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Pandemic travel: Venice is calling. October 2020

As this strangest of years draws to a close, I am putting finger to keypad one more time to describe my travels in the time of pandemic. My final jaunt of the year taken before the second lockdown was imposed was to Venice as September turned to October. I will preface this post with my usual disclaimer. While traveling to, and while in Venice, I observed all physical distancing, hand hygiene and mask-wearing guidelines. I observed the fourteen-day quarantine period upon my return to Ireland – which as I have previously mentioned is not that difficult when you live alone. I kept this excursion entirely to myself again, not wanting to hear people’s criticism or judgement of my decision to travel. The only person I was placing at risk by my choice was myself. For the sake of my sanity, I thought my decision was sound.

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My application to become the new Minister for Agriculture.

Phil Hogan

I would like of officially nominate myself for consideration, as the new Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine for Ireland. Granted I have not been elected to public office and have zero experience, but that should be no bar to success in this role. The ministry for agriculture is like a game of musical chairs – everyone should get a go

Dara Calleary

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Day 78, Coronavirus diaries: Back to Life

It appears that life is returning to a version of normal. For this I am profoundly grateful. The drudgery of the past eleven weeks in lockdown, in a flat on my own, hasn’t been too oppressive however. I have been diligent about going for a brisk walk around my neighbourhood almost every day – within the approved travel zones of 2 kilometres, and later 5 kilometres from my gracious abode.

Since day one I have bent the rules slightly, by meeting friends whose 2 kilometre zone intersects my zone. We have taken socially responsible walks, maintaining a physical distance of two metres from each other. This was disallowed, but maintaining the spirit of the restrictions seemed sufficient to me. People living alone were being asked to sacrifice more than people in shared accommodation – whether that be with partner, family, friends or flatmates. Human contact – however frustrating it can be – is preferable to none. Being a person who was recommended to self-isolate because of the diabetes played on my mind. The idea of staying indoors for three months never seemed a viable option. Seeing nobody face to face wasn’t a consideration. As a high risk person, my decision to venture out, while adhering strictly to the lockdown rules for outdoors was at my own risk. It was a calculated gamble, but I was careful. Without a garden or any secluded outdoor space to myself I would have been driven demented had I locked myself indoors for the duration.

With a devil-may-care-Texas-playboy attitude, mixed with a hyper-paranoia about physical distancing, I set sail and explored my wonderful neighbourhood. Dublin as a city – and particularly the Northside – is now a much more connected place for me. I know which streets intersect with others; where neighbourhoods overlap; short cuts to various destinations. And I have taken pictures.

As we head to a further easing of restrictions in the next week or so, you can already see the city activity resuming. There are more people on the streets. Traffic – although still sparse compared to normal times – is increasing. More cafes, and restaurants are opening – takeaway only  of course. This is splendid – although my affection for the Cloud Café on North Strand Road and Il Fornaio Italian in the IFSC restaurant is now unassailable – the two venues that hardily remained open throughout the lockdown, providing my weekly posh coffee and takeaway pizza respectively.

The highlight of my lockdown in terms of places, has to be the Blessington Street Basin. It’s an old reservoir that has been transformed into a nature reserve. It is an absolute diamond of a space, hidden away from too many eyes. I stumbled across it about two months ago. Since then I have been back about ten times – such is the peace and beauty of the place.

An interesting discovery is the realisation that those metal electricity boxes throughout the city have been enhanced by artists, with some lovely paintings adorning them.

These streets that almost felt like they were mine alone, are being crowded again. This is a good thing.

I have had a fairly limited but consistent coterie of companions on my walks – particularly for my Sunday strolls. Sometimes circumstance (and travel restrictions) throws people together. And it can be a wonderful thing.

It is apparent that over the last week an adjusted version of normal life is resuming. It may be linked to the glorious weather I guess. Physical distancing may continue (maybe not judging by the gangs of teenagers on the banks of the Royal Canal each evening). Covid is still lurking like an unflushable turd in the toilet bowl of course. So long as people exercise a degree of common sense, caution and human decency and hygiene, then we’ll all be grand.

Dublin – as Soul II Soul might say – is back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now again. For that I am thankful.

Cinematic: ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

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Recently I have acquired access to Netflix through the kindness of a friend. Diving into TV shows that friends rave about is a temptation that I have so far avoided – it just seems like a commitment too deep. To watch a programme with six series will take an extraordinary length of time. Instead I have been looking at films available on the website. This week I have seen ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Mean Streets’ – both directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Robert De Niro, back when he was a good actor and before he started his more experimental career phase with movies like ‘Meet the Fockers’ and ‘Dirty Grandpa’. Both the Scorcese films were impressive, hard-hitting and violent. I needed a palate cleanser after that testosterone driven sequence of films. Therefore last night I decided to watch a Julia Roberts film – the 2010 adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Continue reading Cinematic: ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

‘Normal people’ by Sally Rooney and Lenny Abrahamson

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Last October I read the book ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney over a period of two months. You might wonder why a book of 266 pages would take so long. It’s well written and quite easy to read after all. It tells the simple tale of a heterosexual couple who start a relationship in secondary school in the west of Ireland, before continuing an on-again, off-again friendship and relationship over their university days in Dublin. Continue reading ‘Normal people’ by Sally Rooney and Lenny Abrahamson

Day 19: Theatrical reminiscences – ‘Dirtbirds’

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In a different world, a long, long time ago I used to go to the theatre on a regular basis. I had a highly developed skill for sniffing out early bird tickets, deep discounts and freebies for shows. I look back on that distant time with nostalgia and vague melancholy. I am being sarcastic of course. That was only three weeks ago. However it’s like another time zone from a planet far, far away. Continue reading Day 19: Theatrical reminiscences – ‘Dirtbirds’

Theatrical: ‘The Dumb Waiter’ by Harold Pinter

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Judder Theatre’s latest production is Harold Pinter’s one act play ‘The Dumb Waiter’. It premiered in Chaplin’s Pub on Hawkins Street last night. I was in attendance.

Pub theatre – long a means of staging theatre in the UK – seems to be expanding in Ireland. It makes sense considering how prohibitively expensive theatre rental has become, coupled with the fact that most bars have an empty upstairs room that can house productions, and allows the audience to enjoy a few sociables after the show. Judder began life upstairs from Doyles on College Green. The new location in Chaplins is a more comfortable space and a pleasant place to catch a show. Continue reading Theatrical: ‘The Dumb Waiter’ by Harold Pinter

Theatrical: ‘The Fall of the Second Republic’ at the Abbey Theatre

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‘The Fall of the Second Republic’ by the Corn Exchange officially opens on the main stage of the Abbey Theatre this Thursday. I have already seen it twice.

Late last year I purchased an ‘early bird’ preview ticket for a tenner for the Tuesday performance. On Monday however, as I was walking past the Abbey on my way home I noticed a queue winding its way down the street beside the theatre. That meant one thing only – the ‘first free preview’. The time was 6.15pm. Like a hot snot I darted across the road to inquire whether there were still free tickets available when they would be distributed shortly. The news was good. I had no plans that evening and watching the Monday performance would enable me to attend the ‘intimidating and bullying’ public meeting by Sinn Fein in Liberty Hall around the corner the following night. (This bizarre description of the Sinn Fein meeting was given by acting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who apparently believes that politicians and their parties must only engage with the public at very specific times before elections – maybe that’s why Fine Gael lost a quarter of its seats two weeks ago). Continue reading Theatrical: ‘The Fall of the Second Republic’ at the Abbey Theatre

Fianna Gael or Fine Fáil – the toxic twosome

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I’ve been watching the hideous charade of Irish political posturing over the past fortnight since the general election. It is enough to make you feel nauseous. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael need to get the finger out and start their coalition talks in public, as the entire country knows that they are negotiating in the background already. These parties’ pretence that this is not happening is a charade, and insults the intelligence of the electorate. Continue reading Fianna Gael or Fine Fáil – the toxic twosome