Wednesday 28 September 2016

Just about everything these days is strange or startling

Published 27/12/2015 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

In these volatile times, nothing is predictable any more, be it the football or just the general election, writes Declan Lynch.

  • Go To

And so the fate of the great empires hang in the balance - Manchester United . . . Chelsea . . . Liverpool . . . they are being overturned by forces which at an earlier time in human history would have been called the Barbarians.

Now these raw savages are called Leicester City and Watford and Crystal Palace, yet the carnage they have wrought is of a kind we thought we would never see in this epoch.

There will be signs, they say, there will be great signs.

And for some, these great signs are manifesting themselves in the weather, in the phenomenon of summer temperatures in December, this weird confusion of the seasons.

But really, if you're looking for signs of extreme volatility, if you want proof that we have never known such things before, you won't get better than the sight of Leicester City sitting atop the Barclays Premier League in Christmas week. And Manchester United losing at home to Norwich and Liverpool being destroyed by Watford.

If something similar were to happen in a fictional world such as, say, Irish politics, within a few months we would be looking at a situation whereby Clare Daly might be Taoiseach, and Michael Healy-Rae the Minister for Finance and perhaps Martin Ferris taking on Foreign Affairs.

Already I can hear the raucous laughter of political insiders who feel that their little world is far more predictable than anything that happens in the real world, and that may be true up to a point.

But even in that shrunken universe, strange, strange things have been happening.

Jeremy Corbyn is now the leader of the Labour Party in Britain, something that a year ago would have seemed as absurd as suggesting that, well, that Jeremy Corbyn could be the leader of the Labour Party.

And Donald Trump is doing well enough to suggest that it is possible at least to entertain a vision of a time in which Trump is in the White House and Corbyn is in Number 10. We should not have such a thing in our heads, but it seems that we have no choice.

So it is understandable that in these fearful times we seek explanations, that we look for some rational cause for all these unnatural disturbances. The fans of Chelsea, for example, have identified certain players as the "rats" whose poor performances betrayed their beloved Jose Mourinho.

In which case, if this were horse-racing, there would be a case for the setting up of a large-scale stewards' inquiry, of the type that happens when a horse is allegedly "not running on its merits". Yes, I'd like to see that inquiry. But even the stewards, with all their video replays and their powers of interrogation, would refuse to believe that at Chelsea the "rats" got Mourinho sacked.

We were now, as they say, "in the arena of the unwell".

And outside, on the shortest day of the year, some of us thought we could hear the faint buzzing of the bumblebee.

But still, in the weeks ahead, we will hear certain parties who have seen all these extraordinary happenings, and who still believe that certain things are broadly predictable - certain parties who are "calling" the general election, for example, and who believe that, give or take, they know how it will all turn out.

Fiach Mac Conghail thought he knew how it would all turn out. There he was, organising the Abbey's programme for "1916", one of his last duties of an otherwise successful tenure as artistic director of the National Theatre, little knowing that he would find himself being excoriated as the head of an institution that had somehow neglected to inform itself that since its foundation it had produced hardly any plays written by women.

Mac Conghail, a man of enormous sophistication, didn't see that one coming, not for a second, and yet we are listening to people who think they know how the majority of the people will be inclined to vote in an election - whenever Enda decides that it's "the right time".

It is indeed poignant to think of him searching for "the right time", knowing deep down that that time has probably gone, that the way things are going, by February we might just be heading into the real winter, and obviously we will be blaming Enda for that.

I think of Gary Neville, who played football at a time when there was at least one certainty in the universe, that Manchester United would not lose at home to Norwich. And I think of Neville's line that in a football match, three minutes is "a mountain of time".

Yes, there is a mountain of time between now and February, a range of mountains, and I'm not talking about the Twelve Bens here, I mean the Andes, the Himalayas.

That is all we know.

Sunday Independent

Read More