Last Sunday I contacted our web manager Paul, and asked him to delay opening the bookings process for next weekend’s Masses until later that night, or else until the following morning. The reason was that I was one of the 13 million or so people in the nation gripped by Series Six of Line of Duty, having ardently watched Series One to Five, and indeed having watched Series Five a second time in preparation for Series Six. That night was to be the final episode, perhaps the last episode ever, and it was expected that the identity of a mysterious character, who had featured in the background since the beginning, was going to be revealed at last, as well as lots of other loose ends being tied up, and issues clouded in doubt being clarified. As it turned out, I was also one of 13 million or so people left a little underwhelmed at the end, still not convinced that the character revealed was truly the famous “H” or 4th man, as he, or perhaps even she, was frequently alluded to, and still not sure whether this was truly the final series ever, or if there might yet be a Series Seven. I was surprised to find the main character in Line of Duty, played by Adrian Dunbar, appearing on the cover of The Tablet, the Catholic weekly publication. Inside was an article alluding to his frequent references to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, even including “the wee donkey” at one point, or to the Holy Mother of God, which always came across, not as careless uses of holy names, but as genuine prayers and pleas and ferverinos coming from a place of faith. Adrian Dunbar himself, as one of seven siblings, says that he took these from his father growing up, and that they just came naturally to him in the course of the drama, and that he was encouraged to include them whenever he felt it appropriate to the scene. They became one of those moments you listened out for.
My mind went back to two other drama series that gripped the nation in years gone by. The first was The Fugitive which ran from 1963-67. The big mystery, of who was the murderer, was broadcast on the same night Celtic played Vojvodina in the quarter final of the European Cup, the year that Celtic went on to become the first British club to win the competition. As a family at home, we had followed the drama ardently for four years but, on that final night, myself and my older brother, the doyen of Scottish sports journalism, at that time aged 12 and 14 respectively, were two of the spectators in a 75,000 crowd at Celtic Park. What a night it was but, one the things I remember as we were getting our two buses home to Drumchapel at the end of the game, was that, as well as people on the bus asking supporters the score, the supporters were also asking the other passengers if it was the one-armed man, a shadowy character who was always somewhere in the background as having been seen running away from the house on the night of the murder in The Fugitive. It turned out it wasn’t him.
The final drama that comes to mind wasn’t one that I was particularly interested in myself, but it really gripped one of my colleagues when I was a Passionist student at Mount Argus in Dublin. The year was 1980, the series was Dallas, and the big question was, who shot JR? At that time Dallas was broadcast on a Saturday night, just before Match of the Day. As the bulk of the student body assembled in the Recreation for the football, this particular colleague would be seated at the front, glued to the screen, and God help any of us who even whispered until Dallas was finished. He was totally consumed by it. I couldn’t even tell you, at this stage, who shot JR, as I never, ever watched it, but I will never forget the rule of terror we were under, not to make a sound when it was on. I exaggerate of course – but only a little.
As I write, today is election day in Scotland. I haven’t voted yet, but I will do so tonight on my way back from my younger brother’s house. I will vote as a matter of principle, but I am still at a loss as to who to vote for. Now that politicians can no longer vote according to their conscience, but have to toe the party line, I feel at times a little disenfranchised in terms of voting for someone whom I feel holds good and true values, and will uphold them bravely.
As ever, protect yourselves, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives