Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday 

It’s a glorious day…another fabulous March morning, one which has enough beauty in it to at least temporarily take our minds off the perils currently besetting the world. 

  An unfriendly chap grunts when I answer my mobile (not having firstly checked to see who was calling me). 

  “Your Amazon account is suspended, do you realise that?” he said – with a combination of slight impatience and arrogance. 

  I don’t have an Amazon account, which I could have told him – with a combination of disapproval and disgust. 

  Instead, I hung up. It’s doubtful that he’d have been on for small talk about the glorious weather. 

 

Friday 

 

A few texts ping in. Apparently our front page cartoon/illustration depicting support for Ukraine has attracted the attention of Ryan Tubridy on the radio. 

  Paraic Newman’s artwork shows Ukrainian soldiers hoisting their nation’s flag (which happens to feature the same colours as the Roscommon flag). Suffice to say we’d be supporting Ukraine irrespective of that coincidence, but it was a simple and apt ‘angle’ for our cartoonist. And, once he came up with the angle, Paraic produced a very poignant and striking image. 

  After a largely positive reaction on social media to our front-page cartoon, it received the on-air approval of Mr. Tubridy on his RTE Radio 1 programme this morning. 

 

Saturday 

 

It’s a touch challenging in this current climate to try and write what is an often humourous column, but I suppose some respite from the horrendous events in Ukraine can be justified. Life, dare I say it, does go on. 

  Certainly the shocking bombardment of Ukraine, the heroic resistance, and the dramatic refugee catastrophe are all uppermost in our minds day in, day out. It’s surreal to think that we have almost seamlessly moved from a historic pandemic to the biggest threat to world peace since the 1940s. Does anyone recall how long that period of relative tranquillity (between lifting of restrictions and Putin invading) was? It felt like about a week.   

  We carry on. I will indulge myself with some verbal meanderings. We are all still adjusting to that sudden enough escape (sort of) from the shackles of Covid-19 (of lockdown, at least). 

  When we couldn’t go to a pub/restaurant/café/shopping centre, we were greatly put out. Now that we can, some of us are biding our time. Probably for no reason other than that I just haven’t got around to it, a return to ‘the local’ hasn’t happened for me yet. Well, about four weeks ago I did enjoy two early evening ‘quiet’ pints in town – newspaper to hand – and it was a lovely experience. But, post-that recent overnight lifting of restrictions, I’ve yet to pop into a pub late at night.  

  Likewise, now that I think of it, I haven’t really been ‘eating out’ or popping into the cafes for a coffee. I suspect lots of people are readjusting slowly enough, while others are no doubt diving back in with great relish. In a (very) weird way, those of us who are biding our time may be subconsciously thinking we don’t want to spoil the moment by facilitating ‘the return’/bringing it on! It’s like when Paddy Joe says the best part of the occasion when the Rossies are in Croker is the pre-match parade, and the national anthem. After that, it can go downhill. Or like when you don’t want a great book to end, so you almost put off reading the final pages. For a similar reason, I’ve thus far avoided watching the new series of After Life on Netflix…I prefer the anticipation of how good it might be to the anticlimax of it being over!

  Meanwhile, from my limited walking around town/chatting with people this week, two questions (beyond Putin’s brutality) stood out: (A) When will the bit of the Square in Roscommon town that’s unfinished, be finished? (B) Will Roscommon beat Derry?

 

Later on Saturday 

 

Nodded off while watching Match of the Day (again). And this time, Alan Shearer wasn’t even amongst the pundits…

 

Sunday 

 

Being a bit of a fair-weather walker, I’m back on our beautiful bog road today, maybe feeling a touch guilty about all those missed walks in recent months. As ever, I pledge to try and do better. It is glorious. Even the sight of a neighbour beginning the lawnmowing season (so early!) doesn’t bug me. Well, I’m rattled, but I recover! 

  It’s nice to be reacquainted with the familiar sights and scents of the bog road walk…from the rusty, long-retired farm machinery to the grazing, ever-curious sheep, the majestic trees, the rustling of wildlife in hedges, the magnificent colours of the gorse.  

  Our bog road showcases nature in all its glory, the unbeatable beauty of our countryside. This beauty is savoured in peace and tranquillity. It’s all a stark contrast to what I’d been watching before leaving the house…Sky News, on the latest from Ukraine. The images are awful…flattened buildings which were vibrant a week ago now reduced to rubble and dust, with the innocent dead the casualties of this madness. 

  Some of the children of Ukraine will never again get to enjoy the simple pleasure of a leisurely walk in beautiful countryside, where the unspoilt beauty of nature is the antithesis of the callous onslaught on their homeland. 

 

Monday 

 

The actress Lynda Baron, who died today, featured in Eastenders – and in many other TV and stage roles – but she will be particularly remembered for her superb portrayal of ‘Nurse Gladys’ in the endearing British sitcom ‘Open All Hours’. 

  In the hit series (which ran from 1976 into the mid-1980s), Nurse Gladys was the no-nonsense love interest of shopkeeper Arkwright, played by the great Ronnie Barker (the sitcom also starred a very young David Jason as dim shop assistant, Granville).   

  28 years after the original series ended, a sequel, Still Open All Hours, ran from 2013 to 2019. By now, Arkwright has passed on, and Granville is running the corner store. Despite Baron resuming her role as Nurse Gladys, and a supporting cast that included Johnny Vegas, the sequel was, in my humble opinion, a very poor relation of the memorable original. 

 

Tuesday/Wednesday 

 

The response throughout County Roscommon to the horror being inflicted on the people of Ukraine has grown in impetus over recent days…to the point where it is now a highly impressive countywide show of practical support. 

  Here at the Roscommon People, we’ve been contacted by a number of the people involved in arranging to transport goods to the stricken people of Ukraine. These locals have put their ‘shoulders to the wheel’ in a great (but unsurprising) show of generosity and humanity to coordinate provision of aid for people whose lives have been turned upside down by the chaotic and cruel invasion of their country.   

  These distraught civilians – some staying on in Ukraine, millions more seeking sanctuary elsewhere – are victims of brutal, sickening and sustained aggression by a Russian army which is dancing to the tune of an erratic, cruel egomaniac. 

  The Irish people are standing by the people of Ukraine, whose bravery continues to amaze. I must say some of the TV and social media footage of refugees this week has been devastatingly emotional to witness; babies, toddlers, the elderly – and all in between – weaving a human tapestry of heartbreak. 

  In today’s newspaper, we report on the tremendous community response in Co. Roscommon. Well done to all involved, and to all who have donated goods/money, etc. It feels like the least we can do, and maybe all we can do. But the evolving response is very worthy, and very important. Every donation, every lorry-load, every gesture of care and thoughtfulness, every show of support…they will all help. See pages 7, 26 & 27.