Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

Our front page headline ‘Covid: Optimism in the air’ was well chosen (Editor to self: ‘Cheers’) if one is to place trust in today’s leaks. As readers will be aware, nobody in NPHET leaks, and nobody in the Government leaks, but hey, the media still benefits from…leaks. Amazing how they leak out. It’s probably more accurate to say that NPHET and the Government will always deny being the leakers (naturally). The reality is that some people in high places just can’t stop whispering to the media.

  The word on the street – even the cats have it, much less the dogs – is that most restrictions will be lifted soon. The virus is still in the air, but now it’s sharing space there with optimism. What will tomorrow bring?

Friday

Today was indeed momentous. It’s major news. It’s like our shared past has suddenly returned. This news has kind of rocked everyone. It’s quite a shock to us all. Meat Loaf is gone to his reward (see Saturday).

Later on Friday

All afternoon, those leaks kept dripping. The pol corrs are like children on Christmas Day. Today, senior politicians are very happy to be surrounded by quote-hungry journalists. It’s a slightly challenging balancing act for this shiest of species. Officially forbidden from stealing the Taoiseach’s thunder, they still want to drop the strongest hint possible that (a) good news is imminent, and (b) they had some part in making it happen.

“Minister, are the good times about to roll again?”

“Well, that will be a matter for Cabinet, and I can’t second-guess what will be decided, but I certainly hope the good times are about to roll again…in fact, I’ve been calling for the good times to roll again for some time…see you in Coppers!”

Even later on Friday

Sometimes when you’re watching a film – or it could happen when reading a book – you might feel ‘they’ suddenly skipped over stuff/haven’t joined all the dots or fully explained plot developments, that a little rushed editing has taken place.

  It’s a bit like that today. If ‘Ireland’s Covid experience’ was a movie, it might open with Leo Varadkar approaching the podium in Washington to make that dramatic speech in March 2020, and close with Micheál Martin’s ‘We need to sing again’ address this evening. But if the movie was true to our real-life experience, it would probably leave viewers scratching their heads wondering if they had snoozed a bit towards the end!

  Most people seem to be stunned at how quickly events have unfolded. Today, the Taoiseach announced that the vast majority of restrictions are being lifted, in most instances with effect from 6 am on Saturday. All change. Covid passes? Gone! Emotional scenes are expected around the country as bar stools are released from captivity. Social distancing? That’s gone too!

  The speed at which this is happening has taken people by surprise, but the reaction, unsurprisingly, is extremely positive. Of course many people will have anxiety about society reopening. Some people – myself included – will be quite happy to take a ‘dipping toes back into the water’ approach, as opposed to diving in!

Saturday

I’m not saying Meat Loaf was wild, but if he was paired with your daughter on First Dates, you’d be praying she’d say at the end ‘I didn’t feel there was a spark…I’d like to see him again, but maybe just as friends’.

  Then again, I’m guessing the larger than life superstar – whose death was announced yesterday – would have won most people over with his charm.

  What a force of nature he was, an extraordinary on-stage performer who leaves a great legacy. Mesmerising in full flow, he took the world by storm with the historic Bat out of Hell album (1977). Later – in between valley periods in his career – there were further hits, considerable acting successes, and many stand-out live performances.

  Although some music critics were less than enthusiastic about ‘Bat out of Hell’ when this extraordinary piece of work was unleashed on an unsuspecting world, there was no such critical restraint in Rooskey, where I grew up. We actually thought it was excellent – and we were right. In fact, we’d never heard anything like it. It turns out we were not alone; Bat out of Hell is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 50 million copies sold to date. The role of the late, great composer and record producer Jim Steinman was of course central to its brilliance.

  Meat Loaf (born ‘Michael Lee Aday’) brought happiness to millions of people. His unique songs, delivered with such passion and power, were a soundtrack to our teenage years. Like a bat out of hell he’ll be gone when the morning comes – but he will live on in our memories.

Later on Saturday

There was a good buzz in Jackson’s Restaurant in Roscommon tonight, where post-restrictions Dinner was lovely. A day or two earlier we had talked about having a family get-together, and now it was a welcome bonus that the 8 pm closing time was gone.

  One of a number of fine restaurants in Roscommon, Jackson’s is a beautiful, spacious and welcoming premises located in the heart of the town.

  There was a very nice atmosphere, reflecting the positive mood in towns and villages countrywide following the full return of hospitality. Later, we retired to the always cosy Paddy Finn’s in Kilteevan. It’s great to see hotels, pubs and restaurants finally freed of the restraints of the pandemic.

Sunday

Reflecting on the quick turnaround in our lives, it should be said that some caution must remain. The virus is still spreading, and it is critical that people don’t become too complacent. We need to be respectful of the fact that there are vulnerable people in our society.

  I’ve made the point before in this column that the pandemic is like a tsunami, or an earthquake, and that it is only when the worst of it is over that we can really assess the damage – and the scale of the rebuilding challenge.

  Clearly there will be a significant mental health fallout, impacting all ages. This has been an extremely traumatic journey for most – perhaps even all – of us, and there are many scars, some visible, some hidden. We need to be kind to other people – and to ourselves.

  The economic fallout will have different layers to it. There may be a spending splurge in the short to medium term, but many businesses are either gone, on their last legs, or at the very least facing an uncertain future. Please keep supporting small businesses, especially locally!

  

Monday

I’m going to change the subject now…to TV sitcoms. I never watched ‘The Catherine Tate Show’ when it ran from 2004 to 2007, but have recently seen repeats. It’s terrific, with Tate brilliant as the central character in the sketches.

  There is a wonderful tradition of great sitcoms in Britain. I’ve always considered Only Fools and Horses to be almost as much a drama as a sitcom. It is superb. Long live Del Boy, Rodney & Co.

  Porridge (featuring Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale) was both funny and kind of poignant. Later, Caroline Aherne’s The Royle Family was an original and heartwarming comedy, beautiful in its simplicity. In contrast, Blackadder is just wonderful madcap fun. Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister were very cleverly scripted and featured a brilliant cast. Alan Partridge is a great comedy creation, brilliantly played by Steve Coogan. Ricky Gervais’ ‘The Office’ was magnificent – and so original. Honourable mention to Father Ted.

  Regular readers may be aware that I don’t even entertain debate as to which is the greatest traditional sitcom of all time. Obviously, that honour lies with the owners and staff of a somewhat jinxed hotel in Torquay. Imagine introducing Covid passes there.

*Next week: Observations on US sitcoms