what the garden meant to them. A moment of humour when the reporter accompanies a community member on a visit to stables where the gardener says even if he could get a couple of buckets of horse manure, it would be great. They are presented with two black sacks full, at which point the reporter realizes they have no vehicle. He has to balance a sackful of manure on a bicycle seat and push it back through the city centre.
It is towards the end of the piece that a woman in the community garden passes comment on the corpse of the Celtic Tiger; gyms, a feature of the years of the Tiger economy, did not rate highly in her estimation. “Where would you go for physical exercise?” she asks, “To some rotten gym with fluorescent lights and bad music?” Her comment brought a smile. Once, when going to a hotel for a wedding reception, I watched a woman doing a complete circuit of the hotel car park in order to park within a few metres of the door of the hotel gym – what was the gym about? It was hardly about exercise.
The two pieces hardly fitted together in the same programme, except perhaps they were dissident voices; voices expressing the sort of opinions despised by Bertie Ahern, those questioning the crass consensus that told us we were amongst the richest in the world and that everything was great. The dissident voices are vindicated.