Radio review: Celebrating a community of care, prayer and Tupperware

Nuala McCann

The Essay Another Northern Ireland: Traybakes Radio 3

Sunday Miscellany - RTÉ Radio 1

Tell me about it.

She begins with a story about being far from home and how a friend delivered home-made fifteens in a margarine tub… she devoured three in a row and had a Proustian moment.

She paints pictures of big men, hands like shovels, balancing china cups and asking for “lumpy bumpy” to go with their tea.

And she brings us back to that holiest of places, the church kitchen where the women gather to chat and laugh together.

The church hall was where a younger Jan, following around after the woman with the big tea pot, would say to those seated at the tea table: “That’s an awful dry cup of tea, how about a wee bun to go with it?

It was says Jan, a community of care, prayer and Tupperware.

Jan serves up love iced with warm hearted laughter. This is a meditation on how women find community and show love.

Equally enchanting and heart felt was John Toal’s contribution to RTE’s Sunday Miscellany recorded before Christmas at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.

Like Jan, John gave us a smile.

He has a thing about clean hands, he said, because when he was six, his piano teacher insisted that he wash his hands - his Proustian moment is scented with Imperial Leather – before touching the piano’s pristine ivory keys.

At 12, his piano teacher - Sr Frances, a Good Shepherd nun - suggested that he learn to play the organ because “every parish needs a priest that can play the organ.”

It was, said John, “jumping guns, counting chickens and putting horses before carts all in one.”

He rather fancied himself as the piano man at the party – the one at the centre of the craic.

Fast forward down the years and he came home one day to hear a melody he loved being played in the house.

At first, he thought it was a recording … then realised it was his son on the piano.

“It’s hard to describe what that feels like – a child of yours has learned a piece that you love that he loves too and that’s momentous and significant and moving.”

More than that, it’s like handing on the faith, he said.

Both of these sound essays were thoughtful, funny and awash with love … a magical way to finish a tough year.

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