15 May 2014

I Heard it on the Radio

Story 1:
The new water charges are all over the news. People blockaded to stop water meters from being installed in various parts of the country. Politicians have been negotiating to come up with final numbers about what the charge will be and what exemptions will be available. People are angry all over the country about this, but some people are more angry than others because they have boil notices and apparently have for a while. It’s an ongoing situation. In Europe. In 2014. Amazing. The water charge issue was being discussed on the radio while Bill and I were waiting in the doctor’s office so he could have his blood test. The conversation went something like this:
Host 1: “What if people can’t pay?”
Host 2: “Water is a fundamental human right, so it has to be provided, but they will lower the water pressure. People would turn on the tap and just get a trickle. Maybe they would get so annoyed that they’d pay the bill.”

I am unsure how you would lower the water pressure any more and still have flowing water. It’s pretty bad already. And it does boggle the mind--the idea that water is a fundamental human right, so we’ll give it to you regardless of ability to pay, even if you have to collect it drop by drop.

Story 2:
There was a school in Kilkenny that was completed in 2007. It was state-of-the-art at that time with smart classrooms, including white boards connected to the Internet, laptops, and other fabulous electronics. Teachers were expected to use various online materials in the classroom. The problem? The Internet connection was slower than what you would get in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Videos would start, buffer for up to half an hour, and then start again. One kid could be online at a time, if they were lucky. In Europe. In 2014. Teachers and students alike were frustrated. Teachers were concerned that their kids would be behind when they moved up to higher levels and were sharing classrooms with kids from other areas that had access to these resources.  A company went in over the Easter holiday break and fixed things up for them, so now everything works at what seems like lightning speed. The teachers are happy. The kids are happy.

Story 3:
  There’s a town called Arklow, south of Dublin on the east coast of the country that has been waiting for their water treatment plant for 15 years. That means that all during the Celtic Tiger years, this was a planned project and it never got done. From what I have read, not much of anything got done during those years, except the enrichment of a few individuals. For the very first time in the country’s history, they were not poor and could have used their wealth for the betterment of everyone by updating aging infrastructure and building things that would have been a benefit to the community. Instead, greedy people took as much as they could while government and banking officials drove the country off a cliff. Meanwhile, near Arklow, raw sewage is still being dumped into the river. In Europe. In 2014.

Story 4:
Eurovision is apparently a big thing in these parts and has been around for decades. I had heard of Eurovision in passing--probably from the BBC or something. I was vaguely aware that it was a song contest. Last week I learned that it has been around since the 1950s and it’s a big deal (though I get the impression that it’s not as big as it once was). I turned on the radio one night last week and I was a few minutes early for the program that I planned to listen to. I heard a lot of drum rolling and breathless commentary from the show just ending.
Announcer 1: “C’mon Ireland!”
Announcer 2: “Only 5 slots left!”
Announcer 1: “There’s still a good chance for Ireland! C’mon Ireland!”

It took me a minute to understand that I was listening to some segment of the Eurovision contest. None of the remaining five slots went to Ireland. This, the audience was told, was a “huge blow.” The finals were a couple of days later. The person who won (an Austrian) was described by someone on the radio as “Jesus Christ in a skirt.”

The day after the finals, I tuned in to the Documentary on 1 on RTE Radio 1 and learned about the accusation made years ago by a now-deceased Spaniard that General Franco had rigged the 1968 Eurovision contest by buying votes so that Spain would win. It seems that these days there’s a panel of judges and they count for half and the audience can vote, too and that counts for half. Back in ‘68, though, there were not as many countries competing and it was the TV stations in those countries that voted, not the general TV audience. So, according to the accuser, Franco sent people around Europe and made offers to buy their TV and radio shows in exchange for their votes for Spain’s song. The song was called “La La La.” The song for the UK that year was “Congratulations” sung by Cliff Richard and written by this guy from Northern Ireland (Phil Coulter--hope that’s spelled right) and his writing partner. Their song had won the previous year and they were eager to make Eurovision history by being the first back-to-back winners. Near the end of voting, the UK was ahead with just Yugoslavia left to call in and vote. The show was being broadcast by the BBC, I think, and some official came and told Coulter and his partner that they should leave their seats and come backstage so they’d be ready to come out and accept the award when they won. The partner didn’t want to leave his seat lest he jinx the proceedings. They had a bit of time to coax him backstage, because there was a problem with Yugoslavia’s vote--they awarded 11 points instead of their allotted 10. The writers were just about backstage when the judges worked out the Yugoslavian wrinkles and they heard that with those last points, Spain had edged them out by one point. Coulter was incredulous and has always felt that he got ripped off. “La La La” was not, in his opinion, a good song. He thought the lyrics were dumb and the tune a rip-off of a Beatles song. He was interviewed extensively on this documentary and he said that he wasn’t saying that General Franco did buy Spain’s victory, but “it could have happened.” They did devote about 30 seconds near the end of the show to the fact that there are holes in the story--such as the fact that the accuser said that Czechoslovakia and Hungary sold their votes to Franco, but Czechoslovakia was never in the Eurovision Song Contest and Hungary did not get involved until the 1970s. Who knew?

Have a great weekend!

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