Monday, 20 July 2020


                            Illustration by Analiese Culliton Illustrations (Facebook/Instagram)

IRELAND is now coming into its fourth phase of what our government calls 'reopening the country'. I won't get into the politics. Whether I agree or disagree with any part of the national plan so far, is not important. If you're looking for controversy, head over to Twitter. Not my Twitter account: that's all rainbows and unicorns. Obviously.

What I've been thinking about lately, now that things are approaching The New Normal, is how completely out of step I seemed to be during the different phases of lock down life.

By out of step, I don't mean I was heading across the country when everyone else (who didn't have to travel further for essential work) was staying within a five kilometre zone of their front door. Nothing as radical as that.

It's just that, I didn't seem to do what everyone else was doing. Not because I was trying to be different. Just because I seemed to have other priorities.

Let me use the initial lock down period as a way to put things in context. Our whole country closed down overnight. Schools, colleges, creches, hotels, theatres and cinemas, restaurants and pubs, non-essential shops. Supermarkets, cafes (if they sold food), pharmacies and hardware stores remained open.

Thousands of workers, who'd previously spent hours in traffic, suddenly found themselves on laptops at their kitchen tables. The result? Eerily quiet roads, nobody on public transport, and yes, cleaner air.

And with it, the emergence of a new kind of animal: the second-chance cyclist. Bicycle shops were deemed necessary, as most do repairs, and the sales of bikes rocketed.

Suddenly, our quiet roads were full of people who hadn't been on a bike since their Chopper days, (remember ET?) and were determined to lose their extra weight at the same speed as their saddle sores.

I wasn't one of them.

The other outlets that did a roaring trade, were the hardware stores. I put this down to a number of reasons. One, thousands of people lost their jobs when the country shut down. Some, sadly, will never return to what they were doing before Covid-19 struck. And they wanted to keep busy.

Two, the Things To Do In Life list had suddenly shrunk. For those who weren't working on the front line (medical people, grocery store workers, delivery people) our lives were now, more than ever, at home.

We'd spent years glued to shows like Desperate Houses and Room to Improve, wondering what it would be like to have wood-burning stoves, open-plan living, and one whole wall of our house replaced with glass. 

But as the builders weren't allowed to work either, we had to make do with our best DIY efforts. I know people who finally stripped away their '90s dado rails, and cleaned and painted their houses and apartments from top to bottom. I hugely admire them. But I can honestly say that not a single lick of paint touched any surface of my house. I'm not proud of this.

Judging by the culinary masterpieces all over social media, thousands of people took up baking. For a while, flour was as scarce as in our local supermarkets, as oranges were during the war. I have this on good authority, not having been alive during the war. Or even within a generation of it.

And I knew it would become one of those war-time-on-the-home-front stories, when The Mother phoned me one day, to tell me the over-sized bag of flour she'd ordered from her local shop three weeks previously, had finally arrived.

I dutifully collected it and brought it home. The Middle One and The Boy set to baking, out-doing each other on a nightly basis, with a constant rotation of biscuits, cakes and sometimes, even bread.

I made a conscious decision not to deprive my offspring of improving their skills, and left them to it.

There were bigger lockdown surprises. One that will have massive (hopefully positive) long-lasting consequences, is how many of us welcomed new family members. I'm not talking about the number of babies born: I actually predict an explosion of births from December onwards.  

Nope, I'm talking about the huge number of new, bought or rescued dogs. People who'd never before taken the plunge, but found they had time on their hands, and all day to train and walk a new puppy.

When I wasn't tripping over them on my walks, I was liking them on my friends' Instagram accounts: cute pictures of pedigree pooches and magnificent mongrels. 

I have never owned a dog. My non dog-owner status remains intact.

My regrets, then. I regret I didn't recapture the feeling of freedom you can only get on a bike. And I regret that parts of my house, still has paint peeling off the walls and ceilings. I don't regret not baking. Nor do I regret not getting a dog: that's a commitment I'm not ready to undertake.

I did more gardening than I'd usually manage. And even some clearing out. Not Marie Kondo-style clearing out, you understand.  

I also wrote nearly every day, including a couple of short stories. I came second in a national short story competition. I read, I watched Netflix, and after The Husband bought a coffee maker, I learned to make a decent Cappuccino.

Small wins, but they are mine.


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Sharon. xx