People say we have a toxic relationship with all sorts of things, but gambling has to be up there as one of the most serious scourges.
TV drama Cleaning Up (UTV, Wednesdays and Virgin Media 1, Mondays) makes for uncomfortable viewing as Sam (Sheridan Smith) unravels due to her addiction to all sorts of gambling. She squanders thousands of pounds, including on online gambling through her phone, in the grip of an addiction that demands to be fed.
We see the children she obviously loves being neglected, a close friend being ripped off and a moneylender demanding repayment. The clever and ironic title could refer to her illogical optimism about the next ‘sure thing’ and to her job as a cleaning lady – the specific spark for the drama happens when she overhears some shady stock market information in one of the offices she cleans, which draws her into the complex gambling of insider trading.
In last week’s episode the downward spiral continued. Despite a brief, if unlikely, improvement in fortune she got herself in deeper with dodgy traders. There was a touching moment with her mother-in-law who sees through the chirpy mask, though ironically this lady is suffering from the effects of smoking addiction and has to wear a mask of her own, for oxygen.
There are plot holes, and the tone seems uncertain at times – it wavers between social drama and thriller, with even a flavour of roguish caper as two other women join Sam in an ill-judged scam, but it’s engaging and you don’t get much of a chance to dwell on the few flaws.
The topic of gambling also surfaced on Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1) last week when people told some real life stories of the destruction caused by gambling. On the Tuesday, ‘Cormac’ told his story of gambling away around €5,000 left with him to pay some bills. Presenter Joe Duffy and other callers, in informal therapy mode, had some good advice to offer him in his desperation and while you could feel his pain it was still hard to understand exactly what happened as he said he hadn’t gambled like this before, and didn’t seem to have done it since.
Sensitive as that subject is, it feels like walking on eggshells to write about the Prime Time special on transgenderism, on RTÉ 1, on Tuesday of last week. Heavy promotion in advance raised a Twitterstorm among transgender activists, but I found it reasonably balanced.
There has to be love and respect for all those personally involved, and there’s no place for gratuitous offence. However it is a current social issue with implications for public health policy so it must be discussed. In these polarised times is there somewhere between intolerance shown to transgender people and intolerance practiced by transgender activists?
I was particularly interested in the way scientific research on the matter has, in at least two specific cases outlined, been stifled because, it seemed, universities were afraid of controversy – ideology squashing science, with the assistance of institutes of learning that should know better.
Another interesting strand covered was the way the issue has some feminists clashing over transgender men in particular, with the feminists feeling their female-only spaces are being encroached upon. We saw this conflict becoming very robust in the UK, but not here.
Most troubling of all is how, through such gender ideology, medical intervention and even surgery is visited upon children who may just be going through a temporary phase, but are, especially in the case of young girls, affected by what was described as ‘social contagion’.
Certain relevant issues could have been raised but weren’t, e.g. when cultural appropriation is so frowned on in politically correct circles, why is transgenderism not regarded as gender appropriation? Why are those who identify as another race roundly lambasted in the media, while those who identify as a different gender are affirmed?
EWTN’s coverage was invaluable as usual, and RTE 1’s World Youth Day: Pope Francis in Panama opened with some colourful, joyful and inspiring highlights, but what a pity they didn’t broadcast the final Mass – instead there were ‘key elements’ of an earlier Mass with the Pope in a basilica in Panama city, which didn’t seem to have much connection with WYD at all.
We did get to see some faith-enthused Irish pilgrims heading off, when group leader Gerard Gallagher hit a key note: “World Youth Day changes lives.”
Pick of the week
RTÉ1, Sunday, February 3, 11 am
Mass with The Big C Choir from Naas, Co. Kildare. Musical Director Christina O Connell, celebrant Fr Liam Morgan.
K. CHESTERTON: APOSTLE OF COMMON SENSE
EWTN, Monday, February 4, 2 pm
Dale Ahlquist gives an overview of Chesterton’s popular Fr Brown detective stories, featuring Fr James Kolp as Fr Brown.
Channel 4, Monday, February 4, 10.15 pm
Investigating why more and more children are leaving school and being educated at home.