Paris galleries and heavy beats help to balance out life in the front row for Cian Healy
'My art is just an effort to express the truth of my being in gesture and movement' -- American dancer Isadora Duncan
CIAN HEALY couldn't relax last Friday evening. Sometimes he can easily switch off. Sometimes he can immerse himself in thumping bass beats and broad brush strokes as he combines his two favourite hobbies at home in Dublin.
But he is not at home now, but in Paris.
Twenty-four hours later, he is expected to engage in brutal sporting warfare for his Ireland team against France, just six days after a crushing third successive defeat to Wales in the opening Six Nations game at Lansdowne Road.
Now both games are consuming him. So he leaves his hotel and walks.
"My mind was a little all over the place on Friday," he confides. "It was very hectic thinking about the game and everything. I normally like to switch off so I had to get out for a ramble."
The biting night air further muddled his brain, as it did most of his fellow players who privately had to expel the prevalent doubts that the game would, as was so hubristically declared, go ahead as planned.
So he hopped into a taxi and asked, as he may have once done in Belvedere College a decade ago, "Ou est le Centre George Pompidou?" Once there, he became becalmed.
One of the current exhibitions running there charts the link between contemporary music and art, from how the Dadaists portrayed the majestic Duncan, to Andy Warhol and more modern expressions of music at its most ruggedly urban and vibrant.
As he paced the floor of the gallery, his mind suddenly unburdened itself.
"I loved it," he enthuses. "I'd been to the Louvre a few times before but never to the Pompidou centre. It was more modern stuff, things I'd be into. The use of shapes and different colours and all that."
You tell him you spent Friday at the Cezanne exhibition at the Musee du Luxembourg and he grimaces, as if you've just declared that nobody has ever emulated those three-hour concept albums from Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
"It's the new kind of stuff I'd be really into," he says, without meaning to cause offence, "more than the old-fashioned paintings." If Cezanne is spinning in his Saint-Pierre grave, so be it.
Having divested himself of so much mental energy, then, Healy then re-engaged with body and soul to inject infinite levels of adrenalin in an effort to re-focus on the French a night later.
As we all now sadly know, he need not have bothered.
"It's a hard one when you're so fired up and ready to play," he says of the shameful outcome in the Stade de Farce. "It was pretty deflating. Immediately you have to change the mind frame and chill out of it."
Strangely, despite his Friday jitters, he was able to detach himself almost instantly, while many of his team-mates struggled to uncoil their fervour.
"I just switched off as quick as I could and tried to get away from rugby as soon as possible.
"If you can find something to occupy your mind, you can switch off easily enough. I just rang a few of my mates for a while, shooting the breeze.
"A few of the lads went out to run around but I hopped in for a quick hot shower, just relaxed."
Perhaps his daily routine helped to disengage his feverish mind and body after the main focus of his week was so abruptly withdrawn.
He may be one of the best loose-heads in world rugby, and already someone primed to be the immovable force when the Lions visit Australia in a year's time, but rugby doesn't consume him.
"I've a few little bits knocking around the house that I'm tipping around on," he offers quietly when discussing his withdrawal into the solitude of painting after a day hitting rucks and tackle bags.
"Sometimes I like to get things done in one day, sometimes I just leave them and come to them whenever I feel like.
"So I've always a few I can jump in and out of when I feel the need. Sometimes, you can be sitting down having a coffee and go at it.
"You need to be willing to fill a few hours of your day. I can't just sit down for 10 minutes and then leave it. I need to give it a few hours and completely switch off, have the music on. That's me gone for the evening then."
His old teacher Ger Conran in Belvedere used to let him play the radio in art class. Music still consumes him; albeit more DJ Shadow than Dr Feelgood.
He once opened at Oxegen but with that festival's sudden ending and the POD nightclub's shock closure last weekend, he and friend Gordon Johnston have sadly less venues available to him.
He prefers literally shuffling the decks as opposed to delivering a straight set. "Oxegen was pretty cool," recalls the festival's opening act. "It's fairly wild, you know. There was a few people in and it was a bit of a party.
"I don't do any set preparations. I just have all my tracks and go in and play whatever I feel like.
"There's no fun if you have it planned. It's a bit on the go, how you're feeling, how the crowd is and what comes in and out of your mind."
All of which could suggest that Healy's extra-curricular activities may threaten to divert him from his day job. Not a bit of it. He may not live to work. But, if anything, Healy remains even more devoted to self-improvement than at any time before.
"You're always evolving and so is the game," he reveals. "You've got to be open to change. And I have changed.
"I've found myself becoming a little bit more professional in my approach. Especially preparation. I'd rest my body a bit more. Normally I'd hate sitting down and I'd be rambling into town or whatever.
"But this season I've given myself a fair few couch times and just rested the body. I don't know if that's a sign of getting old or just being professional! But it feels good and I can notice the change.
"I hope to be in this game for a few years yet, but then again it could be taken from me next season. Who knows? I just do what's right for me and enjoy it as I am.
"I feel I'm getting better. The game is getting harder so I might not notice it but sometimes when I look back over things, I can see little things like technique or the way I ran into a tackle.
"I'm a fairly in the moment kind of guy. I show up, I play the game and I go home. I have a goal that I want to be the best, set a new standard.
"And have people looking at me going 'Jesus, how is he doing that?' It's ever evolving so hopefully I can keep changing. For the better."
And that it is truth.