Paul Healy’s Week

All week

When in Rome, Michael D went to see the Pope…but he won’t be going to Armagh to see Church leaders there.

Our president’s decision to refuse to attend an event marking the centenary of the partition of Ireland caused a major outcry all week. This story dominated the news agenda from Dublin to Belfast and to Rome itself. I assume that embattled Simon Coveney – being human – took some comfort in Michael D taking the spotlight off Zapponegate. Fine Gael royalty, in the form of John Bruton, even helped Simon in that regard, the former Taoiseach weighing in with somewhat uncharacteristic poor judgement.

As to the substantive issue, I think President Higgins was probably right to refuse to attend the upcoming event, which will mark/celebrate 100 years of partition and the founding of Northern Ireland. Hearing critics of his decision not to attend refer to Michael D (on radio) as ‘the President of the Republic of Ireland’ only confirms that this is a politicised affair.

The vast majority of people want to see the closest of ties between North and South, but there is a compelling argument against the idea of the President of Ireland attending an event (albeit a church service) which is marking the partition of…Ireland. Besides, President Higgins can proudly stand over his record when it comes to actively supporting and promoting reconciliation and inclusivity.



On the Late Late Show, a very nice interview with Tuam historian Catherine Corless and her husband, Aidan (the latter a bubbly, twinkly-eyed character). Catherine is the woman whose persistence and passion revealed the Tuam babies’ scandal. What a remarkable person she is: modest, passionate, determined, relentless in her pursuit of justice for the mothers and babies. Catherine Corless is a modern-day national hero.



‘Guilty pleasure’ corner: I’m currently enjoying repeats of ancient episodes of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (Sky Arts). Mostly based on short stories written by Roald Dahl, the series ran from 1979 to 1988. Generally each episode is quirky and quaint, with a touch of drama and humour, and always that keenly awaited twist at the end.

I remember the series fondly from my youth, categorising it in my mind with the American TV series ‘The Outer Limits’. Sky Arts is currently running daily repeats (at 5 pm) and I’m recording them with the enthusiasm of a chid awaiting a Christmas present. Obviously the episodes are very dated, but that’s part of their appeal. The theme music/opening sequence is of course iconic.

And, just for the record, there are no plans for a new series of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ starring Katherine Zappone, Simon Coveney and Matt Carthy.



Jimmy Greaves. Two magic words when you put them together like that. In truth, I only really ‘knew’ him from the ‘Saint and Greavsie’ show he and Ian St John presented on Saturday afternoons in the 1980s. It was football as fun, St John as the straight man, Jimmy as the joker. Midst the welcome frivolity, the word was that St John had been an accomplished footballer…and that Greaves was a genius.

Footage of past games, eagerly sought out, quickly revealed the truth of this man; he was a uniquely gifted, thrilling, merciless marksman. Greaves could score from close in, and could dance past defenders too, the ball at his mercy, like it was part of his body. Jimmy’s stupendous scoring statistics illuminate the record books…422 goals in 602 league games, 44 goals in 57 appearances for England. He was a smiling assassin too.

Greaves, who died today aged 81, battled alcohol addiction for much of his life. In recent years I read and enjoyed his autobiography. He had demons, but overcame them with courage. Greavsie the broadcaster was quirky, mischievous, different. The sight of Greaves ghosting into the penalty area was breathtaking. I think fans of all clubs had a soft spot for him. Here was the type of footballer young boys are in their dreams. Jimmy. Greaves. A genius who was revered and loved.



Another adored TV star of the past has gone to his reward. John Challis, whose death was announced on Sunday, was a fine actor, most famous for his long-standing role as ‘Boycie’ in Only Fools and Horses.

I’ve always maintained that Fawlty Towers is the greatest sit-com of all time, but that’s because it was ‘laugh out loud’ funny, and built around the greatest sit-com character in history (Basil). Only Fools and Horses is a different type of sit-com. It’s arguably a comedy-drama, and ought to be judged differently to Fawlty Towers. With ‘Fools’, the characters are more developed. Viewers invest in them, care about their fate. It was a truly outstanding TV series, and I can understand why millions of people are more emotionally attached to Del Boy and Rodney than to the more slapstick (but brilliant) carry-on in Fawlty Towers.

With his glorious depiction of the (very) dodgy second-hand car dealer Boycie, John Challis was comedy gold. A Bling King – clad in trench coat, with cigar and brandy in hand – Boycie got his share of laughs, many of which (despite his best efforts) were ultimately at his own expense. Challis was a key member of the great cast of this classic series (repeats of which are on daily).



According to the nice people who’ve been texting me with almost admirable persistence over recent weeks, my parcel is “out for delivery” today. I am invited to track or divert ‘my’ parcel. This is fascinating. I wonder what’s in the parcel? Of course it’s a scam. Not only do I not currently have a parcel ordered, I have actually never personally purchased anything online (family members have ordered on my behalf; I am still adjusting to the service).

Later, another text. There’s an exciting update. “One item of your order has already been shipped!”. This implies that I have ordered more than one item. Also, the inclusion of the exclamation mark kind of suggests that I should be pleased with this ‘progress’. But why would I be impressed if ‘one item’ has already been shipped? The inference is that more than one item has been ordered. Why not set them off sailing together?

Anyways, it’s all rubbish. Scam artists are now in overdrive, the pandemic having ushered in Generation Scam. These days it’s all computer hacking and phone scams, the criminals looking to squeeze multiple small payments from unsuspecting consumers who, due to Covid, are online in greater numbers than ever before. Spare a thought for the Nigerian princes of old, now thoughtlessly sidelined.



My own online prowess is still a work in progress (see ‘Monday’). Today I managed to successfully apply for an NCT retest, the sense of satisfaction momentarily erasing the disappointment felt at last week’s ‘FAIL’. What a ‘testing’ experience the whole NCT appointment is. I travel there more in despair than hope. Last week, the chap in the NCT test centre was remarkably good-humoured and cheerful. It almost lulled me into a false sense of security. I handed him the keys, and my fate.

There is nothing quite like the resignation you feel at the NCT test centre. Due to Covid restrictions, we were spared sitting inside and suffering with strangers. Instead, I leaned against a wall outside, listening to the sounds of a crisp morning. After 20 minutes or so, the nice man broke it to me. In response to his car jargon, I feigned an understanding of the complexities involved. Oh, that track rod? Anyways, retest required. And that’s why I reapplied online today. Another 28 euro gone, and another agonising NCT outing to come!