Light at the end of the tunnel- Tá solas ag deireadh an Tolláin Margaret Maher December 2020
Gráinne Seoige described this year as a strangest, shapeless year, that seemed to go on for one hundred years. Would you agree with her?
The broadcaster Ray Darcy held a writing competition on his radio show back in May last at the height of the first lockdown. No, I didn’t enter it, in case you’re wondering or worried! Ray asked the listeners to send in five hundred words about any aspect of their lives. The competition was judged by Emilie Pine, Emer McLysaght, Eoin Colfer and Donal Ryan. This competition proved to be a great motivator and received two thousand five hundred entries. Ray and the judges were so impressed by both the quality and the quantity, it was decided that they had to do something with the winning stories and the result is a beautiful book entitled “A Page from my Life”. The book was launched on 29th October and is already a best seller.
So, is there a story in all of us? When George asked me to put pen to paper, I was far from enthusiastic. George is the guy who keeps our website updated and with so little happening in our parish because of Covid 19, I eventually felt guilty and gave in. As Fr. Tom used to say, “for God’s sake girl will you horse up a bit of enthusiasm”. And so, I did. Great credit is due to George for all the time and effort he puts into the website. From someone who knew nothing about websites, he has mastered the task with great enthusiasm. Great credit is also due to Kieran Coyle. Kieran scanned loads of copies of the old “Echo” and Ayrwaves. He must have had the patience of Job!
Is there light at the end of the tunnel? We would all like to think and hope so. Sure, we’ve had Covid for breakfast, dinner and tea. Words like lockdown, cocooning, social distancing, zoom, all became too familiar. While acknowledging the greater difficulties people have faced during the second lockdown, with shorter days and harsher weather, did we remain optimistic? Maybe for a while during the Celtic Tiger, we lost the run of ourselves and it took something like Covid 19 to bring us back down to earth again and to realise at the end of the day, health, family and the basic things in life are more important. Perhaps the most haunting Roman image of this Covid ‘annus horribilis, happened last March when Pope Francis sat out in an empty St. Peter’s Square, praying alone on a dark, cold night in the pouring rain.
At the time of going to print, we have lost over 2,123 people to Covid and there have been 75, 756 positive cases. The pandemic has caused chronic loneliness and social isolation in so many people. High levels of anxiety have been reported concerning their future and the impact of Covid 19 on their education, careers and family life.
Not knowing how long the virus is going to last and worried about the world going into a massive recession. Once you have had your month’s mind, you are no longer expected to grieve or be sad. The death of a loved one brings changes that will last for ever, people’s lives permanently altered by the absence of the person they loved.
New figures showing rising cancer numbers should serve as a wake-up-call, according to the Irish Cancer Society. Latest numbers released reveal that almost 45,000 cancers are now detected annually in this country, with the disease claiming more than 9,000 lives every year. It seems that all other ailments and treatments were put on the back boiler, so to speak, during the pandemic.
In the Irish Catholic newspaper, dated 3rd December, in the letter of the week section, the writer stated that a community in south Dublin had experienced three suicides. In just one small community, there was more suicides than Covid 19 deaths, yet not a whisper in the media. Beautiful and beloved family members, daughters, mothers, sons and fathers driven beyond their limits in the language of lockdown, denied what they believed to be essential. After months of anguish, they despaired. He expressed great frustration, sadness and disappointment. He asked why those in positions of authority had remained silent. Who are we to hold accountable for the silence? Who has the authority to declare what is essential in life for a human being?
But, hope springs eternal. Just consider for one minute, the wonderful work carried out by our front-line workers, the doctors, nurses, kitchen staff, cleaners, carers etc. The Late Late Show appeal raised over €6.5 million for children’s charities, which was phenomenal. It really does go to prove that Irish people know how to lift things up when all the chips are down! A lot of charities have been badly affected because of the pandemic. Fundraising has been curtailed mostly to online donations. Yet people have come together and organised events through zoom and other means. We miss the choirs in our church, the annual school play, the carol singing in aid of the wonderful work of Br. Kevin and his team of volunteers in the Capuchin Day Centre. We miss our Circle of Friends and The Men’s Shed groups. But thank God, we now have a vaccine in sight, and all these will return to normality in the New Year.
The priests of the parish are planning to arrange extra Masses over the Christmas period to accommodate parishioners. We thank them sincerely for all their work and effort to keep the show on the road during this pandemic. It hasn’t been an easy time for them. We have become accustomed to joining them via the webcam. O’Tooles Clubhouse and Ayrfield Community Centre are re-opening their doors
Last weekend O’Tooles held a Fun Day for the children. Santa was there in all his glory; He had his own little hut set up on the pitch. The children had a magical time. Thanks again to the wonderful volunteers of the club for organising this event.
The hyacinths and daffodils are peeping through the soil in my garden Soon the crocuses, and snowdrops will follow suit. It is the survival of the fittest at present at the bird table. The moon looks down on me every morning and night as I replenish the bird feeders. That’s the same moon that can be seen in Australia, South Africa, Lourdes, the moon behind the hill. And then they’d try and tell you, there’s no God!
While out walking one day, I met a lovely couple, neighbours in fact, whom I hadn’t seen for some time. Apart from enjoying the fresh air in their spare time, they told me they were both knitting woolly hats for the homeless. What a lovely thing to do!
Speaking of walking, I went for a long walk the other day on the beach. It lifts your mind, body and soul and it’s free. We are so lucky here in Ireland, with our rivers and bridges, mountains and moors, glens and lochs and endless photo ops. When things get back to normal, we can explore once again the beautiful landscapes. It’s no secret that Ireland boasts a number of breath-taking spots in all corners of the country, all waiting to be explored.
Professor Philip Nolan issued the following message “a small, safe, careful Christmas with those that matter the most to us will limit the levels of disease in January, and save lives”
Be good for goodness sake and have a Covid-Free Christmas.
“Let us begin anew from the numerous examples of generous, freely-given love, which in these months have shown us how much closeness, care, and sacrifice are needed to nourish fraternity and civil coexistence. In this way, we will emerge from this crisis stronger.”- Pope Francis
My 80th Birthday Peggy Connolly (12 Dec 2020)
On the 9th of December I celebrated my 80th birthday, which I expected to be low key because of the Covid pandemic. How wrong was I !!!!
I didn’t think anyone even knew it was my birthday, but it turned out the world and his wife were aware of it. From early morning I had a stream of well wishers bringing cards, balloons presents and even cakes. All in all I received 44 cards, some of which were hand made and which will be duly re-cycled.
One of the best things about the day was a video made by my great granddaughter, Éabha, aged 12 years, who put together a video with messages from all my far flung family, and it was lovely to see and hear family in Germany, Scotland, England, Tipperary , Clare and of course Dublin.
Another highlight was the surprise visit from the choir members, who arrived in my driveway complete with balloons, birthday cake, cards etc. and proceeded to sing Happy Birthday. Because of Covid it was not possible to blow out the candles but a way around this was to wave an envelope over the flames, and then we could all eat the cake.
Covid has destroyed many things during 2020 but the spirit of friendship and love and fun still lives on. Many thanks to all who made my day so special. Can you all come back next year p.g. ?????? Of course being born in 1940 I am in good company Esther Rantzen, Gloria Hunniford Cliff Richard and Geoffrey Boycott - to name but a few. The old age pension was 10 shillings (50p) a week, 6 eggs cost 3p, letter post 1p, Petrol 2 shillings a gallon (2.25 a litre) and average weekly earnings before tax; £3.10s
Wishing all a very Happy Christmas and a safe and peaceful New Year.
“May you live in interesting times.” George Carter
“May you live in interesting times” -- It could be a blessing, or a curse. As interesting as a pandemic may be, it is certainly not a blessing. In fact it is more like a war, but one where the enemy is invisible and almost completely undetectable, until it is too late. It may even be practicing manoeuvres on my fingertips as I type this article, and fully prepared to go into action, should I touch my mouth or my nose, or rub my eyes.
Many have lost loved ones due to COVID-19, and the restrictions we face are far from being lifted. Yet more lives are being saved than lost, and we have learned to live with limitations on our daily lives that would once have been unthinkable.
I did not find “cocooning” particularly difficult, apart from the boredom of having to do regular physical exercises, so as to keep reasonably fit. I certainly missed (and still do) my regular bus trips into town, and the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and liveliness of our fine city, with its bustling streets, elegant and spacious galleries, cinemas, theatres and just about everything that you’d expect of a great little capital city. I have always enjoyed using public transport and the way it immerses you in city life – the overheard conversations, the chance to observe changing behaviours among young and old, the good, the bad, the inspiring and occasionally even the intriguing.
As the impact of the pandemic began to bite, I had listened to the advice of the former astronaut Chris Hadfield to people who were cocooning: it was that they should set themselves a project during what was going to be a fairly extended period of self-isolation. In ways it would come to resemble a combination of house arrest and solitary confinement, and not all that different to what astronauts have to deal with.
One of my projects was the development of this website as a temporary or maybe even more long-term substitute for Ayrwaves. In effect this website is an offshoot of COVID-19, and no doubt there are lots of other projects that saw their initiation and finishing during those hours of enforced isolation.
Then there was the work on completion of a short film which, thanks to the wonderful and affordable technology that is now available in many homes, could be achieved without moving outside my hall-door. It was a cherished ambition fulfilled, and an awful lot learned in the process.
Like many, I have more books than I will ever finish reading, and the pandemic has provided a freedom from distraction that any lover of libraries and bookshops would welcome. In the course of a recent radio discussion I heard one of the contributors point out that reading is not an escape from the real world but an important part of life – as informing about the world outside, as about the world within us.
Of course I missed the socialising, but some of us have lesser needs in that direction than others. Nature fosters diversity – it makes for resilience. I did not miss the absence of sporting activity and I took a guilty pleasure in enjoying how, for a while at least, the weather forecast came directly after the nine o’clock news - without a long tedious excursion into a world of activities for which I have been provided with very little enthusiasm.
Of the books I read, I had purchased Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” just before I went into my cocoon. What a surprise it was, when reading about the adventures of a group of well to do Americans on their first trip to Europe in 1865, to learn that a recurring complaint was the way their extended holiday was being disrupted by quarantining regulations, and the delight that Mark Twain took in circumventing them.
The grandly titled “Silk Roads. A History of the World”, by Peter Frankopan, proved another excellent companion. Here again I was reminded that there is nothing new about epidemics.
Interestingly, Frankopan contends that after the horrors of the “Black Death”, that decimated populations in 14th century Europe, such was the shortage of manpower, that wages increased, and that as a result of this the feudal past began to give way to the emergence of a new middle class, and a much better deal for far more people.
Only within the past few weeks, I read in a business column in the Sunday Times not of green shoots after the pandemic – but the benefits of “creative destruction”. It seemed to condone the going to the wall of businesses that are no longer profitable and which have passed their expiry date.
Forrest fires are a good example of nature’s version of “creative destruction”: the occasional conflagration can dispose of excessive vegetation and leave the forest floor a lot tidier and healthier afterwards. Volcanoes and earthquakes are also great stress relievers from our planet’s perspective – but unfortunately they show no respect for human life. The current pandemic may even help solve the problem of the “pension time-bomb” – although, purely out of selfishness, I much prefer remaining part of the problem than the solution offered by COVID-19.
Will our world ever be the same again? Of course it won’t. It might even be a better place.
Perhaps we are already experiencing less colds and sniffles. This would come as no surprise - with all the hand washing that we are doing, and our newly acquired respiratory etiquette. And there are lots of other quite unpleasant infections that may not be proliferating with such ease since we have stopped shaking hands. Crime rates at least temporarily came down and the incidence of painful and sometimes serious sports injuries has probably reduced. We may also start thinking of creative alternatives to our “wet pubs” and our unhealthy dependence on alcohol.
On the other hand, viruses and germs have also to deal with challenges to their own survival, and tackling the virus that is now in our sights is not an easy task. After all, we aren’t the only life forms sharing this planet, and a characteristic of all life forms is that they want to survive. There is even a hypothesis that viruses may have been among the forms of life that were essential to the evolution of our species. Without them we might not be here today. It is s sobering thought that there are more of them than there are of us.
Looking on the bright side, COVID-19 may well set us on the path to becoming better people, more compassionate, better informed about the world of nature, and more appreciative of the gift of life.
Looking forward to 2021 Eamonn & Ann Tierney
I read some of the lovely pieces about how people are getting over Covid 19 and someone suggested I give it a go, so here goes.
But God where do you start with the devastation this has caused: with a shout-out to our unsung heroes in our hospitals, and nursing homes, and a special word for those in intellectual disability/mental health facilities, that is the cleaners, the care staff, nurses, doctors and managers, and all those on the front line that have best tried to cope and keep us safe. For all those lost as a result of Covid-19, may they rest in peace.
As I write, just recently, we’ve lost the great Jack Charlton, who brought us to the world stage in football, John Hume, a giant of a man who was the man most responsible for bringing peace to the island of Ireland. Much closer to home, our dear friend, husband to Pauline, father to Nicola, and family, the lovely Philip King, who had such generosity of spirit, and Mitch Mahon a friend in music, may they also rest in peace.
Since the outbreak of this pandemic and before I’ve had an interest in music - driving the missus mad whenever a song comes on the radio or TV with a “shush, listen to that, isn’t it beautiful”, or “turn it up to eleven” if it’s a good rocker, but yeah ok there’s more to life than music (or is there?) and that’s listening to the radio (where the best pictures are!) with the likes of “Doc on 1” or the political chat shows during the day, and with the best music on RTE radio 1, with the lovely John Creedon or Ronan Collins. A mention for our very own, the Great Van Morrison and the celebration on his 75th birthday. If you don’t like him or understand him, have a listen to the hour long interview he did with Miriam O Callahan. It’s really worth a listen.
Have you heard the lovely version by Sharon Corr of Moondance recorded recently? I’ve often thought wouldn’t it be great to have a music slot in Ayrwaves. God you miss the live gigs don’t you? We were to go and see 10cc in Vicar St in May, when it was postponed to August, and then postponed again to 2021. We are looking forward to that, if they’re still around. Remembering the great Peter Green from the real Fleetwood Mac, R.I.P.
On top of walking my lovely Lucy (that’s our dog by the way), spending too much time on Facebook, and The Journal, and at night probably like most, (ah go on admit it) watching too much TV and trying to catch the best music on Sky Arts, BBC4 Friday night, or TG4. Just recently I watched Neil Young in concert from the Ryman theatre in Nashville Tennessee – Brilliant!
TV Highlights that have stood out over recent months have been the Late Late Toy show highlights, the Late Late highlights from Gabo’s time, The Loudest Voice series, The Morning Show series, and “The Fisher King” still showing on True Movies. Highlights from Glastonbury, Courage series with great new Irish music to support from Lisa Hannigan (what a voice), Dermot Kennedy - who we were blown away by last year, and so many others, and of course anything from The Beatles ye ye ye!
Just recently we went on a demonstration at the convention centre organised by a group called Enough is Enough, on the reopening of day services for those with disabilities. It was carried by Virgin media news that evening, and we are glad to say it did make a difference - with a meaningful debate in the Convention Centre, commitments from our Taoiseach Michael Martin on the reopening of day services, and a decision not to go ahead with a 20 million cut.
The term “most vulnerable” may be somewhat over used, but in the case of people with disabilities/intellectual disabilities/mental health issues through no fault of their own, these people really are most vulnerable, and they must be protected.
We wish you all, together with your families, the very best and hope that you all stay safe and meet again safely whether with or without a mask.
Colourful Initiative Raises Spirits in Ayrfield Ailish McHenry
25 years ago we moved to Ayrfield - myself, Gary, our 2 year old son and baby daughter. It has flown in just like every older person I've ever met said it would. A few years later our youngest daughter, now near 21, arrived - born and bred in Ayrfield.
We have loved living here and enjoyed the early years listening to the schoolyard screams and laughter. However, the recent pandemic has led to a quiet, sometimes eerie, atmosphere in the area. So with no end in sight I decided to embrace this time. After endless dog walks, painting, reading and many failed attempts at learning a tik tok dance, I decided to brighten up my environment! It occurred to me that colour brightens up everything, hence my love of lipstick!!!
I saw people knitting colourful coats for the chickens on the internet and thought no I'd rather eat the chickens. So why not try some colourful coats for the trees? I was inspired by the fantastic entrance to Ayrfield and Rathvale created by some obviously very hardworking people.
So I set my mind to knitting a fairy tree which soon became 3 and soon to become 4! I loved seeing the endless parents and grandparents being shown the tree by the kids and the endless phones out for a quick snap of the trees. My favourite part was the children asking if I knew what time the fairies will be flying and if I've met some of them (I have).
So not only is it an anniversary for our family (25 years in Ayrfield) but it’s made an unforgettable year of joy because seeing lots of little smiling children faces puts a smile on everyone's heart. (See Photos)
How I fared during the Pandemic Peggy Connolly
Just before the coronavirus struck I went into Cappagh Hospital for an ankle operation called a fusion, where three bones were fused together and a nerve in my heel was cut.
The day after the operation we had total shut down. No visitors or parcel deliveries etc. A few days later I transferred to a nursing home for six weeks because I couldn’t put any weight on my foot and was in a wheelchair. There was total shut down there as well. Meals were taken in one’s bedroom, and there was no contact with the other residents - most of whom suffered from dementia. I hasten to add at this point that I was there for respite only (honestly!). It was extremely frustrating for me because anyone who knows me can say that I can be seen every day out gallivanting!
However, we all had to change our ways and I kept busy knitting, crocheting and reading, not to mention running up huge bills on my mobile phone. Ah! well it’s only money and I would have spent it anyway on trips to the coffee shops with my friends, if I was able.
I have to say I was never bored, because when I was young I learned never to say I am bored, because my mother would produce the polish and a duster - and that’s how she cured boredom.
On leaving the nursing home I went down to my Daughter in Clare for 2 weeks, which meant I had to isolate - meals in bedroom etc. Then another week in Tipperary with my elder daughter, where it was more isolating and keeping away from my gt/grandchildren.
During my time in the nursing home Mother’s day and Easter came and went, although I did help with some Easter decorations to brighten up the corridor. I would like to stress at this point that I developed the height of respect for our care workers including many from other countries. They showed such patience and kindness for those they looked after, and at times I wondered how they could do the work under such circumstances. They arrived in every morning cheerful and energetic. Some of them were unable to go home due to underlying health issues with their family, but there was no resentment or bad humour. Our Irish girls and boys were wonderful, but I can state without doubt that we couldn’t manage without our foreign workers. Many thanks to one and all, especially those far from home who were unable to return to visit family and friends.
I was reminded of 1961/62 when we had a polio epidemic when it was advised not to hang tea towels outdoors and all fruit had to be peeled, and we had to be vaccinated. I wonder how all those confined to a sanatorium with T.B. managed to amuse themselves without the aid of all the technology we have today. The treatment centres were outside Dublin and many families could not make visits very often because of the travel costs.
So let us count our blessings and enjoy the return of the wildflowers and birdsong that we were too busy to notice when life was so hectic. Now we live at a slower pace. Everywhere is so quiet, with no planes overhead, and so much less traffic.
A big thank you to former Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan who did such a tremendous job while dealing with the stress of his wife’s illness.
Wishing everybody health, both mental and physical, during this difficult time - which will pass. Hopefully sooner rather than later, there will come a day when we will look back on it and wonder how we managed.
Coronavirus Lockdown Olivia Callan
How I coped with the Coronavirus during the lockdown, was not easy. Like everybody on the planet I was scared for my family and all the people I loved. As I wasn’t seventy I didn’t have to cocoon, so I was able to go out to the shops for groceries. I walked every day, did work around the house and garden, cooked and baked and ate comfort food. I’m on several WhatsApp groups and I was busy sending and receiving posts. I also listened to the radio for news and music. I love and have a wide and varied taste in every genre of music.
I tried my best to stay positive during the Covid 19 Lockdown by keeping myself busy and trying to keep things as normal as possible. I got up early each morning, had my breakfast and tried to keep the day as normal as possible. Before the lockdown I met my friend and keeping our social distance and armed with face masks, latex gloves and hand sanitizer, we walked in Malahide Castle Demesne. The weather was glorious at that time and it was lovely to be out and about. There was a small coffee shop in the golf club where we could get a cup of tea or coffee. All the chairs and tables were removed but we could sit outside on the wooden benches sitting two metres apart.
When the Lockdown was enforced, we could no longer meet up. My friend had to cocoon, so I couldn’t meet her for several weeks. When the two kilometre limit came into force she travelled from her home in Malahide and I was able to meet her in Fingal Cemetery. We walked around the graveyard visiting friends and relatives who were buried there. The sun shone every day and it was very pleasant and peaceful to walk there. I remarked to my friends on several occasions, how much worse the lockdown would have been if it had occurred in the winter, with the dark days and nights and miserable weather when you couldn’t get out for a walk. As all the parks were closed and we were limited to where we could go walking and keep safely away from other people, the graveyard was the perfect place.
With time on my hands I decided to paint the back of the house. I painted the door and windows plus the shed door and all the surrounds. I started on the front of the house. I got the front door done and the windows started; I was going great until I began to see more of my friends. I was invited to several social distance tea parties. The table was placed in the middle of the two chairs in the garden we had nice chats and tea and cakes Thanks Pat, Audrey, Linda, Clare and Marian for the invites, it made my day and gave me something to look forward to. All my friends and I were very safety conscious for ourselves and others and followed the guidelines set down by the Government and the HSE.
Most of my friends have children and grandchildren and the hardest thing we had to deal with was not seeing our children or grandchildren. That was heart-breaking. One of my daughters lives quite near me and I would drive up to see her and my grandchildren. I would stand at the car and they would stay at the front door. On one occasion my grandson ran out the door to hug me and my daughter had to haul him back by his hoodie. We are a family that hug a lot and he couldn’t give me a hug, which was very upsetting for me, my daughter and all the kids. I kept in touch with my all my children, grandchildren and extended family and friends via WhatApp. I became one of those teenagers I was always giving out about, always being on their phones. I also used to complain about people putting up pictures of their dinner and everything they ate. I became that person who put up pictures of cakes and dinners I made and enjoyed. I thanked God for my mobile phone as I was able to face time all the people I love and couldn’t meet.
The first thing I did every morning was to check my WhatsApp for posts. I looked forward to getting all the jokes, videos and inspirational messages, they made my day. There were other good things about the lock down. I, myself, had more time to prepare and cook nice meals and every day I made a dessert. I made rhubarb crumble or apple crumble with custard and on the days that I hadn’t as much time, I just made stewed apple or rhubarb with custard. Now what I do is make a batch of crumble mixture and freeze it and you can use it straight from the freezer. I cook the apples or rhubarb and just put the crumble mix on a baking tray and toast it under the grill. Watching it like a hawk in case it burns and then I sprinkle it on top and then with the custard… delicious. I said to my sisters and brothers that I was going back to my childhood, when my mother made us desserts every day. This brings back wonderful memories of my Mam’s best, heart-warming comfort food ever.
Another great thing about the Lockdown, was that a lot of mams and dads had time to spend with their children. Precious time they wouldn’t normally have had with their offspring. When out walking with friends it was lovely to see all the families walking, cycling and playing together in St Anne’s Park.
Out of a shower comes a rainbow, and it has to be said that while the Coronavirus and the Lockdown were stressful, worrying and upsetting, it wasn’t all bad. We had to make the most of a bad situation. By taking advice and following the rules we got through it. We were blessed that we could still get all our groceries and I thanked all the staff in the supermarkets for being there every day. They were putting their lives and the lives of their families at risk. Thank God for them and our doctors and nurses and all the front line workers. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Reflections on Covid-19 John Fahey
After returning from a beautiful Christmas break in Cancun, Mexico, with my extended family, it was back to the very cold and dull weather of January 2020 in Ireland.
Just weeks later we were hit by a pandemic which spread around the world, named Coronavirus.
Our country sprang into action with an expert medical team led by the heroic Tony Holohan. He advised the government on all aspects of this mysterious monster and how best to avoid it. Mostly, Covid-19 affects elderly people like me. I’d never seen anything like it.
Personally I don’t like the word ‘cocooning.’ I find it patronizing and think ‘home confinement’ would be more appropriate.
The main challenge for those on lockdown was how to deal with this new situation. My own day was split up by listening to radio programmes. I quite enjoy listening to RTE Radio 1, with all round very good presenters as well as musical presentations. I also took up reading a lot of new books. For a break, I drove to the shops, stayed in the car while my daughter Miriam did the shopping.
It was good to get outside the confines of the house, a few times a week. Also, you could spend two hours reading the daily paper. Some of the books I enjoyed include, The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands, an account of a professor and his life with his pet wolf, called Brennan. They even travelled to Ireland! Then it was the biography of Johnny Cash, the country music legend, including his ups and downs. This was written with Patrick Carr. Next came James & Nora, by Edna O’Brien. This is a short but insightful story of James Joyce’s life. It unveils how he met Galway girl Nora Barnacle walking down Nassau Street and their subsequent life together in three European cities: Trieste, Paris and Zurich. He once said if the Dublin of his time was ever destroyed, it could be rebuilt through his works.
Another highlight was the life of black activist and abolitionist, Harriet Tubman. It’s called The Road to Freedom, about US slavery in the 19th century. This great lady freed 70 slaves and helped liberate 700 people. The author of this book, is Catherine Clinton. To me Harriet Tubman is a true heroine. She is listed to appear on the US $20 bill over the next few years. I also re-read A Terrible Beauty is Born, by Ulick O’Connor. This is a blow by blow account of the troubled period of Irish history between 1912 and 1922. It’s very accessible and only 170 pages. Currently, I’m reading, Born a Crime, by comedian Trevor Noah. This is an enthralling story about life, during and post-apartheid in South Africa. It’s a great read.
To lighten the load, I pick up Ireland’s Own in the newsagents with its many historical stories and articles about Ireland. On TV, my favorite arts programme is Nationwide, three days a week, and Prime Time, after the 9’o clock news – which I often refer to ‘the 9’clock bad news!’
My daughter has also shown me many films and documentaries during these last four months. These include The Story of God by Morgan Freeman, which is a wonderful account of world religions and asks the big questions. Other things I have done: watched the Saturday evening mass from Ayrfield church, which was wonderfully presented. We can’t thank the parish and priests enough; I cut my daughters hair one day which turned out okay, and enjoyed some social-distanced visits with my extended family.
As we move towards Phase 3 I’m going out a bit more now and enjoyed a trip to Howth last Sunday. Beshoffs fish and chips are always great. I’ve also returned recently to Ayrfield Men’s Shed. It’s great to see the lads again. Finally, I often sit outside when the weather is good. We feed many species of birds which come and go.
Coping with Cocooning Noreen Delany
For me, lockdown started on the 13 March when the churches closed indefinitely, speculation that bars and clubs were next and the growing sense of unease that we could catch this virus from each other without understanding how. That evening one of our grandsons arrived with a box of masks, another of disposable gloves and strict orders we were not to go out and put ourselves in danger. Bad enough that your children tell you what to do but when the grandchildren start - - well, maybe the home for the bewildered is beckoning. Then the country started to shut down, and when Leo Varadkar addressed the nation, a new word for over seventies came into use, Cocooners. It was easy to be scared - with deaths rising and new cases doubling and trebling day by day, the health service in chaos and that ominous phrase ‘underlying conditions’ when cocooners were mentioned.
I had to get a grip, prayed to the Lord to protect us and got comfort from the psalm Do Not Be Afraid. Biggest fear was for our children and grandchildren, some of whom were essential workers and had to keep going. The trick, I decided, was to keep busy and do all those things I always promised myself I would do when I had time. First be sure our house was free from any virus. The house and everything in it had to be deep cleaned and scrubbed bare, any virus here was in deadly danger. The smell of Dettol and bleach permeated the whole house. That lasted about 2 weeks till I realised that only 2 of us live here, did not go out and everything delivered from the shops was rubbed over with wipes that promised to kill 99.9% of bacteria, I couldn’t think what the last .1% might be. I was exhausted! Time to rest sit back and enjoy the whatsapp group for Ayrfield Circle of Friends. A way to keep in touch and check that everyone is safe and well. Great jokes, great laughs, great advice and great comraderie. Thank You Ladies you are all amazing.
Through the group I learned that Centra Edenmore were doing home deliveries of groceries just ring Helen. Brilliant! Members of Parnells GAA club volunteered to shop in SuperValu Northside and delivered to the door. Even went the extra miles to source Brown Flour for me when it was like gold dust. Such wonderful young people, but big, big, disappointment for me, Stephen Cluxton who organised the service never did deliver my shopping!
Most of our family do not live in Dublin and through it all we missed them so much, distance meetings in the front garden when the travel limit went over 5K were very frustrating but better than not seeing them at all. We learned about Zoom, had Zoom parties and raised a glass to each other. The usual texts and video calls kept us in touch with wider family and friends.
It was such a blessing that cocooning coincided with the driest and sunniest spring. The Garden was my saviour - something to concentrate on. My heart went out to anyone cocooning in an apartment with no access to outside spaces. Sourcing seeds was a problem and then getting them delivered was a patient wait, but gardening is all about patience. Seeds and plants have to develop and grow, so I spent a lot of time just peering at the ground or sitting in the sun waiting for some little shoots to show. They finally did, and now we are eating the produce and enjoying the flowers. My other great escape was reading, the books that were, and still are, delivered from Dublin City Libraries - by yet more wonderful volunteers.
These strange and scary times, which we now know will not end anytime soon, are made bearable by the kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity of neighbours and strangers.
Oh, all those important things I had to do when I had time? Not done, lack of time is obviously not the problem!
Reflections on the COVID-19 Lockdown M. Maher
As I listened attentively to the ramblings of Shelia Maher (no relation) on Sunday 21st June, on the Sunday Miscellany programme on RTE 1, it brought me back in time. On the longest day of the year, coinciding with Father’s Day, Shelia reminisced how her father taught her to repair a bicycle puncture. In her story entitled “ Life from over the Handlebars”, she explained how you had to locate where the air was coming out of the bicycle tube, then you had to sand the area down to roughen it, so that the patch would stick, while holding your breath to see if the task in hand was successful. I love the programme Sunday Miscellany, it is a mix of music and musings from radio essays to reportage, appreciations, memory pieces and poetry. The music included a rendition of “Silent, O Moyle”, played by Joanne Quigley on violin with David Quigley on piano, which brought me back to my school days. The programme concluded with the song entitled “In the Circle Game”, by Joni Mitchell. I was struck by the lyrics of this beautiful song “We’re captive on the carousel of time”. How apt are these sentiments during the wave of the Covid19 lockdown?
It’s true to say that we all had our own mechanism of coping during these trying times. Whether it was from lying on the mat to lying on the couch, walking, cycling, baking, gardening, learning a foreign language or acquiring an online PhD in something or other, most of us coped as best we could. Now that we’re getting back to driving, shopping and meeting people other than those we live with, there is still a real fear out there of a second wave. We know now, most transmissions takes place in crowed indoor spaces. Fear gets bored easily, leading to despondency. This is where we need courage to continue to obey the guidelines as outlined by Dr. Tony Holohan.
I’d just like to share with you some incidents experienced during the pandemic.
On deciding to do some retail therapy, I visited a local department store. I did so more out of curiosity to observe how the guidelines were being carried out. I noticed straight away that the fitting rooms were no longer in place. I overheard a lady who wanted to try on a dress, being told that she could only do so over what she was already wearing and if she decided not to purchase the said item; it would go back into quarantine for twenty-four hours. That was the end of my retail therapy on this occasion.
And this incident really intrigued me. My nephew, who is an entrepreneur/small farmer, experienced a rather strange occurrence. While working in his milking parlour down on the family homestead in Limerick, he had noticed for some time, that jack daws were building a nest in the roof. One evening he discovered some papers lying on the ground. It turned out that these papers contained letters written by his mother (my sister) to his father when they were going out together some fifty six years ago. My nephew was born in Australia, after his Mam and Dad emigrated, when the only way to Australia was by ship, took over a month to get there and the fare cost £10. Thanks to the jack daws who unearthed these letters, I will treasure them as long as I live.
Another experience I would like to share with you is the day that my grandson made his virtual First Holy Communion. Parents were given the choice of participating in this ceremony which was organised by the local P.P. and members of The Parish Pastoral Council. As a grandparent I worried whether this was liturgically correct, but who was I to be concerned? The ceremony was conveyed by webcam, one of the parents was requested to collect the sacred host from the church while the other set up a quiet space for the child to sit and watch the ceremony with their candle and Mass booklet. I must admit it was all very reverent and there was less of the hype usually attached to such an occasion, no expensive clothes, false tans, or lavish meals. My grandson was a very happy child on the day.
Now that I have come to the end of my ramblings, I’ve just heard of the sad news that Tony Holohan is stepping aside temporarily. After guiding us through this crisis, Tony is now needed closer to home. Three months ago, he was largely an unknown civil servant. Now he’s a household name. Simon Harris described him as “a patriot, an incredible public servant, and a doctor who has saved thousands of lives through his leadership”. No one would ever have guessed that beneath his cool exterior, that he was carrying a private heartache. As a nation, we owe him a deep debt of gratitude.
“We're captive on the carousel of time, we can't return we can only look behind
From where we came, and go round and round and round In the circle game”
Will we ever be ‘normal people’ again?
My Story during Covid 19 / Corona Virus Shut Down J. R.
I am a husband, a father of two and a grandfather of five children. Our days each week are filled with collecting one set of children from the Old Borough School in Swords and bringing them home to our daughter’s house, which is also in Swords. We also collect the other set of children from a creche in St. Lawrence’s Road, Clontarf, and bring them back to our son’s house in Clontarf.
In each case we mind the children for the rest of the day and organise the dinner/tea until their parents return home at teatime. We enjoy listening to all our grandchildren’s stories. We had arranged our annual holidays for Spain for both myself and my better half for June. We also arranged a special all family “get together” in Galway for Easter. Everything was moving along nicely.
Along came the 12th.of March when the Taoiseach advised us all that schools were to close. This was followed by a total lockdown of business because of the imminent arrival of a pandemic called COVID-19 or Novel Coronavirus. This was quickly followed by the cocooning of the over seventies which category I regrettably fall into. Well my first thoughts were to obtain as many long life items as we might need to sustain both myself and my wife during this long dark period that was coming towards us: like milk, tea, coffee, and dry goods etc..
All our care were working remotely from their respective homes when this dark period commenced. Our daughter and our son arranged that we should create a list of our weekly shopping needs, and this would be emailed to one of them who was designated as our help for that particular week. While this was a great help, most of the purchases were of necessity; but there were some we would probably have not got if we were at the shops.
Our garden got some extra attention but what was particularly lovely was that I could hear the birds singing daily. There were no planes in the sky and all was generally quiet apart, from the birds. It was lovely. The air I felt was much cleaner and I slept better at night time. We walked around the garden to keep our joints supple.
We listened to the news each day to hear Doctor Tony Holohan for the latest returns, which was very sad, as there were families suffering losses of loved ones at this very difficult time.
We clapped at the hall door to salute the medical and the frontline staff on one day during this dreadful time, there was only one other person on the road doing the same that night.
I conclude by saying that the medical staff of the various hospitals should be called medical soldiers because they went to battle on Covid 19. They won the battle, and I am sure that in time they will win the war.
I believe some form of recognition will be organised by the government authorities in time, noting the dedication of the medical soldiers and frontline staff for their bravery and work ethic in attacking and curtailing this awful virus’s development.
Thank you to Doctor Tony Holohan, An Taoiseach, Doctor Leo Varadkar, Minister of Health Simon Harris and the whole scientific team, medical staff and front line workers, who I think made me and everyone feel as safe as can be during this awful period.
A World Phenomenon Tommy O'Brien
A world phenomenon, unheard of, unknown, unreal, and to a large degree we are still in the dark.
Yes 2020 will be written in the annals of time, like no other time in living memory. For many it has been a nightmare and we must feel sympathy for all those who lost loved ones. Also we must be most grateful to all the front line staff in various areas of assistance, caring for the sick. Theirs was indeed a mammoth task. THANK you One and ALL, we are in your DEBT.
Having said that, lIfe goes on, and we have to adjust and readjust. Mindful of all that, there were also happenings all around us which brought much joy and pleasure. The good weather played a vital role, which enabled us to visit the garden a lot more. If you had the good fortune like I did to have a sizable garden, then you had an extra bonus. It was just the right time to sow and plant, cut lawns, trim hedges and propagate some beautiful flowers.
Living on a corner site, I met neighbours whom I had never spoken to before, but since time was in abundance they stopped and I stopped. We chatted, exchanged news, ideas and even plants. Geraniums are one of my favourites and so easy to slip and grow. These were exchanged for rose cuttings and even tomato plants.
I had the time to go into Google and I learned how to propagate plants using a 7 Up bottle and yogurt cartons, and how to create viable compost relatively quickly.
I think the most valuable lesson I learned during Covid 19 was how to slow down, give more time to my family, albeit over the phone or by Zoom .To appreciate the ordinary things of life, chatting with passers by, doing odd jobs around the house, painting and even talking to the bees as they explored antirrhinums and petunias. And most importantly, having lots of coffee breaks with my wife.