Crime. There's a lot of it going on, we are told.
The suppertime and late-night local news are filled with stories of assault, shootings, even murder. Our Glorious Leader plans to put criminals in jail for a very, very long time. In newly built, formidable jails, where they can contemplate the consequences of their actions. In the recent federal election, this was deemed, by the people, a wise policy.
Fictional television also tells us that there's a lot of crime going on. Prime-time TV seethes with stories of horrible acts and despicable criminals. How real is it all - the news stories and the fiction? Perhaps we need a better class of crime story.
Recently while visiting Ireland, I was afforded a valuable insight into the crime situation and how it might be handled in reality and on TV. Tell me if this isn't a good crime story.
In Galway, I was sitting on the patio of Tigh Neachtain, one of the great taverns of the world, on a sunny Sunday afternoon with my parents and one Pádraic Breathnach, a distinguished Irish actor and director of the Galway Arts Centre. Fine conversation was flowing in the soft air. Then my mother cast a pall over the conviviality.
My father had asked Pádraic if there was a lot of crime in Galway - break-ins and the like. The answer was that there was some of it going on, but it wasn't what you'd call rampant.
My mother then told her tale. One morning last summer, she had arisen early, as is her habit. On opening the curtains of the kitchen window to survey the world outside, she noticed that two pots of geraniums, long-standing in front of the house, were missing. In my mother's native Tipperary slang, the plants had been "fecked." Stolen. Astonished and angry, she called the Guards, as the police are called over there.
Less than 30 minutes later, two Guards were at the house. They took details. Size of geranium pots. Height, diameter, colour of pot. Colour of missing flowers. They studied nearby geraniums to get a picture of the missing ones. They sympathized with my mother, said they were on the case and would report progress. My mother asserted - as Pádraic and I listened, agog - that she was well impressed by the diligence.
Six days later - or as my mother put it, "less than a bloody week later," - she got a phone call from the Guards. An officer expressed regret that there was a lack of progress in the case, but affirmed that it had been investigated thoroughly. An eye would be kept out, as they say, for similar cases of geranium theft that might provide leads. My mother was assured that the case was far from forgotten.
Three weeks after that, my mother received in the mail a letter from a very senior man in the Guards. The Deputy Commissioner or such. "Dear Mrs. Doyle," he began. "Recently, you have been the victim of a crime." The letter went on to explain that the Guards are aware that crime has consequences for the victim, "For the victim, these consequences can include physical, financial and emotional repercussions and can potentially have a long-term impact on their quality of life."
Great sympathy was expressed, and the perseverance of the Guards in carrying out action to prevent crime was declared. Attached to the letter was a two-page list of organizations that assist victims of crime in dealing with ensuing trauma and "adjustment to life afterward." Everything from Children at Risk in Ireland to the National Network of Women's Refuges and Support Services to The Samaritans, which provides "confidential non-judgmental emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide."
My mother said she had been dazzled by the Guards, their antennae highly tuned to the needs of the victim of crime. But she remained disgusted that the pots of geraniums had been fecked and never found. It said something about the sort of people who are walking the streets these days. Not even geraniums are safe.
Now, I ask you: Is that not the sort of tale to provide fodder for a TV crime drama? It's the sort of story that is at once realistic in depiction of everyday crime and simultaneously honours the police for their perseverance and care.
You can have your CSI (CBS, A Channel, 9 p.m.).You can have The Mentalist (CBS, CTV, 10 p.m.). Dead bodies and nefarious nogoodniks with guns are all very well, but the case of the missing geraniums is the sort of crime story that can open your eyes. I've advised my mother to write to Our Glorious Leader and tell her tale. Lessons to be learned there, I think.
Check local listings.