The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - March 10, 2016

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Does anyone else find that one gets more emotional with age? I only ask because in the old days I could watch a dog get mown down by a car, then turn around to see an elderly lady slip and plunge off a cliff, and it wouldn’t bring even the slightest hint of a tear to my eye.

Now, however, I can’t get through five minutes without blubbing at something.

Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis, more likely it is the fault of a TV show called DIY SOS.

For those who haven’t seen the show – which is on the BBC and hosted by a chap called Nick Knowles – the premise is quite simple; a team of builders largely made up of kindly local tradesmen are tasked with renovating a house.

But it is never any ordinary house. In this show it always belongs to a family with some heartbreaking backstory.

The first one I watched, a few weeks back, and the episode I blame for my emotional breakdown, was about a man who had suffered a stroke at the age of 49 which had left him in a wheelchair and barely able to speak.

It was heartbreaking stuff, the cameras filming this chap as he ate dinner in the lounge on his own because his wheelchair was too big to fit in the narrow kitchen where his wife and three children were.

“It’s ripping our family apart,” the man said, in faltering, hard-to-understand tones caused by his condition. “I feel as though the kids don’t know me any more.”

At this point Mrs Canavan turned round to say ‘bit depressing this isn’t it, shall we turn over to Channel 4 to watch Gogglebox?’ to find I had a vast heap of damp Kleenex on my lap and was sobbing uncontrollably.

“Have you been peeling onions?” she said. ‘No,’ I said, choking back the tears, ‘it’s, just, so (voice breaking) terribly sad’.

She eyed me suspiciously, thinking I was being sarcastic, and with good reason, for previous to this year I rarely ever cried.

But something strange has suddenly happened and I’ve turned into a soppy fool.

Last week, for example, a Red Cross advert came on TV featuring a child running barefoot across a war-torn landscape desperately looking for something. Then a caption flashed on screen, ‘Aila can look but she won’t find her mother. Her mother was killed by a bomb last week’. The advert then cut to a shot of Aila sat on the ground looking forlorn and lost.

I cried so hard I missed the first half of Countdown.

This never used to be the case (the crying, not missing Countdown). Previously I could watch the saddest films known to man and remain unmoved. When I was 12 and my mum and dad broke the news that my beloved hamster had died, I shrugged and said ‘not to worry, can I go outside and play football now?”

Nowadays there’s no stopping the tears and it happened again during last week’s latest DIY SOS show.

A man who had lost his wife to cancer a couple of years ago was raising their six children in a cramped semi-detached house.

The kindly Nick Knowles and his team of builders built a huge extension, creating a bedroom not only for each child but for dad too, who had been sleeping on the sofa because of a lack of space.

“Tell me about how hard it’s been for you?” Nick asked the father. The father’s answer wasn’t quite sad enough, so Nick turned the screw. “Do you still cry every time you think of your wife?”

It is, really, pretty cynical television – they crank the heartbreak up to maximum – but it isn’t half effective.

Mrs Canavan arrived home from yoga a few minutes after the programme ended, took one look at me and said, ‘you’ve been watching that programme again haven’t you?’

“How do you know?” I asked.

‘Because you’re eyes are all red and puffy and there’s no tissues left’, she replied, before giving me a slightly disapproving look and heading into the kitchen to put a wash on.

Thankfully the series has now come to an end, giving me chance to regain my butch, manly reputation, though I fear the damage has already been done.

Golden girl gets to write her tale

Maria Sharapova’s failed drugs test has annoyed me.

Not the fact she failed it, but the fact she was able to announce it to the world and paint herself as the victim.

The fact she’d been caught should have been announced not by her but by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in a short, sharp statement.

Instead they allowed Sharapova – guided, no doubt, by an army of expensively recruited PR consultants and super-smooth damage-limitation advisors – to deliver a carefully scripted speech to the world in which she was able to paint herself as an unfortunate victim of circumstance, that she had simply not checked whether the medication she was taking was on the banned list.

As several fellow players and athletes pointed out in the hours afterwards, it is hard to believe one of the top stars in the sport, and the team she has around her, failed to check what is on the ITF’s prohibited list.

Perhaps – and call me cynical here – the ITF allowed Sharapova to get her story out and attempt to win sympathy from the public because they don’t want one of the golden girls of the sport to be banned for too long, or the reputation of tennis to be damaged too much.

She could be banned for up to four years. If I was a betting man – given the way it’s been handled so far – I’d say it’s more likely she’ll get a year tops, the equivalent of a slap on the wrists. We shall wait and see.