Listen up, Corkonians... Secret Sound is driving me cracked!

Is Cork's Secret Sounds driving you as crazy as me? So asks Kathriona Devereux
Listen up, Corkonians... Secret Sound is driving me cracked!

Former world champion race walker turned Red FM breakfast radio presenter Rob Heffernan anchors the Secret Sound segment

IN an attempt to shield small ears from the sad realities of the war in Ukraine, we have recently switched the radio dial from the stark current affairs of RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland to the light-hearted and highly Cork accented breakfast show on Red FM.

For the uninitiated, the Breakfast on Cork’s RedFM show is presented by Laura O’Mahony, Ciara Revins and world champion race walker Rob Heffernan. My kids know Laura O’Mahony as Aunty B from the RTÉ children’s programme The Body Brothers and even though Rob’s sporting gold and bronze medal achievements happened long before they were born, appearances on shows like The Den or on the pages of this paper have solidified him as a ‘famous person’ in the eyes of my smallies.

The breakfast show is a lively mix of upbeat banter and recognisable radio hits, but one of the key moments every morning at 7.45am is the Secret Sound. 

A short snippet of an unidentifiable noise is played, callers ring in with their suggestions in an attempt to win money, and before they guess there is some cheery chat between Rob and the caller, who usually says something like: “I’ve been listening to the sound for weeks” “

“So have I!” I say to the radio in Shirley Valentine mode.

“It’s really been bugging me”

“I know the feeling!” I say.

“But I think it might be…”

And then they make a guess that may have been said by at least 20 people before them, and Rob has to stifle an internal groan and let them down and move onto the next caller, who does the same thing and makes another crazy or oft-repeated guess.

It’s maddening! On many levels.

Sometimes, the callers are great talkers and are up for banter with Rob about their plans for the day, other times Rob resorts to asking people what they had for their breakfast to eke out the duration.

My impatience at this mundane line of questioning is only because I want someone to get it right so we can all get on with our lives.

“Is it the sound of Lotto balls coming down the chute?”

“Is it the sound of the game Frustration button being pushed?”

“Is it the sound of the cable of a vacuum cleaner cord being wound up?”

“Is it the sound of opening a plastic tub of Celebration sweets?”

“Is it the sound of half the population of Cork banging their heads off a wall in the morning listening to the same radio show?”

Of course, I should just turn it off in the morning and spare myself the frustration, but I’m torn. I can’t bear to listen to the bad guesses but I really, really want to hear someone win it.

So this column is a plea to the people of Cork to tune in and resolve the long-running Secret Sound question before I explode.

My seven-year-old thinks it’s the sound of our wonky garage door opening, my five-year-old thinks it could be the sound of a toy lawn mower with balls rolling around inside.

It does sound something like plastic balls in a container, so the suggestion of a lung capacity testing machine wasn’t totally mad, but surely it must be something more ordinary?

I’m hoping a dedicated, and mildly obsessive, Corkonian might collate a list of all the guesses that have been aired so far and anyone thinking of ringing in can cross reference their idea with previous guesses. 

Maybe a ‘Crack the Secret Sound’ online community can harness their collective brain power and listening skills to win the prize and spare dedicated listeners and the presenters repeat suggestions.

The prize pot is currently hovering around the €3,000 mark, but the last big prize pot reached €8,700 before being guessed (it was the sound of a tape being pulled out of a cassette player, in case you were wondering), so there might be weeks and weeks of exasperating guesses ahead.

Of course, by the time this column has gone to print, someone might have emerged victorious, in which case you can just picture how pleased I am at their winnings, relieved that this Secret Sound is over, and worried there’ll be a brand new Secret Sound to drive us all demented again!

Put the lawnmower away this May, says Kathriona Devereux
Put the lawnmower away this May, says Kathriona Devereux

No Mow May

I have been embracing #NoMowMay, an initiative encouraging people to leave their gardens alone for the month of May in an attempt to give wildflowers and pollinators an opportunity to thrive at the start of the summer season.

Our garden is a messy jumble but the birds love it. We have newly arrived goldfinches eating dandelion seeds in our front garden. They hover almost like hummingbirds next to dandelion clocks eating each seed.

The mix of sparrows, wrens, blue tits, blackbirds and starlings zipping around the garden is like the opening sequence of a Disney cartoon.

Apart from the usual suspects like buttercups, daisies and dandelions, if I peer closer into the tangled grasses I can spot some tiny blue flowers called, strangely, green alkanet.

I discovered a patch of wild garlic in a corner, delicate forget-me-nots have emerged from cracks in the path, and the pretty pink herb robert is colonising forgotten corners.

On the surface, it looks like an untidy and unloved garden but with an adjustment of perspective I see it as a hive of activity and a home and source of food to many unseen creatures.

As the saying goes, ‘to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’, and to make that garden as supportive of wildlife as possible is crucial to a better, more biodiverse future.

I won’t be cracking out the lawnmower any time soon. I just need to coin a catchy tag-line to encourage everyone else to leave their gardens alone in June too! #NoPruneJune

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