Yesterday evening I was sent an invitation to join a private Facebook group for members of my secondary school graduation class. This June will be the 30 year anniversary since I did my Leaving Certificate and the organiser wants the class of 1991 to reconnect. The invitation to join is valid for one month. I have not accepted it and I doubt I will be doing so. Until I decline the invitation I can see all activity but they cannot see me. Out of curiosity I clicked on the link to the group – which now has thirty-three members (from a graduating class of 175 people). There was a number of faces I recognised; a smaller number I am already connected to via social media; a surprisingly large number of people whose names I knew, but who for the life of me I couldn’t remember anything about. Other names drew a complete blank.
As would be expected, most of the posts from members were announcements about where their lives travelled – from Limerick to Dublin; from Boston to Brisbane. It was quite a shock to see all these middle aged faces –looking well, but a lot more seasoned than the teenagers I remember. They were a fertile lot, my old school year – pictures of offspring abounded.
My bags are unpacked but I am ready to go. This evening I will be taking a train out of Dublin for the first time since January (apologies to Wicklow but Bray or Greystones while technically outside Dublin seem culturally part of the Pale). I will be going to Limerick for a week long sojourn. I am not taking holidays, my laptop is accompanying me so I can pretend to be high powered and executive all week, while not officially surrendering days of leave.
The six months I have spent in Dublin is the longest protracted period of time I have ever spent in one place without any time away – no cheeky little weekend jaunts to Amsterdam or down home. It’s been relatively painless. I have been fortunate to live in a spacious (for one) city centre apartment. Since day one of the restrictions being imposed, I made the decision that my self-isolation would not mean that I would reject all human contact. Meeting people for socially distant walks was always my modus operandus. I bit my lip when people would place social media posts castigating people for meeting with friends. I don’t engage with emotive no-win social media arguments ever though as life is too short. I didn’t reply. Mentally however I’d notice that those people berating those of us who bent the rules (marginally) tended not to live alone and/or had access to an outdoor garden – a far more spacious and companionable set up than living alone in a fourth floor flat with a balcony the size of a shoebox. I bit my lip and continued to meet my fellow solo travellers for walks while observing all advice on social distancing, hand hygiene etc.
There have been some highlights to the lockdown. Lidl is a supermarket I have gotten to know intimately. If your diet suddenly changes to three home cooked meals every day for months on end, then the absurdly over-priced IFSC shops needed the heave-ho. Instead I embraced the German budget superstore and broadened my cooking repertoire.
I am also now the possessor of a large freezer machine packed with enough food for a month. Heretofore said appliance stood empty in the corner for years on end. Thanks to the pandemic I have discovered than Marks and Spencer’s yellow-sticker deals can all be frozen. As a result I have a menu of posh food at my fingertips . I call it Protestant food- not for sectarian reasons of course, more to do with how British it all seems – scallop bakes, honey glazed salmon, chili flavoured spatchcock chicken, tuna fillets and the like. It’s a far cry from the boiled bacon and cabbage and turnips and boiled spuds on which I was raised.
Working from home surprisingly was a bonus in the context of being busy for forty hours each week. It leant an air of normalcy and continuity to life. The oldies station RTE Gold playing in the background, I sat at my desk looking out at the Luke Kelly statue and carried on my work routine as normally as possible. The calls with colleagues about work issues were often the only human voices I interacted with from Monday to Friday (I’d meet friends at the weekend). Obviously I didn’t let on to them. I wouldn’t be the type to overshare my life with workmates. I’ll never tell them they were my only contact – they’d look at me with pity from their suburban nirvana, and then judge me harshly when they hear that I was meeting friends for walks through out lockdown.
Mentally the lockdown was tolerable. Having lived abroad and alone for many years it wasn’t a novel experience going for extended periods of time without seeing family. The circumstances were unique in this instance of course, but my years in Amsterdam stood me in good stead.
The horror of what was going on in terms of deaths and infections from Covid-19 was something I tried to avoid. I used to watch the 9 o’clock news each night and try to leave it at that.
Occasionally I’d get a case of the panics. What if I catch this? Who will bring me food if I have to self-isolate? What if I die from it alone in my flat and my body is not discovered for months? What if I need to go on a ventilator in hospital? No-one will be able to visit? I’m Type 1 diabetic – that means I’m high risk if I catch this right? I’m going to get this?
The darkest day was the day I saw the Army ship setting up a Covid clinic on the river Liffey near my house in the early days of the lockdown. It felt apocalyptic and terrifying – the Army busy while the normally busy street was devoid of all other traffic. Seeing Sinead O’Connor singing ‘Light up’ in honour of the frontline workers that same night, chilled me to the bone. We’re all doomed, I thought to myself. This is the end. And then I saw the social media posts shrieking condemnation towards those of us who were still meeting people outside of their own house. If I catch this, then I’ll have no-one to blame but myself?
The next day I got up, told myself to pull myself together and made a fruit smoothie. Then I went for a walk around Dublin – a city I‘d wager that I now know as well as if I’d lived here all my life. My travels around the city were comprehensive, thorough and well researched. While I am not a fan of the Loving’ Dublin website, I can now proudly boast that I have done twenty one out of the twenty three walks that they recommend. Along with some other routes I discovered on my own. The 2 kilometre restriction wasn’t too burdensome when you live in the city centre. So much to discover. When it was extended to 5km it felt like a travel party.
My train for Limerick departs at 17.30 this evening. I initially booked it about two months ago when July 20th was announced as the date that non-essential travel was permitted anywhere in Ireland. Sometime later that date was advanced by three weeks. I kept my original booking. This evening I am getting on a train with my face-mask in place. I am very much looking forward to it. Once I get to Limerick Junction I will be on the home stretch.
Thursday was the day that I had planned to travel to Latvia and Lithuania for the first time. With the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic running amok, my plans were altered last week as soon as Ryanair announced that it would not be charging passengers to rebook flights for later in the year. Here’s hoping that by August this incredibly weird, semi-lockdown experience might have passed. Continue reading From a distance – Day 8: The Coronavirus Diaries and a trip to the theatre→
People who regularly read my musings will know that I have limited patience for marketing and PR guff. For example I make a point to avoid any food establishment that styles itself as an ‘eatery’. Adding an ‘-ery’ to the end of a verb does not a noun make. Likewise a food venue advertising ‘street food’ should – by definition – cook and serve the food outdoors. My little OCD heart demands this. When I saw that a new deli was proclaiming itself part of the ‘rotisserie revolution’ my blood boiled as I pictured the cocaine addled PR hack in some advertising agency coming up with this ‘concept’.
Which brings me to today’s launch of ‘Brand Limerick’ – a €1 million campaign by Limerick City and County Council is to promote the city’s reputation on an international scale. The PR firm M&C Saatchi will be overseeing the campaign with input from the students of the Limerick School for Art and Design. This company has previously done branding campaigns for New Zealand, Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, Georgia and others. Continue reading Brand Limerick – Atlantic edge, European embrace→
‘Brief Encounter’ – the 1945 British film directed by David Lean is often cited as one of the most romantic films of all time. Based on the play ‘Still Life’ by Noel Coward, it tells the tale of an extra-marital affair between two middle-aged people, whose relationship is played out in stolen moments at a train station. Continue reading Brief encounter at Limerick Junction→
The town of Dun Laoghaire was the host this weekend, to the Dun Laoghaire Vinyl Festival. While I remember my first ever vinyl record – the 7″ single of ‘The Riddle’ by Nik Kershaw as a child way back in the 1980s, I wouldn’t be a collector of vinyl. I was aware of the festival because I follow an old sociology lecturer of mine from my University of Limerick days – Eoin Devereux – on social media. He announced that he would be interviewing Noel Hogan from the Cranberries, about the recording and release of the Cranberries final album ‘In the end’, after Dolores’ untimely passing. Continue reading ‘In the end’ with Noel Hogan→
Say what? A musical about a misery-lit classic ‘Angela’s Ashes’? How on earth was that going to work? The book told the tale of a young Frank McCourt, whose Limerick mother Angela, and Antrim father Malachy move back to Limerick from Brooklyn during the Great Depression while Frank is just an infant. They live lives of abject misery and poverty in the tenement slums of Limerick, largely because of Malachy’s alcoholism. Dead siblings, hunger, relentless rain, fleas, consumption, outdoor facilities shared with the street, it was an unremittingly grim tale. Eventually Malachy relocates to Coventry, where he drinks his wages and rarely sends a copper to feed his hungry clan. Angela and the children are evicted, and she becomes the ‘housekeeper’ for her sinister older cousin. Frank takes work as a telegram delivery boy who vows to save all his pennies and return one day to America to make his fortune. Continue reading Theatrical: ‘Angela’s Ashes’ – a Limerick tale→
As it was a bank holiday weekend in Ireland I headed west on the Friday after work My train ticket was booked for a 4pm departure. As I was logging off from work at 2.45pm my boss – in typical style – rang me to perform an urgent task. Hissing venom internally I did said task. Continue reading Visiting Dolores→
Last last month I missed Dublin Pride. I didn’t mourn, largely because of how intrusive the corporate sponsorship of companies like Tesco and Nestle has become – these are not known for treating their staff well. Rumour has is that London Pride is even worse – apparently members of the LGBT community are only allowed to participate when invited to do so by corporate sponsors – the ordinary folk are corralled behind barriers to watch Goldman Sachs employees wave rainbow flags on the parade. I have hope that Dublin Pride can be saved from its own greed with a strong effort made to limit corporate hijacking of the event. It saddened me somewhat to miss Dublin Pride – having experienced my first one there in 1996. It couldn’t be helped however. I was being internationally fabulous out foreign. Continue reading Limerick Pride→
During the 1980s Paul Young sang the opening line to Band Aid’s ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’. This was because of his glittering pop career. The hits were plentiful – ‘Love of the common people’; ”Where-ever I lay my hat’; ‘Everytime you go away’ among many others. I was a fan. Not a huge fan though – in my pre-teen years I was more besotted with Georgios Panayiotou – better known as Andrew Ridgley’s bandmate in Wham! I enjoyed Young’s music – it seemed sophisticated to my ten year old palette. Continue reading Paul Young – No Chantez. Please→