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Hector Ó hEochagáin: 'The day of fathers not doing a tap in the house is ending - we're different dads now'

Hector has been chatting to drivers in Nepal, Mary Lou McDonald – but not Tony Holohan – for a philosophical TV programme about lockdown.

Image: TG4

HECTOR Ó hEOCHAGÁIN has noticed how nice his garden is for the first time.

He always knew he had a lovely garden – but being stuck in lockdown has crystallised just how nice his garden, and his home, really is.

“I am standing in my garden at 10 o’clock at night and I’m really happy that I have a nice garden. And I knew I had a nice garden, but I didn’t know how nice the garden was because I didn’t pay attention. Do you know what I mean?”

You might forgive Hector for not appreciating how nice his garden is. He’s usually abroad for three months of the year, filming in exotic places around the world as part of Hector Central, Hector i gCeanada, or Hector USA – Ó Chósta go Cósta. No flower bed can compare.

As part of his new show Hector Anseo, filmed from his shed in Galway and over Zoom, Hector chats to some of the people he’s met along these TG4 travel journeys, ordinary people around Ireland, as well as well-known names like economist David McWilliams, and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald.

“I stay in touch with an awful lot of the drivers who have driven us around,” he says.

“So today, I’m talking to a guy in Kathmandu and then I’m going live to Khartoum in Sudan, to talk to Nava who was our fixer – a young Muslim girl in Khartoum today and I want to find out about lockdown there.”

Being at home is no strange thing for the travel presenter, either. For the other nine months of the year when he wasn’t filming, he’d be manning the house – cooking the dinner, cleaning the house, or doing a wash.

“There’s a lot of stay-at-home dads, and I was one of those,” he says.

“And I like cooking the dinner, I like putting on a white wash and I like putting on a coloured wash, and I like hanging out the wash, and if it’s a good day for drying, I will make sure I might get two washes done.”

During the course of the debate about the Irish government’s handing of the coronavirus crisis, there’s been some suggestion that the response disproportionately impacts women, based on the assumption that women mainly mind the children in Irish households.

What does Hector make of that?

“I think the dads are more hands on than ever before in this country,” he says.

I just think the whole dynamic has changed in this country compared to what was in the ’80s or in the ’60s or whatever. We’re different dads now.

“Nine times out of ten most of the dads are working, but when they come home, that work doesn’t stop there. Not many mams or dads can afford to flop on the couch when they come in at 6pm.

I think the day of the father not doing a tap in the house is coming to an end. I think the day of a lad not pulling their weight in the house is few and far between in the modern day.

“I’m trying to be a good role model for my teenage boys, aged 14 and 15. I’m trying to show them, if the barbecue goes on, they do the cooking. They understand what it’s like to wash a few pots after Sunday dinner, which is complete and utter punishment.

“But they also see me doing it as well. And then sometimes I turn to them and I go, ‘Listen, I can’t do this all myself. So will you do the sitting room, and you do that room?’”

That’s the lesson for the kids. For adults, things become a bit more profound as Hector outlines two major things he thinks we’re going to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns.

The first thing Hector reckons is that the word ‘karma’, a word he puts a lot of faith in, will dominate the post-pandemic world.

We thought that this was a Chinese problem in January, and like the majority of the world, we thought that this was over in China, the other side of the world.
I think people will realise that we are on one planet – that because something happens there, [doesn't mean] it’s not our problem.

“And I think that’s a really good thing in a way that we realise we have to mind Co Galway, Co Meath. We have to mind China, we have to mind Kazakhstan. We have to mind Tunisia and Honduras because we’re all the same.” 

The second thing he thinks may change, or that we might learn, is a new way to work.

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“I think [this is] going to give people the opportunity to get off the wheel and say, ‘I can work from home’. Hopefully we’ll be allowed to work from home two days a week, so that’ll have a knock on effect with stress levels, and all the anxiety that comes with the 6AM, get the kids dressed, get the kids to school, get this, get that, and get into your job in middle management and management pushing people to be in by eight o’clock to get their jobs done.

I just think it’s a reset but there’s a big reset button being pushed, and I think we’ve a chance. 

Source: TG4/YouTube

As part of Hector’s new show, on TG4 at 9.30pm on Thursdays, he aims to talk to people about how lockdown is – but it won’t focus on the pandemic.

There’s a nice mixture of good chat and earthiness and sport and music – but there’s also talking to a B&B owner in Inis Mór to see how life is there.
Then there’s also a live link to a Bean an Tí in Connemara, who should have 16 boys in her college this year, but for the first time ever the summer colleges are not going to happen.
Then we’re going to a postman, then over to a lady in Kerry. The women of the country, the roots of their hair have been in decimated and destroyed for the last 10 weeks, so she’s now putting together all the mixes and the dyes and the customers drive through the hair salon at her house, she opens the bedroom window and her customers take the dye.

“I spoke to chip shop owners and pub owners all over the country and ice cream van owners and I’m talking to a lot of ordinary people,” he says, adding that in the middle of all that will be profound chats with Tommy Tiernan, Dean Rock and his father, Danny from the Coronas, and Gavin James.

“I’m trying to get a little bit philosophical with all these people just to give us a window of what lockdown is like.”

He says he deliberately didn’t ask Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan on the show.

“I wanted to give him a break,” he says. 

If you want to watch the six-part programme Hector Anseo, it’s on TG4 at 9.30pm on Thursdays, starting tomorrow. 

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