Sunday 11 December 2016

A nation in meltdown brought out the best in Pat

Published 19/03/2011 | 05:00

I was going to write this week about an amusing slot on the Marian Finucane Show (Radio 1), in which stand-in Charlie Bird discussed product placement in movies and TV.

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Something très witty and tongue-in-cheek, maybe including some ironic 'product placement' within the column itself: "This review was made possible by the revitalising effects of Gatorade!"

But then, after seeing the extent of the devastation in Japan. . . It made all that, the gags and product placement and Charlie and me and everything else, seem very unimportant; almost meaningless.

Having lived there for a short spell I felt somewhat more of an emotional wallop than normal; but taken objectively, it has been a truly terrible week for that great nation.

Gigantic natural and man-made disasters coming together in one unholy mess: it almost couldn't get any worse, as proven by the fact that the tsunami and earthquake, awful though they were, soon got relegated to the bottom of the story on radio, as nuclear power stations threatened to go into meltdown.

BBC Radio 4, as always, was a rich font of information and learned analysis, especially their current affairs mainstays The World Tonight and Today.

The latter had a particularly affecting report, by James Naughtie, on how the Japanese people are coping with this catastrophe.

But even they were outdone by our own Pat Kenny (Radio 1), who played a blinder all week. We like to poke fun at him -- affectionately, I might add -- for being the nerdish swot, but his fantastic grasp of science and ability to take in the broader picture proved invaluable.

These incredibly complex and arcane matters -- plutonium, reactor core, radiation levels -- are like ancient Greek to most of us.

Pat manages to comprehend them in his own head, and then make them comprehensible to us.

But as usual, it was the human element that kicked the strongest. The most powerful, poignant radio moment of the last seven days, for me, was the segment on towns that had been literally washed away.

One of them was playing a musak version of 'Yesterday' in the midst of the ruination. Eerie and moving.

Finally, in a sad week, farewell to the great Gerald Barry, RTÉ's veteran political broadcaster who has passed away. RIP.

dmcmanus@independent.ie

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