STRIKES, like wars and famine. are not all that bad when they're in someone else's territory. Somehow they seem manageable — or in the more up to date jargon — containable. The strikers may have a point, may even have been pushed into taking drastic action by bosses slow to see the signs or loath to acknowledge them. Inflammatory. Provocative, Insensitive. Etc, etc. etc.
But my, how it all changes when a strike strikes home. When we're the one who gets stranded at the airport. When it's our electricity that sputters out into darkness and cold. When we're the walkers with no buses or trains or petrol.
Now it so happens I haven't yet felt the sharp end of the British civil servants' strike — more an accident of geography and
personal uilemployment than any grand Machievellian design.
But my sympathies have gone out to the sufferers in many target areas. Not so much for the suffering itself but for the indignity and bewilderment of having it inflicted by Civil servants — the very name seems like a contradiction.
To me civil seevants were superior beings far above the petty world of commerce and survival, Civil servants were the people who would have been if your exam results had been good enough. Civil servants were the invisible men who advised prime ministers and princes how to deal with the sans-culotte. Civil servants were the madarins who voted themselves inflation-proof pensions. Strikes were for boiler suits and dungarees, flat caps and flatter accents. My brain will not take in bowler hats, striped pants, brief cases AND placards.
I'll just lie doWn for a little while and see if it will go away.
An accent on culture
I NOTICED the tail end of an argument in the correspondence columns of the Irish Times concerning the series Sean on RTE. Andree D. Sheehy Skeffington was making the point that her famous mother in law. Hannah had been less than fairly treated in a programme supposedly based on Sean O'Casey's autobiographies. The rights or wrongs of the charge I know not — but two points from the letter struck home.
First: "Hannah Sheehy Skeffington was ... one of the main instigators of the Plough and the Stars row in ... 1926. She took the romantic view that ten years. after Easter Week the National theatre had no right to show a play ... holding up to derision and obloquy the men and women of Easter Week."
What a small world. Forty years on. I was peripherally involved in television's fifty-year look at 1916. Another famous Irishwoman made eloquent pleas to avoid too much realism at the expense of romanticism; and quite a battle was waged as to how much the new generation should say and how much the old generation would care to remember. A poignant dilemma.
The second point from Madame Sheehy's letter is a trivial one: but a Dublin man will surely be allowed to clear his throat after reading it.
"She was made more aggressive, strident and bigotted than believe her to have been. She ssas also made to speak with a Dublin
accent. V. hile. in fact. her 'ice and speech were of a cultured woman ..."1!
Angels. and Ministers of Grace. and George Bernard Shaw defend us.
Wheat and chaff
WHEN President Reagan lifted the ban on American wheat to Russia, I was reminded again of Freddie Forsyth's last bestseller The Devil's Alternative. which so brilliantly predicted the use of the grain crop as a weapon of war. or at best an alternative to war.
This time we're told the wheat is in exchange for assurances that poor old Poland will not he invaded.
A fair enough exchange. I would have thought; but, nevertheless. feel a little sympathy for the Chinese demurrer that the wheat had been originally embargoed because of the Afghanistan invasion. Reminds me of an old Irish piece of advice — never boil your, cabbage twice.
Thumping piece of cheer
BAD AS so many governments are. I sigh a happy sigh we are not at the mercy of sports administrators — most of whom seem to flip a lid when it comes to cracking down on real or imagined challenges to their authority.
This year, for the third year running. the prestigious ABA finals at Wembley were without St Thomas's Boxing Club from Sheffield. They were hammered on the technicality that they were being trained without permission by a professional who had set up the club in what is euphemistically called a socially deprived area.
Shame on the ABA. The founder was Brendan Ingle. whose family — if I don't miss my guess — did more for amateur boxing than a parlour full of administrators, dating back to 1939, when lovely Jimmy Ingle won at the first European Amateur Boxing Championships heald at the National Stadium, Dublin. I sold programmes that night and cheered like a paid spectator.
How good to read from Nick Pitt in the Sunday Times that St Thomas's is alive and well :7--t if lost to amateur boxing.
Jim fixed it
MET Jimmy Savile again, striding out for yet another good cause. The man is indefatigable — and urisilenceable. Neatest summation: "Jimmy Savile put his mouth where the money is."