Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

An unusual headline in The Guardian addresses one of the key issues of our time: ‘Boris is no clown and this is not a circus’. The article references the response of readers to a diplomatic row between the UK and France, amid reports that French President Emmanuel Macron allegedly called British PM Boris Johnson a “clown” and a “knucklehead”.

One letter to the Editor of the Guardian is from a French man who takes issue with the translation of what may or may not have been said; he helpfully suggests that ‘cirque’ should not be translated as ‘circus’ and that ‘shambles’ or ‘madhouse’ would be more appropriate. Meanwhile, a reader from Brighton wrote in to say that Macron calling Johnson a clown was “grossly insulting to clowns…They are engaged in a serious profession; Johnson isn’t”.

Nobody seems to have the appetite or expertise to address the ‘knucklehead’ claim.

 

Friday

Another Friday, another long walk…from freedom.

Yet again a Taoiseach descends those steps – glum-faced, and clasping another speech of sober tidings. The public, some of them at least, wearily wait for the gloomy leaks of previous days to be confirmed, the overworked speechwriters having scrambled again to re-heat past speeches and somehow skilfully flavour them with new qualifications and aspirations, desperately trying to bridge the gaps between despair, reality and credible hope.

Micheál doesn’t have quite the same gravitas and self-assurance as his predecessor, Leo, but the current incumbent does just fine on these now familiar showpiece occasions. I imagine the ‘scares from the stairs’ attract a lot less viewers than in the early days. 21 months into this shocking saga, the public is extremely weary, some people are no longer listening, and in any event, every big announcement has been well leaked before being delivered.

This really isn’t how it was meant to be. Micheál hasn’t whipped another lockdown out of the hat – they probably wouldn’t dare – but it’s still a step back into the recent past. Some will feel that the Government is over-reacting, others will accept the argument that this is a wise pre-emptive move.

The returned restrictions are a massive blow to the nightclub industry, with implications too for others in the hospitality/entertainment sectors. Clearly the aim is to reduce Covid-19 cases numbers, minimise the pressure on hospitals, and reduce social interaction at a time when there is both concern over and a lack of knowledge about the Omicron variant. Somehow, within these confines, businesses have to try to stagger on, while a fatigued public works on having as fulfilling a Christmas as the current climate facilitates.

It is regrettable that there is still a degree of resistance to vaccination in the community, nor is it helpful that some people are brazenly disregarding the advice which society has been asked to follow.

 

Saturday

On a lighter note: As is now tradition, yesterday an RTE reporter naturally had to be interrupted in mid-sentence by a newsreader announcing that the Taoiseach was about to begin his address. Mícheál Lehane didn’t even get to be the interrupted reporter this time; the honour fell to Mary Regan. (Maybe it’s the same on Virgin Media, I tuned in to RTE).

Having enjoyed different experiences in my time on the media scene, I’ve now decided that one of my remaining ambitions is to have a spell as the reporter who always has to be interrupted by an RTE news anchor on a very important occasion.

Yesterday, before she was interrupted, Mary Regan was already telling us what NPHET had been telling Micheál and Leo and Eamon before they told Cabinet colleagues before they told drained spin doctors before someone told the media before someone else told the dogs in the street before Micheál formally told us…what we already knew. Analyse that, Mícheál Lehane.

 

Saturday

‘JINGLE HELL!’ screamed one of the tabloid front pages today, in reference to another dash of Christmas spirit- dampening by our masters.

‘Jingle Hell’ might be a bit extreme, but at least one tabloid sub-editor is happy!

 

Sunday

 

I read that smug comedian Romesh Ranganathan is to present a new version of the once very popular quiz show The Weakest Link (presented in its prime by Anne Robinson). To which, as per Anne, I say…Goodbye!

Speaking of quiz show presenters, I was surprised earlier last week to see Gary Lineker presenting a show (which, thanks to Google, I now know to be called ‘Sitting on a Fortune’) on ITV/Virgin Media. I was even more surprised to see his occasional Match of the Day colleague Ian Wright presenting a show (‘Moneyball’), also on Virgin Media.

What next? Bowls with Alan Shearer (recommended for insomniacs)? Mastermind with David Beckham?

 

Monday

Sports fans, there’s a basic truth I need to share with you all. It could be that Marcelo Bielsa, second-season jitters notwithstanding, remains a wonderful, eccentric and oddly charismatic newcomer to the Premier League with Leeds. It could be that Joe Brolly, while a good writer in the Sindo, can sometimes ‘cross a line’. It could be that Ronnie O’Sullivan can sometimes be just as infuriating. It could even be that although his passion can elevate his commentaries to a very high level, RTE’s rugby man Michael Corcoran can be annoyingly partisan (I know, not a popular view). I could go on. But this week, the truism I want to declare to the world is one I presume all sports fans who consume and appreciate quality media coverage will agree with. It is this: Joe Molloy (Off The Ball, Newstalk) and Virgin Media rugby anchor, is no longer ‘just’ the rising star of Irish sports broadcasting: He is the best, the outstanding sports’ broadcaster/presenter in Ireland. The very best. Magnificent. That’s it.

 

Tuesday

 

Storm Barra is raging and it’s definitely not wise to be out driving, walking, etc. Even in inland Roscommon, it’s pretty wild as I write (9 pm).

An evening for the TV, for sure. Meantime, on my laptop, after checking emails and doing a few bits for the paper, over a cup of tea I dive back into the ‘This is Your Life’ archives which I’ve been enjoying on YouTube lately.

It’s 1973, and Eamonn Andrews has managed to snare the unpredictable and brilliant Spike Milligan. Each time Eamonn reads a short snippet from his famous big red book, a new guest appears on the stage to surprise Spike.

Eamonn: “It’s 1939 now, and over the water, your future adversary, Adolf Hitler, has plans that are soon to see you in a new job…”

Spike: “He’s not here tonight, is he?”