As a pathway into a new day it was certainly novel.
Usually I’m roughly shaken into consciousness by my son at a hideously early hour asking one of the great questions of life. Such as who would would win a fight between myself and Wonder Woman?
But this was different. It was still dark when the little buzz from my phone revealed a text message. I wiped my bleary sleep-filled eyes and peered at the screen.
Would you be able to talk to Frank about papooses and Piers Morgan?
I stared without comprehension. The truth was that my brain was mostly still asleep and I couldn’t quite fit the pieces together yet.
Firstly it was an unknown number.
Also who was Frank?
Sinatra? Bruno? Bough?
As some air seeped back into my brain I finally computed that the message was from a producer asking me to appear on the Frank Mitchell morning radio show. This was fine, but what was the subject?
I read the message again. Papooses and Piers Morgan. I stared blankly.
I certainly knew who Piers Morgan was. But papoose was an unknown word. The phonetics brought to mind images of a giant underwater creature. Had Piers been eaten by a sea dragon? It seemed unlikely.
I Googled the word. Papoose, I learned, is an American rapper. Had Piers launched an unexpected gangsta rap collaboration? Straight Outta Good Morning Britain? Hmmmm….
I explored further and soon it all made sense. A papoose is also the name for the baby sling which parents use to secure little infants close to their bodies while keeping their arms free. Piers Morgan had poked fun at actor Daniel Craig for wearing a papoose. He said that 007 had been emasculated.
It seemed that this had started an online controversy that was now sweeping across the media. Everyone was talking about it. Everyone except me, the journalist, who hadn’t heard about it.
But even though I was late to the argument I was happy to go on the radio and give my thoughts. I had used a baby sling when my little man was an infant. When he was just months old I carried him around much of the Algarve on a family holiday in a sling, his little arms and legs dangling like those of a scarecrow in the wind.
Also, I had been forced to admit, my career as a radio commentator had slowed recently. After a slew of broadcast appearances last year I hadn’t been asked to go on in many months. It seemed that the market for my incoherent culchie ramblings was not bottomless after all.
I readily agreed to appear and a couple of hours later was giving my views to a jovial sounding Frank. He played a clip of comedian Harry Hill thrusting a custard pie into Piers’ face (in truth this didn’t really work on radio) and I praised Daniel Craig for his parenting.
There was undoubtedly an element of attention seeking on Morgan’s part in manufacturing this whole, pointless row and now, here I was, indulging it live on air.
After my brief radio appearance I went back to some more mundane tasks. Then my phone rang. It was a producer from BBC’s Evening Extra radio show asking if I could go on tonight to talk about…..Piers Morgan and papooses.
So, later that day I was sitting alone in the green room of the BBC NI building sipping on water from a plastic cup. I was led into the studio and, as ever, resisted the urge to yell expletives while they were doing traffic and travel.
On this occasion I was joined in the discussion by the excellent feminist journalist and columnist Fionola Meredith. Seamus McKee started by asking me about the custard pie incident. I said I had never thought so highly of Harry Hill until this moment. I got a little laugh in return.
I made a few more silly gags and Fionola made the important points about the serious issue of the perception of men as parents.
Then Seamus, who seemed determined to treat the whole episode humorously, asked me would I wear an Elsa dress if my son asked me to. In truth during my preparation I hadn’t anticipated this one and I sputtered something weak in response.
Then it was over and I was led out while they did the sports headlines.
Driving home I contemplated how strange it was that I would be asked to do broadcast twice in one day after several months of radio silence. Perhaps it was just a matter of waiting for the right subject.
The truth is, as I had explained to two different audiences that day, wearing a sling (or papoose) is a beautiful and intimate way for a father to get close to his new child. Certainly after the mother has carried the baby for nine months it doesn’t seem like too much to ask for daddy to help.
If that means, as some would say, that you’re emasculated, then that’s just fine with me.
As dark descended again I felt quite pleased with my day’s work. I had been back on the air, if only thanks to Piers Morgan.
I had made sure to enjoy my time on the radio because, as I had learnt, you just never know when or if you’re going to be asked again.
I have something to say and my own particular way of saying it (that’s why this blog exists). Sometimes a lot of people are interested, sometimes just a few, sometimes none. But I just keep plugging on regardless, sticking to my own views.
I suspect I’ll never make a regular commentator. The fact is that I try too hard to be reasonable, I never want to go for the throat, always want to consider both sides of the argument. I never say anything just to get a reaction or to wind people up. I’ll leave that to Piers Morgan. It’s usually the people who shout the loudest who get asked first. Usually, but not always.
As I reached my house my phone rang again. This time it was BBC Radio Foyle. A journalist asked me if I would be prepared to go on their breakfast show the following morning to talk about fathers who have suffered from postnatal depression.
Sure, I said, just tell me when.