Paul Healy’s Week

 

Wednesday

 

Who Do You Think You Are? – like any Louis Theroux programme, or repeats of Fawlty Towers – never disappoints.

(Mind you, I sometimes suspect that the tears/emotional reactions on discovering – for example – that your great-great-grandparents lived in a hut with a family of 15 or 16, can be a bit ‘put on’ for camera).

Anyways, tonight’s episode (I’ve since discovered it was a repeat, and was made a couple of years ago) featured the English pop star Boy George.

We’ve always been aware of George’s Irish roots (his mother, Dinah O’Dowd (nee Glynn) was born in Ireland). Now this programme revealed fascinating aspects of his Irish family’s history.

His grandmother, Bridget Kinahan, spent a number of years in St. Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, having effectively been snatched off the street by the authorities.

Most movingly, one of his relations (Thomas Bryan) died by hanging in Mountjoy Jail, alongside Kevin Barry.

Watching Boy George sing the iconic Kevin Barry (with some Irish singers in a Dublin bar) was quite a highlight of a fascinating programme.

As an aside, the regular references to Kevin Barry reminded me of an early childhood memory. My family opened the Kon Tiki Bar & Lounge outside Rooskey in 1970. Just about every night, there was a sing-song. And ‘Kevin Barry’ and ‘The Men Behind the Wire’ featured prominently. Those were the times that were.

 

Friday

 

Driving past a barber shop in a town near Roscommon, I could not resist when I saw just one customer inside. “I’m still ‘shopping’ local” I reassured myself, as I parked the car with haste. The walk back to the slightly mysteriously quiet barber’s (mind you, it was only 11.30 am) was undertaken with some apprehension. Sure enough, when I got there, two more customers had arrived!

The barber was a Polish lady. Her expression on my arrival suggested I was (just about) welcome to step inside.

Customer One was in the chair; Customer Two, immersed in his phone, was lounging on a bench, like he owned it. Social distancing in mind, I had no option but to join Customer Three, on a second bench in the centre of the salon.

Customer Three – a carefree man of 65 years or more – was, all due respect, etc., very dishevelled. He had a long, dirty coat, two sandals and no socks. Neither of us spoke. Dishevelled Man was looking at the floor, perhaps musing about the 3.50 at Kempton Park, or life itself.

Somewhat frustrated by the less than perfect social distancing, I just looked at his sock-less feet. With no magazines or papers in barbers’ just now, there wasn’t even an article about Harry and Meghan to browse through.

An older man opened the door. The Polish barber asked him to close it and stay outside. She varied between allowing three and four inside at the one time. As luck would have it, Customer Two, up to now commanding Bench One, decided to call it a day. Maybe his phone ceased! He left, and the older man came in. He had a plastic bag and a frown.

Customer One, sitting in the chair, was a young Irish man, glorying in his primacy. He chatted happily with the barber, while we patiently waited for the first haircut of the pandemic.

When Customer One was done, the Polish lady gave Dishevelled Man the nod. I tightened further into the bench as he reached close to me to hang his dirty coat on a rail.

“What can I do for you?” she asked.

“Average” Dishevelled Man replied.

“Average?”

“In between, in the middle”.

In fairness, I knew what he meant. Meanwhile, Man With Frown (Customer Four) was on edge. In fairness, I could empathise with him too. It seemed too good to be true. We were so close. After four months, we were on the verge of the elusive haircut.

Just when I thought my moment had come, Dishevelled Man had to spring a surprise. Mr. ‘Average, please’ (the irony!) suddenly wanted his eyebrows tended to. Oh for God’s sake! Go and buy some socks, if you’re so appearance-conscious!

When it finally happened, it was glorious. I think Meatloaf was singing on the radio in the barber’s shop. Dishevelled Man was gone, and I wish him well. Customer Four (Man With Frown) was up like Usain Bolt, or maybe like a Bat out of Hell. Me? I emerged back into bubble of the afternoon, my hair cut, and, for this moment in time at least, all well with the world.

 

Saturday

 

We are Leeds, but we daren’t believe. Not quite, not yet.

There has been too much hurt over the years, too many close calls, too much heartache.

Since falling out of the top flight sixteen years ago, the once-great Leeds United have been through the sort of sporting hell that perhaps only snooker’s Jimmy White and Mayo footballers can identify with.

Leeds (who beat Blackburn today) are marching on, at the top of the Championship table, with the Promised Land very definitely within reach. In many seasons past, they’ve made it to the play-offs, only to collapse with the finishing line in sight. Last season, as a previously impressive Leeds ran out of steam, I wrote here that the only way they could return to the Premier League would be via one of the two automatic promotion places. I wasn’t convinced then (and haven’t changed my view) that, given the pressure and weight of expectation, they are psychologically in a position to come through the play-offs’ minefield!

It’s a very nervous time for the many Leeds fans in Roscommon. All around me, people say Leeds are on the cusp of The Big Return, but I am loathe to tempt fate just yet.

It would be particularly poignant if Leeds were to go up in the year in which the club lost two legends. Norman Hunter and Terry Cooper both passed away in 2020. Wonderful footballers, their handprints on our history.

Hopefully the great Leeds United are within weeks of promotion. Who wouldn’t want the club of Giles, Bremner, Clarke, Gray, Madeley, Lorimer, Hunter, Charlton, Reaney and others, back where they belong?