Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

 

What sad news about Sean Lock, the much-loved English comedian who died today, aged just 58. I was stunned to read of his death online. He has been such a familiar face on our screens, through his stand-up shows and appearances on QI and other TV programmes, most notably as a team captain on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

Not only had he brilliant wit, he was also blessed with fabulous timing and a great laidback style of delivery. Some of his contributions on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown were amongst the show’s best ever highlights. He seemed to be able to produce great one-liners effortlessly, and was just naturally funny.

Sean Lock always came across as a very likeable man whose brilliant, often surreal humour was delivered with great self-deprecation. Watching re-runs of those shows will now be very poignant. It’s a terrible shame that such a bright comedic light has been prematurely dimmed. He will be greatly missed.

 

Friday

 

There’s nothing quite like a sporting shock to stir the emotions, not that our friends in Kiltoom will be too happy about this evening’s opening act in the club championship drama.

Thank God the games are back, with a Friday night bonus and all! And what a start to the campaign, with Oran, newly promoted from the intermediate ranks, recording a remarkable win over the defending senior champions, St. Brigid’s. Meanwhile in Boyle, the home side defeated Roscommon Gaels in a high-scoring encounter.

Certainly that Oran victory over Brigid’s has kick-started the championship in some style. It was a fabulous win for last year’s intermediate champions. As for St. Brigid’s, I’ve no doubt that they will bounce back.

 

Saturday

 

There’s a tiny frog in our bathroom, or, more accurately, an average-sized baby frog (froglet). This is not ideal for us or the frog, but it does help (a little) if you’re trying to write a light-hearted weekly column.

My first instinct is to capture the trespasser by whatever ruthless means are necessary (a sweeping brush and shovel come to mind). Luckily, our daughter insists a jar and piece of cardboard is the humane resolution to frog-gate.

As our son has also reacted to the commotion, there are now three of us in the bathroom (four if you count the frog). The dog warily joins us. He who barks every single morning at our friendly postman (our dog seemingly surprised by the postvan every morning) now merely silently stares at the hopping visitor. Jar/cardboard plan works a treat, and the frog is briefly incarcerated (for its own good). Now there are exclamations sounding out: “Oh, he’s so cute!” (This is not me, it’s my daughter). (Son: “I’m not particularly keen on frogs”).

Outside the front door (which had been open, hence frog-in-bathroom) we subject the visitor to a few more seconds in captivity so that a mobile phone can take some video footage. It’s the modern way! From the baby frog’s perspective, it’s not David Attenborough, but it’s a moment in the spotlight. Then we release the creature, who impressively bounds away, surfing pebbles as tall as itself.

To another chorus of ‘So cute’ and ‘I love frogs’ –

even slight regret that we hadn’t kept it as a pet –

the frog skips across the stones until it reaches the grass, freedom, and the calm and comfort of its former lowkey life.

 

Sunday

 

It’s a hard watch for Cork supporters, and neutrals too, but it’s quite a privilege to see this magnificent Limerick team gracing Croke Park with a performance of ‘Total hurling’.

This afternoon’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final has descended into a non-contest. I suspect this has as much to do with Limerick’s brilliance as with any sense that Cork are unworthy finalists. The simple truth is that a good Cork side are being bossed by a team at the peak of their powers. Three superb first-half goals are the eye-catching finishing touches to this masterpiece, but the rest of the portrait has also been painted with precision and beauty. On Twitter, the keyboard warriors and worriers alike reach for wit, wisdom and wonder.

12 minutes to go as I write, and Limerick are coasting. Now there’s the odd flare-up, as Cork tempers fray. But it’s as pointless as a dazed and defeated boxer knocking on his conqueror’s dressing room door long after the bout is over and the lights are down. The game is up. Limerick win by 16. And, on this compelling evidence, they could reign for a few more years yet. They are a joy to watch, and giants among men.

 

Every day

 

Over 18 months on, with every step we take, we’re still shadowed, stalked even.

The return to normality is desperately slow. The pandemic relentlessly makes its presence felt in all aspects of our lives.

Like war-weary soldiers who’ve been in a dark bunker, we are tentatively emerging back into the light…but it is to a scene of some carnage. And we don’t really know how much silence and calm we can rely on. We aren’t sure of the new landscape.

The masks, while they’re being dropped in some other countries, are now routine for the vast majority of us. They have become an accepted norm. But they are contributing to a form of social isolation. In shops, and on the street, people rarely engage as they did before the pandemic. The masks are masks in more ways than one. People seem to shop more quickly now, with little chat between customers. It’s a pity, but understandable. Perhaps it will change again in time.

There is no sense that the (finally) freed hospitality industry is off to a particularly encouraging start. Some restaurants are busy enough, but in general, hotels, pubs and restaurants, while grateful to be open, are really up against it. The ‘red tape’ requirements are demanding, there is a shortage of staff, and not everybody is comfortable yet about returning to indoor venues. Again, one hopes this will improve in the coming weeks and months.

There is, thankfully, no longer an obsession with the daily infection figures. This League Table of Gloom was and is a negative force in our lives. Far too many people were obsessed with the daily figures, became distressed by them too. While case numbers are extremely high again, the dogs in the street know that hospital admissions are massively reduced, the vaccination roll-out is a great success, and that vaccinated people who contract the virus are much less likely than before to become seriously ill.

An obvious positive development in recent months has been the return of live sport, and the fact that spectators (with limits) can attend. This has put a smile on the face of the nation, from time to time at least. It can only be helping our collecting mental health. The return of Church services is obviously very welcome too.

Every now and again, I see a couple of old people stopping to talk on the street, maybe keeping their distance, a dog or two on a lead, and lots to chat about. I think of the almost two years they’ve lost. But it’s heartening to see it. The journey from the bunker to the light is not without its obstacles and delays, but it is well underway, and the more we emerge from the dark, the brighter the light will shine.