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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Great comedy as man expresses shock

 

Sunday

A great new comedy started on RTE 1 last Saturday evening at 8.30 pm.

  The plot may have been a familiar one, but it was still a cracker.

  From what I could gather, a small but fearsome man has been away from civilisation – maybe in a coma – for a number of years.

  Suddenly, he returns to his native land, completely unaware of all that has changed while he has been ‘away.’

  When viewers join the action, our hero is back amongst his adoring family/friends, and still coming to terms with the extraordinary ‘new Ireland’ he has just discovered.

  As his thrilled followers hang on every word, the star of the show walks around in circles, deep in thought one moment, pondering the next, but mostly talking relentlessly. He is alarmed at what has happened while he was away. He is deeply saddened by the terrible changes, by how the ruling body has behaved in his absence. And, epic chieftain-in-waiting that he is, he has solutions galore.

  It is moving, emotional…most of all it’s hilarious.

  I think it was called ‘Labour Party Conference’ – I know it starred the wonderful Brendan Howlin.

Every day

Each new American drama/crime series/thriller seems to be more dramatic than the previous one. Is it a golden age for television/Netflix? A number of the various series’ are firm favourites in our house, but, at least up to now, I’ve just been a confused spectator, struggling to follow complicated plots, always playing catch-up, while still being impressed.

  ‘What happened there? Where did he come from? Can you rewind?’

  It seems that non-stop killing is the currency of the modern-day television drama, many of them feeding off 21st century terrorism for their storylines. They’re very slickly made. There’s one at the moment where I fear for the cameramen/women; it seems just about everyone else is getting shot without a moment’s thought.

  Not in the league of the stunningly slick new dramas of the last few years are ‘old reliables’ like Criminal Minds and CSI: Miami. These are still sufficiently complex for this viewer! In Criminal Minds, a handful of FBI investigators (always the same few, no-one ever takes holidays) have to chase down a serial killer – in every episode. It almost always involves the investigating team taking a trip on a plane. They are a clever group, but they would get nowhere if it wasn’t for one FBI woman, a flamboyant, always cheerful type who is a dab-hand on the ould computer. Her character’s name is Penelope Garcia, I believe (I played her at her own game and googled her). Thankfully she never takes a day off, certainly not when there’s a maniac on the loose who, for example, is tracking down victims who have red hair and pet terriers.

  That’s the thing about Criminal Minds…the killers have the most bizarre list of boxes they need ticked before settling on their next victim.

  Eventually one of the crack investigating team will conclude: “What if the person we’re looking for only strikes on a Tuesday and hates terriers and is killing off red-haired pet-lovers because he had a bad relationship with a red-haired dog owner which ended on a Tuesday?’

  That narrows it down of course. The investigating foursome look at one another knowingly, get Penelope to press a few more buttons on the computer, and within minutes they burst in on the serial killer.

  Inevitably in Criminal Minds, the killer is in the middle of trying to kill someone when rudely interrupted by the dashing FBI team. 

  The killer is never washing his car or putting kids to bed or even just relaxing on an armchair watching Judge Judy or maybe Homeland, or even old episodes of Criminal Minds. 

  It can be a bit gruesome and is utterly ridiculous, but at least the plot is not too difficult to follow! But I must try to get into some of the ‘new’ dramas, because even I can see that it truly is a golden age, with some superb stuff being produced. No wonder box sets are so popular.

  In the meantime, anyone for Kojak, the original Hawaii Five-O, Ironside, or the one and only Columbo?

Monday

The column has got its hands on a recording of a conversation between two ‘old fogeys’, which is understood to have taken place in a small bar in Cong, Co. Mayo on Monday night. 

  Pat: “I don’t think I’ll come down town any more. It’s getting worse. Last night a few of the young local lads were on about getting golf lessons and next thing these two strangers butted in and started claiming they had won golf majors, had beaten Tiger Woods!”

  Mikey: “Eh, that was probably Padraig Harrington and some other superstar…they were in town for the big wedding in Ashford Castle.”

  Pat (oblivious): “Then this Spanish tourist comes in, small enough guy he was, and when he hears the locals talking about golf he starts mouthing off, saying ‘hey, I won the Masters!’ Crazy stuff.”

  Mikey: “Eh Pat, I need to explain…that actually was Sergio Garcia…”

  Pat (still oblivious): “You wanna see the set-up of him…wearing a ridiculous green jacket he was too.”  

  Mikey: “There was a celebrity wedding Pat, last night wasn’t a normal night in the local…how many drinks did you have? Where have you been?”

  Pat (still not clued in, now on a roll): “Next, a scruffy red-haired kid comes in and asks for a lemonade and crisps…”

  Mikey: “Eh, that will have been Ed Sheeran….Pat, I’m telling you, it was the ‘afters’ from a celebrity wedding…”

  Pat (finally listening): “Celebrity wedding? There was no celebrity wedding in Cong. Sure wasn’t Marty Morrissey in Dublin all weekend and we know there’s no celebrity gathering in Ireland without Marty.”

  Mikey: (stops and thinks, then gathers himself): “Look Pat, we both had a few too many over the weekend. But, trust me, it was a weekend with a difference. Did you stay long in the local last night after all that?”

  Pat: “Well, I put up with those golf spoofers for a while and listened to a few more well-to-do strangers…but when this fellow started hogging the Karaoke and claiming to be Stevie Wonder…I just had to leave!”

Every year

Loving the snooker…not so much the actual live action of 2017, but the nostalgia, with the BBC rightly hyping up the 40th anniversary of the sport’s move to its ‘spiritual home’, The Crucible.

  Watching old footage of Cliff Thorburn, Ray Reardon, the young Stephen Hendry, the young Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor, Jimmy White, and the magic man himself – Alex Higgins – has been very nostalgic and enjoyable.

All week…

The Roscommon Lamb Festival kicked off on Wednesday and here at the Roscommon People we’re delighted to offer our full support as exclusive media partners.

  We’re urging the public to come out in huge numbers to enjoy what promises to be a great festival over the coming days. We have full details throughout this week’s issue. See also www.roscommonlambfestival.com

 

 

 

Clowns to the left of me, award winners to my right...

Sunday & Monday

Great community spirit was in evidence again over the weekend as succesful Easter Parades were held in Roscommon and Strokestown, and Castlecoote hosted a hugely entertaining County Fleadh.

  I didn’t get to Strokestown but the reports are all positive; the town once again hosted a colourful and successful parade.

  Good weather was a bonus for everyone in Castlecoote/Fuerty where a very hard-working committee (under auspices of Athleague CCE branch) had pulled out all the stops in the build-up to the area hosting the County Fleadh for the first time.  

  As expected, the event was a massive success, as Dan Dooner reports on page 15 of this week’s issue (photos on pages 8 & 15).

  I did attend the Roscommon Easter Parade and there was a terrific atmosphere and a huge crowd.

  A great many of the 50-plus floats/entrants could have won prizes but only five could be chosen and those winners were as follows – Best Commercial: Service Matters; Best Voluntary/Community: Roscommon Show; Most Entertaining: Roscommon Fire Service; Judges’ Special Award: McDermott’s Darts’ team, Castleplunkett; Overall winner: Class Grass (‘The Field’).

  Congratulations to all the wonderful volunteers involved in the various successful Easter Weekend events.

  By the way, Donald Trump remains a firm parade favourite. He featured in a number of floats, and was accompanied in one of them by what we can pretty safey conclude was a group of ‘Mexicans’ (every possible stereotype was included!).

It was all good fun!

Every day…

We had a peek, as we are inclined to do, at the most recent of those ‘Rich List’ features that the Sunday newspapers are so fond of.

  And, sure enough, a few very successful locals featured in the Sunday Independent ‘Top 300 in Ireland’ list.

   The Comer brothers from Glenamaddy started out as plasterers and are now big developers who are worth an estimated €1.05 billion!

  Declan Ganley, who was raised in the same neck of the woods as the Comers, is now worth an estimated €250m. Why bother going on Tonight with Vincent Browne?

  Aidan Heavey, from Castlerea, is worth about €63m – Aidan is the founder of Tullow Oil.

  Having exited Nama, Sean Mulryan, the Oran-born Rossie, is “very active on the Irish property market again.” He paid off debts of around €3bn and, according to the paper, is still worth about €50m.

  Owen Killian, from South Roscommon, recently stepped down as head of food giant Aryzta – his wealth is also estimated to be around €50m.

  That’s all the locals we could find on the list – needless to say there’s lots of Mayo multimillionaires!

  If you are a local multimillionaire and have inadvertently been omitted from this list, just send your details, scribbled across a number of €500 notes, to the Roscommon People – and we’ll update readers next week.

He’s done state some service: Vote for Jim!

I was delighted to hear the news that Jim Callery, right,  of Strokestown House (and Famine Museum) renown had been chosen for a major European Award.

  Jim has always been a good friend of the Roscommon media and, more importantly, of the wider community. What he and others have achieved in Strokestown over the decades is simply phenomenal and will impact positively long into the future. 

  When a cousin of mine from London and some friends of his visited Roscommon a few years ago, I brought them to Strokestown Famine Museum. Two thoughts stayed with me after the visit: (A) How fascinated they were by the famine museum and (B) the sense that many of us in Roscommon almost certainly don’t fully appreciate how remarkable and truly historic a place it is. If you haven’t visited, you have to put that right this summer! Jim Callery is a Roscommon hero and a man who has done the Irish State some service.

  He has not only been chosen for a coveted Europa Nostra Award, he is also a nominee for the Public Choice Award 2017.  Readers can vote for Jim (there is also the chance to win a trip for two to Finland!). You can cast your vote by visiting http://vote.europanostra.org/ (voting closes on the 3rd of May).

Clowning around…

This week’s ‘Random imposter near the office’ award was won on Tuesday.

  The ‘Different ways to stress a parent’ award had already been won minutes earlier, when I was asked by one of our daughters if I could collect her from home and bring her to the train, which, needless to say, was already about to leave the station.

  So I popped out of the office in the hope that there would be no traffic hold-ups in Abbey Street.  

  Good start: I had a clear view left and right. No lorries, no men with drills…no deliveries…

  There was no sign of T. Hill either…the legendary painter had been working halfway up Abbey Street on Monday (it’s always a pleasure to meet ‘T’).

  Then, what seemed like a perfectly normal landscape, changed just a little. All of a sudden a clown arrived on the scene…a clown, in full clown garb, cycling a very low, very colourful ‘clown’s bike’. He arrived from the direction of the old Tax Office. 

  I looked at him just as he approached our office. The clown cycled in a very leisurely manner on his tiny bike, looking around him like any other tourist might marvel at our delightful Abbey Street.

  This whirlwind of colours – clown and bike – continued its way up the street. As clowns go, he was acting quite normally.

  ‘How are ye?’ he shouted into Igoe’s Butchers, as he passed. 

  Then he looked at me and said ‘How are ye? to which, oddly enough, I replied ‘How are ye?’

  With that, he was gone, peddling into the distance, and I still don’t know whether the low-key, low-cycling clown was advertising the circus or escaping from it.

 

 

Superstar minding his own business attacked by Brolly…

Sunday

All week, it seems everyone’s been singing the praises of a light lad from Killarney who became a footballing prince.

  But in today’s Sindo, Joe Brolly hands out the plaudits in one hand while wielding the knife in the other.

  If they want to be hailed by smug critics, sometimes the last thing sportstars should do is set the highest of standards.

  When Ronaldo was knocking in wonder goals for Manchester United, while also having the temerity to be far too good looking, Eamon Dunphy and John Giles criticised him for not ‘tracking back’ enough!

  It might surely have been more appropriate if they had fully acknowledged the magic he was weaving at the other end of the field. Ronaldo was busy doing what the guys who were tracking back could only dream of doing!

  In a somewhat mean-spirited reflection on Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper’s career today, Joe Brolly uses a dubious form of logic.

  The facts are that between 2004 and 2009 ‘Gooch’ won four All-Irelands with Kerry, and scored a fabulous total of 3-18 in those four finals. Yet Brolly actually zooms in on these finals as he sets about taking Cooper down a peg or two. Brolly praises Gooch and says the Kerry man is the most skilful player he’s ever seen, but there’s a few strong verbal digs too. Brolly basically alleges that Cooper didn’t do the business against the very elite teams, was guilty of disappearing from games, was often “anonymous” and just wasn’t there when the going got tough. It’s a harsh critique and leaves a sour taste.

  Along the way, there’s enough sideswipes at Cork and Mayo to enrage supporters in those counties, with Brolly writing that Gooch only did the business in All-Ireland finals against “star-struck Mayo and Cork teams.”

  Brolly says that when Gooch was in his prime in those four finals, he was playing against a “terrified” Mayo and against Cork, “Mayo’s Munster cousins.”

  Brolly’s conclusion is that Cooper wasn’t a leader in the mould of Peter Canavan (who incidentally won just two All-Irelands).

  It’s all a matter of opinion of course, and no doubt some people will agree with Brolly’s unsentimental deconstruction of the career and legacy of the Gooch.

  But hey, maybe last week really should have finished as it began, with due tribute being paid to a wonderful footballing artist.

  So, yellow card to Joe Brolly and a medal for sportsmanship to Fr. Liam Devine, who more accurately captured the mood of the nation when, in his Roscommon Herald column, he wrote: “I finally met Gooch before the All-Ireland final in Croke Park a few years ago…I thanked him for the great moments of brilliance that he entertained us with down through the years. I think he appreciated it. I doubt if we will ever see his equal again on a football field.”

Friday

At a press briefing on the status of the Join Our Boys campaign, Aidan Farrell reminds us of what it’s all about: trying to help to find a cure for DMD.

  Brothers Archie, George and Isaac Naughton, who live in Roscommon town, have all been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a life-threatening condition.

  The briefing is being held to update the public on the great fundraising drive and on plans to build a purpose-built home/clinic for the boys.

  As the brothers play happily in a section of the conference room in Gleeson’s, trustee Aidan Farrell briefly switches the focus back to the boys’ health. There is always hope, he says, adding that great research is being done into DMD, and that nobody is giving up on hopes of finding a cure.

  Amongst those at the top table are the boys’ parents, Padraic and Paula, and one is again struck by this great couple’s courage, strength and determination. 

  This family, which carries such a cross with such dignity, deserves our ongoing support. The next big project is ‘Miles for Our Boys’, with the public invited to participate in the Dublin City Marathon in support of Join Our Boys (Archie will be taking part). Details on Join Our Boys website and Facebook pages. Get involved if you can!

Later on Sunday

We’re in the Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon for a family gathering. It’s my first time here in a good few years and I won’t beat about the Bush; it’s a lovely, charming, old-style premises.

  While other hotels have been modernised (and good luck to them), the beautiful, quaint Bush Hotel is relying on its old-world charm.

  The staff were friendly, the food was good, the Dublin/Kerry game was on three large screens, but most of all, the unique décor and underlying sense of history makes it a great and quite fascinating hotel to spend time in.

Even later on Sunday

In the Central in Roscommon, a few of us are hogging two sides of the counter in the front bar, creating our own Amen Corner, praying for Sergio.

  By 11 pm, most eyes in the bar are on the television screen; by 11.30, all eyes have joined in.

  When Sergio sinks the winning putt, to finally claim a major, it’s as if Jimmy White actually potted a world title-winning black ball. Of course it’s even bigger than that!

  It’s the great majors’ underachiever, the nearly man – some might even say the choker – finally claiming his destiny. At the age of  37, after more than seventy attempts over two long decades, Sergio is finally a major winner. It’s an immensely popular win, hailed by fans all over the world, because just about everyone was willing Sergio to finally and officially join the greats.

  And what a sporting and dignified guy Justin Rose is. He was magnificent in defeat, and hopefully his Masters’ day will come. 

  No doubt the late Seve Ballesteros, who would have been 60 on Sunday, was smiling down at the courageous new King of Augusta.

Tuesday

Can somebody haul Barry Cowen, Fianna Fáil’s self-styled boot boy, off that Dáil plinth?

  His arrogant showboating is getting ridiculous. Today, after the latest twist in the pathetic water charges saga (shame on the lot of them), it was no surprise to see Cowen quickly out to meet the media, flexing his muscles like an Offaly version of a poor man’s Putin.

  Desperate to claim a win for his party/himself, Cowen smugly invited anyone who gets a water bill in the future to give him a call.

  Tough guy Barry will sort it out, that was the message. 

  Next week, he’s off to single-handedly fight wild animals in the jungle by day, while sorting out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the evenings.

  Take that, Simon Coveney!

Wednesday

An old man is walking in the wrong direction in the middle of a roundabout in Roscommon town. Held up and showing varying signs of amusement/frustrastion are two cars, a jeep, a lorry and a guy on a bike. The old man is in no hurry. In fact he’s quite leisurely about it all. It’s man versus car, and there’s only one winner. It’s as if Henry Ford had never bothered. Trump bombed Syria and there’s a Brexit-shaped crisis on top of us but at this moment in time this old man has slowed the world down – well at least he’s stopped us all in our tracks in Roscommon. Everyone – lorry, cars, cyclist – waits for his next move. He completes his journey. The world moves on again.

  Fair play to him (not that I’m recommending it of course).  Everyone needs a breather and to take stock, every now and again.

‘Arnold had newspaper ink in his veins’

Roscommon a memorable part of journey through publishing world

By 1988, when I arrived in Roscommon (very, very young), I had already worked for Eugene McGee, then editor and later proprietor of the Longford Leader. Dancing to Eugene’s beat was never a dull experience. He was gruff, but an admittedly brilliantly well hidden sense of humour lurked below the often stern surface. He had an instinctive feel for what readers wanted in a newspaper. I liked him then and now.

  I had also, briefly enough, worked for Lucius Farrell, a genial and colourful character whose family were steeped in the newspaper business for over a century. When the stories and photos were being glued on to pages and into eternity on a Tuesday night, Lucius sat across from the journalists and compositors on a high stool, puffing on a huge cigar, cajoling and criticising, a man of supreme self-confidence. I am not making a direct comparison between the two; Lucius was a keen and enthusiastic newspaperman – and a likeable eccentric who brightened our lives – but Eugene, who wouldn’t see the point of smoking a huge cigar, was the real deal, a giant of local journalism over many decades who subsequently made (and continues to do so) his mark nationally.

  In 1988, I left Longford and Cavan for the Roscommon newspaper world, where a familiar landscape had begun to change. 

  The previous year, an era had come to an end when the Quigley family decided to sell the Roscommon Champion. The Quigleys had been in charge for sixty years; and, trust me, there is still a sense of nostalgia in Roscommon for that Quigley era, for those days when locals loyally produced weekly Champions under the direction of ‘Sainty’ and his brother, Walter.

  With the ‘For Sale’ sign up at the Champion, and having just been thwarted in his efforts to purchase the Westmeath Independent, Birr-based newspaper proprietor Arnold Fanning turned his gaze to Roscommon.

  The Fannings have newsprint ink in their veins. Arnold’s father, Jim, had started the Midland Tribune in Birr. (Arnold’s late cousin, Aengus Fanning, would go on to lead the Sunday Independent to unprecedented dominance of the Irish media landscape from the early 1990s on). Many Fanning bylines appear to this day in Independent News & Media publications!

  By 1987, Arnold was proprietor of the Midland Tribune and its sister paper, the Tullamore Tribune. In 1987, along with Longford businessmen Warren and Derrick Turner, Arnold acquired the Roscommon Champion. Later, they purchased the Longford NEWS. The Fanning family invested heavily in the most modern print technology and established a printing facility in Birr.

  When I arrived at the Fanning-owned Champion in 1988, my editor was Seamus Dooley. Now long-time head of the NUJ in Ireland, you may have seen him guest on Vincent Browne’s show on Monday night. It was Dooley who hired me; a great communicator, a social animal and a man of boundless energy, he lifted the fortunes of the Champion before moving to Dublin’s bright lights in 1990.

  Boyle native John O’Callaghan succeeded Dooley, but within a few months had moved to Birr to edit the Midland Tribune. I wanted the job; and that’s why I drove to Birr on a Saturday afternoon to make my pitch to Arnold Fanning. We discussed newspapers and what might be achievable with the Roscommon Champion. Soon, I had gone from being an acquaintance of Arnold’s to a friend. He appointed me editor of the Champion in 1990 and also put me in charge of the Longford NEWS (in 1992). We worked closely together for fifteen years in all.

  He was an extraordinary character. He had practised as a Barrister (which he loved) but was now totally immersed in the publishing business. He loved newspapers, publishing, rugby (most sports indeed), sailing, music. He was, without doubt, the most charismatic newspaperman I’ve come across in what has always been a fascinating industry. 

  As a boss, he was incredibly demanding. At times he seemed to thrive on confrontation. Then, in later years, he mellowed. But, even when there was conflict, there were no grudges. He got a buzz, an adrenaline rush, from the daily challenges of this industry at what was a particularly exciting period in its development. He was fiery and funny, often at the same time.

  A hard-nosed businessman by day, Arnold was brilliant social company by night or early evening. He could talk all night about newspapers and publishing, politics and history, rugby and cricket, music and mischief.

  Eccentric, charismatic, charming, generous, highly intelligent, he was truly a one-off.

  Not that many people in Roscommon knew him, but those who met him won’t have forgotten him. For sixteen years he owned the Roscommon Champion, and provided a lot of employment over that golden era for the newspaper. With the Champion’s circulation at an all-time high, the paper was sold to Lord Kilclooney (John Taylor) in 2003.

  We met Arnold on and off in the years since then. He opened a national evening paper at one stage, but that venture didn’t turn out well. For a number of years, the family’s printing business was thriving, but hard times fell there too.

  Arnold never lost his charisma or his great passion for newspapers. The last time I saw him was in Birr. He was just back from a Munster match and ready to chat over some gins and tonics.

  When we bid farewell to him last Sunday, I felt great sadness at the loss of such a force of nature. Gone with Arnold is an extraordinary knowledge of publishing. Gone too, a charismatic, colourful newspaper giant who Fiona and I were proud to work with and call a friend. Over the years we also became friends with his wife Sheila and their three sons.

  His eventful publishing journey had included a memorable stay in Roscommon.

  He died, aged 74, without ever having compromised on his larger than life ways. It was a beautiful, calm, serene day, as Birr said goodbye to a family man and a newspaper legend.

Enda fighting back in the White House!

Thursday/Friday

In America, Enda Kenny delivered a bit of cringe but a certain amount of class too; you’d have to say his visit was a success.

  To recap: There’s a noisy, brash new neighbour in the big house up the road – and he’s causing mayhem.

  So it fell to Enda to pluck up the courage to call over and try and restore some order in the neighbourhood.

  Enda put on his best suit, assured the neighbours that he’d have a word with the new arrivals, and off he went, armed with a mixture of charm and courage.

  I thought Enda represented us well, not that Donald is likely to pay much heed, now that Enda has gone home again.

  Enda did so well in fact that he (and I have no doubt it was a calculated move) was confident enough to send a message to the folks back home.

  His message was a variation on the old Fianna Fáil classic, ‘A lot done, more to do.’

  It turns out that the wily Enda has no intention of rolling over and allowing his backbenchers to tickle his belly; instead, he’s fighting back.

  He wants to stay on to resolve the crisis in The North, and to agree on a strategy on Brexit with his EU counterparts.

  That latter task could take a while, but I’m sure a rejuvenated Enda is flexible!

  So Enda delivered his message back to his people, from some street in America, while marching bands marched by and beaming Irish-Americans stood and watched.

  Back in Ireland, Leo and Simon rolled their eyes and shook their heads in frustration.

  They were like two cocky young barmen whose plans for an early finish to the night have been thwarted yet again by that troublesome regular.

  ‘He’s been staring into that pint for an hour, he hasn’t a notion of going anywhere. In fact he’s going to insist on one for the road! And, we know him so well, we can hardly throw him out, can we?’

Saturday

‘Shouldn’t have gone to Specsavers’, you might say.  ‘Can you bring me to Specsavers in Athlone for 4.15 on Saturday?’ my daughter asked.

  ‘4.15 on Saturday, but what about the rugby match?’ is what I thought.

  ‘Yes of course’ is what I actually said. 

  Not much of a contest, you will agree – Specsavers versus a rugby showdown between Ireland and the old enemy.

  Obviously I made the sensible decision.

  And so at 4.15 pm, we joined the masses…in Specsavers.

  It wasn’t a problem – I recorded the match and looked forward to being home for the second half.

  5 pm (kick-off time) came, and if anyone in Specsavers knew how the rugby was going, they weren’t saying. Across the way, in Burger King, there were no rugby bulletins either, just throngs of kids and chicken nuggets, with a party about to begin. All human life was on display. Fast food, fast lane of life. It seemed that nobody cared much about the epic in The Aviva.

  On the way home, I had to give in and check in with Michael Corcoran, the RTE Radio commentator. I can see why some people consider him to be ‘a legend’ (that awfully overused word), and while I sometimes enjoy the passion he brings to his work, I often find his commentary annoying and, to be honest, just a bit too biased towards Ireland!

  We got home for the second half to see Ireland deservedly hold out for a famous win.

  Later, I followed Kerry v Dublin on radio/twitter, and was sure The Kingdom were going to end the Dubs’ great run. To their credit, Jim Gavin’s fabulous team finished strongly to secure a draw, stretching their unbeaten run (in league and championship) to 34 games.

  They will set a new all-time record if they win their next match, this Saturday.

Step up the Rossies!

Sunday

Just as passionate (and much more biased) as Michael Corcoran was the co-commentator on the Mayo/Cavan match on Shannonside today. I didn’t catch his name, but I can assure you he’s from Cavan. It must have been some job to stop him leaping from the press box and adding his skills and passion to the Cavan cause on the field!

  At least there was excitement in Castlebar, where Cavan defeated Mayo after a great tussle. In contrast, the Monaghan/Roscommon game petered out midway through the second half. Division 2 beckons, but so does the championship, and hopefully Roscommon’s honest league toiling will pay dividends when the All-Ireland series starts.

Tuesday

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Martin McGuinness. Some people will revere him now and forever; others will never forgive him for his part in the ‘armed struggle.’ Many more of us surely see the nuances, the complexities of a remarkable life.

  I have no doubt that history will be kind to him and I think that’s as it should be. The contribution made by McGuinness to the peace process over the past couple of decades or so has been monumental. McGuinness, sucked into the conflict as a young man, ultimately chose democracy over violence, and while tactics undoubtedly played a part in the Adams/McGuinness strategy, huge credit must go to the duo for the manner in which they changed the course of Irish history.

  McGuinness was a major IRA figure at the height of ‘The Troubles’ and therefore his key role in the Republicans’ terror campaign – which caused so much suffering – cannot be denied. But neither can the phenomenal leadership that he subsequently showed be denied; McGuinness was a key architect of the peace process, and ultimately became a peacemaker and statesman.

  It was an extraordinary, complex journey.  Whatever one’s view of the early part of his life, there is no doubt but that he made a very significant and historic contribution to the bringing of peace to our island.

  His place in history is assured, and it will be largely positive.

 

 

It’s March – time for men to go back to the shed?

All of a sudden it’s mid-March. The seasons change, the year moves on. We might lament time’s passage but the dividend is spring, then summer, and just lately that welcome arrival of a heartwarming brightness at the opening and closing of the day.

 

  And the suspense is over, the waiting – thankfully – has ended. The big issue of our times has finally been resolved.

  Not Brexit – Des-exit.

  I had pledged not to watch Dancing With The Stars – and I didn’t – but it was impossible not to see some of the gory goings-on every now and again, and, even if you sold your telly, the whole circus was in your face via the Internet or the newspapers. Such hype!

  Most guilty of all, it seemed to me, was the Irish Independent. Across pages 4 and 5, reports of tragedies – and ‘Dessie’s Dancing Diary’ across pages 2 and 3?

  Anyways, Des Cahill is a nice man, and a lighter one now after his exploits on the show. He’s been eliminated – but we may never be able to erase from our minds that image of Des as Austin Powers.

  Mid-March indeed, and time to check out the lawnmower.

  The lawnmower sits in silence in the shed, surrounded by a kind of controlled clutter.

  The shed…where it’s usually hard to see the things you need and easy to see the things you’ll never need. Almost a metaphor for life!

  There is no sign of the hammer or the screwdriver or the plunger – definitely no sign of the plunger – but there’s an abundance of utterly useless knick-knacks which you have been hoarding for years.

  As the years move on, the shed becomes a museum of knick-knacks – useless things, bits and pieces that should have been thrown out long ago. These are the items that you actually stood beside a skip with. You looked at obscure, funny-shaped, useless items and you had a choice: Skip or keep? And you actually said to yourself ‘Ah sure I’ll keep it, it might come in useful some time…’ And so that utterly useless collection of utterly useless things takes up space in your shrinking shed, the ‘What’s this for?’ items squeezed in between almost-empty paint cans and chipped flower pots and broken toys from long-vanished summers.

  The shed is largely forgotten about during the winter, except for occasional visits, but now, in mid-March, the shed is back in the game.

  The junk in the shed which is now exposed by bright mornings and evenings and the onset of the ‘outdoor season’, even includes some of last year’s newspapers.

  For some reason, there are bulky papers, complete with magazines, stacked on a shelf, relegated from pride of place in the living room to junk status in the shed. Obviously I must have done a clearance of newspapers from the house – but had felt the need to find a new home for them.

  Last summer’s headlines tell of Leicester’s remarkable journey and newspapers from later in the year chart the unravelling of the mad ambition of Donald Trump.

  He’s obviously going nowhere.

  As I and others have observed before, once they move into middle age, men tend to gravitate towards the shed, often for long spells. Men will say they are working, sceptics will say they are in fact hiding out. Surely we can all agree on ‘pottering about’?

  Anyways, Trump is going to drain the swamp; I’m going to drain the shed.

STARTLING/STAGGERING HEADLINE OF THE WEEK DEPARTMENT:

 

‘Figures reveal that RTE spent a staggering €337,000 on Nicky Byrne’s failed Eurovision bid.’

 

  Can I suggest a quick cost-saving measure? How about we spend just €300,000 on making sure he doesn’t represent us again – and we put the other €37k to a worthy cause?

  But seriously…€337,000…how many hospital trolleys?

 

Paul Healy's Week - 10th of March

What might they have become? 

Every day (for decades)

Who were they? What might they have become? Why did it happen? 

 

  What are the untold life stories of the Tuam babies?

  The babies, and infants, that is, who were callously cast into oblivion, coldly buried in a series of chambers, linked to a sewage system or septic tank.  

  (‘Chambers’…always a word that evokes grim thoughts or images).

  What were their names? What did they look like? What would they have become? Presidents? Paupers? Great actors or artists? Sports stars? Farmers? Gifted tradespeople? Shopkeepers? Fathers? Mothers? Priests or nuns?

  A woman rang Liveline. She is 73 now. She moved to Tuam in the 1970s and lived in a house right beside those wretched chambers. With her calm voice this great, decent woman told Joe her story. Of how, one day back in 1974, an anguished neighbour alerted her…that a young boy was outside “playing with a skull.”

  The woman who rang Liveline investigated. It was indeed a human skull. Shocked, she proceeded down into the field, to what we now know is the site with the secrets. And suddenly she fell into a…chamber. When she stood up, she saw a row of what reminded her of cider bottles, each one wrapped tightly in cloth. Now, over forty years on, she and we know they were babies.

  When (back in 1974) the now 73-year-old woman questioned a former employee of the Mother and Baby Home, the retired staff member said that the routine was that babies were buried in the chambers in the middle of the night.

  It’s not a horror movie; it’s Ireland in the first and indeed second half of the 20th century.

  So, who were they and what might they have become?

   Their peers, the fortunate ones, played football and other games in school yards, while the damned babies lay in their secret grave.

  What would their names have been? How would they have got on in the world? Who might they have married? What would they have called their children? What would they have called their grandchildren? (They can’t all have been terminally ill; they were unwanted, uncherished, to be dispensed with).

  When others celebrated their birthdays and First Communions, and later still journeyed into teenage years and adulthood, silence still reigned at the secret grave.

  And the vast majority of people went to bed at night without knowledge of the secrets, though some people must have suspected something, and some people must have known something, and some elements of ‘the establishment’ must have been guilty, either through their sanctioning of barbarity, or their indifference. Not to mention the holier-than-thou families and the, to put it as its mildest, irresponsible fathers. 

  Winter after winter, the cold wind slapped the secret grave, the rain fell and the nights closed in. Summer after summer, life went on, but not for the children who had been damned. 

  And they never got to know Christmas.

  And each night, the people who ran the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam – and there is no reason to presume that these horrors were exclusive to Tuam – prepared to go to bed. First, these sanctimonious, cruel, sick people said their prayers.

  They said their prayers nightly in the Mother and Child Home, praising God and thanking God. And in their pathetic piousness they got into their beds, with their clean sheets and their self-styled clean consciences.

  And, outside their windows, the rain fell on the banished babies.

  Who were they? What might they have become? Why did it happen? How could it happen?

Sunday

On the Athlone Road at about 12.50 pm on Sunday I saw two Kerry men walking towards the Hyde with the casual gait of farmers about to close the gate after a final check on the stock. They had rugged, weather-beaten faces and I knew by the look of them that they had been to thousands of matches and that they have seen more All-Ireland medals than it might take to cover the new surface at the Hyde.

  To them, Roscommon on Sunday was just another location, another pit-stop on a never-ending journey. They were coming to collect two league points as routinely as a woman lifting clothes from the line after she suspects a shower of rain is on the way.

  I was only going in for the Sunday papers – I am always amazed at how early some people go to matches. It was 1.55 when I returned to walk into our field of dreams – there were still dozens of fans queuing for tickets.

 ‘They’ll delay the throw-in” a man said on the way in as he eyed the queue – but they didn’t.

  The pitch was in fine shape, undaunted by the rain of previous nights, but I suppose we came, not so much to admire the catwalk, but to see the models.

  There were a good few Kerry people around me in the stand on the Athlone Road side, as well, of course, as lots of hopeful Rossies. 

  From the beginning, the referee infuriated the Roscommon fans. We played some nice football (I liked Cian Connolly’s direct running), but the highlight of the first half was the quality of some of the Kerry scores. Still, we weren’t too far behind at half-time, and a man on my left who was wearing a Longford GAA cap assured me that Roscommon had wind advantage to come.

  In fact the weather was beautiful and the football was lively. The pattern of the first half continued after the break; nice play from Roscommon, Kerry a bit sharper up front and staying four, five and six clear. But now the referee was driving Roscommon fans mad and I honestly thought he did us no favours. It was one of those days when a decision in favour of the home team was treated with sarcastic applause. Several calls seemed to go against Roscommon. The fans, totally lacking in originality (as in other counties, new script urgently needed), called up all the traditional insults, interspersing expletives with repeated requests that the referee go to Specsavers.

  The concern for ‘Cassidy’s’ eyesight (I never heard his first name) was touching.

  When John McManus was sent off, all seemed lost, but Roscommon scored three great points in succession and it was encouraging to see this team holding their own against the mighty Kingdom. When the excellent Ciaráin Murtagh dispatched a superb penalty, the home fans erupted with enthusiasm at the prospect of a possible draw or win. Roscommon were now within one point. A middle-aged Kerry couple in front of me both broke into simultaneous frowns. Obviously they’re together a long time. Now, suddenly, there was some lively banter between Roscommon and Kerry fans, with a disagreement over whether or not constant jersey-pulling by Kerry players merited black cards.

  Our fate was sealed in the last two or three minutes when Kerry added 1-2, creating a winning margin that was cruel on a gallant home team that had thrown everything at their illustrious opponents.

  The fans vented further frustration at ‘Cassidy’ and some of the Kerry tactics, but ‘Cassidy’ finally blew the final whistle and that was that.

  Twenty minutes after the game there was a ferocious hailstorm. By then, I was at home. On the highlights programme on RTE later that night I saw Kevin McStay and Marty Morrissey doing the post-match interview in the middle of that ferocious hailstorm and I wondered if Marty envied Des Cahill, who at that very moment was probably dancing the foxtrot or something of that nature in a warm hailstone-free studio.

 

 

 

Paul Healy's Week - 3rd of March

Wednesday/Thursday

Maybe they – whoever ‘they’ are – need to give these recurring storms more intimidating names. ‘Doris’ just didn’t sound scary enough. Does anyone know a Doris who is in any way offensive or troublesome? The first Doris I ever heard of was Doris Day, and she was a real sweetheart, described in her acting prime as ‘a girl next door.’

  In any event, Storm Doris was one hell of a storm. We finished last week’s Roscommon People at about 10 pm, then went home to relax after the end of our working week. I knew there was a storm on the way, but wasn’t expecting this window-rattling, door-shaking, bin-disturbing, dog-frightening, tree-bending monster of a storm.

  It kept me awake most of the night, and, like all good storms/heavy rainfalls, it had a rhythmic beauty. There’s something very appealing about the sound of rain against your windows at night; nothing wrong with a bit of howling wind either. However, Storm Doris went beyond being atmospheric; it raged with such ferocity that you wondered if the windows would shatter.

  Next morning, there were some reports of damage and you have to feel for those people who suffered. I heard reports of some buildings being damaged; numerous trees were knocked and hundreds of people were left without electricity.

  We got off very lightly. I was amazed to find our bins intact. Astonishingly, the trampoline was still in the garden and hadn’t somersaulted over the fence and landed on some unsuspecting sheep in the field behind us. 

  These storms have been coming in quick succession in recent years. I don’t remember us having that many storms years ago. We certainly didn’t give them nice names. A Storm Ewan apparently followed in the footsteps of Doris over the weekend, though it didn’t make any impact in these parts.

  I have just googled Doris Day and am glad to note that the Hollywood superstar is still alive. But, oh dear, the Daily Mail website says she had a dark side. So, maybe those storm names are chosen wisely after all! (Still, that Ewan McGregor seems like a nice chap). Friday Like a champion boxer who’s long past his prime but still dreams of reliving former glories, the Late Late Show staggers on…in apparent self-denial.

Occasionally, it still produces special moments; too often however, it’s tedious at best, sometimes even an embarrassing mess.

  In its heyday, it paraded superstars from Hollywood and A-listers from Ireland and Britain. Now we are expected to make do with the hosts of gardening and cookery shows, Katie Hopkins is a firm favourite of the researchers and even a despicable crook like John Gilligan is asked if he could kindly check his diary. There was a time when the invites went to the Hollywood actors who play gangsters – not to the actual gangsters.

  Friday’s offering was just dismal. As Graham Norton dusted down his couch for the latest influx of superstars, poor Ryan was left with a line-up that can’t have delighted anyone; bar, perhaps, Ray D’Arcy.

  Philip Boucher-Hayes, never likely to use one word when three is an option, spoke earnestly about food; dour-faced politician/writer Mannix Flynn spoke for too long; there was a discussion billed as ‘a unique insight into what it is to be deaf in Ireland today’ –  and a quite lengthy preview of a major art exhibition.

  It tells us something about the decline of the Late Late Show when a bus driver in the audience is the star of the show.

  No doubt sean-nós singer Sean Keane’s appearance saved the day for many viewers, but if I was in the audience, I’d have asked that bus driver for a lift back into town long before the end.

Saturday

The Scots have been whipping boys in rugby for too long. It is not their natural status. They have had great players and great teams in the past. It has been encouraging, in recent seasons, to see the Thistle bloom again. I was glad to see Scotland sweep to victory over Wales in the first of today’s big sporting events.

Later, Ireland impressively defeated France, keeping our chances of winning the Six Nations Championship very much alive. Johnny Sexton made a classy return; his drop kick in wet conditions was magnificent.

  I got the first ten minutes of Mayo v Roscommon with Willie and a decidedly frustrated analyst, Gay Sheerin; the remainder, I watched on eir Sport.

  Roscommon were consistently off the pace of this game; far too often Mayo players were able to move upfield without a hand being lain on them. What was very clear was the difference between the teams in terms of power and sheer physical strength; Roscommon players spilt possession too often, were brushed aside too easily. On the positive side, we battled to the end, got some fine scores, and created at least four goal-scoring opportunities.

  It was a bruising experience but it will stand to these lads and they will learn much from it.

  Later still, more sport with an unusually flat and dour Match of the Day. The day’s games just hadn’t yielded much to get excited about. Perhaps, in the week in which Leicester’s number-crunchers cruelly turfed out title-winning miracle worker Claudio Ranieri, it was apt that we got a soulless, uninspiring Match of the Day. Claudio might have kept Leicester up. Even if they were relegated, he should have been spared the gallows. A sad footnote to a fairytale.

  The show will go on, but Claudio – and loyalty in football – have left the building.

Just smile Warren…what could go wrong?

Sunday/Monday

In Warren’s house that morning, the excitement was palpable. Warren had been a superstar, now he was something of a recluse.

Or, as he saw it, more of a forgotten hero. The movie industry never wrote or called. Now, they had called, and he was back. The world would be watching. The Oscars people had remembered him. And Warren would present the ‘Best film’ award.

 

‘I’m actually nervous!’ he jested to Faye, over dinner, when they discussed the invite.

They were in a very fancy restaurant; Harrison Ford had been turned down for a table.

‘Nervous? Oh just smile and read out what it says on the envelope!’ said Faye.

On the morning of the Oscars, he looked in the mirror. Proud. You’re so vain, you probably think this night is about you, he whispered to himself, laughing.

Backstage at the Oscars, he was nervous all over again.

‘But you’ve been in movies for sixty years’ Faye said, reassuringly. ‘You’re a sex symbol!’

‘Was…!’ he quipped back. ‘Hey, I want to be sure that when people google me when I’m gone, it’s gonna be for my movies – or, er…my sex appeal – not because I came out of retirement one year, fell over a step at the Oscars or read out the wrong result!’

Faye laughed. ‘Or gave you the wrong name and got you to read out the wrong result!’ Warren quipped.

Faye laughed, then grimaced, then laughed again.

‘For God’s sake, Warren, just smile and read out what it says on the envelope, you old smoothie!’

He heard the presenter call their names out. He was back. He took a deep breath. The world was watching. 

‘Just smile and read out what it says on the envelope…’

 

Paul Healy's Week - 24th February

Can pubs launch counter-attack?

In the pub in Rooskey, on grey Fridays brightened by the promise of the pension and companionship, the old men sat around the bar counter.

Most of them were of the land, decent, salt-of-the-earth types with rugged features, their hard hands a mirror on the lives they had led.

It was the early 1980s. Each Friday the men arrived in the pub direct from the post office. In their pocket, an envelope with their pension – and in their hearts and minds, nostalgia for the past fused with the philosophical outlook old men have for the present and future.  

They commandeered most of the bar counter, like giddy kids, caps laid to one side…ready to while away a few hours…gossiping and joking, reminiscing and idly speculating.

It was a Cabinet meeting with little confidentiality applying. They mischeviously dissected all that was happening in Rooskey village, or all that they surmised was happening. And they foraged through the political drama of the week, Bad Charlie v Good Garret, or Charismatic Charlie v Dull Garret, depending on where their allegiance was. 

Sport…politics…rumours…the land…people, and what they were alleged to have said or done…all were fair game for the men at the counter, with their craggy foreheads and their canny insights.

And they always got at least five minutes’ value out of talking about the weather.

I was behind the bar, serving them, and it was quite an education. I had a high regard for them.

High stool philosophers, they were.

I remember at one point in the early 1980s the price of a pint was 93 pence. There was speculation about another price rise.

One of the old men at the bar shook his head.

‘If it ever goes to a pound, I’ll not drink it.’

His motion was agreed unanimously.

I thought of these characters, and of the heyday of the Irish pub a few times in the past week or so. 

Indeed I was reminded of those days when, much to my frustration, I encountered this week’s ‘Pint Baby’ story online. It seems social media went a bit crazy at footage from a pub in Clare – taken in 1997, but it looks like the 1970s – in which a baby sups from a pint of Guinness. This image reminded me of pubs in the past, not because we served pints to babies – but because of the drab décor, and also the sense that nobody present would blink an eye at a pint being held up to a child’s mouth. (We’ll leave it at that; different times!).

And how is the traditional Irish pub now? Still in a long-running battle for survival, I’m afraid.

I don’t pub-visit much these days and wasn’t aware until recently that several bars in the county are now closing on at least one night a week, usually Tuesday. It is an alarming trend.

For many years now we have become used to a majority of pubs scaling back their opening hours, but the phenomenon of closed doors on a Tuesday night is sad, if entirely understandable.

The pub is under threat for all sorts of reasons. Obviously many of them will survive, particularly in bigger towns and cities, but many more will disappear, as Ireland continues to undergo significant cultural and social change.

And while I don’t ‘pub-visit’ that much these times, the last fortnight or so was an exception, and I did find myself at a few bar counters. And it was great; mainly because of the good conversation, the company, the social interaction.

Meanwhile, almost thirty years on since I was pulling pints in Rooskey and Strokestown, there are more older people in society – but less high stool philosophers. In many villages, the old men have long since ceased the great tradition. Lack of transport is a problem, so too the feeling that ‘nobody else will be out.’ For some of these elderly men, the companionship deficit must be huge. For some of them, pension or not, their Fridays are just grey.

I will finish with a story from The Kon Tiki, which my parents opened (near Rooskey) in 1970.

It was a Sunday afternoon. In those days, there was a great tradition of going to the pub after Mass. After an hour or two, Packie Joe was fairly well on it. A neighbour offered to give the bachelor a lift home. Down the avenue the kindly neighbour drove, turning right, then left, then right again into Packie Joe’s driveway. The neighbour waited until Packie Joe was safely inside.

The Good Samaritan then decided to return to the Kon Tiki to give a lift to some other locals. He turned left, right and left and up the avenue. He parked up and walked in. The first person who greeted him at the bar counter was Packie Joe.

In a stunning feat, Packie Joe had doubled back on foot, across the fields – the way the crow flies – and got back to the pub before the motorist!

Sitting at the counter and smiling, Packie Joe was drinking a bottle of Guinness.

It was tense for a minute or two – it’s been funny for over forty years.

Simon says: He just might…(in national interest)

Ah, the modesty and selflessness of some  politicians…

When Minister for Health Simon Harris – who, let’s face it, isn’t exactly playing a blinder – was asked if he would look for Enda Kenny’s job, he could have said:

 “Well, I’ve only been a senior minister for nine months…so while I’m flattered that you’ve asked, I obviously don’t see myself as being qualified for the role of Taoiseach just yet. Frankly, it’s a ridiculous proposition!”

Instead, what he actually said was: “Age to me is immaterial, I look to be judged on my job and the job that I am doing, and I am working as hard as I possibly can at that job.

“I try to provide leadership in whatever role I am given…there is no vacancy in the Fine Gael party. If and when one does arise I will consult with colleagues at that point.”

The riveting speculation about a possible Harris candidacy has the entire nation er…agog with speculation.

One homeless person in Dublin confided to another: “Wow…things are finally looking up.”

On two trolleys in Portiuncula Hospital, two old but patient patients gave one another a thumbs-up on hearing that the beleaguered Minister for Health might build on his current momentum and actually go for the top job!

 

Paul Healy's Week - 17th February

Home to the Hyde…

It was a fine occasion – shame about the result.

  Our 11-year-old came along to Hyde Park with enthusiasm. Asked if he wanted to go, our six-year-old airily replied ‘No thanks…I’ll watch it on the telly.” (He had no idea whether or not it was on the telly. He thinks every football match on the telly, irrespective of code or indeed country, involves Roscommon).

  We knew it would be cold – we didn’t think it would be quite that cold. But I remember attending football matches in Roscommon or involving Roscommon teams on colder days. Does anyone else remember the day Clann na nGael beat The Burren in a classic on a snowy, bloody freezing day in County Down in 1988? Has everyone who was there just about warmed up by now?

  Anyways, I digress. So we joined the few thousand hardy folk at the Hyde on Sunday, as Roscommon were (finally) homeward bound. And what a nice occasion it was. Weather brilliant (if bitterly cold), pitch looking great, a nice crowd, and a super match. And I was reminded, as we shivered alongside one another, of the joy of bringing one’s child or children to sporting occasions. Memories are made of this, as they say.

  At half-time, most people reached for their mobiles. A few of the humans present started actually talking to one another, but I can’t see it catching on. Mobiles reigned.

  Roscommon’s first goal was a homecoming present. The Donegal ‘keeper had been trying short kick-outs all afternoon, but this one caught the defender by surprise, Smith stole in like a thief in the night and Murtagh fired home like an assassin in the day.

  I thought Roscommon played very well and it was a shame that we didn’t get a morale-boosting draw or win. It was a dramatic finale. Roscommon had led at half-time but Donegal found it easier to get scores and, wind assisted, they moved three points clear. Then came Conor Devaney’s moment of inspiration, just proving that players should go for goals more! He played a quick free to a colleague, took the return, waltzed much more impressively than anyone on Dancing with the Stars, and fired home with conviction. Roscommon were level.

  A quick attack in the last minute had the home crowd on the edge of their seats, those that had seats, that is. We sensed a fabulous win, a brace of much-coveted league points, a suitable celebration for the home pitch. High excitement as Roscommon bore down on goal and Donegal faced their fate. But Roscommon missed that golden late chance, then Donegal broke downfield to break Roscommon hearts.  

  It was a great game, and Roscommon showed once again that they are moving to a level where they can consistently compete with the top teams in the country.

  We left the Hyde after an enjoyable afternoon – pointless, but proud.  

Reeling in the Elphin Years…

They’re busy preparing to reel in the years in Elphin and, if I may use a line much loved by that slightly eccentric Mr. Trump, ‘it’s gonna be great.’

  My Elphin sources report that rehearsals for ‘Reeling in the Elphin Years’ are going well, with a cast of over thirty people involved.

  It’s an original concept and it promises to be a very enjoyable night. A few locals had the idea, developed it and are now set to present the variety show on Friday, 24th of February next. The cast will reel in the last 70 years or so, with a sketch/performance for each decade. The show will feature music, drama and comedy, a real trip down memory lane that is sure to appeal to Elphin people of all ages. Non-Elphinites also very welcome.

  It all happens on Friday, the 24th of February in Elphin Community Centre (8 pm). Admission €10. Proceeds to Elphin Community Centre.

When you’re smiling…

The first rule to bear in mind when you are working for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is: Always smile. At all costs, keep smiling.

  The second rule to bear in mind is that it helps to jump up in the air every now and again, excitedly waving your hands around.

  The third rule is to…keep smiling, for God’s sake keep smiling!

  It goes without saying that if you get a spare moment with the boss, you should tell him that he’s doing a great job.

  Kim Jong-un reportedly fired a ballistic missile towards the Sea of Japan earlier this week. As you can see, it went down really well with his associates.

  Well, if they weren’t happy about it, they weren’t going to let it show…

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