Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday (St Patrick’s Day)

Strange thing happened today…

  Being off work and all, I checked the TV News at around 11 am to see if much had happened overnight. Flicking through the channels, I paused on seeing the actor Peter Bowles flat out asleep under a snooker table. The camera panned slowly (it was The Irish RM after all) to reveal that a local Irish (Oirish!) character was snoozing on the table. Clearly, they’d had a rough night socialising…

  For some reason, I stayed with the final 15 minutes of this episode of a comedy-drama that I haven’t seen in probably over 30 years. A big success in its day, The Irish RM is now extremely dated, while still being quaint and humorous (stereotypes naturally abounding).

  It starred Peter Bowles as Englishman Major Yeates, who has to adjust to the idiosyncrasies of life in rural Ireland. Niall Tóibín also featured, as did Bryan Murray, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Murray, who played Flurry Knox in The Irish RM, went on to further success in Strumpet City, Bread, Emmerdale and (to the present day) Fair City.

  Having enjoyed that brief nostalgic viewing – desperately dated and all as the series now is – little did I realise that this was the very day on which Peter Bowles would leave us. His death, at the age of 85, was announced later on Thursday.

  I always liked him, from his days in Only When I Laugh (a hospital-based sitcom) to his career-defining role in To The Manor Born. He had numerous other great roles on stage and in TV. While Major Yeates was just one such role, I’m sure charming Peter – in light of those escapades in The Irish RM – would smile at the fact that he died on St. Patrick’s Day. He will be fondly remembered on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Later on Thursday

A very, very quiet St Patrick’s Day. By evening time, I should perhaps have tuned into the Late Late Show St Patrick’s Day special – with full patriotic fervour – but I feared it might be too much to bear, with inevitable excessive self-congratulation and ample supplies of the cringe factor.

  Instead – courtesy of Virgin Media Two – I savoured a rip-roaring night at the London Stadium, new home of West Ham United. The atmosphere was electric as the passionate supporters of ‘The Hammers’ cheered their team on in a Europa Cup tie against high-flying Spanish club, Seville. I’ve always had a soft spot for West Ham, probably because my late brother supported them.

  It was fitting, on a night of high emotion and passion, that West Ham’s late winning goal was scored by Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko, who looked to the skies in thanksgiving, humility and solidarity with the people of his stricken homeland.

Unsurprisingly, curiosity got the better of me and I had a look at the Late Late. For the few minutes I tuned in, the very likeable actor John C Reilly and the wonderful Kellie Harrington stole the show. Oliver Callan, on the other hand, didn’t.

Friday

The Cheltenham Festival has been tremendous, with ITV’s coverage simply superb. I say the latter because I am a fair-weather racing fan, but ITV’s informative and entertaining presentation really makes the festival enjoyable viewing for all (irrespective of one’s racing knowledge or level of interest).

  On Thursday, there were tremendous scenes as the Galway-Roscommon owned Flooring Porter won for a second successive year.

  Today, I settled down to watch the Gold Cup, and once again felt enormous pride on witnessing the latest chapter in the stunning career of Rachael Blackmore, who stormed to victory on A Plus Tard.

  “She’s a…global…sporting star” a breathless commentator exclaimed, as an emotional Rachael spoke to the media with customary modesty and grace.

  This was sport at its most magical…Blackmore once again carving her name into history, her superb Gold Cup success now added to her Leading Jockey Award at Cheltenham 2021 and historic Grand National win that same year. What a superstar she is, and what a privilege it is to witness her brilliance.

Saturday/Sunday

At a family wedding in Ballinameen on Saturday – in glorious weather – and with more than a hint of how life used to be, how it is rapidly becoming again. It’s an actual wedding, with over 200 guests! And it’s lovely to see familiar faces again, to (for the most part) greet people the way we used to. There’s still a consciousness of Covid considerations, but the mood is joyful and positive…because it’s a very happy occasion, and also because a social gathering such as this underlines how we are escaping the restrictive dimension of the pandemic.

  The ceremony is celebrated by none other than the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Reverend Dermot Farrell, and a lovely celebration it was too.

  Later, Kilronan Castle is a majestic venue for the reception…luxury, character and charm spectacularly merged.

  Communal experiences like this are such a big part of what we’ve been missing, and while I have deliberately taken my time about socialising as of old again, it was actually great to meet, chat and socialise with people – family, friends and strangers alike.

  You know a wedding is going well when you’re ordering a drink at the counter at 11 pm and end up joking and laughing (like old friends might) with a Donegal man you’ve never met before!

  It was a wonderful day as guests of newly-weds Aoife and Gareth, to whom congratulations are extended, along with best wishes for a great life journey together.

Monday

‘St Patrick’s Day at the BBC’ (BBC 4) – a recording of which I watched tonight – was a compilation of classic performances by Irish bands/singers from the BBC archives. It was immensely entertaining and nostalgic, and left this viewer feeling great pride at what we as a nation have added to the world of music.

  There were numerous highlights, the show beginning with U2, moving on to The Pogues, Westlife, Boyzone, The Corrs, Snow Patrol, The Undertones, Enya, The Boomtown Rats, The Cranberries, and many more.

  I was particularly delighted to see the incomparable ‘Dubliners’ singing ‘The Irish Rovers’ with Shane McGowan on Top of the Pops (1987). Now they’re what I call legends!

  For me, the stand-out footage was a mesmeric appearance by Sinead O’Connor, singing ‘Nothing Compares to U’ on Top of the Pops (1990). Stunningly beautiful and captivating. Not too far behind were Thin Lizzy with Whiskey in the Jar (1973), and a notably relaxed Van Morrison (‘Gloria’, accompanied by Jools Holland) in 2017.

Everything about this programme was brilliant – except for the fact that I can actually remember watching that TOTP appearance by The Boomtown Rats (singing Rat Trap)…live in 1978!

Tuesday

According to the RTE News website, Finland has been deemed to be the world’s happiest nation (for the fifth year running). While Ireland is in a very respectable 13th place, I’m not particularly happy with that position. Still, I suppose it mightn’t help future prospects if we all start complaining/whinging about it…