Sunday 18 August 2019

John Daly: 'All ears when things get bit juicy on train'

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A 2014 survey found that 53pc of millennials wore headphones for an average of four hours daily, with three-quarters wanting to “avoid interaction with other people”. Stock image
A 2014 survey found that 53pc of millennials wore headphones for an average of four hours daily, with three-quarters wanting to “avoid interaction with other people”. Stock image

John Daly

With earbuds in, we are all invisible. On a train journey last week, I was snug in a corner seat, eyes closed, securely plugged into the true crime 'West Cork' podcast. Then, two things happened - my battery went dead, and a pair of new arrivals joined the compartment.

Keeping my eyes firmly shut, the sounds of rucksacks being stowed in the overhead rack and a fussing with water bottles divined the company of tourists. Silence for a minute, and then: "You were a long time saying goodnight to Lars." Swedish or Norwegian guy, late 20s I'd guess. Long pause. "His tent pegs were loose, I was helping." Woman, same accent, younger. "Such serendipity, meeting an old school friend twice in the middle of Ireland, no?" Longer pause this time. "I guess, but he likes the Irish fiddling also."

The hush now carried a leaden atmosphere that descended on all of us. "Is it perhaps possible we will bump into Lars again?" - an edge to his voice. It's hard to keep my eyes closed at this point, as my curiosity ratchets up to defcon 2. "Who knows, he has talked about wanting to see the Dingle place also?"

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This is a real-life mystery podcast, I thought, and with domestic discord a real possibility. In the same way that television in pubs was censured 20 years ago for the death of conversation, earphones are the current culprits to stand accused of promoting isolation and seclusion. Hard to go anywhere nowadays where the ubiquity of this wireless otherworld does not hold sway. Where once we shared spontaneous encounters and impromptu experiences, we now imprison ourselves within our individual pleasuredomes where the word of Beyonce and Blindboy Boatclub hold sway.

A 2014 survey found that 53pc of millennials wore headphones for an average of four hours daily, with three-quarters wanting to "avoid interaction with other people". Love 'em or hate 'em, they're here to stay - and are now an essential of every fashion wardrobe, with 'GQ' magazine saying they make "as much of a statement as anything else you're wearing". The world has come a long way from the Walkman, the first personal stereo introduced in 1979. Interestingly, though, the early Walkmans all came with two headphone jacks, because Sony chairman Akio Morita believed "it would be rude for one person to be listening to his music in isolation".

We finally chugged into Limerick Junction, where my pair of discordant Scandinavians changed trains for what had the makings of a tricky threesome in Dingle. I resisted the urge to open my eyes - some real-life podcasts are better kept in the realm of the imagination.

Small step into wonder of great black yonder

Eight days, three hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds. That was the duration of the most famous mission in human history, when the men of Apollo 11 set foot on the moon.

On the 50th anniversary of the event that changed the world, tonight's BBC documentary lifts the lid on what went on behind the scenes of Saturn V's remarkable journey.

While Neil Armstrong's famous phrase "one small step..." is the most quoted, I prefer his later observation: "Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."

Coco won't have wool pulled over her eyes

My teenage environmentalist hero of 2019, Greta Thunberg, now has a buddy on the podium - 15-year- old Coco Gauff. The stunning star of Wimbledon is a dogged fighter who knows just what to do with her million-dollar future: "Probably buy more hoodies." Yup, the kids are definitely alright.

Irish Independent

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