Paul Healy’s Week

Before Christmas

This particular Christmas Week feels strange, as we knew it would. In the few days before Christmas Day, there is at least some respite from the Covid-19 sponsored gloom. Roscommon town looks wonderful, and there is some semblance of a Christmas atmosphere. The weather, for the most part, is beautiful. Cafés are alive again. People to and fro, and hurried seasonal greetings flow from behind the now familiar face coverings and the tired eyes of a jaded people.

We finished our last newspaper of this wretched year on the Monday night. A year of mostly grim news. But the people of our county have shown great resilience. Cast into this crisis, we have embraced the spirit of Meitheal. Covid has tormented us, but also revealed our hidden strengths, resilience and generosity of spirit.

As we wrap up in the office on the Tuesday, there is a growing sense of foreboding. Quite suddenly (it seems) the situation with Covid is deteriorating again. Reports of the discovery of a new strain of the virus are disheartening, alarming even. It’s like we’re successfully battling against a formidable enemy only to find them calling in reinforcements at the last moment.

That’s the thing…we’re being pounded by Covid again just when we thought we could see the finishing line. A big breakthrough on the vaccine front had rightly lifted the spirit of the nation. But there will be more pain before this ultimate gain. More resilience called for.

 

Monday, 21 December

Christmas won’t be cancelled, but it will be shortened. More misery for the hospitality industry, now a prisoner of this virus…our hotels, restaurants and cafes subjected to a horrible stop-start-stop again existence. Meanwhile, the pubs lie silent. There will be no joyous gatherings, no embraces, no stories, just nothing. Worse is the plight facing many elderly, ill and vulnerable people.

Thankfully, religious services are permitted. This is a welcome development. But it will be the strangest Christmas Week in memory. It seems that everybody just wants 2020 to slink off. The sadness and hurt and carnage will remain, but at least the dawn of a new year ought to offer some psychological lift to the nation.

 

Christmas Eve

It seems that there are indeed two types of people in the world. Those of us who rush around on Christmas Eve, and those who (somehow) have time to relax/walk their dogs.

At least I assume that it’s their own dog these very well organised people are walking…as I join the throng of cars on Circular Road. This gives me yet another opportunity to remind readers of that great scene in The Pink Panther, when Inspector Clouseau (played by Peter Sellers) addresses a man with a dog.

“Does your dog bite?”

“No”.

Sellers stoops down to pat the dog and is duly bitten.

“I thought you said your dog does not bite?” says an angry and ruffled Clouseau.

“That is not my dog”.

Meanwhile, back in Roscommon on Christmas Eve, I admire the people who are so stress-free/organised that they can walk the dog…as the rest of us rush around!

Still, all the last-minute rushing and shopping is something most of us actually like, as it’s all part of the tradition of Christmas Eve.

 

Over the Christmas…

The process of getting older continues apace. Over the Christmas, I enjoyed a TV documentary on Johnny Cash and read a fine biography of the brilliant actor (and renowned ‘hellraiser’) Peter O’Toole. I even watched and enjoyed a show celebrating the Christmas shows (in the very, very distant past) of Andy Williams! The Odd Couple (Matthau and Lemmon) was on on Sunday, and I would happily have stayed with it. I am not suggesting that one has to be getting on in years to appreciate stars of past eras, but still…anyways, all it proves is that class really is permanent.

Cash, O’Toole and Williams. Not a firm of solicitors…three great, timeless artists!

 

Into the New Year

As mooted in that sobering fews days around Christmas, Level 5 is back, and all of a sudden we’re into a desperate phase of this long battle.

The shadow of Covid that’s long been stalking us all has now dramatically quickened its stride. Confirmed daily cases are running into the thousands, and pressure on our hospitals is growing. This is a very, very tough time for everyone. We need to be more vigilant than ever. It’s a very rocky start to a New Year. However, the strong beacon of hope continues to shine, midst the darkness; that’s the progress on the vaccine front.

 

Every day…

Just how did the Twitter trolls get by before the Internet was invented? Was there some ghastly underground club they belonged to? Did they meet up occasionally, in some suitably desolate wasteland, the sky dark, the wind howling, the cowardly future trolls comparing venomous notes before spewing their bile at the moon?

 

Last Saturday

First, I heard that the great Donie Shine (of Clann and Roscommon renown) is hanging up his boots and bidding farewell (as a player at least) to the GAA pitches he graced with such distinction.

Later on Saturday I became aware of a stunning man of the match display by Jack Carty as Connacht shocked Leinster in the Pro14.

Coincidental, almost poignant, I thought, as it dawned on me that two young South Roscommon men were, between them, giving sports’ fans quite an emotional day.

It was only on Sunday that I realised that Donie and Jack are related, as brother-in-laws!

Carty’s display was sensational, and had Connacht fans elated. As for Donie, he was a fabulous footballer and a marvellous servant to Clann and Roscommon. Thank you Donie for all the great memories, the epic points, the commanding displays, the glory you brought, and most of all, for the joy you gave.

 

Last Sunday

Thank God (and Sky Sports/BBC) for the soccer. Leeds continue to play highly attractive football, scoring some sensational goals, but socially distancing a bit too much when the opposition attack.

The Premier League title race is wide open, for now at least. Those who don’t believe in Ole (I’m far from convinced that he’s the right man for the job) are intrigued to see Manchester United’s impressive rise up the table. A number of other clubs are in contention too. We will have a better perspective on it in a month or so.

 

The town this week

Roscommon town is eerily quiet once again. Shades of Lockdown One. I’m sure it’s the same countywide. Most shops are closed. It’s a sad sight. There are lots of people out walking, with dogs, presumably their own.