Terry Prone: Thinking of finding a forever home for Henry and retiring the broom

8th Feb 2021
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Day 122

I’m going to post it to those sites where badly-treated dogs are rescued, pampered and found new, kind owners. The title will be “Henry finds his forever home.” The voice over will say “you only have to look at Henry’s cute little face to see how happy he is with his new Mom.” It won’t say that Henry’s first owner – me – is dancing with relief at having got rid of the noisy, obstructive, smirking vaccuum cleaner: the Lou Dobbs of domesticity.

Dancing, too, because of the lightness of the Dyson that hangs on a wall, sucking in power, until you’re ready to use it and which, after use, empties at the pull of a little lever. I’m thinking of retiring the sweeping brush, too, because it’s easier to take down the vaccuum cleaner than go looking for dustpans, especially when nobody has ever designed a proper dustpan that doesn’t leave a thin line behind.

In the meantime, Henry will get lots of kisses from his new Mom the way the mutts do on the dog rescue sites. I’m good with that as long as he never sets plug in my home again.

Day 123

A friend asks by text how I’m doing. Happy out, I tell him. Lucky you, he texts back, in a stiff upper lip manner that suggests he’s not as fortunate as I am. If he wasn’t outside my 5K I’d go around to his house and smack him to teach him to recognise self-effacing heroism when he sees it. I mean, dammit.

Day 124

BBC’s Panorama pulls together all the strands of the Kinahan gang and Daniel, their best looking and possibly most dangerous member.

The programme follows him working with boxers, poaching boxers from managers like Barry McGuigan, terrifying other managers so none of them will talk on camera, with the Kinahan guy “stepping back” after the heat became too much.

The programme doesn’t make a big issue out of proving that the inverted commas around “stepping back” are hard-working lads, but you’d need to be dumb as a tree not to work out that he actually hasn’t stepped back at all.

I watch this programme because a friend is in it. Michael O’Sullivan, who now runs MAOC, the organisation tracking oceanic shipments of drugs, (one recently using a home made submarine,) was an undercover Garda in the old “Mockies,” the disguised cops in the eighties buying drugs on the street and arresting guys involved in the supply chain.

This man – who went on to become an Assistant Garda Commissioner – concentrates, when he’s being interviewed, on making a glamorous, dangerous, exciting life as dull as possible. Barry McGuigan is excited on camera in Panorama, while Michael O’Sullivan is the definition of understated.

Soon after the programme is broadcast, its makers receive death threats. I ring Mick O’Sullivan for a comment. “Comes with the territory,” he says, like he was making out a grocery shopping list.

Day 125

This is the morning I hear someone on radio saying “There’s only so many books you can read, Netflix programmes you can watch, walks you can take, bread you can bake.” It’s said as if all of these options are tiresome impositions: as if nobody ever reads a book except under duress.

The complainer seems not to understand these are interesting and pretty limitless possibilities presented by the pandemic, along with having fun with your children, rescuing your garden, crafting a nifty boeuf bourguinon, cleaning out the gutters, making snowmen, doing seven minute standing workouts and sewing up tears in your dresses like George Clooney. (To obviate misunderstanding, it’s his wife’s dresses Clooney sews.)

On the other hand, it’s legitimate to get sick of shots of needles going into upper arms and people ringing you to complain about having nothing to talk about other than the coronavirus. Which is why, this Wednesday morning, I set aside proper reading time to relish something non-Covid: Clodagh Finn’s delicious examination in this page of the scandalous life of the last Earl of Kerry.

This lad was married to a Catholic divorcee twenty years older than him and the two of them partied in Paris like there was no Revolution right up to the moment the heads began literally to roll. Historian Kay Caball’s new book presents a picture of luxury, decadence, gossip, sex, money – and grinding poverty on the part of the peasants in Lixnaw who got to pay for Maurice Fitzmaurice’s shockingly pleasurable life.

Clodagh Finn proposes it be made into a Netflix series. I second that proposal.

Day 126

Luke O’Neill is the Maeve Binchy of public health. Likeable. Engaging. Successful. Rich. A fair number of others in the public health arena might usefully watch him in action, not to imitate him, but to pick up the basic rules of good communication he plays by. First of all, he’s delighted.

Permanently upbeat, optimistic, filled with enthusiasm. The actor Peter Ustinov once said that what television likes more than anything else is human warmth, and O’Neill has that in spades. The minute he walks into a studio or logs on to a Zoom, he’s patently delighted to be there. Next thing he does is bring data.

Our Luke never arrives without a satchel full of added value. Which he deploys with admirable absence of dogmatism, pomposity or conceptual language.

He’s much more likely to say “And another great thing…” than to say “It’s worth noting.” He is unsuspicious and understands his service role perfectly.

Of course, he has advantages, chief of them that he has no policy decisions to defend. But a great study in good public communication, nonetheless.

Day 127

Any parent fearful of being interrupted on a Zoom meeting by their toddler offspring need to look at the footage of a Los Angeles metereologist, dressed to the nines, taking her viewers through the weather forecast when a child in a babygrow arrives and clutches her warmly around the legs.

The ultimate pro, she shortens but completes the forecast, scoops him up and remarks to camera that now the child is beginning to walk, she’s lost all control. This is the best example yet of managing toddler incursion in front of millions.

Day 128

When they were picking the actor to play the head of the singing Trapp family, they picked a “pampered, arrogant young bastard” who called the resultant movie “The Sound of Mucous.” Those are his own words, drawn from the autobiography of Christopher Plummer, who died this week. Plummer wasn’t just a great actor, he was that rare thing, a performer who could craft a memoir that is ruthless in its examination of the central character. And – give him his due – he did change his mind about “The Sound of Music.”

He may even have changed himself a bit, given the number of much younger actors who performed with him in recent years who described him today as “a total gentleman.”