Even though I have never met Val Doonican I have always been a great admirer of his talents and, in particular, of his wonderful, warm, tuneful voice. If he had never been a television and radio personality, his voice would surely have taken him to the top in the recording industry and kept him there.

The reason I mention the singer is because BBC2 Television launched its new ‘Legends’ series last week with an excellent, hour-long tribute to the Waterford man narrated by Pauline McLynn. Now 80 years old, he looked in excellent shape and sounded in great form. It was nice, also, to hear the odd Waterford vowel still punctuating his speech.

Younger readers might not be aware as to how influential and important Val Doonican was in the British/Australian/Canadian entertainment industry. He was, for many years, the biggest name on radio and television and from 1964 to 1986 he led the BBC1 ratings. His reign at the top was all the more remarkable when one considers the musical revolution that occurred during those years not to mention the political upheaval. It wasn’t always popular to be Irish in Britain and during the bleak years of the 1970s and 80s Val Doonican and Terry Wogan did a lot to keep public opinion balanced. It should also be mentioned that Val Doonican is an excellent artist and writer and his wonderfully entertaining memoir/autobiography was a best seller.

I am well aware that there are lots of deserving people and unsung heroes out there but I’ve always thought it somewhat curious that Val Doonican, arguably Waterford’s most famous son of modern times, was never honoured with the Freedom of his native city to which he brought so much honour and recognition. Mind you, it’s still not too late.

Big brother will soon be watching Fido!

This writer has always liked dogs and, over the years, we have had two, long-lived animals in particular that were much loved by all the family. That said, I have to say that there is hardly a footpath or walkway in this city at present that is not destroyed by dog-dirt and children and adults alike are carrying the foul-smelling material into their homes on their shoes and boots.

It is not easy to be a dog owner these days as there are less and less open spaces where the animals can run free and clean themselves. Some owners are very responsible and, if they are out with their dogs, they carry a pooper-scupper. It’s a nuisance and a bother but they know it’s the correct thing to do. Unfortunately, a great many people don’t give a damn and either let the dog run free to relieve itself where it likes or hold the lead patiently while Fido does his ‘business’ on the footpath outside someone’s house.

The problem is a nationwide one but it has gotten so bad in Dublin that the city council has appointed a special ‘blitz team’ to target dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets. The team will have the assistance of CCTV and covert cameras and it is also intended to use computer technology to capture wrong-doers by satellite. Remember, such technology is now so advanced that a satellite can read the type in a newspaper held by somebody sitting on a park bench. It’s a bit ‘big brother-ish’ but people are so fed up with litter louts in general and tip-toeing around dog-dirt in particular that there have been very few complaints about the proposals from the general public.

Battle for the White House

Considering that the United States plays such an important role in world politics, it is surprising that there isn’t much more coverage about the race to replace George Bush in the White House. Of course, there are many candidates in the field at present and, as a week is along time in politics, anything could happen to promote or damage any of the candidates in the weeks and months ahead.

Probably the most interesting battle is for the Democratic nomination where the main battle appears to be between the former First Lady, Hilary Clinton, and Barack Obama, a charismatic politician born to a white American mother and a black Kenyan father. The smart money would still be on Senator Clinton but her competitor has a lot going for him and appears to be a black candidate that appeals widely across racial lines which is a difficult thing for any non-white candidate to do. On the other hand, Hilary Clinton has to deal with the knowledge that not all Americans want to see a woman leading their country.

Maybe neither candidate would be interested in the vice-presidency but, from where I’m sitting, a Democratic ticket featuring Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton would be a good bet.

There is less talk about who will emerge as the Republican standard-bearer in place of George Bush but the battle is equally fascinating. The front-runners are former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. It’s too early to start making predictions but, in recent weeks, Huckerbee has been enjoying a good showing in the polls. A conservative with a capital C, he is an ordained Baptist minister and an excellent guitarist and singer who has toured with a lot of big names such as Willie Nelson. He once wrote a book entitled ‘Quit digging your grave with a knife and fork’.

Holy’ mobile phones

Ireland is mostly a Christian country and many people still carry images of the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Virgin or different Saints in their purses and wallets. There are also little statues or pictures of Saint Christopher in thousands of cars and lorries on our roads.

The same is true, even more so, in Italy and last week an enterprising company did a roaring trade when it began offering ‘holy images’ that could be sent to people’s mobile phones. A spokesperson for the company is question said what surprised them most was the demand from young people as they thought their idea would mainly appeal to older phone users. It just goes to show, you never can tell.

Oldest living animal

If somebody asked you to name the oldest living animal, would you know the correct answer? I wouldn’t have known until I was told that it is a quahog clam aged 405 years. It was found off the coast of Iceland and the previous record for living antiquity was also a quahog clam that lived for 374 years. As far as is known, the oldest human being was a 122-year-old French woman who died in 1997.

Taxi driver in ecstasy

Shortly after 7 o’clock on Saturday evening last, a taxi driver was flagged down by a woman on the Dunmore Road. “I’m late for an appointment in the Tower Hotel”, she said, and, as the women opened her coat in the warm taxi, the driver noticed from her garb that she was a nun.

As the car crawled towards the city centre in heavy traffic, the nun couldn’t help but notice that the driver was watching her intently in his rear-view mirror. After a few more minutes of being watched, the nun said in a stern voice: “My son, why are you looking at me so intently. Have you got a problem driving a member of a religious order?”

The taxi driver’s face turned beetroot red as he apologised. “I’m very sorry Sister, I didn’t know you could see me watching you, it’s just that I’ve always had a fascination with nuns ever since I was a little boy. To be honest, and I hope you won’t be insulted by me saying this, but I’ve always had a fantasy about what it would be like to kiss a nun.”

The nun grinned broadly as the taxi turned in and stopped at the front entrance to the Tower Hotel. “My son”, she said, “it’s Christmas and I think you have been wondering about this for far too long.” She handed over the far, opened the car door but, before getting out, she leaned forward and treated the taxi driver to the biggest, slobbering, toe-curling kiss he had ever experienced.

The taxi driver was still in ecstasy as the nun climbed the steps to the hotel foyer. As she did, she was stared at by a group of wide-eyed people who were standing outside the doors smoking and had witnessed the kiss between the nun and the taxi driver.

“Don’t worry about it lads”, said the nun laughing loudly, “my real name is Kevin and I’m on my way to a fancy-dress party.”