Dublin on a sunny afternoon

My phone beeped to notify me that a new pair of jeans were ready collect in Dunnes’ Stores on Henry Street. I had ordered them online four days previously to prepare myself for winter. The time was 2pm.  Having spent the morning drinking tea, and exchanging scurrilous and libellous gossip with a friend in London I needed to take an excursion to get some exercise.  I decided to walk through Sean McDermott Street in the north inner city on my way to the shop. I wanted to see the Mother and Baby Home on that street.

My Covid-19 test

Sometime on Tuesday night, I woke up coughing. I was not initially worried. Even though it has been three years since I quit smoking, each year since – as the winter draws in – I get a  brief case of the remnants of a smoker’s cough. Nothing like the hollow, hacking sound that cough mixture couldn’t reach, back in the smoky days – but a faint, irritating condition nonetheless. When after two hours of coughing it hadn’t ceased, I started to worry.

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Should I stay or should I go?

It’s now seven months since the soggy lockdown was introduced. This initial stage – pre official lockdown – was when we were all sent home, told to work from there, and to maintain physical distancing from people outside your household. As I packed up my laptop and mouse on that happy Thursday, I was expecting to be back in the office in the Wastelands by April 1st.  I wonder how that bag of apples I left in my locker is faring?

Two weeks from now it will be seven months since the hard lockdown came into force. It seems like a decade ago. Back then I had a trip to Latvia and Lithuania planned for Friday 20th March. Sensibly I postponed this trip to the distant mists of the future, to a time when we’d be back gamboling through Fairview Park, with the global pandemic but a distant memory – September. September was last month. Both countries were – at the time – on Ireland’s green lists. This meant that I’d be spared the consequence of self-isolating for two weeks upon my return to Ireland.

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Bar 1661 on Green Street- an evening out in Dublin

Dublin has just entered the second week of level 3 Covid-19 restrictions, to tackle the surge in infection rates in the city. Level 3 means a tightening of the restrictions from Level 2 – where the rest of the country (aside from Donegal) now sits. Level 3 means that art galleries and museums are closed; as are theatres. House parties are limited to six people from outside your home – but all have to be from the same household. Bars and restaurants – whether they serve food or not are closed – unless they have an outdoor seating area, in which case they can could cater to a maximum of fifteen people.

‘Well that’s restrictive,’ I thought to myself. On Thursdays I received a message from a friend asking if I’d be willing to take a chance on having a sociable beverage on Saturday evening (along with the compulsory €9 meal – in Ireland bars that serve food were allowed to open, whereas bars that didn’t were not – Covid respects cuisine you see, and it stops moving when a substantial meal is being consumed – or something.)

I agreed. Three weeks under a renewed semi-lockdown as the days get shorter, and a distinct chill arrives in the air sounded unutterably grim. Particularly (as I have repeatedly said) for those of us living alone in an apartment without a garden. ‘We’re all in this together’ rings hollow when the four walls start closing in on you.

With a steely resolve I went online – I wasn’t taking any chances. With such limited opportunity for revelry I decided to make a booking to make sure we got a seat.

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Theatrical: ‘DruidGregory’ at Coole Park, Galway

I received a call from a friend a couple of days before the new lockdown for Dublin was declared; asking if I’d be interested in accompanying her to the Druid Theatre production of ‘Druid Gregory’ in the grounds of Coole Park in Gort on Sunday evening. She had acquired a pair of tickets for the sold out show. I had a very brief internal debate about the wisdom of traveling West on the weekend that the capital closed up shop once again. Considering I live alone, work from home and only meet a small handful of people at a socially distanced level on any given week, my decision was easy. I was going to the theatre for only the second time since March (in August I went to see Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ by Bewley’s Café Theatre in the Irish Georgian Society building on South William Street in Dublin.

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Weekender in Kilkenny

Kilkenny castle

Last week I was suffering from cabin fever. I have been quite conscientious about getting out and about in Dublin for walks during the Plague, and at this stage I could probably become a tour guide for Dublin with little training – if tourists ever come back to Dublin that is. By last Thursday however my patience was running thin. Would I ever go anywhere again? During normal times this would be the point where I’d log on to the website of Satan’s favourite airline and book a flight on a blue and yellow airplane, to go somewhere last minute for the weekend. Obviously this was no longer possible. I decided a train trip would be a suitable alternative. My destination was to be Kilkenny.

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Cinematic: ‘Mamma Mia! Here we go again’

I have a profound appreciation and respect for mainstream culture and entertainment. Music, film, books, theatre – I love a good crowd-pleaser. There is a deep enjoyment to be had in reading the new Marian Keyes; or watching the latest Ryan Gosling film after listening to Kylie’s newest album.  Cultural snobbery is inexplicable. These days the Beatles and Elvis are considered classic rock music; and Shakespeare and Dickens are acknowledged as literary giants. However all of these people dealt in mass-market (for their time) art. Their work was created to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. The only exceptions to my consumption of mass market entertainment are superhero movies and film franchises, which I find dull, dumb, reductive and greedy.

Last night I watched ‘Mamma Mia! Here we go again’ – the 2018 sequel to ‘Mamma Mia’ from 2008.

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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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Culture: ‘Somebody’ and ‘Siam’

The new restrictions to tackle the spread of coronavirus were released last night. As predicted they are an incoherent mess.

House parties are to be limited to no more than six people from outside your household (and these six cannot come from more than three separate households). Meanwhile minimum wage workers in meat processing plants, are allowed to go to work in factories where the recent outbreaks have originated. These workers predominantly work in cramped conditions, living in crowded homes, with up to ten strangers bed-sharing. Schools are re-opening in a few weeks and social distancing guidelines are to be observed. Many children travel to school on public transport. Travel on public transport is to be avoided however according to new guidelines. People over the age of 70 years old are encouraged to stay indoors. However the outbreaks are predominantly among those aged under 45. The leader Fine Gael – Leo Varadkar – didn’t bother turning up at the press conference with the other two equally useless coalition party leaders Micheal Martin and Sleepy Eamon Ryan. Micheal sounded stern like a schoolteacher scolding the nation. As the news was bad, and Varadkar is a PR obsessed snake-oil salesman, he wanted to distance himself from it.  It’s almost as if he thinks he is not a part of government, therefore equally responsible for the shambles of the new guidelines.

‘Siam’ at Chester Beatty Library

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