The Communications Clinic
The Communications Clinic
November 20, 2020

Originally published in the Irish Examiner

Day 42

Families, as we know, are the transmission belt of pathology, and this applies to more than the human variety. My two cats are siblings and for the most part, rub along fine. Every now and again, though, they fall out cacophonously. 

Last night, this happened at 3.15am, when the two of them, in an effort to kill each other, bloody nearly killed me.

Woken by threatening screams, I sat up in bed, only to collide with one of them as she escaped the other, giving me a black eye.

Day 43

You work like a dog, you build up a business, you get called “driven” and “tough” and worse, and it’s worth it for one reason: It lets you off housework. 

Earn enough money and you can pay someone else to fight with your fitted sheets, drag Henry the repulsive anthropomorphic vacuum cleaner around, and clean the windows.

And then they throw a pandemic at you, tell you to stay home and do your own housework. 

Well, OK, Tony Holohan didn’t get that prescriptive. He doesn’t care what you do at home as long as you stay there, but the end result is the same. 

Imust mop, scrape, and scour like a 1950s housewife in an ad, minus the frilly apron. And if you suggest that this has led to a renewed pride in myself as I run my forefinger along pristine dust-free surfaces, my riposte is that you are wrong. 

So wrong you will be lucky if I don’t run my forefinger right into your eye.

The feminists of the early 70s regarded housework as a patriarchal conspiracy. If women were happy and fulfilled washing dishes and polishing silver, those feminists asked, why were so many of them hooked on the drugs called ‘mother’s little helper’: Valium, Librium, and their generic pals?

The Covid-19 sentence is house arrest with hard labour: Endless cleaning with no escape. 

Maybe in a newly built house, you could get away with shoving Henry in a
cupboard and telling him to stay the hell there, but in a seriously old house, within days, you’re crunching around on masonry dust and frightening yourself with the dry cough it gives you. 

Because this is Monday, it’s dusting day for 204 bookshelves. For cleaning every week, first thing. As well as dusting, I have to eliminate cat hair. As soon as the vaccine

arrives, I will pay a queen’s ransom to a cleaning lady and never again go around with a sticky roller furring it with feline castoffs. 

Absent a virus, I swear I will superglue the cats’ fur onto them.

Day 44

Fergus Finlay attacks me in print. It is not a major attack. He just says I’m talking through my hat, but I am crushed nonetheless. Crushed, I tell you.

Day 45

This paper reports that Dolly Parton is sending books to Cork children, for free. For five years, one book will be sent every month to registered children from birth to age five in participating communities, allowing them to build their own libraries. 

This marvellous gesture adds to the 147m books shared with children by her foundation over the past 30 years.

“You can never get enough books into the hands of young children,” she says.

This is apart from the million dollars she’s just donated to get vaccines to poor communities in her home state, when those vaccines come on stream. Some woman, that country singer. 

She and Springsteen are the best songwriters of the last half-century, the only difference between them being that Springsteen emerged from the lower middle class, whereas Dolly Parton actually comes from the hungry-going-to-bed poverty she wrote about in her song ‘Coat of Many Colors’, where a child is mocked for the patchwork garment her mother makes for her out of fabric scraps. 

And only Dolly Parton could have the self-denigratory wit to remark, of her sequined, OTT self-presentation that “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap”.

Day 46

Still somewhat crushed, I go back and re-read Fergus Finlay’s column, wherein he states that I describe the Democrats as “smug”. 

Fake news, I cry, flapping my little white Trumpian hands around. Search the column to which he refers and you will not find that.

What I actually said was this: “The Democrats need help. They are convinced that simply because they exist and are committed in a cosmic way to doing the right thing, this, by inference, makes the considerable swatch of the American voting public which has just gone for Donald Trump — again — deplorable.”

Now, that might look, at first glance, as if I’m accusing Joe Biden’s party of smugness, but I’m accusing them of much worse than that. 

Take the Democrat activist who appeared on a radio programme as the early results were coming in, who described the unexpectedly high number of people proven to have cast their vote for Trump as “a failure of democracy”. 

Draw a deep breath as you digest that one. The determinative arrogance of it.

Or take, for example, the other Democrat commentator who, after Trump’s fantastically batshit speech about having won everything except the raffle in the local church, got his underwear irrevocably bunched about Trump having used the White House as the venue for this bilge. That, too, was an assault on democracy.

Now, come ON. Using the White House as a venue for politicking may be procedurally wrong, but it’s not quite a call up to the Barbarians.

Hillary Clinton’s interview during the last days of the campaign summed it all up, as does the title of Samantha Power’s autobiography, but we’ll come to that in a minute.

Hillary never, in this or any other interview, acknowledges that she never had a communicable dream for ordinary Americans, or, if she did, sat firmly on it throughout her campaign.

Samantha Power’s book is entitled The Education of an Idealist. Women should be proud of themselves and point, in the titles of their books, to just how far they got and what they achieved.

But that title has a tone-deaf ring about it. The kind of preachy tone-deafness brilliantly nailed, more than a decade ago, by Drew Weston, a passionate Democrat, whose book warned the Democrats that they needed to stop talking to each other in long academic sentences, conceptual language, and terms completely unrelated to the working-class voters they believed they served.

Day 47

Priests are upset about parishioners rating their sermons negatively on social media. This is a painful direct result of the hierarchy disgracefully ditching the communications training they pioneered in the 60s.

Day 48

I can stop concealing the cat-inflicted black eye. It has faded, so I just look dirty. Normal, like.

Such small mercies can brighten a lockdown day.

The feminists of the early 70s regarded housework as a patriarchal conspiracy