Paul Healy’s Week


A visit to Naples

Naples is a fascinating city, full of character, rich in history, a place where the visitor experiences a very authentic insight into both the traditional and modern Italian way of life.

Celebrating a significant birthday in our family (no guessing) we arrived there recently for a short break.

I know it’s stereotyping Italian motorists to reference the frenetic driving style, but come on! Even one of the taxi drivers we encountered joked about it.

Mention the traffic in Italian cities to people from Ireland (and elsewhere) and they will happily generalise and stereotype an entire nation of drivers. Count me in! The chaotic traffic flow in Naples (as in Rome) is fascinating to observe, mopeds darting in between cars in a manner that many of us would describe as hair-raising, horns blaring almost constantly (but we observed no major impatience, let alone road rage, or actual accidents). I must say I loved the hypnotic driving of the motorists along the narrow streets of Naples.

Naples Cathedral, a five-minute walk from our apartment, is a majestic, sacred building boasting amazing architecture. Indeed the architecture on display throughout this city is quite stunning.

At night, busy restaurants, small bars, quaint shops, art galleries and the ever-present hum of the traffic zig-zagging through mostly narrow streets created a lovely atmosphere in a city of vibrant culture.

The locals’ absolute love for the late, great Diego Maradona (who transformed the Napoli team’s fortunes when he joined the club in 1984) is evident everywhere. Sure, people are still cashing in on Maradona merchandise, but the giant murals on buildings also point to the deeply felt emotional bond that existed between the superstar footballer and the people of Naples.

A day trip to Sorrento – a beautiful coastal town overlooking the Bay of Naples – was certainly enjoyable, but the island of Capri had a considerably bigger ‘wow’ factor.

Capri is particularly beautiful… a picturesque island nestled in the Bay of Naples, where spectacular scenery can be enjoyed at every turn. Embedded into the mountain – or so it seems – are dozens of delightful holiday homes (no doubt there are some permanent residences). The place was thronging with tourists on the day of our visit, thousands of people arriving by ferry to savour Capri’s delights.

Mind you, the prices were an eye-opener. We stopped outside a centrally located restaurant on a beautiful, warm afternoon, perused the menu after been seated outdoors, and were ‘greeted’ by coffees for €11, a coke for €12, and a Peroni beer for €16!

A trip to nearby Pompeii is of course highly recommended for anyone visiting this part of Italy. We took a thrill-a-minute taxi ride there on a warm day, spending a few hours in the fascinating ‘lost city’.

Pompeii was buried under volcanic ash and pumice when the nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted (for the first time in 850 years) in 79 AD. Thousands of people died in the tragedy. Following its destruction, Pompeii remained largely undisturbed until its rediscovery in the late 16th century.

Now largely preserved (with excavation work ongoing to this day) Pompeii offers a unique snapshot of life as it was then, frozen at the moment it was buried. It is a fascinating historical location, and a world renowned tourist attraction.

All the Italian people we encountered during our short stay were extremely friendly. This was a lovely family break, in the company of friendly people – in a culturally rich and beautiful part of the world.



‘Baby Reindeer’

‘Baby Reindeer’ (Netflix) was a riveting watch from the first couple of scenes. This dark seven-part thriller is the true story of writer/actor and would-be comedian Richard Gadd’s harrowing experience of being stalked – and abused.

I was two episodes in before I realised that the actor playing gaunt looking struggling comedian Donny Dunn was in fact… Gadd himself (playing a fictionalised version of himself).

This is no ordinary instance of a writer/actor effectively depicting their own lived experience on film. Because this is a traumatic, dark story of a man being stalked and sexually assaulted, it meant that Gadd was bravely reliving a very harrowing ordeal he had actually experienced in ‘real life’ (the Netflix series is an adaptation of his one-man show).

I won’t go into much more detail. Suffice to say that ‘Baby Reindeer’ is extremely gripping, a fascinating production that deals with serious subjects (and relatively recent events). Very well produced, it features excellent acting performances from Richard Gadd and Nava Mau (as Teri, Donny Dunn’s girlfriend), with Jessica Gunning chillingly brilliant as Martha (the stalker). Recommended viewing if you haven’t already seen it.



Weekend sport

I sometimes wonder if a packed weekend of TV sport is as much a curse as a treat! So much choice! Pity accomplished channel-hopping sports fans such as yours truly…

At the risk of appalling my rugby-loving friends, I confess that I couldn’t stick with every twist in the Leinster-Northampton game without switching for updates on the snooker and football. I’m sure Donal Lenihan & Co would struggle to understand how someone could flick over from James Lowe in full flight to a safety battle between Kyren Wilson and David Gilbert, but there you go! We don’t all have to be obsessed with the rugby! But I was glad Leinster won – hanging on a little in the final minutes, having come out of the blocks impressively early on.

There really was a feast of TV sport all weekend. On Saturday, there was Roscommon’s thrilling Connacht U-20 final win over Galway (live on TG4). Later came Leinster’s win. There was lots of Premier League (and Championship) action too.

As the World Snooker Championship purred on all weekend, the main focus on Sunday switched to GAA, with Clare giving a good account of themselves against Kerry (Munster final), and Galway swooping to win the Connacht title courtesy of three late scores against Mayo (see my views in ‘Sports Desk’). On Bank Holiday Monday, in keeping with long-standing tradition (mine), I watched the closing frames of the World Snooker Final, where Kyren Wilson was crowned