Paul Healy’s Week – 30th September 2016

This week, Paul Healy reflects on the NCT Centre experience; watching Donald and Hillary; unexpectedly talking to Ryan Tubridy on the way home from the ‘school run’…and believing that it can, just maybe, be Mayo’s day…

Time passes slowly in the NCT Centre waiting room. There’s no background music, no conversation, nothing only a handful of solemn looking people waiting to hear their fate, or that of their vehicle.

I’m sitting in an NCT Centre this morning, and the seconds and minutes pass excruciatingly slowly. Four of us sit on the basic chairs, and no one seems to want to talk. No one really wants to be here. There is no one behind the desk, though a pleasant man will arrive every ten or fifteen minutes and check his list – prompting us all to raise our eyes and abandon our day-dreaming.

At some point, everyone fiddles with their phone. The walls are adorned with signs which seem to revel in the mundaneness of this place we must all visit. Their messages seem all the more stark because you have so much time to view them. ‘Have your documentation ready or face the wrath of the Gods’ etc.

There’s a tiny monitor/screen, and all it does is keep looping messages which remind you of how to be prepared for your NCT and of all the ways you can incur penalty points. The place badly needs a blast of Elvis or even One Direction or Beyonce in the background.

Nobody wants to be here, the walls are dull, the images on the monitor are dull, the signs on the wall are dull. The NCT waiting room is probably no duller than any other waiting room, but at least in a doctor’s waiting room there are magazines with all the latest celebrity news from 2014.

I am not confident about our car’s prospects today. It’s eleven years old and for a while now it has been showing its age. Still, it’s never let us down and we’ve driven it across both the motorways and the boreens of France many times. It owes us nothing.

When I am eventually called, I leave our car with the man from the NCT Centre and he tells me to come back in a half hour or so. Outside, I have a new appreciation for the fresh air and the freedom.

The walk into town is enjoyable but, thinking about that 11-year-old vehicle, I feel like a condemned man being granted one last lap of the exercise yard. Forty minutes later, I’m back in the NCT Centre waiting room, where there are new faces, most of them as solemn as mine, nobody here wanting to be here.

I hasten to add that the staff in the NCT Centre are friendly and nice – it’s just that waiting rooms, by their nature, can be boring beyond belief. And does anyone’s bucket list include ‘Sitting with strangers watching a road safety ad loop on a tiny screen’?

After a few minutes, the NCT man returned to the desk and called my name.

Wow! The old vehicle has survived again.

I walk out, averting my gaze from the remaining poor souls in the NCT waiting room, because I am suddenly in another place to them just now, and averting my gaze is the right thing to do. It’s the decent thing to do. They would do the same. Just now, they are still prisoners, I am free – until the next time.

Monday night/Tuesday morning

I actually stayed up to watch Clinton v Trump, the first debate of the current US Presidential campaign, which started at 2 am Irish time and finished for me at about 3.15 am.

It made for very good viewing.

Trump did very well. He may be pretty short on detail, but he’s a skilled television performer. He can’t have done his victory chances any harm at all.

True, Hillary Clinton landed a blow by highlighting Trump’s failure to release his tax returns, but the eccentric Republican candidate responded well by saying he would do so once his opponent “releases the 33,000 emails you deleted!”

I thought Trump did really well by constantly claiming that big employers are leaving America, portraying Clinton as part of a failed political elite that has let the country down, and arguing that he is the candidate best-placed to face down terrorism.

Now I am not necessarily saying that Trump is Presidential material, but he did much better in this debate than a lot of people will have expected. Hillary Clinton also had some excellent moments during the debate.

She concentrated on depicting Trump as a flawed candidate, questioning his trustworthiness, referencing how he has offended many sectors of society, and making very direct allegations about some of his business dealings.

I saw nothing that made me change my view that this election is currently too close to call.

It is certainly not the Clinton stroll that many had been predicting earlier this year.


Obviously from now on I’m going to be much more measured in my occasional criticism of The Late Late Show…after all, Ryan Tubridy was lovely to talk to on air this morning.

Now how did that happen?

Well, I was flicking through the radio stations on my way from the ‘school run’ this morning and I had to pause when I heard Mr. Tubridy talking about the one and only Terry Wogan.

It turns out that Ryan was in England on Monday attending a Memorial Service for the great and much-missed Mr. Wogan. Ryan spoke extremely highly of the Choir and wondered if its ‘leader,’ a Mr. James O’Donnell, had Irish connections.

Now, thanks to Vincent Brennan of the wonderful Time Pieces shop in Roscommon town, I have been aware for a number of years that this famous Mr. O’Donnell, who led the Choir for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, is of good Roscommon stock.

James O’Donnell has been Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey since January 1, 2000, and is one of the most acclaimed conductors and organ recitalists in the world. His late father, Gerard O’Donnell, was a native of Abbey Street, Roscommon.

Gerard received his Primary and Secondary education in Roscommon and, on qualifying in medicine in Dublin, moved to England. He married an English woman, Gillian, who went on to become a doctor.

James O’Donnell is a cousin of Mary Brennan, Vincent’s wife (this brings us back to Time Pieces). So, after finishing the school run, I called the Ryan Tubridy Show from our office – aptly in Abbey Street – to enlighten them about the Roscommon connections of the Organist who had played such an important part in the Wogan Memorial Service.

Next thing I knew, I was put on air to chat live with Mr. Tubridy. He was very nice, and I think I survived the experience. I suppose I would have been pushing it if I’d asked for Late Late Show tickets?

This Saturday

I’ve stuck with them over recent weeks, so I’m not going to abandon Mayo now.

The facts remain unchanged.

Dublin are the finest team in the land, but all the pressure remains on them. To assume that the champions will play much better in this weekend’s All-Ireland Football Final replay is to undervalue Mayo’s performance the last day.

The reason the Dubs struggled in the drawn game is because Mayo were so good defensively. Mayo have to be the hungriest team in history. If they’re not, they should be.

I expect them to be within a score or two of the Dubs with ten or fifteen minutes to go.

Mayo will probably need two goals this time, not to mention up to fifteen points. But I think they can take ownership of those last ten minutes.

Not particularly wishing to sound like Donald Trump, but I think it’s “going to be beautiful.”

I’m staying with Mayo.