The Heelers Diaries

the fantasy world of ireland's greatest living poet

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Location: Kilcullen (Phone 087 7790766), County Kildare, Ireland

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A BIT IRISH (by Medbh Gillard)

Ireland's greatest living poet pays his respects to Ireland's greatest dead poet.

Friday, August 29, 2008

let's hear it for the lord

Ah thank you God for the deep azure perfection of the sky at dawn over the Wicklow mountains with the fine sweep of cloud tinged into a tapestry of gold by the glorious firstlings of the sun.
Thank you God for the sighing breeze passing like a ghost through treetop and hedgerow, and wending its way like destiny across the eternal fields.
Thank you God for the sound of a thousand unseen birds singing creation into being this morning as they have done every morning since the beginning of time.
Thank you God for the lissom stirrings of the grasses.
Thank you God for the sheep baaing like a choir of praise and the bullocks belling a response.
Thank you God for the clarion call of life through the town of Kilcullen each morning, the sound of machinery from the building sites, traffic from the road, and the sweet anarchic laughter of the teenagers making their way to school.
Thank you God for the kiss of consciousness as I waken.
Thank you God for my sublime genius, which I might pretend not to have noticed because of my sublime modesty, but come on, who are we kidding here.
Thank you God for the pristine whiteness of the apple blossoms in the garden of my father.
Thank you God for plum trees.
Thank you God for Paddy Pup stealing the Dad's sandwich off the table which the Dad had rather foolishly left there while he was on the phone, and then the Dad nearly having a canniption, and bursting out with the classic line "the dog's after taking my bloody sandwich," only he didn't say bloody, and to which I replied "he likes those," but really Lord it was hilarious.
Thank you God for Esmerelda my car and for her miraculously passing her road worthiness test.
Thank you God for all children, the kids are great Lord, the kids will save the world.
Thank you God for Aunty Eileen from Boston saying "every child should have an Uncle James."
Thank you God for my Yoga loving sister Marie coming in from the Bridge Club and groaning: "The women are starting to call me Yogic Marie because of your blasted website," only she didn't say blasted, and truly Lord I'll take my readers wherever I can get them.
Thank you God for the sight of the Mediterranean filled with mystic fire as the plane banked left over Roma on my first visit to Italy, and all praise to you Lord, the impression of supernatural beauty in the earthly world struck through to the core of my being, and I never forgot it.
Thank you God for the bluebells scattered through the Hill Wood in Monasterevin.
Thank you God for the chicken and broccoli bake special in the Chat & Chew restaurant Newbridge, which you will normally find me munching of a Wednesday afternoon while meditating on the vicissitudes of existence.
Thank you God for Aunty Mary's hens performing Bach's fugue in D minor, and if that shower of fuguers wake me up again at 5am, deeply spiritual soul or no, I'll kill em all one by one.
Thank you God for Harvey hedgehog shambling out of the flowerbed, looking at me expectantly for some cornflakes.
Thank you God for the struggle.
Thank you God for Luisella and her classic one liner "the Pope is right James, you are too conservative."
Thank you God for the unpredicatability of artist Divya Sharma from India, the feistiness of language professor Crisps Gonzalez from Spain, the political insights of my adviser on international affairs Lu Yi from China, and the plot twists provided by my KGB contact Valentina Sexanova from Russia, and thanks for all the international brigade who just make life so goshdarned interesting, and er, please God don't let the Russian one kill me.
Thank you God for renewal in the spirit.
Thank you God for the stillness before divine mercy.
Thank you God for showing me limitless power in the actions of people I would have thought were hopelessly weak.
Thank you God for the paintings of Josephine Hardiman particularly her snow scenes which are nearly as good as yours.
Thank you God for the bit in the Bible where Saint Paul has a row with Barnabas and the two of them go their separate ways, because I often find your followers insufferable Lord, and it's kind of reassuring to know Saint Paul had the same problem, and that other people had the same problem with Saint Paul, and it's funny that so much of our pain comes from people, and yet in truth when we move beyond the pain, we see people are the glory of the creation.
Thank you God for Spanish Diana glaring at the occupants of a car that pulled into the kerb on Main Street Madrid right in front of us because she thought it nearly hit us just as we were about to cross the road, and her shouting at the car in fluent Spanish lingo, and me crying out to her "stop that you Spanish loon, we're in Spain, those people might be Spanish like you, they might have hot Spanish blood, you know better than to shout at Spanish people," and Lord I'm hilarious when I'm terrified.
Thank you God for the warm embrace of Ireland welcoming me home whenever I ramble.
Thank you God for the gregarious good nature of the Irish which is a light for the nations.
Thank you God for Bushy Squirrel peering in the kitchen window at Mount Carmel.
Thank you God for robins.
Thank you God for the swallows swooping around me this evening to tell me they were about to return to Africa.
Thank you God for the evening shadows lengthening through the garden, and the play of light on the roses, and the touch of memory that sunset brings.
Thank you God for the hour of victories.
Thank you God for the prayer "Jesus you are perfect love and perfect love casts out fear."
Thank you God for the Lutherans, in particular Pastor Wurmbrand whom I believe you have told me I will meet in heaven, and Lord they're the finest.
Thank you God for the Mammy surfing the internet on the computer, and Lord finally I believe in miracles.
Thank you God for the thrill of night with the sky full of a million stars and the gospel shiver of wind in the trees.
Thank you God for the ancient faith.
Thank you God for the three years of Jesus public ministry and the mystery of his hidden life.
Thank you God for the three months of Aunty Marie's public ministry and the mystery of her hidden life.
Thank you God for Father Supple.
Thank you God for my father's friends the three Foley brothers from Blessington, all of whom became priests serving you in the mission fields with their unique mix of good humour and craggy Wicklow mountains toughness, Father Paddy in Nigeria, Father Gerry in Kenya and Father Michael in Trinidad, and grant them long life Lord, and bless them forever.
Thank you God for Sister Lelia, Sister Gemma, Padre Peter and all the crazy heroes.
Thank you God for the Pope, and Lord he has a hard act to follow.
Thank you God for you.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

meditations in green

Coffee with Doctor Barn in the Whitewater.
"Have you really got readers from Saudi Arabia visiting your website?" wonders the brother.
I quaff some coff.
"Yup," I tell him, "The Saudis are dropping in all the time. Also an occasional visit from my homies in Iran. And about once a month someone from Turkey. Oh and the same for Pakistan. It looks like I'm doing very well with that much sought after Jihadi demographic. Going to sell a lot of advertising on the strength of those readers."
The brother's eyes widened.
"What do they read?" he ventured.
I thought for a moment.
"The last bunch from Saudi Arabia spent a lot of time in the archives," I explained. "They went back to February 19th 2008 to read a cute little article I'd written about the secession of Kosovo from Serbia. The title was To The Devil A Daughter. I wrote something along the lines that Kosovo was Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski's eldest child. I asserted that Bill had bombed the Serbs out of Kosovo to distract attention from his Lewinski problem. I pointed out that it was the first new Muslim State in Europe in 500 years. I finished with the classic one liner: Thanks a bunch Bill."
"Why would someone in Saudi Arabia be reading that?" enquired the brother innocently.
I shrugged.
"Maybe they're just exploring their limits," I mused.
Doctor Barn swigged his beverage and changed tack.
"Is your website still getting visits from your former employers?" he asked, with the air of one not averse to rattling a tiger's cage.
My handsome preraphaelite features took on a look of noble suffering.
"Oh yeah," I murmured. "The great men of the Johnston Press are logging on every day, sometimes ten times a day. And I gotta tell you Barn, when it comes to a choice between the Johnston Press and the Jihadi's, personally I'd prefer the Jihadi's every time."

NB: James Healy was fired from the Johnston Press owned Leinster Leader newspaper three weeks before Christmas.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

pleasant interludes

Morning coffee with Doctor Barn in the Whitewater Centre in Newbridge.
"You know something Heelers?" quoth he. "I think you genuinely are among the Irish poets."
I nodded briefly.
"I am among them," I cried. "And I'm shouting: Get out of my way you useless feckers."

Driving into Kilcullen, I shook my head yet again in rueful regret as I passed the bare church yard.
Father Andrew cut down all the trees two years ago just before he was seconded to the Vatican.
They're gone anyway.
And so is he.
Now I hear the Pope is having a hell of a time trying to stop him cutting down the trees in front of Saint Peter's.
Keep an eye on him Benedict.
When you're off on the Summer hols at Castel Gandolfo, that's when he'll strike.

In the afternoon I sent off a job application for the recently advertised editor's position at the Leinster Leader.
The application read in total:
"My terms are unconditional surrender."
That should give them a few larfs at the Johnston Press High Command in Edinburgh.
I wonder will they get the joke.

Back at the chateau I found the Mammy in front of the computer.
She'd accessed the statistics monitor on The Heelers Diaries website.
"You won't believe who's been reading you this week," sez she.
"The Saudi Arabians again?" replieth me.
"Yes," sez she, "but someone else as well."
"Who?" sez I.
"Your old pals at the Johnston Press," sez she.
"No way," sez I.
"They've logged on fifteen times today," quoth she.
"I wonder what they want," murmureth me.
"Maybe they like the poem," grins the Mammy.

Night full of stars. Paddy Pup and me walked in the fields.
I addressed the Deity.
"You are the only power I recognise in the universe," I said. "I am not afraid of anything else that pretends it's a power. I am not afraid of Arab Muslim terrorists. I am not afraid of the Irish government. I am not afraid of corrupt police officers. I am not afraid of street thugs. I am not afraid of the future. I am not afraid of having no money. I am not afraid of getting old. I am not afraid of my own mind. I am not afraid of unemployment. I am not afraid of any memory. I am not afraid of any disease. I am not afraid of the freemasons. I am not afraid of the dark. I am not afraid of satan. I am not afraid of the Johnston Press... Your Lordship Jesus is the only thing I recognise and the only thing I care about. Losing you Lord Jesus is the only thing I fear and I cannot fear even that because I trust completely in your love."

And Now This (by Irina Kuksova)

heelers in the recording studio with the new management team

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Evening at the Chateau de Healy.
Watching the ultimate proof that God has a sense of humour, ie the Catholic channel EWTN.
The Dad and Paddy Pup are also present.
We are watching Father Benedict Groschel.
Father Gro is one of the station's superstars.
It's hard to describe him.
He's seventy years old, craggy enough, a bit wizened, occasionally impatient, thoroughly good humoured.
Not your standard TV presenter.
The quality that makes him stand out is a quality he shares with EWTN's other improbable superstar Mother Angelica, whom I have occasionally, and wrongly, styled The Insane Nun.
The quality of the genuine.
Let me be serious for a moment.
The quality of the genuine which you find on EWTN (much maligned and misunderstood though it may be) is like fresh air compared to the cynicism, negativity, and rampant exploitationism that one finds on most other television stations.
When Father Gro or Mother Angelica say something you have the strangest intuition that they are speaking from the heart.
The simplicity of Mother Angelica and the intellectualism of Father Gro carry an equal profundity.
Their words strike home.
No really.
And as we join tonight's programme, Father Gro is sharing a wry reminiscence.
He seems to look directly at the viewer.
He says: "People are always telling me: Father, Catholic teaching regarding abstinence from sex outside of the married state is so difficult. I say to them: Tell me about it. I've been a friar for fifty years."
Well bold readers.
This was quite the funniest thing I've heard in ages.
You'd have to see the way he did it to get the full richness of his sense of humour.
The programme continued with an email from a viewer being read out live on air.
The email was asking for advice on Catholic attitudes regarding the existence of ghosts.
Father Gro's craggy facial expression deepend into a sort of whimsical roguishness.
"Look," he said. "We Catholics tend to think about ghosts in the sense that they shouldn't be here. They should be in heaven, or maybe in purgatory, or God forbid, in hell. But there's so much anecdotal evidence, one has to be cautious about coming to any conclusions. Our order of monks runs a home for boys in New York city. We opened the home in 1968 after taking over a building no one else wanted. The building was in an area that wasn't really considered safe. We were told though that the reason it had remained unused for years was because it was haunted. So we took it over. Then the boys came to me and said: Father there's someone walking around upstairs every night and he keeps turning out the lights but when we go to look, there's no one there. So this went on for a while. Finally we said a mass for the ghost. We even gave him a name. We called him McGuinness. We told him: Hey, you're welcome to stay as long as you don't harm anyone, and maybe if there's a break in, you might chase away the burglars. We've been running that home for boys for forty years. We've never had a break in. I don't know if it's McGuinness chasing them away. I just keep an open mind."
The Dad was most enthused by Father Gro's anecdote.
It prompted him to share some reminiscences of his own about the paranormal.
I'm going to print the Dad's accounts verbatim without comment.
At least I'm going to try.
"Your Grand Aunt Margaret," he told me, " was a nun. Her name in religion was Sister Mary Anthony. She was supposed to be a bit psychic. I can remember at least three experiences she was supposed to have had. Once in France as a young nun, she got lost. There was a lot of anti clericalism in France at the time and the streets weren't safe. She met another nun, whom she didn't recognise, and the newcomer guided her through the streets of Paris to the convent. The unknown nun left her at the gate. When your Grand Aunt got inside the convent she saw a picture of the one who had guided her there. It was Saint Therese of Lisieux who was of course deceased."
Ah yes gentle travellers of the internet.
Of all the Saints in heaven Saint Therese is most likely to be the one who makes personal appearances in stories like this.
I happen to know that Randall O'Sullivan of Rolling Stone magazine claims to have received similar personal assistance from a nun who resembled Saint Therese of Lisieux on the mountainside at Medjugorje.
Apparently Saint Therese gets around.
The Dad's anecdotage continued.
"Your Grand Aunt was my mother's sister. She used to write home to us regularly when she was stationed at the orphanage in West Grinstead. I still have one of her letters in which she describes an apparition of the Virgin Mary which she says she witnessed at the convent. That part of England would have seen a lot of Catholics martyred for the faith during the Reformation. It would be holy ground."
Paddy Pup and me both tried to keep straight faces.
"You don't believe that?" said the Dad. "Okay, how about this. While Sister Mary Anthony was at the orphanage in England, her father Thomas Mahon died. He was your Great Grandfather by the way. He was a tall man with a great bushy white beard. We sent a telegram to Sister Mary Anthony to let her know. She wrote back to say she'd known already, and that her late father had visited her himself to tell her he had passed on. Not only that, she told us one of the children had come to her the next day and said: Sister I'm going to tell the Mother Superior on you, because I saw Santa Claus coming out of your room last night..."
Well bold readers.
My noble friends.
My gentle voyagers of the blogosphere.
A few paragraphs ago, I promised to print the Dad's words without comment.
I have not been entirely successful.
Occasionally a comment or two may have slipped out.
I shall not comment on the final story though.
Not now.
Not ever.
Santa Claus indeed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

an autumn storm at kilcullen

the evening concerto has begun
sweeping through twilight from the fields
a masterwork of music at random
rain drums on windowsill and eaves
its off note lyric rhapsody in grey
as squalls lust gustily in sprays
a bullock bells forlorn out of sight
light sound shadow harmonise
at once a dreary monotone of night
at once a heady gloriole of praise
that says it all about this place
it's torn me in my love and hate for it
village prison earthly paradise
small town insensate to my spirit
oh universe in me and i in it

Sunday, August 24, 2008

portrait of a woman of character

Hoddlebun has prevailed upon me to store more of her luggage.
She rang me as the sun was going down over the heartland of South Kildare.
I took her call watching from the big bay window at the chateau, as the light of dusk sent a scattering of shadows through the garden of my father.
I said no at first.
But the Dad was listening to the conversation and when I'd hung up, he told me I was being hard.
So I relented.
Folks, at the moment there are sixteen assorted Hodders suitcases, clothes bags and book boxes, living in the west wing of the Chateau de Healy.
Two extra suitcases will be joining them tomorrow.
Big ones.
When the Mammy arrived home tonight she was quite bemused by the situation.
"Lucky your father was here," said the Mammy. "If you'd asked me, I'd have told you to tell her to f--- off."
Ah yes.
The mot juste.
She wasn't finished.
"You know son," opined the lady known as Lil, "you're going to be driving up and down to Dublin with that girl's luggage for the rest of your life."
It was like a gypsy curse.
Ring of truth and all that.
Later tonight Hoddlebun phoned again.
We had a vintage exchange which I must try recording for posterity.
Well, if not for posterity, at least for the pyschiatrists.
Someday they're going to want to figure out what made me flip.
Seriously though.
The subject of our late night conversation was not suitcases.
It was a mystical experience that the Bun thinks she's had.
She began: "Jamie, do you remember when I saved that guy's life? The ninety year old guy in the street?"
I caught my breath.
"What?" I said sharpish.
She repeated her question.
I ventured something like: "Oh, you mean the guy you sat with for five minutes after he tripped outside Trinity College."
Hod said: "Yes, the guy whose life I saved."
I said: "Are you still insisting you saved his life?"
She said: "Yes, he was haemorrhaging in the street."
Somewhat wearily I intoned: "What does haemorrhaging mean?"
She said: "It means bleeding."
I said: "So he'd fallen over and he had a cut."
Hoddlebun sighed.
With measured grace she insisted: "No, it wasn't just a cut. He was haemorrhaging badly from his face."
I asked: "What part of his face?"
She said: "His nose."
I said: "So he had a bleeding nose."
My big haired friend sighed deeply. Apparently I was testing her patience.
She said: "I really did save his life. He was haemorrhaging from the face and he had a fractured skull."
An incredulous James: "He had what?"
A persistent Hodders: "He had a bone broken in his skull."
With modest foreboding I enquired: "What bone?"
She said: "His nose."
There was one of those special little silences which often occur in my conversations with Calamity Annie.
Finally I spoke.
My voice was what Scottish psychoanalysts call a wee bit strangulated.
I said: "So he'd fallen over and broken his nose and you sat with him for five minutes."
Annie shushed me decisively.
"Just listen to the story," she instructed. "Anyway, after the ambulance took him to hospital, I kept in touch for years. We became friends."
Rather churlishly the mighty Heelers once more chose to interrupt this paean to selfless humanitarianism.
"What do you mean you kept in touch?" quoth I.
"I used to send him text messages," sayeth she.
"When?" quoth I.
"At Christmas," sayeth she.
"How many Christmasses did you send him a text message?" quoth I.
"Four," shot back the Bun without hesitation.
"And they weren't just those circular Happy Xmas text messages that you send to everybody whose number is stored in your phone?" quoth I.
"No," cried Bunford a tad unconvincingly.
You have to hand it to her bold readers.
She's good under cross examination.
Doesn't even pause for breath.
The culmination of her story, if I understood it correctly, went as follows.
She'd kept in touch with the guy. Then one day his daughter rang to say he'd passed away with pneumonia. Hodders had been studying for her medical exams which were taking place the next day. That night she decided to focus on pneumonia and the lungs.
"And pneumonia and the lungs came up," Hodders proclaimed triumphantly. "The whole exam was full of them. I think it was the guy's way of saying thank you to me."
There was another of our special little silences.
When I spoke it was through gently grated teeth.
"Annie," I said, "you're telling me you think the guy was in heaven tipping you off that pneumonia and lungs would come up in the medical exam? You think he inspired his daughter to call you because he knew when you heard about his fatal pneumonia you'd put two and two together and study lungs? Do you think he was in some way responsible for setting the exam? Do you think he actually picked that time of year to die to say thank you as well?"
Our conversation ended soon after that.
Do I sound unkind in this account gentle travellers of the internet?
I admit it.
William Somerset Maugham would have written the same story and found a way to make himself likeable.
But I have been so roundly Bunned over the years that I can no longer cloak my persona, even my literary persona, in the habilements of affability.
I have supped full with Hodders.
Do not judge me too harshly.
I'm telling you.
The greatest saint in heaven would be rendered a bitter atheist after five minutes listening to Hodders' spiritual stories.
I have no idea if she's delusional, fantasistic or just plain nuts.
Alright, I must still admit the more humbling, the more shocking possibility.
If she really is God's favourite, (and sometimes he picks the ones we'd least expect), if she's God's favourite I tell you, then everything she said, the whole insane caboodle, could...

a little light relief