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, March 28, 2009


Dedicated to Hugh Clowers Thompson an American who showed us the way.


Coffee with the Melia moghul.
(Irish theatre producer Paddy Melia.)
Around us the Riverbank cafe clatters with life.
It's been more than a year since we met to discuss my idea to stage the play Charley's Aunt as a teenage sex comedy retitled Victorian Scandals.
More than a year since he went off and produced the show himself without another word to me.
There seem to be no hard feelings.
I haven't shot him yet anyway.
"Paddy," sez I, "do you think I'll ever get cast in a professional theatre production again?"
"James," sez he with infinite kindness. "It's highly unlikely."

the immortals

in berney's pub at closing time
lord byron swigs his pint and tries again
to chat up claire o'brien
but getting nowhere shakes his head
and makes a move on mary shelley instead

doubt me if you must bold traveller
but know you this
tonight the splendid moon and balmy wind
with their touch
with their kiss
in truth and to my mind
have rendered cold kildare

down the boozer

Sitting in a quiet corner of Berneys Pub.
The place cacaphones pleasantly.
I'm not at ease in pubs but this is okay.
When the revel is at its height I espy a middle aged gentleman with bald pate approaching through the crowd.
He sits at my table.
It is Baldy Mongan, the tame trade unionist.
"James, do you mind if I talk to you?" quoth he.
"What do you want?" I mutter grimly.
"You know the National Union of Journalists is having awful trouble with the Johnston Press," he says.
"I might have heard something in that regard," I intone drily.
"We're at loggerheads with them all over the place, in Ireland and Northern Ireland," sez he in a rush.
"What's that got to do with me?" sez I.
"You were the only one they were actually afraid of," sez he.
I smile bitterly.
"Big swingin mickey," sez I "That didn't stop them firing me."
He leaned forward on the table.
"Will you help us?" sez he.
My face is a study.
I reply with a quote from Pastor Niemoller about the Nazis.
I speak loud enough to be heard at the back of the pub.
I tell him: "When they came for the Jews I did not speak out because I wasn't a Jew. When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak out because I wasn't a Catholic. When they came for the poor and the handicapped and the unborn child, I did not speak out because I wasn't poor, or handicapped or an unborn child. And when they came for me it was too late. There was no one left to speak out."
When I had finished this speech, Baldy Mongan sat bold upright.
"I'm asking for your help," he said.
I stood up.
"Burn in hell," I spat.

Friday, March 27, 2009

a passage to aran

Aran island.
One of the last places in Ireland where the old Irish language is still spoken.
Why have I come here?
What am I searching for?
The Celtic soul perhaps.
I've been wandering through burnt out school buildings on a desolate corner of the island.
They are covered in graffiti.
I felt a brief thrill when I first saw the graffiti then a wave of disappointment when I realised it was all in English.
Shoulders down I left the school.
I made my way between stony fields, up a sunken lane and found myself on a promontory overlooking the wild Atlantic.
Sunshine and wildness.
A heady mix.
I sit.
It is late evening.
There's not much on Aran.
Not much to do.
The playwright JM Synge came here once and described the people as: "The last of Europe's stone age race."
He meant it as a compliment.
The great wet twit.
The only other famous person to have a long association with the island is my feminist cousin Pauline who lived here for two years.
The islanders have even put a monument up to her.
"Ni stadann si ag caint riamh," it says on the base of the plinth.
The wind ruffles my hair.
My eyes are the piercing blue of cornflowers.
I get to thinking.
In Summer time the island fills up with tourists.
There's not much for them to do except listen to the locals pretending to talk Irish.
Imagine if I staged my plays here in Summer.
Vampires of Dublin and The Play That Dare Not Speak Its Name.
(The Play That Dare Not Speak Its Name is called Lady Windermere's Fanny. - Ed note)
Take a shed and make it into a theatre.
A double bill.
Fifty thousand tourists on the island with nothing to do.
They'd have to come.
We could throw in a few words of Irish just to make the plays seem a bit cultural.
This could work.
My quest for the Celtic soul has been all but abandoned.
Celtic soul, Celtic schmole, as we do say in the trade.
I mean, what have the Celts done for us lately?
Suddenly I hear singing.
And lo!
Down the strand I see a small figure.
There is a little boy walking towards me.
A little boy of Aran.
What is he singing?
I hardly dare to hope.
Some ancient keen to island life and island ways wrought from the old language that a few poets still dream in and others still call Irish?
His singing is loud and raucous and full of mystic fire.
I cannot make out a single word.
He draws nearer.
I am fascinated.
I crane my neck trying to decipher the Irish.
The little boy turns towards me on the road.
His words take crystalline form.
For the first time I can make them out.
He is singing:
"Glory, glory Man United."
Over and over.
Then he stops.
"Do you like Man United?" he asks me.
I hasten to assure him that I do.
"Oh yes, hurrah for Man United," quoth me.
The island boy wanders off along the twisty lane still bawling his paean.
I am alone with the rising night wind and the wild wild sea and the first of the stars.

all the gold in the world

For Gaia Brugnolo


people like years in the city streets
throng in the rain it falls like centuries
the fall of man is never so complete
the fall of night never such a certainty
clocks are striking somewhere down the quays

as i am struck my thirtieth hour done
takes wing like a soul circles and is gone
alone amid the crowd i hear the rain
drum the outright tragedy of man
birth is death divided by a span

living legends

Costa Cafe Naas.
The Doctor known as Barn thrust a newspaper in front of me.
"Have a read of this," sez he.
I saw that the paper in question was last week's Leinster Leader.
It was opened on the editorial page.
The new editor of the Leinster Leader had written as follows:

"Perhaps it is no consolation to know that Ireland is not the only country seeing acute economic difficulties. After all, in times of crisis, it is all most of us can do to look after ourselves. But let us spare a thought for those in France who rely on sales of wine for their incomes. Perhaps mirroring a terrible shooting of two young soldiers in Northern Ireland, a winery in the Languedoc Roussillon area of French (sic) was the victim of a bomb attack last week. Media reports said that the attack, from which nobody was injured (sic), is believed to be the work of a clandestine group of angry winegrowers who attack symbols of their perceived enemies or competitors."

I looked up at my brother.
"Pretty crass," I murmured. "He seems to be juxtaposing a minor piece of arson in France with the killing of two British soldiers in Northern Ireland. Clearly the Johnston Press have hired yet another genius to sip from their poisoned chalice at the Leinster Leader."
Daktari grinned.
"Read on," said he.

I did read on.
The new editor drivelled on across eight columns for what seemed an eternity.
He finished with this classic piece of high rhetoric:

"As Ireland faces economic difficulty let us hope that those charged with guarding civil society will have the wisdom not to create future problems and guard against injustice. Let us hope that those who hold real power at different levels will desist from slick, sharp, harsh, overly competitive practices which are deemed to be unjust."

I lowered the newspaper slowly.
"What a magnificent display of syncopated moronism," I breathed.
"Thought you'd like it," grinned Doctor Barn.

Ah bless.
This new editor at the Leinster Leader must really care.
He must be a fine upstanding humanitarian whose one limitation in life perhaps relates to his basic inability to write coherent sentences in the English language.
Still the Johnston Press picked him as editor and they must know what they're doing.
I wonder does he mean to include the owners of newspapers in his calls for a general renaissance of social conscience.
Now here's a question for the new editor of the Leinster Leader whose gentle soul so obviously burns with such an incontrovertible passion for justice.
After firing me, what did the Johnston Press do with my pension contributions which had been paid weekly for ten years?
What did they do with my pension Bollicky?
Where is it Justice Man?
Did they take it down the boozer?
Did they use it to pay off their "retiring" Chief Executive whose retirement had been announced "well in advance" and was nothing to do with the collapse of the Johnston Press share price to a level of five pennies?
I wonder.
Did they spend my pension on French wine?

You miserable hypocritical pious bastards.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

great political portraits of our time part three

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in light hearted mood.

summoned by bells

I woke.
In the darkness a summons.
As of bells.
I hear it sometimes.
It can mean a few things.
Poems I have not written calling me to write them.
Regrets singing to me.
The guardian angel telling me to get up and look at the dawn.
Maybe it was that.
I knew I was being summoned to the window.
I did not know what I would find.
I glanced at the clock.
It was 6am.
I opened the curtains.
I looked.
Firstlings of a grey dawn creeping through the garden of my father.
I scanned the garden.
Ordinary enough.
This wasn't what I was called to see.
I looked upwards.
On the telephone line opposite my window sat two turtle doves.
One dove edged along the wire until both were together.
They touched heads for all the world as though they were kissing.
Then they rested their heads on each others shoulders.
They made slight motions, swaying, caressing.
Up high on the telephone wire.
It was so gentle the way they did it.
They stayed for long moments.
I watched.
They were like two teenagers cuddling.
Sweetest thing I ever saw.


the son of the hebrew god has called your name
and you in truth would answer him
he's promised you not wealth or fame
but a life of hardship and a death alone

have you not seen in the years that are undone
useless blood shed uselessly
children barracking their teachers
scoundrels in their minstrelsy

and do you not know
the people hate their priests
they'll hate you also
the son of the hebrew god has called your name
brother tell him no

chance meeting

Afternoon in the town of Naas.
Bright and breezy.
I stepped from the Costa cafe onto Main Street and who did I meet.
Why if it wasn't Ron Baines.
(Actually it wasn't Ron Baines. That's not his real name. But you know what Heelers means. - Ed note.)
Former printer at the Leinster Leader.
Turfed out of his job by the Johnston Press the new British owners of the company a few months before I was.
He'd been working for the Leinster Leader for fifty years.
They told him he was finishing with no advance warning and without so much as a word of thanks.
He was to finish that very day.
Classy classy people the Johnston Press.
Life is local, as they say in their motto.
And some of us never forget.
After his firing I wrote a letter to management which among other things warned them that treating a man in this way would bring the newspaper into disrepute.
That was just before the b-----ds fired me.
Hilarious, no?
So here we were.
We hadn't seen each other in a few years.
Ron and I shook hands.
"Any regrets about the Leinster Leader?" I asked him.
He shrugged.
"For three months I was inconsolable," he told me. "I was walking around the streets like a man possessed. I was horrible to my family. Really, really horrible. Then it passed. I got on with life. The good thing is I've spent all the time since then saying sorry to my family. They love that. I went to the Labour Court about my job. It was funny. The Chairman of the commission told the management: You're not in England now; We have certain redundancy laws in Ireland; You'd better come up with a better offer for this man or I'll come up with a better offer for you."
We stood for a moment in silence.
"You're richer than they are Ron," I said. "People in the community respect you and your family love you."
He grinned.
"As I was leaving work the day they told me to go," he said. "no one from management came near me. Not to say a few words, not to say goodbye, nothing. I thought to myself: I'm not just slinking out the door. I went up the stairs. Knocked on the three doors. Went in to each of them. Said: Well, I'm off, after fifty years, cheerio. And that was that. They've all left the company themselves since. One way or another."
I nodded.
Classy people indeed.
You know gentle travellers of the internet, there's an odd justice when people start the Hire-um and Fire-um game.
The ones doing the hiring and firing can themselves never be at peace.
The standard that they use is the standard they are measured by.
During their own short careers they spend most of their time looking over their shoulders for fear they'll be treated the same way they've treated everyone else.
They never know who is going to be next.
I kid you not.
"Why did they do it James?" Ron said suddenly.
"Do what?" sez I.
"Let so many people go?" said he.
"Umph," I said.
Another silence.
"They got rid of a whole heap of people from advertising," he recalled, "and they were the ones who'd been bringing in the money. It made no sense."
I sighed.
"Why did they do it James?" he said again. "They must have had some reason for their actions."
"They did it because they've no values," I said simply. "They'd paid 140 million for a newspaper that was bringing in a million a year. It was a stupid price to pay. And the way they treated us was the price of them. It was a measure of their class. Some idiot bank, from among the corrupt banks that are currently threatening to collapse the world economy, some idiot bank I say, lent them the money to make the purchase. They were left trying to make back their investment by firing long term staff and hiring cheap newcomers. The Leinster Leader had existed for 120 years. It was making a profit. It had weathered ten recessions, two world wars, the War On Terror, and the first onslaught of internet competition. It could have existed for another 120 years no problem. But only a few of us foresaw that members of our own management were quietly giving themselves shares in the company and that they'd want to sell out those shares to a bunch of Brits who didn't know any of us from Adam. That was the problem. Our own management didn't want to spend fifty years working for a living. They wanted to cash in their shares and play golf."
Ron looked rueful.
"But here's the thing," I went on. "The people who sold out the company aren't all doing so well. Every now and then I hear one of them is terminally ill or mentally deranged or something else. May God forgive me for exulting in the downfall of my enemies. Such a useless shower. I'll tell you this. They certainly haven't all gotten to enjoy their ten millions. I don't need to be vengeful. I know God will see to it they get what they deserve. Which would you prefer Ron, to be on your death bed with ten million in the bank or to be like us, healthy and free and honorable?"
We chatted for a while longer, saying many many many interesting things.
When I left him, I felt the beginnings of a new peace.
I'm finally letting it go.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

can such things be

Strolling in the garden of my father.
Paddy Pup rummaging in the hedge.
I stand and begin to say the rosary prayer.
The sorrowful mysteries.
Robin lands on a branch of the apple tree beside me.
He ruffles his feathers and sings.
His song is sweet beyond sweetness.
We pray together.
Back in the house I tell the Dad.
"The robin just prayed the rosary with me," sez I.
The Dad harrumphs Daddily.
"He was probably just marking his territory," quoth he.
"I don't think he was," I murmur slowly.

for the album cover

James Healy's new band The Achtung Steinervortzels.
Photographed on Boston subway by Milton Scherbitzki.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

miscellaneous extraneous aneous

The Future's Bright The Future's Hungarian
Morning in the Chat And Chew cafe.
"Why are you learning Hungarian?" wondered Doctor Barn.
I allowed myself a meditative sup of caffe latte.
"It's very comfortable," I explained finally. "I predict that in a few years everyone will be speaking it."

Idea For Charity Music Video
A version of Pink Floyd's Brick In The Wall sung by teachers. The teachers would sing:
"We don't need no psychotic teenagers.
We don't need no half witted hoodlums out of control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Children leave them teachers alone.
Leave them teachers alone."
I think this could work. All proceeds to the Buy James Healy A New Car Foundation. They're good people.

Fun With Indeplagiarist Newspapers
Good headline on the cover of the Sunday Independent after Ireland's rugby victory at the weekend. The headline read: "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive and to be young was the very heaven..." It takes a real act of courage to begin a news article with poetry. At least it did when I first used the same quotation at the start of an article about Kildare's victory in the Gaelic football Leinster Championship eight years ago. The very same quotation. Okay folks. Seriously though. Do you think anybody in Tony O'Reilly's rat infested newspaper group had even heard of William Wordsworth before I came along?

Ones The Got Away
More from my series on great photos I missed. Driving up Thomas Street as the sun was going down. A man and woman in a state of stupefied drunkenness, sitting on a stone plinth surrounded by their discarded bottles and cans of wine, whiskey and lagar. A picture of utter desolation. Just behind them a large sign proclaiming in triumphal gold the single word commentary: "Guinness!" It would have been perfect.

Cooeee Johnston Press
Time was when I could bump up the monthly visitor ratings on this blog by about fifty percent simply by unleashing a few mild hate filled diatribes against my former employers at the Johnston Press. The moment I mentioned these legends of modern journalism, my statistics monitor would light up with visits from Johnston Press offices all around the United Kingdom. There would be log-ons from Bateson in Accounts, Morgan in Wales, Melchett in Derbyshire, Awd Jenkins in Leeds, Blackadder in London, Rigsby in Bolton, Ganucci in Assassinations, and Hymen Roberts in Legal Firms That Sound Like Female Genitalia. Not to mention some mysterious Heelers sympathiser in the Stockport And Blackpool Gazette, who occasionally left messages of support for me. I kid you not. But now? Nothing! My wildest rantings get at most a visit or two from some non entities in Clyde. It's as though they all have other more urgent things to think about. (A share price at five pence perhaps. - Ed note.) Just last week though, the Daily Mail financial services website referred to the Johnston Press as the fourth biggest media group in the UK. Well that's just swell. Of course it depends on how you define big. I mean if the Johnston Press are the fourth biggest media group in Britain, what with their debts in the hundreds of millions and no revenue, why then I myself and The Heelers Diaries must be just about the biggest media group in the world. By the Daily Mail's standard of reasoning I'm bigger than the Johnston Press, Time Warner, the New York Times and CNN put together. Because I have at least twenty readers a day. Real readers. Readers who actually exist. Not readers created by fake statistics generating companies. In addition I have no ten thousand million dollar debts. No debts at all in fact. While all these supposedly fourth biggest companies in the world are up to their ears in debt. Every idiot on the planet can buy a few hundred newspapers with borrowed billions and then sit back and lose money hand over fist. The real talent is to get twenty readers a day and lose no money. So I'm bigger than them. And now they know it. Hoo boy! It's good to be the king. Memo to the Johnston Press: In a prize fight, the winner is the one still standing at the end. Ah my gentle travellers of the internet. It looks like I'm finally letting it go.

Monday, March 23, 2009

lessons in living from the lady known as lil

Sitting in the front room with the Mammy.
"How come you're always so calm?" sez I.
"What do you mean?" quoth she.
"You never seem to get upset," observeth I.
"There's a secret to it," museth she.
"What is it?" enquireth I.
"Whenever someone says something that annoys me I go into the next room and mutter b-----x," explaineth she.
"And do you do that with me?" wondereth I.
"Not so much with you," evadeth she.
"No really," persisteth me.
"It rarely arises with you," insisteth she.
"Which means you sometimes do it with me!" expostulateth I.
"Hardly ever," proclaimeth she.
You know folks, it's hard to get across just how curiously dissatisfying, how disquieting, how downright seditious, I found that final answer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

field of souls

the fronded chestnut tree
rears over long grass
shadows flit and whisper
of what is and what is past
and in the field of souls
my grandfather rests at last

i will be seeing him still
some time the city crowds upon me
he'll raise an ash plant to a thistle
call his dog to heels
cry glory and whistle
whistle down the years

can you feel the softness
of the mist upon your face
or sense the shadows brooding
when the twilight whispers peace
then know the final darkness
is a darkness of release