Paul Healy’s Week

Every day

Another night, another strange lockdown/pandemic dream. I remember it so clearly. Like most of my pandemic dreams, it was quite bizarre.

The scene was The Piglet Bar in a posh city centre hotel. Suave staff tiptoed between the beautiful people who were seated around the plush lobby, their sparkling jewellery and glamorous fashion a striking contrast to the spotless but unimaginative staff uniforms, each of which were emblazoned with a distinctive logo of lonesome piglets.

In a corner in the opulent bar sat Cate Blanchett, twiddling with her iphone while tossing the curls of her hair, every now and again glancing at the door to see if a random government minister or official might walk in.

Meanwhile, on a busy beach – surrounded by iphone-raising onlookers, yet somehow curiously alone – a Hugh Grant-like figure was seated on a deck chair, sunglasses propped high on his forehead, self-confidence oozing.

In a busy government office, with nervous officials scurrying past, sat Colin Firth, or what appeared to be a Cork Colin Firth, if such a wonder could exist. He was  deep in thought, mostly a series of reflections on his James Bond-like forays across the international stage, where mercifully he is free of Danny Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath-shaped distractions.

Back in Piglet’s, it was nightfall. Cate, who bore a slight resemblance to Katherine Zappone, checked her mobile for the 72nd time that day. A frown slowly formed on her forehead as she sipped a very fine wine. All her efforts to get talking to top personnel in the American government had been ignored. Worse, now Colin, in his Foreign Affairs arrogance, was ignoring her texts. She wondered if the smiley face emojis she’d been sending were somehow too common, if there was an ‘Entitled insider’ emoji she wasn’t aware of.

Later, in the ladies room, Cate rolled her eyes when a friendly young woman fretted about the stresses of the pandemic. ‘I’m a part-time singer, but I haven’t worked in a year and a half’ the woman said, adding that her PUP income wasn’t compatible with the prices in the Piglet Wine Bar, and that she was only there to collect a friend.

‘I need to get away from here’ Cate thought, before uncharacteristically blurting out: ‘You think YOU have problems? I’m waiting to be appointed as a Special Envoy to the UN – in New York!’ Perhaps fortunately, she didn’t appear to hear the part-time singer muttering ‘Yeah, and piglets will fly’.

Hugh Grant was also feeling the pressure. He’d secretly tried to save the Electric Picnic, while publicly banning large outdoor events (it’s complicated). Worse still, he was briefly out of the media spotlight. He needed some time away. Time to think. A few hours later, he was sitting on the grass at a music festival in London. Woo hoo!

Back in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Colin Firth just stared ahead, practising his serious look. He knew he was smooth. He knew he was good.

He looked at his pinging phone. He passed it to an official and said: ‘It’s her. Deal with it’.

In the Piglet Bar, Cate/Katherine ordered another drink. ‘Of all the gin joints in all of the towns in all the world…’ she muttered, as she zinged texts to Colin, Hugh and Matt Damon, who looked a touch like a young Paschal Donohoe.

But the text replies had dried up. Briefly, Cate wondered if her phone could possibly be broken. She asked a piglet-draped waiter to summon the part-time singer from the lobby.

‘Darling, could I possibly borrow your phone? It’s important. Top secret UN business’.

The young woman was so apologetic. ‘I’m sorry, like I said, I’m on the PUP. I’m out of credit’.

‘Of course you are, of course you are’ wailed Katherine/Cate, as an emoji for a piglet popped up on her phone.


All weekend

In the end, Patrick Cantlay won 15m dollars for repeatedly ‘putting’ that little white ball into a hole, but I barely saw any of the PGA’s big season-ending tournament.

Golf’s mega-race for the Fed-Ex Cup hadn’t a chance with viewers over the weekend. For those of us into sport, it was difficult not to invest all our viewing time into a gripping, brilliant Solheim Cup, the female version of the Ryder Cup.

After thrilling, top quality competition, Europe prevailed over hosts America. It was captivating viewing on Sky Sports, particularly as Cavan’s Leona Maguire – the first Irish player to ever reach this stage – was the star of the tournament.

I spent most of the weekend savouring the words of commentators and pundits as the brilliant Maguire, a Solheim rookie, remained unbeaten over five outings. She was, quite simply, powering Europe to success.

‘What a sensation she is…relentless’ one commentator purred on Sunday night. Minutes later: ‘A superstar’. Later still ‘Leona’s out of this world’.

Her teammates played their part too. It was a superb win for Europe, and a joyous sporting event.

Earlier on Sunday, the All-Ireland Ladies Football Final was gripping sporting combat, Meath playing brilliant football on their way to a shock win over a five-in-a-row chasing Dublin. You couldn’t but be thrilled for this wonderful Meath team. I was impressed too with the humility and grace with which Dublin players and management coped with their expected destiny being ambushed by these magnificent, rampaging Royals.


Every day

Obviously there’s any number of ways in which one can embarrass middle-aged men, but one that usually works is if you suggest that they might be aware of the plot (and characters) of any of the popular TV ‘soaps’.

This phenomenon may not apply to middle-aged men only, but in my experience it is mostly this group who quake in fear at any suggestion that they might be familiar with Eastenders, Corrie, Fair City, Emmerdale, etc.

If one of these programmes comes up in conversation, the Soap Snobs will immediately feign complete disinterest. If they are unfortunate enough to let some knowledge of the soap slip out, they will quickly, nay desperately, reach for the well established but dubious defence: ‘Of course I don’t actually watch it, it’s just sometimes when I’m in the room it’s on in the background’.

I don’t suffer from Soap Snobbery at all, although I haven’t followed any of them for years. I did watch Coronation Street for many years, and Fiona and I enjoyed a visit to the famous set in Manchester back in the days when Jack & Vera were a great double act and Mike Baldwin and Ken Barlow engaged in regular battles.

At its best, Coronation Street was tremendous entertainment, with a wonderful cast of characters throughout the 1980s and ‘90s (I rarely see it now).

I wouldn’t be too snobby about these programmes. They provide millions of people with escapist light entertainment/drama, and – given the demands of producing so many episodes in a week – the cast and crews are clearly hard-working and talented.

Of course many of the storylines are far-fetched; personally, if I lived in Albert Square, I’d get out of there quickly. It’s bad when the local lawyer is going around killing people. And ‘The Queen Vic’ is just not the place to go to for a quiet drink.

What prompted the above ramblings was a scene in Eastenders recently, when I was full of Irish pride to hear ‘Linger’ by ‘The Cranberries’ being played in the background. (I just happened to be in the room when it was on).