“What is your best memory of the Late Late?” I was asked this live on East Coast Radio on Friday morning last, June 1, 2012. I had been invited to join a panel of guests to talk about the news and current affairs. Given that it was the day after the Referendum Vote I supposed the talk to be all about voting patterns and hopes and outcomes. I had also not read a paper in the week unless it was about the voting. I was joined by Parish Priest Fr Martin Cosgrove and Arklow Chamber of Commerce President Irene Sweeney in the Arklow Credit Union building. It too was celebrating – 50 years I understand too, but neither Irene nor Martin had looked at the papers either. We were placed in one corner of the Credit Union but the rest of the room was filling up with people and stalls for their celebration. The noise was rising and it was actually quite hard to hear above the general hum. Then our host Declan Meehan had taken the wrong exit and arrived literally seconds before we were to go live on air.
Now Declan is a consummate professional and he swung into talk with ease. There were some slight technical issues with his feedback stream but it didn’t stop him. He went into his opening spiel, picked up on opening voting results from around Wicklow, segued into the weather and then greeted his three guests. So far so good. We each had a chance to talk about our own areas of interest. Irene talked about Arklow and local business, Martin about his church and a festival that bank holiday weekend and me about debt of course.
So far so good.
Then Declan turned to me and given the Late Late show was celebrating its 50th anniversary that night, asked me what was my best memory? You know that feeling when a rabbit stares into the headlights and all thoughts, intelligent, amusing or even vaguely interesting, exit? Yes, I felt that. Now perhaps it is a generational thing but I don’t recall watching the show that much over the years. I mean I must have but it wasn’t an observance in my memory. I don’t recall the family sitting down on a Friday night to watch it, although I am sure we did. Then living abroad for the best part of ten years meant I missed that tranche of programmes. Even when I returned home in the 90s, I returned with an English husband on my arm, and so our Friday night viewing tended not to feature the Late Late. So another ten years largely missed. It is only during the past few years that I have began watching the show with any degree of regularity. Still, for my mind to go blank was not a pleasant experience. I think I mumbled the Toy Show but gave no more details. Basically because I don’t believe I have ever watched the Toy Show, but have only seen trailers or pictures in the papers the next day. Wussy or what!
So, allowing for the benefit of hindsight and a several sleepless nights thinking of what I might have said, which brings a change to worrying about where I might earn some money, this is my answer Declan.
One show that is etched on my brain was the show aired the same week that Gerry Ryan died. I had never met Gerry but like many people I had enjoyed his show on the radio. Travelling as I did, and still do, once a week to Dublin, I often caught his show and enjoyed the laughter. I thought the Late Late show dedicated to him on the week of his death was very poignant and moving.
And then Declan, while I have never been on the Late Late (thank you for asking but my star is a little nascent yet) I once spent a night in the greenroom, working for a client. Allen Carr, the man who brought the easy way to stop smoking to the world, was in Dublin to promote his autobiography and I had the privilege to accompany him on his media interviews. It culminated in an appearance on the Late Late with Pat Kenny. I had met Allen and Joyce, his wife, in the Westbury that evening. I was early and had to fend off several unwelcome attentions (I was married) from men in the upstairs foyer area (note to now single self, maybe it is time to revisit this lobby!) and we traveled together to RTE. By this stage I had become very fond of both Allen and Joyce, a delightful and dedicated couple. Joyce and I happily took our place on a sofa in the greenroom and waited for Allen to go on. As it happens his scheduled appearance was delayed due to the unexpected announcement of John Hume’s retirement that night from active politics. Joyce and I watched John Hume with interest, while realising that Allen’s time was cut short as a result.
Afterwards there was such a buzz in the greenroom. I watched John Hume mingle and enjoyed his obvious high spirits. I thought of going over to introduce myself, to say afterwards that I had indeed met the man on the night of his retirement but checked myself. It would be too pushy I thought. And then before I realised what had happened, the man himself bounded over to where Joyce and I were still sitting on the sofa and said with a big grin: “Hello, I’m John Hume and it’s very nice to meet you.” And so it was. A lovely man and a very generous spirit.
So that is my favourite Late Late memory. Tucked up in the greenroom with Joyce, watching all the action and then at the end being pulled into the mainstream conversation by Mr Hume himself.
I just wish I had remembered all that when Declan asked me about my best memory of the show. Well, now I have. Thank you Declan!