The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
As someone who knew John Healy, it is strange to take a film-trip around his haunts, especially meeting many old friends from the local bars in north London he frequented.
Paul Duane's documentary, visiting Ireland en route. begins in 2007 and follows Healy around while revealing his history,
Healy was born off Kentish Town Road of an Irish immigrant family, where a belting from your da was more than a daily occurrence.
Leaving school at 14 he went into the army - another school of hard knocks - where they transformed him into a successful boxer, an experience he remembers with uncanny clarity.
Discharged for drunkenness he degenerated into a wino and hit the streets and a local park, where he would drink and fight.
Prison was an occupational hazard. He learned to play chess from Harry the Fox, went on to be an accomplished tournament player and eventually sobered up.
But given his ambitious nature, his next project was writing his autobiography The Grass Arena in 1988.
It proves that old adage that we all have a book inside us and was published to great critical acclaim and filmed in 1990, winning best British film at the Edinburgh Festival.
Nevertheless, the book was taken out of print in 1991 after a fracas with Faber & Faber. Every time we met, he asked the same question: "Why wont they reprint it, why won't they publish my other work?"
Healy was a regular at a chess cafe and had a friendship with artist Jo Spence before she died of cancer in 1992.
They spent time relating working-class stories to literary soirees before Healy disappeared, resurfacing in Camden.
What this film males clear is that Healy's driving force is the passion and his pain of his own life.