Duncan Stewart wouldn’t talk about his pain. Brendan O’Connor (RTÉ1, Sundays, 11am) had mentioned the accident which Duncan had in Belarus in 2003, which has left Duncan in constant pain, but Duncan wouldn’t talk about it.
I checked a description of the accident, when the beloved environmentalist fell from a tree near Chernobyl in 2003, and it mentioned him breaking his ribs, his neck and his back, and bursting a lung. When they found him, it was -12C.
Now as I understand the workings of the media, being in constant pain can work to your advantage if you are trying to get some media coverage for something else. Like, you’ve written this great novel, but the only chance of getting it mentioned anywhere is at the end of a piece in the Health section of the paper about your raised cholesterol or your plantar fasciitis.
In theory, given the extent of his injuries, Duncan could have been on the radio constantly for the last 20 years. But he won’t even talk about it now, when his TV show Eco Eye has finished, causing him even more pain of a different kind.
He won’t talk about that pain either to Brendan O’Connor, preferring a more philosophical attitude – again we listeners would have preferred more bitterness here, but we knew we were in the presence of that rarest of breeds, the man who is completely sincere about the cause to which he has devoted his life.
And that cause – the survival of the planet – is to him so profound, to be complaining about his bad back during these vital few minutes on national radio would be an abrogation of his sacred duty.
Especially as he’s obviously right about everything he says, and “the fundamental things we need to change”.
Duncan sees these things as being intimately connected to the issue of inequality, the fact a very small number of people seem to have most of the money in the world – and he warns our societies will break down when the poorest people have no choice but to move from those parts of the world which are increasingly uninhabitable. “I fear for all young people,” he said.
For Duncan, knowing the truth is the most painful thing of all.
It is not a joke to say the bad music regime was indeed a policy
We must remember things can change for the better. Another thing discovered by Duncan, for example, was light. There was no light in Irish houses until people like Duncan suggested designing them in such a way they let in this thing called “the sun”.
And there was very little good music on RTÉ radio for decades, essentially as a matter of policy. Now it’s everywhere, causing this column recently to ask: Where has all the crap music gone?
And no, it is not a joke to say the bad music regime was indeed a policy, based on the understanding that most people in what they called Middle Ireland wanted bad music. And that it would somehow be an insult to them to run the good stuff by them.
Yes, you could have enclaves of high culture on the station, but not in those areas where Middle Ireland might be listening.
Now it has completely turned around, to the extent it is virtually impossible to hear a James Last record, or something by The Wolfe Tones. Perhaps the nearest thing to a safe haven for any remaining lovers of crap music would be Classical Daytime (Lyric FM, weekdays, 10am) on Lyric FM – and even that is not pure crap, more a collection of worn-out classical favourites you’d hearing wafting through the dentist’s waiting room.
With the slight advantage that you don’t have to get your teeth drilled afterwards.
Then again, former BBC disc-jockey Chris Moyles declared on Radio X that he doesn’t play music by “unsigned” bands as they are “absolutely crap” – which complicates the matter somewhat, because his definition of crap music in this regard is deeply suspect. Some of it may turn out to be very good indeed.
Tom Dunne was on the case on Newstalk, telling Kieran Cuddihy on The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, weekdays, 4.30pm) about the unsigned band One Morning in August. Tom played their excellent track ‘Time’ on his show. Now the band is “signed”, just as previous recipients of Tom’s airplay such as Damien Rice and Damien Dempsey were signed.
As Duncan Stewart would attest, sometimes the truth is obvious but you still have to say it.