A fabulous account by a rural-dweller caring now for vulnerable relatives. Giving it her best online to continue with important volunteer pursuits. Lived in Dublin for years and has volunteered abroad.
My community Diary – some reflection
First of all, I would like to thank Allen Meagher for the opportunity to write about my experience through this community diary for 50 days. It is something I found great solace in doing and to have this platform to share my own ups and downs was extremely cathartic for me. So now what? Well, continuing to journal this lockdown experience is definitely what I am doing albeit on a more personal basis! Life is changing, ebbing and flowing and we are all adapting to things as best we can. That’s not to say there are difficult days, I think it’s safe to say there will be more difficult days ahead but what I have learned from this time is that taking things day by the day is the only way to live life at the moment.
Writing a diary is for everyone, whether you think you can write or not. It is not about the quality of how you write, it is about trying to articulate in your own way what you are going through on a day to basis. I like to write in short form but writing in more detail can really help to get into the nitty-gritty of what you are trying to convey and express. One thing that I sometimes do is morning pages, which is an exercise that is included in The Artist’s Way book and allows you to write stream of consciousness, just getting words on the pages. It is a way to clear away the clutter before you start the day. The Artist’s Way is a great programme for anyone who wants to explore their creative sides – it was written in the 1970s and offers great exercises and tools to tap into creative energy.
My own life working as a community coordinator with asylum seekers has taken a new approach and while we don’t meet in person, I am still offering support when I can. Only yesterday, I got asked to help a man to organise references for his upcoming interview to determine his future in Ireland. Deportation orders are still a very real prospect, even in the midst of the pandemic. There needs to be a major restructuring on how this is done. My hope also is that we begin the process to end Direct provision and replace it with a more humane, dignified alternative that allows for own door accommodation and kitchen facilities. Imagine not having these? Not being able to cook. Food is nourishment not just for the body but for the soul – we have to do better. I will continue to campaign and support my friends in Direct Provision and hope that one day they can invite me to their home for a meal.
Day 50, May 1st
Day 50 and after my diary entry about the incredible weather we have been having (for most if not all of this crazy pandemic /lockdown period) it is now pissing from the heavens. But it’s needed. The plants and gardens need a good dose of rain to revive growth.
I feel different these days. More present in myself. I completed a 21-day meditation challenge yesterday and feel it has vastly improved my overall outlook. There is a lot to be said for connecting more inwardly (not too much though – naval gazing as my nana used to call it) and being mindful of how to take each day as it comes.
There is a sort of spiritual awakening happening for people I know, myself included. It’s not something profound or otherworldly, it’s actually to be found in the simplest of ways. Nature, meditation, music and daydreaming. For me, not having access to my friends or colleagues is not easy. I miss human connections and being in the company of another person ( that I am not related to). I miss the feeling of discovering something about myself when someone says something that might irk me and how I might respond either through body language or directly. So, I guess what I have been doing is finding out more about myself during this time and sitting with the more difficult reactions a bit more than I normally would. Anyway. Today is Bealtaine – the start of summer and a time for hope, growth and health. Here’s a John O’Donohue poem:
Day 49, April 30th
How do we re-imagine the world as we used to know it? A few years back, I did an amazing course run by UCD, which was around innovation in entrepreneurship. This was entirely practical with everyone working in teams on various projects, but the main thrust of the work was around coming up with innovative solutions to problems.
For example, coming up with a new prototype for umbrellas so they don’t turn inside out during windy conditions. Or using a prototype to help solve putting back a child’s pram in two easy steps.
I see they are working remotely now and I would love to be a fly on the wall to see how they might be using creative thinking approaches and strategies to solve the many different and wide-ranging problems this crisis presents for people. The technology was a very key component in this, but actually, I think we need to move beyond always relying on this as a tool to our survival. If I was still doing the course I would focus on these:
- How to come up with a solution to the over-70s being entirely cut off from their friends and family. Mental health issues are beginning to emerge – what can be done here? Can small gatherings of five people, socially-distanced, happen? Also, how can we combat the loneliness and isolation that is now so prevalent for this cohort?
- For single people: What does dating look like now? Can there be a solution to finding love when social distancing is now normal? Discuss!
- Socialising: No pubs, festivals or gigs. Could back garden events become a reality? Mini festivals for the local community with a maximum of 20 people in attendance. *Genuinely think this could be worth exploring!
- What alternatives are there to handshaking, hand-holding, high-fiving?
- For children who don’t understand this, can a programme be developed to essentially train a mind to understand without fear and confusion?
I would love to be part of this and actually might contact the course supervisors and check-in with how they are doing. Anyway, as Fleetwood Mac plays in the background, I am having a good day so far. Some days are better than others!
Day 48, April 29th
I came across a hilarious, yet tragic, Time Magazine article about how Coronavirus could permanently affect the dating world. As a single person, all I can do is laugh because it’s comedy gold, let’s face it!
I decided to leave all dating apps recently as some of the messages I was getting were just farcical. Wanna meet up? Can you call over? Let’s meet for coffee? The standard questions asked on dating sites are now utterly ludicrous.
The safest thing in this era, according to the New York Health Board, is to avoid sexual hookups and instead become “your safest sex partner”. This made me laugh heartily because if you didn’t laugh you’d cry.
The article goes on to say that video dating may well become the new normal:
“Bumble reports a 21% increase in messages sent in Seattle, 23% increase in New York City and 26% increase in San Francisco since March 12, a day after the World Health Organization labelled Coronavirus (Covid-19) a global pandemic. The use of in-app video chatting on Bumble – a feature many users didn’t even know existed before Coronavirus spread – increased 93% across the country between March 13—the day President Donald Trump declared a national emergency—and March 27, with in-app calls and video chats averaging 29 minutes.”
So where does this leave me? Love in the time of Coronavirus. Who knows. Anything is possible, so they say.
Day 47, April 28th
Today’s entry might well be a stream of consciousness as I am trying to articulate what to write about, what to highlight, what to ponder. So far since the start of all of this -not to get too mundane – is that the weather has been unbelievable. Every morning when I get up, the light is pouring through my skylights and the skies have nearly always been blue. What is all the more strange (to me anyway) is that directly prior to this crisis, we were experiencing a very long spell of really awful storms and bad weather. Remember those weather warnings?
Speaking of the sky, looking up there recently, I am stunned to see very few planes if any passing through our air space. So the lessons we are now learning regarding air travel, will they be learned? We cannot sustain the pressure we are putting on the environment for much longer so hopefully, this crisis will be the start of new attitudes towards this.
Climatologist Prof John Sweeney of Maynooth University says the circumstances are “not the way we would like to tackle climate change” – it is likely to buy some time but proves to be a temporary respite. Irish Times article here.
I will probably ponder this some more this afternoon as I continue to dig up soil for my very first vegetable patch, which I will begin to plant soon. Strange days are also productive days for a more self-sufficient future.
Day 46, April 27th
It would be remiss of me not to express my outrage today about the recent reports of money spent by the government towards Direct Provision service providers. The Department of Justice paid more than €131 million last year to accommodation providers and hotel owners to house asylum seekers in direct provision. This money goes directly into these private owners, who for the most part, are providing substandard living conditions, food that is often not fit for consumption and – in some cases – abuses of power, intimidation and threatening behaviours.
My work as an activist and community volunteer does not stop due to this virus. I am still very much connected, not only to the asylum seekers who I am now friends with, but also to campaigns against the many injustices and abhorrent conditions they endure. As a support group, our regularly keeping in touch with them is hugely important, especially on these days when the threat of the Coronavirus looms over them just as strongly as a deportation order. I stand with them and often take stock of how resilient they are in the face of this crisis.
Being stuck in quarantine often magnifies my response to these reports and, today, I want to scream in disgust at how we as a country have failed these good people miserably.
Days 44/45, April 25th & 26th
The zoom calls are getting a bit tiresome these days and losing their initial novelty of being able to see family, friends and loved ones on screen. On recent family calls, it’s clear that everyone is starting to strain under this whole way of living at the moment. And we all miss each other hugely. That is until the kids appear. Recently as a family, we are all a bit downbeat, a bit fed up with it all and then our niece and nephew appeared on a screen and immediately the dynamic changed for the better. Having a 1-year-old and 3 year old, no doubt has to be exhausting but to see their faces light up in clapping and waving did everyone’s heart good. We all got in the spirit of cheering and yays and ooh’s at the 3-year-old’s storytelling skills. In these moments, we forget for a while just how hard things have been. We all savoured in the innocence and joy that was coming our way.
Recently, I started to wear a mask on my Sunday hours caring for my brother. This makes me feel protected both for him and me and I am a lot more relaxed around him as a result. We often watch TV together, usually a comedy like Friends or Only Fools and Horses. Sometimes I will stick on a CD of relaxing music as he drifts off to sleep in the afternoon. When I first started taking over from this Sunday duty, I was dreading it as everything felt amplified and my anxiety levels were high. These Sundays I have started to look forward to them and to be in a different four walls, having a bit of space to myself and just being in the calm presence of my brother.
Day 43, April 24th
The end of another week in the lockdown and no doubt but as the days creep on, the strangeness of this time does not wane. Talk of complacency is starting to happen – with stories of local people venturing out further than their 2km, “cocooners” sneaking off for the rebellious stroll on the beach, and gangs of young fellas drinking cans at sports pitches. Normality is a term that is not ever going to be replicated to what we used to know, but we are all at this stage craving it.
Then we have Greta Thunberg refer to normality in relation to Climate change, which of course is another massive crisis that we are all facing, whether we like it or not.
So the new normal? What might this look like? Communities all trying to grapple with social distancing laws when putting on events and gigs, with people having to stand far apart from one another in a very stifling, unnatural way. If we are to get all dystopian about it, perhaps like the film Contagion, people will have to walk around wearing wristbands indicating if they have already been infected with the virus.
What does the future look like? What is normal? And in the words of Ben Stiller in that hilarious puddle reflection scene in Zoolander:
“Who am I?” This pandemic brings existentialism to its very core and maybe in some ways, this is a good thing.
Day 42, April 23rd
I am sure like a lot of people things are feeling strained and frustrating. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for me living rurally and being a city dweller most of my life is not driving. Since moving back West from a long stint in Dublin, I have been faced with relying on lifts to get around. I have had countless driving lessons and was making good progress until around November time and gradually, as the winter months set in, my motivation waned and I settled into complacency about driving.
My promise to myself was – once the nice weather comes in, I could get back into the swing of things and work towards my goal of getting my licence for once and for all. And now? Well, now my goal feels as further away as is possible! I guess it adds to the frustrating feeling of being stuck, which I was already experiencing to a much lesser degree before the lockdown. Hopefully, once restrictions get eased I can start this process again. Here’s hoping.
So, that’s the feeling for today, but I mustn’t wallow. I have my health and so does my family. I am safe and I am living in a beautiful place. Life is not so bad!
Day 41, April 22nd
This time of year, I usually start looking into getting tickets for the many festivals and outdoor gigs on offer over the summer months. Myself and my best friend of 25 years have been going to gigs and festivals since we were both in our early 20’s. We have been to Slane, Oxygen, Electric Picnic, ATN, Féile among countless other outdoor gigs, including any on at the Iveagh Gardens, which is such a special setting to see a live band.
Yesterday, I went into such a bad mood when I heard about the new announcement not allowing gatherings of crowds over 5,000 until the end of August. It’s such a heavy blow for the industry, the artists, the promoters and for us the punters.
For me, these gigs and festivals are pretty much integral to my social life – they’re where I meet friends, run into people, dance, soak in the atmosphere, queue for the portaloos! I realised yesterday just how much I love the shared experience of gatherings of people listening to music, dancing, singing along – it is like this life-affirming collective of like-minded music-loving people.
And so now – the summer ahead? The word tumbleweed comes to mind. Ireland during the summer with no festivals or community events of any kind? No Tidy Towns or beach cleanups? While I appreciate that this is all to do with this crisis and how we all need to keep safe, this particular news has hit me a bit hard.
So today, I am indulging in some festival nostalgia.
Video: Sons of Kermit Instrumental Brass Band play Electric Picnic 2019.
Day 40 (40?!), April 21st
Aside from the daily death toll from COVID-19, one of the most shocking stories to emerge in recent days is how local businesses in Cahirciveen reacted to the fact that asylum seekers have now tested positive in the newly opened Direct Provision centre there. The residents effectively are not being served at local shops and pharmacies instead deliveries are their only option. Since when have we as a society become like this? I feel so enraged that we are allowing this to happen. Firstly, Direct Provision is the system that is putting the lives of asylum seekers at great risk and now they have to deal with this kind of prejudice.
As someone who works closely with asylum seekers, I can tell you that the level of stress and fear they experience far exceeds what we are going through. These people are not receiving any duty of care that we should be showing them now more than ever.
I fear for humanity when I read these articles and how cases of the virus is beginning to spread in Direct Provision centres. I fear for how we are continuing to deny them basic human rights, basic decency in the face of one of the biggest crisis the world has ever known. I can’t do much but I can write about it and I will continue to do so on the basis that the people caught up in a broken system deserve compassion, empathy and nothing else.
Day 39, April 20th
There is a lot of emphasis on nostalgia at the moment – lots of online challenges, like putting up photos on Facebook of when you were 20.
One that I’m surprising myself by taking part in is the ’10 Albums From Your Younger Days’ challenge. I find it a really nice thing to do on these days when one can feel overwhelmed or just weary from the way life now is – taking trips down memory lane can really take the mind off this.
When I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, listening to albums on CDs, cassettes and records was the only way we could hear our favourite bands or singers. We would buy NME or Hot Press (magazines) and read the reviews and then buy them in Golden Discs, HMV or your local record store. And, then if we were lucky enough to see them live, we would buy a t-shirt at the gig.
And that’s how the industry worked. These days, it’s a lot different and streaming services are completely annihilating the music industry by not paying musicians enough and essentially their work is being accessed for free, more or less.
If we think about it, music is what is getting a lot of us through these days. I am spending a lot of my time listening to music on Spotify and I am really starting to question this now.
We see musicians putting on their online gigs, asking people to donate a few quid because their livelihoods are now in serious question. I think we need to put much, much more value on how we source our music – buy straight from the artists themselves and definitely when this is over – go and see them play live. I for one, cannot wait to get to a gig again. Bring it on.
Some good ways are listed here on how to support Irish artists and musicians.
Days 37/38, April 18th & 19th
I planted trees.
These are at the very start of their growth and I planted them in small pots before I transfer them into our back piece of wildland. I am 99% sure they are ash trees (given to me by my neighbour) and this is a project I have been wanting to do for a long time. It got me thinking how the Climate Emergency has now fallen away into the background.
However, what I have noticed is that nature is breathing again and is thriving. The skies are empty of endless flight paths clogging up our environment and exasperating the air quality. The talk at the moment is about the ‘new normal’.
I am talking a lot these days to friends and family about how we are now in a position to actually create our own normality. By growing our own vegetables (I am eagerly awaiting my free seeds from GIY – an amazing initiative to encourage people to grow their own veg) and become less reliant on big corporates to sustain ourselves – could this be the new normal?
Despite how difficult this lockdown has been, it has also been a time for exploring possibilities in life and how we don’t always have to bow down to what we are being told is the only way to live. We have a choice to create a new way to live.
I firmly believe that mass consumerism is a type of mental illness! We are told that if you buy X product, your life will change.
We are told that the fashion industry – one of the biggest sources of waste of any industry – can make you feel younger, thinner, more attractive. We are fed lies and continue to feed into these and thus add untold damage to the earth’s precious environments. Yet, online shopping during this time must surely be skyrocketing, a sign that this need for us to seek out happiness through material goods is still strong.
Back to my trees and this morning – I was thinking about the people who have died from COVID-19 in Ireland. The numbers come in every day as just that – numbers. For every tree I plant, I will use these trees as symbols to remember those who have died and give more meaning than just statistics. Maybe it’s something more people could do too, just a small symbolic gesture to honour the loved ones of those who have died.e
Day 36, April 17th
When I first started this community diary, the initial focus was to be on my volunteer role working with asylum seekers who live in a DP centre locally. I was to talk about the many activities we have on a weekly basis and how having them in our town has rejuvenated and enhanced our community hugely.
I still want to do this, albeit in a retrospective way.
These days, while the lockdown has put everything on hold, we still keep in contact with them via our WhatsApp group. I also speak to several of them individually and offer support, friendship and an ear for them – as whatever stress we might be experiencing, this is nothing in comparison. What always surprises me is their resilience and their ability to stay positive and retain have their humour, their spirit and their lust for life.
So – this time aside – here’s what has happened since their arrival last summer (almost a year ago): We held weekly dance classes, drumming, English conversation meetups, cultural dinners hosted by locals, carpooling – with lots more planned. We held monthly coffee mornings – this is always a really lively, vibrant occasion. The residents get to meet the locals, have tea with them and new friendships form. There is always music and singing and a really happy atmosphere and these are the times I miss the most.
But I know we will have them again and meet them all again down the line. Our bond remains unbroken. They are continuously expressing gratitude and appreciation they have for us locals. They call us family.
When this is all over, while I want to continue our voluntary work, I am also campaigning for the end of Direct Provision in Ireland. In light of how badly the government responded to the crisis in relation to health care workers and protecting DP residents, it is crucial that the DP system ends and a more humane and dignified approach takes priority.
Who lives here, belongs here. And with that, a home has to be provided for everyone. Empty houses that are fit for purpose have to be options for everyone – the homeless included – who need a home. It is after all a human right.
Day 35, April 16th
The exact point where my 2km walk ends brings me back to my childhood home by the sea in the West of Ireland. So I find myself back where I spent my days hanging out as a child watching the sea and during the times when we were lucky enough to see school’s of dolphins, this would be one of the biggest thrills to witness. The dolphins or porpoises would jump and swim all across the length of the bay as we would all watch in wonderment. I spend time there now trying to scan the ocean to see if any dolphins are lurking about but not yet anyway.
This was also the spot when as a child I would watch the now grass-covered over natural spring well trickle down water and it was where my imagination would run. One day, I swore I saw a fairy there. A tiny miniature magical spec of a being. On other days it was the place I would escape to whenever I needed space. So it is a space of contemplation, reflection and yesterday I was literally the only person along the stretch of strand, dunes, pebbles and sand. It felt like such a privilege.
A few weeks ago I wrote about being at that spot and how there were throngs of people out, too many to feel in any way protected from the virus. I couldn’t wait to get home. Yesterday, as I sat on the edge of the cliff with my feet on the warm grass – I wanted to stay there all day. The temptation to go home. pack a lunch and a flask with my book was very strong. But I knew that leaving was the right thing to do. Maybe give someone else the opportunity to be the only person around. It is a unique and wonderful thing to experience so hopefully someone else had that too.
Day 34, April 15th
I sit down to write this and I don’t actually know what I am going to say. I find the process of keeping this diary going very therapeutic and healing even, at times. It’s a way for me to really check in with what this experience is like both personally and on a societal level – both I am gaining huge insight into. I haven’t been sleeping well recently and put this down to the remnants of the day’s stresses that don’t always leave me. I was listening to Max Richter’s 8-hour long album aptly called, Sleep. It’s a deeply relaxing, symphony of soft orchestral medley’s and although it didn’t send me off to a deep slumber, it really was very soothing.
I do wonder though. what is life going to be like when this is all over. I am hyper-vigilant to the point of paranoia when I am in the company of people – socially distant apart or not. Whenever there is a visitor I am anxiously watching their every move – are they far apart from my parents? Could they be putting them at risk? And then I wonder why my sleep gets affected.
But what is happening for me is I am tapping back into my creative side and painting on canvas, helps me to calm my mind and focus on the artistic process. This is a huge outlet for me and one that gives me immense solace and grounding in. As I write this the voice of Neil Young sings in the background:
“Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say. Just like children sleeping, we can dream this night away. But there’s a full moon rising, let’s go dancing in the light.” Looking forward to dancing again. In the moonlight, maybe. Who knows!
Day 33, April 14th
A good friend of mine tested positive for the virus – he is recovering but still has a way to go. Hearing this has given me some perspective and has brought it home to me just how precarious things are. He hasn’t been able to get out of his house in over 3 weeks. It makes me feel all the more thankful that I live where I live. I don’t know if I’ve ever known gratitude like it before. When I lived in Dublin in a turbulent house-sharing situation, I find perspective on my life now and how living in my own place with oodles of space in the back garden makes things feel safe, secure and somewhat reassured.
The talk of “when this is all over” feels weighted in unknowns, as if we have a much longer road ahead than any of us are willing to admit. But what this does do is bring hope and something to look forward to. That first hug, seeing friends again, going out for a meal, going to a gig or a festival, visiting an art gallery, going on holiday, having a spa day, having a massage, being with people again! Human contact is the vital energy in our lives and having it ripped away from us feels really devastating in some ways. I had an interesting moment with my counsellor recently as we finished our session on Zoom, we joked about how this would normally be the point when we talk about getting out, meeting friends, reaching out to people. While we can still do this online, not having the human connection in person can feel like such a strange void. It’s emotional writing this. Never needed a hug as much as I do now. Maybe a virtual one will do for now.
Day 32, April 13th
Bank Holiday Monday never felt so underwhelming. No waking up with that sense of “ahh no work today” or that “I can finally get that lie-in that I so clearly deserve” novelty. This year, a bank holiday blends in with all the days that have gone before where our new normality is still not feeling quite real. I feel like I am in some sort of parallel universe. The birds sound louder, the people all stay indoors and the beaches are empty.
I often revisit the writing of the late John O’Donohue who was a deeply spiritual man who wrote many books about Celtic spirituality and his own interpretations of ancient Irish wisdom. One of my favourites that bring solace during difficult times is below:
“Solitude is one of the most precious things in the human spirit. It is different from loneliness. When you are lonely, you become acutely conscious of your own separation. Solitude can be a homecoming to your own deepest belonging. One of the lovely things about us as individuals is incommensurable in us. In each person, there is a point of absolute non-connection with everything else and with everyone. This is fascinating and frightening. It means that we cannot continue to seek outside ourselves for things we need from within. The blessings for which we hunger are not to be found in other places or people. These gifts can only be given to you by yourself. They are at home at the hearth of your soul.“
Excerpt from the book, Anam Cara
Days 30/31, April 11th & 12th
With another three weeks of lockdown ahead, things feel like they have entered into a new phase – one where we will have to dig deep to keep going, try not to falter and keep our mental health going through these extraordinary times. I feel very fortunate to have access to my therapist on zoom every week and counselling has been keeping me grounded and helping me to filter through quite complex feelings and emotions that have been coming up.
Coincidentally, as I write this there is a song on the radio with the lyrics “some people suffer in silence” and while not everyone has the luxury of accessing counselling online -there are things we can all do to help ourselves get through. These don’t need to be anything complicated or contrived – simplicity is the key for me getting through things.
I wanted to write my own shortlist of ways in which I have been minding my mental health – not always easy, far from it but on the days when I get overwhelmed – some of these are a total blessing in my life.
- Breathe in for 4, hold for 4 and breathe out for 7. If you can do this outside in nature, all the better
- Write 5 positive things that happened in your day
- Put on music from your past, music that might evoke a happy memory. Take a trip down memory lane!
- Listen to a podcast for your 2km walk
- If you’re cocooning – keep in regular touch with your family and friends. If this is not an option, reach out to Alone. Their support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024
I am now my brother’s Sunday carer. During this time, I am taking over from my father and while initially, this was daunting, I am now feeling really thankful I am able to not only share time with him and keep him safe but knowing I can do this while my father can’t is really a blessing. We had a nice day – he was much more alert than usual and managed to smile and laugh a bit. These are the moments that I relish in and feel so grateful for.
Day 29th, April 10th
There seems to be a plethora of online challenges and nominations for people to get busy with during this time. It’s all about getting motivated, feeling positive and this very glib “we will get through this together” narrative. I really feel like this is a lot of pressure on people who are already struggling with the day to day tasks of life in this abnormal time. If you are getting up, doing your thing, getting on with things as best you can then, I think that is more than enough.
Having said all that, I think it’s fitting in this bizarre and confusing time that I will, of course, contradict all of the above! I have been asked by a very good friend of mine who practices a lot of personal growth work and has studied psychology to take part in a 21-day Abundance challenge, devised by Deepak Chopra. I only just started and it has given me a sense of calm already. I spent about an hour coming up with 50 people who have influenced me in my life and after this task, I did a short meditation, which was soothing and grounding. Thinking about all the people made me feel a wave of gratitude that was so refreshing and it eased my anxiety hugely. I am not new to meditation but I have found it very difficult to engage with it these days, apart from short breaks to do some mindful breathing. So this is welcome and I hope I can engage with it over the course of the coming days and weeks. Another meditation I regularly do, which is very doable, is a short 10-minute meditation by Mark Williams, who has one of the most relaxing voice I have ever heard. Worth listening for this alone!
There’s a stillness to the day that feels very calming – when this all first started there were a couple of days like this but they had a more eerie, ominous quality, not at all like today. I have recently started picking branches and sticks from the small woods next door as kindling and firewood for my stove and it is probably one of the most satisfying parts of my day now – my connection to nature just keeps getting stronger each day.
Day 28th, April 9th
As the numbers of cases rise here at a steady pace and the death rates are increasing, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. I want to know how other countries are dealing with this and as Vietnam is a country very close to my heart – my focus is there. To date, the country has surprisingly low numbers of cases for a country with such a huge population of 45 million and only 251 cases nationwide.
Speaking to friends there, the key measure for anyone travelling back to Vietnam is compulsory quarantine . Tens of thousands of people have to stay in these camps for 14 days after arriving back into the country. An extreme measure for an extreme situation.
Imagine if we did this here? Imagine if those travelling back from Cheltenham were marched as a group into a designated quarantine camp – might this have reduced the cases?
The fact that people are still travelling into Ireland is just staggeringly reckless. Ferry companies are still operating as normal. Holidaymakers in deep denial as they make their way to their holiday homes in the west. The sense of entitlement is breathtaking.
The other point that I am hearing time and time again is the use of wearing masks in Vietnam is a huge factor for reduced cases. Social distancing in Vietnam is near impossible so mask-wearing is compulsory. I am finding it very hard to fully comprehend why we are not doing this on a more urgent level here. I know there is a shortage of PPE for our frontline workers and people are now being resourceful and making their own but if this was a mandatory practice like it is in Austria, we might have a stronger chance of beating this. I need to take a deep breath after this diary entry. Breathing mindfully in a time of deep anxiety is something I do regularly these days.
Anyway, I could go further into this rabbit hole but for now, I will leave it. Back to Lyric Fm and a great book I’ve started called Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen. The day is bright, the birds are still keeping me cheerful and most of all I have my health.
Day 27, April 8th
Coming up to a month of this life-changing experience – there are some things I have learned that have been an invaluable lesson. Appreciating the moments in time – the feeling of the ground beneath my feet as I wander the back land, which is overgrown and delightfully wild. Accompanying this is the bird song, which feels like it’s the main soundtrack of my life at the moment. Some days I turn off the music and just sit and listen to this, trying to identify what bird is singing. I found this fantastic website recently, which allows you to do just that – it’s a great little resource and such a nice distraction.
Of course, keeping up to date with the news is also part of the day, although, for my mental health, I try to keep this to a minimum. Today on RTE 1 Sean O’Rourke show, the ongoing situation in Direct Provision centres is still not being properly managed by the government. The issue for health care workers who are living in these centres is particularly concerning with no chance to self-isolate. This is a ticking time bomb and if urgent measures to move these people out does not happen soon, we are in trouble.
And then the stigma attached to the residents who have the COVID-19 virus is such an added strain for these asylum seekers and so easily avoided. If the government took the right steps to protect these people in the same way they are for others in our society, we might actually have social justice and equality. However, this is not the case at the moment. My friends who are in this situation are living in fear, which I cannot imagine. All over the news is about the new legislation to stop people from travelling to their holiday homes and caravans in the west over Easter. These empty residential buildings not to mention the countless number of empty hotels that could be utilised to accommodate the vulnerable in our community during this crisis – is this the failure of society that we cannot put our own privilege and pass it on to another who’s very life could depend on it?
Day 26, April 7th
Some days are better than others. Some days, the opportunity to be in nature and notice the wildlife burst open at the start of Spring can often overtake the anxiety and anxious feeling that this pandemic brings. Then there are days like today. When no matter how hard you try to snap out of it, it’s not happening. The unsettling feeling is sticking and there’s no point in fighting it. So what can help? Music is always a leveller so this is usually the time I will blast the volume on some of my favourite albums or in these modern times, Spotify playlists.
Cooking also helps and I find I am being more creative in the kitchen these days. Today for lunch is pearl couscous with rocket, almonds/hazelnuts, cherry tomatoes, hummus and a boiled egg. It’s a simple dish but very tasty with balsamic vinegar to make it a bit punchier.
Reading a book takes the edge off, house cleaning, laundry normal stuff help.
I suppose all these distractions help with the loneliness. Today I feel lonely and although I get to see close family members, I haven’t seen my friends for longer than is the norm. I miss them. I miss a hug. I miss going to gigs. Maybe this is the grieving process of what life used to be like. My friend who lost her mother last year reminded me that this feeling a lot of us are going through is like grief.
I stood outside drinking tea watching my neighbour’s 2-year-old twins, playing together. Oblivious to what is going on and it was lovely to just watch them interact with each other, it gave me hope on a day when I needed it the most. The other day I saw a fox wandering through the fields and it was the highlight of my day to see this usually nocturnal animal out and about in daylight. These are the moments to get us through.
Day 25, April 6th
I want to highlight the efforts of the Irish community and social enterprise efforts around the country. I am in awe of how well we are doing in this country – we are all finding it tough but it is starting to make a difference. There is a palpable feeling that through these efforts, we will get through this and come out the other end. We are not there yet though and until then, here are just some of the many amazing initiatives happening that are making a difference.
- Irish Men’s Sheds launched #CallThemforACuppa campaign.Speaking on the launch of the campaign, CEO of IMSA Barry Sheridan said:“We always say that the ‘kettle is the most important tool in the shed’, a key part of any day in a shed is gathering around the table, having a cup of tea and a chat. While you can’t call in, you can call. The next time you’re sitting down for a cuppa, think of someone who is at risk of social isolation and give them a call.
- Alone has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024
- Foodcloud, the social enterprise that redistributes surplus food to communities in need, is launching an emergency food and funding appeal to aid their charity partners in distributing food parcels.
“Our emergency response efforts will be in addition to our day-to-day activities and we are now appealing for food and funding support to meet the growing demand. We are preparing to meet the additional demand for food parcels by establishing new strategic partnerships with community organisations that will support the ever-changing needs of individual communities across Ireland. Through these partnerships, we are accelerating our support of families whose children normally get free school meals, the elderly with underlying health conditions and those who need to self-isolate.”
Day 23/24, 4th & 5th April
What is wonderful about this 2km limit is finding new byways and laneways and backroads and streams to explore nearby. There is something delightful about noticing something in a field – today I saw a green bike laying on the grass as if waiting for its owner to take it off for a spin. I love seeing old baths in fields or even just fading paintwork on a bridge – I find I am noticing things more acutely.
Sadly, I am also noticing a depressing amount of people’s rubbish trapped within brambles and bushes along all of my walks locally. The most recent common sight is of disposable gloves carelessly strewn on the road. When our medical frontline staff could do with PPE, this is just appalling lack of respect.
To pass time on the rainier days, I, like most people, am online a lot. Sometimes seeking out the more positive content I can find and I am loving this new phenomenon of wild animals venturing out of their habitats and roaming the empty urban streets. As international governments stepping up lockdown effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, wild animals have been spotted exploring the empty streets of some of the world’s largest urban areas. One of my favourites is an unnamed endangered mammal not seen until 1990 resurfaces for the first time in India during a lockdown
Also loving this one of a fox spotted at Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin
Yesterday, on a nature walk with my cocooning father, we ventured out the back wilderness, which is half an acre of divine wilderness. We listened to the birds and he showed me where a badger had been digging – wonder might we see him wandering around curiously like these animals? Hope so!
Day 22, 3rd April
It doesn’t feel that long ago when I was watching reports from Wuhan and how quickly the virus escalated into a full lockdown there. I was following it, thinking how weird it must be for people “over there”. Even watching a video blog from a young Irish English teacher there who gave a daily video account of the weekly shopping and how everyone had their temperature checked before going into supermarkets. Watching this with a sort of morbid fascination as something that would never happen here – the thoughts of it never even entered my mind or if they did they were fleeting. And so here we are.
I was speaking to a friend in the US recently telling her about how this situation is making us all pull together and that community efforts and volunteering was the thing that is linking and supporting the vulnerable especially. I could tell that she felt a pang of envy hearing this as she used to live here and it was probably that very aspect of Irish life that she misses the most.
Nationwide, the volunteering efforts are truly amazing. There are offers of PPE, people making masks, offers of shopping deliveries, An Post now are checking in on elderly people living in isolated areas – the list goes on. It still feels like such an odd concept to be in this together yet staying apart but for now, it is working – let’s keep flattening the curve.
Day 21, 2nd April
Zoom calls with our asylum seeker friends can at times be sombre. Last night, we spoke to a few of them and while the tone is upbeat mostly, there are these lulls in the conversation where none of us is speaking.
There is a palpable feeling of stress and fear for them. We found out that finally the government are taking measures to move Direct Provision residents out into safer living environments and nine of our friends move to Galway on Saturday.
What is always a surprise to me is how sad they are, leaving our little town.
What our community has been giving them is unwavering support and solidarity, particularly now. As a volunteer, I don’t take stock of this enough. How our efforts are impacting these people goes very deep; to feel that sense of belonging, of welcome and compassion during a time of turmoil must boost morale hugely.
These men never complain, or at least rarely. They accept their situation with tenacity, resilience and grace and it amazes me.
A few days ago, I met one of them from across the eerily empty street of our town. He was deep in thought, but I shouted over to him asking how he was doing. “We survive, we have to” was his answer.
I wanted to go over to him and offer a hug, but, of course, I couldn’t.
Day 20, 1st April
One of the biggest challenges these days is being in the middle of the three most vulnerable members of my family. The burden of responsibility can sometimes weigh heavy, particularly in relation to my parents.
Both are 70 and sometimes the role reversal of my new found position in the family can be a bit daunting. There are a lot of similar accounts from people in the same boat as me, describing their parents like “elderly teenagers who can’t stop complaining about how the rules are so unfair and don’t really apply to them”.
The conversations these days are to do with too much screentime and not enough fresh air and exercise, which I am pretty certain are the types of arguments going on for parents with teenagers! I never imagined I would be in this scenario, but I am one of many.
My brother, in the latter stages of MS, is being cared for at home lovingly by his devoted and dedicated team of carers who are like his second family. We would be totally lost without them.
Day 19, 31st March
I’ve been reflecting on escapism and my own experiences of travelling. Now that the only travelling I am doing these days is walking within a 2 km radius, it is nice to remember a time when I was living and working in Vietnam and what life was like for me at that time.
One of the things that struck me about the people there was their resilience and their ability to innovate and overcome challenges by digging deep, finding new ways to earn money, finding new ways to survive.
When I read how well the country is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, I wasn’t surprised: A recent Financial Times article describes how the government there took radical early measures for its 96 million population. You can read the article here.
It got me thinking about the children and young people that I used to work with who were all part of an art and music project I managed 10 years ago. When I spoke to my Vietnamese friend who lives in France recently, she gave me updates on how some of these young people are now. Many have their own children now and all of them run their own businesses.
I was delighted to hear how well they’re doing, although I am sure they still all have big challenges to overcome. Saigon is a huge city and has become very westernised in recent years, making it more and more difficult for smaller businesses to flourish. But these young people have strong mindsets, good value systems and are savvy enough to get by. More power to them.
Day 18, 30th March
There was only one thing on my mind over this weekend and that was that I had run out of chocolate. This is not the time to deprive myself of this and I wasn’t going to! It was time to order our weekly shopping and because last time, they forgot my last order. I was not going to let this happen again and so in my desperate plea asking them not to omit this essential from my shopping list, I could not have been clearer (see below: note how I urgently used capital letters for the word please and I highlight in bold the word any). Desperate times call for desperate measures:
3 x lindt bars chocolate – sea salt, orange, hazelnut (near health food shelves)
PLEASE substitute for any 3 bars of choc similar size.
Once again our local community efforts are playing a blinder. Our shopping was delivered (with my chocolate) and we were also treated to homemade soup and cake by the local restaurant. Aren’t we the lucky ones!
Day 16th-17th, 28th & 29th March
There are many surreal elements to this life in quarantine, but none more so than walking through my home town on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and not a person or a car around.
The streets were empty bar one or two people in the distance and the odd car passing by slowly. We are now in lockdown; although the government doesn’t want to label it that, this is the reality of life now.
Since yesterday, the government has also taken extreme measures for people over 70 who now are not allowed to leave their homes – a very difficult thing for older people to digest. Understandably so.
When we step out of our new “normal” and start to read about what is happening in Spain, Italy and now New York city, it really makes me feel very lucky to live where I live.
There are open spaces galore, beaches, fields and lovely remote back roads to walk on and where you would rarely meet another soul. It is a privilege to have these at our doorsteps.
The government response to this crisis has been swift, empathic and serious – no chances are taken, no measures too far as they are doing their utmost to protect us, the citizens of this country.
The leadership has been impressive and steady and our own president Michael D. Higgins shared his poem ‘Take Care’. When I see Boris Johnson and Donald Trump and the lack of real compassion, leadership or strategy to deal with this crisis, it makes me feel proud to be Irish knowing that our politicians – in the face of adversity – are doing everything in their power to help.
In the journey to the light,
the dark moments
should not threaten.
that you hold steady.
Bend, if you will,
with the wind.
The tree is your teacher,
roots at once
in the soil
Your gentle dew will come
and a stirring
to go on
towards the space
In the misery of the I,
it is easy to cry out
against all others
but to weaken
is to die
in the misery of knowing
the journey abandoned
towards the sharing
of all human hope
is the loss
of all we know
of the divine
for our shared
Day 15, 27th March
At the end of this week, gratitude is a word I keep thinking about and how much it holds weight at this time.
At 8 pm, my parents and I stood outside on a chilly Spring night under the watchful sliver of the new moon and we applauded. We were the only ones on the road doing it but it felt so important to honour our frontline medical workers during this crisis. It felt right.
As news floods in, day after day, we cannot but be aware of the situation we are in. But for frontline staff who are working under unimaginable challenging circumstances… we need to send gratitude their way.
But the government also has its part to play to support them in all aspects of what lies ahead.
I wanted to end this week’s diary entry with humour, which is the one thing that keeps me going on these times. The comedy trio Foil, Arms and Hog have a hilarious video reflecting this era we are in (see below).
Days 13-14, March 25th-26th
I have to go into the town today to pick up my prescription. Normally, I would be looking forward to the walk there, but on these days venturing away from the confines of my home feels daunting. I no longer do my shopping and, instead, a neighbour picks it up and drops it to our house – she gets out of the car and I take the shopping out from her back seat. She walks a few paces away – a safe distance watching me and we’re chatting away, trying to make normal a very unreal and surreal encounter.
The sunny days are alleviating the strain of what people are going through around the country. More and more are heeding the guidelines and, when out on walks, I notice that the volume of traffic has reduced significantly.
This makes for a lovely calm, peaceful walk in nature and the bird song seems so vibrant on these days. There is such hope in this.
Speaking of Hope – I have started to read a book by Ruairi McKiernan called Hitching for Hope. This is an account of his time hitching around Ireland in a quest to find solace in a very tumultuous time in the country in the middle of a brutal recession with harsh austerity measures.
There is much similarity to what we are now experiencing at this moment and reading his words bring much comfort and a sense of solidarity as we all get through things as best we can. Collectively, we are reaching out and supporting those who most need it and Ruairi’s words soothe immensely. Highly recommend.
You can order Ruairi’s paperback from Eason‘s (best value at €11.24 including delivery) Kenny’s, Waterstones, O’Mahoney’s and most good bookshops. Deliveries will take place once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. The Kindle edition is currently available through Amazon.
Days 11 – 12, March 24th
Time seems to be in a perpetual state of vagueness and much harder to grasp as it would be in normal life and there is a feeling of being hyper-aware of the time passing by us through this surreal life we are in.
Now that self-isolation is very real and not so much a concept, I have been taking steps to mind my self-care throughout this.
First things first – keep calm. Time on my own can amplify things and feel very overwhelming – time to focus on my breath on these wobbly times.
I ordered seeds to plant and, even though I am not a gardener, I want to learn and no better time than this.
Keeping active and having a routine seem to be the two things that are getting me through things. Reading, listening to music and trying to avoid social media when things feel overwhelming all help immensely.
Meditation is something that can really ground me too, even just taking a quiet moment to focus on my breath for a couple of minutes. All help.
“We are all in this together” is the phrase the government is using a lot at the moment. Are we really though?
Not a day goes by when I don’t think of my asylum seeker friends who are living in cramped conditions with no chance to self-isolate. My community’s (voluntary) work with them has been the biggest source of joy and fulfilment in recent times and I am missing seeing them on a regular basis.
Despite the dreadfully stressful situation they are in, their resilience in the face of all this is truly inspirational. They send us videos on our WhatsApp group of how they are getting through things and many play music, some even freestyling about life during a pandemic.
Music really does heal. Of that, I am in no doubt.
Day 10, March 23rd
Recently, I have been reflecting on my own health. I am a healthy woman in my mid 40’s, I keep active, eat well and I don’t drink or smoke.
I am, however, asthmatic. I take two inhalers to manage this and I haven’t had an asthma attack in well over 5 years. So it is in under control.
I went through a really bad period of severe asthma attacks when I returned home to Ireland after living in SE Asia. This required me to be put on nebulizers to open up my airways as I battled to breathe on my own.
It is an extremely distressing experience not being able to breathe. You go into survival mode as each breath is tight, laboured and gasping to get out. Gradually, as the nebulizer takes effect, airways open again and the tightening loosens and breathing returns again.
It is a euphoric feeling to be able to breathe again and the relief is untold.
So, why tell this story?
Because COVID-19, when severe, can overwhelm our respiratory function and this account might help someone to make more informed decisions when it comes to social distancing. We are all in this together and we can as a community reach out to one another and do the right thing – stay at home.
Days 7-9, March 21-22nd
This is not a time to be complacent. With the arrival of the Spring weather and while we are being encouraged to go outdoors, some people are using this as a time to picnic, to be out and about in droves.
Beaches are thronged. Public national parks are being closed due to the volume of day-trippers. I think we have a “sure, it’ll be grand. We’re outside” mentality and there is an absence then of carrying through on social distancing, because the virus is not airborne.
Gardening at home is the next best option for going out there for walks. Getting hands stuck into soil, hearing the birds chatter away and getting back in touch with nature is the best therapeutic approach to what is happening.
We are social animals and so wanting to be outside among people is totally a natural need but we have to contradict this need now more than ever.
Life online is buzzing with many zoom calls to family and friends. Whatsapp messages are flying in and I definitely feel connected to people in this context.
I am pretty much alone these days apart from fleetingly seeing my parents who are 71 and 80. My mother still makes me dinner sometimes and we share short chats on the patio or in their kitchen. But I don’t stay long. I sometimes feel a burden of responsibility not to be around them much and it’s hard.
I made a card for my mother today on mothers day and it was the closest thing in replacement of a hug. When all this is over, we will be hugging our loved ones tighter than usual, this I am sure of.
Days 6-8, March 18-20th
The sense of time during the coronavirus pandemic is a curious thing. The days are blurring one day into the other and there is an overall sense now that people, although anxious, are starting to get to grips with this new world order.
Relationship dynamics are adjusting, albeit slowly and self-care routines are paramount. Online counselling sessions, zoom calls with spiritual healers, mediation online, yoga – it’s all happening through a screen. Social interaction is down to the bare minimum and we are all taking guidelines seriously.
Then we look right and we look left at the UK and the US and the level of complacency is utterly staggering. What is coming down the tracks doesn’t bear thinking about when you consider the ramifications of not acting fast enough and how Italy is now counting the toll.
It’s a fitting week to feel proud to be Irish. Our government are really taking strong leadership on this and we are now doing our civic duty to protect our loved ones. When I phoned my local supermarket yesterday to give them my shopping list so I could then avoid going inside, the help, support and calm customer service were absolutely incredible. No questions asked, no problem.
When this is all over we all need to do everything we can to acknowledge retail workers, health care workers and anyone who cannot avoid social contact because of this. We owe a lot to them.
Day 5, March 17th
It is hard to ignore the fact that on this day normally we are outside celebrating St Patrick’s Day on the streets the length and breadth of Ireland. Yet, this has not stopped Irish people from getting creative and posting their parade ideas online.
From families with their dogs parading around their kitchens to streets coming alive with Irish ballads (all within recommended social distance); RTE’s virtual parade was an incredible heartwarming effort to bring people together. Some of the more poignant posts also showed grandparents and grandchildren. One photo showed two grandparents inside and their grandchildren on the outside, smiling, arms outstretched to try to replicate an actual hug.
We as a nation are coming together as one and we can only hope that this is what will get us through these times.
As Leo Varadker addressed the nation, it was a truly significant moment in all our lives. He was calm yet stoic as he outlined “the calm before the storm -before the surge” – while also emphasising that we can flatten the curve, we can as a nation do this. His speech was really empathetic and measured and I think it’s clear this government are doing all the right things to get this right.
But here’s the thing. There is an outpouring of people wanting to offer real and practical solutions to this and there has to be solace in that. We are seeing, in this locality especially, the true meaning of community spirit.
Whatsapp groups are a lifeline for so many. We are checking in with asylum seekers living in Direct Provision locally. We want them to know that even though we can’t see them, we have not abandoned them. We are sending them information with HSE guidelines, that everyone by now is adhering to.
Some of the messages are so heartwarming and full of empathy that it would give you faith in humanity. One woman this morning asked them to be kind to each other and be empathetic. I really believe that empathy and a deeper understanding of people’s struggles will be what will get us through this.
Self-isolation can also be a reflective time. A time to take stock on life and getting back in touch with our creative sides or going out into nature. There is a lot to be said for the birds too. Their bird song has been an immense source of comfort in recent days.
Days 3-4, March 15th & 16th
The local supermarket is normally a standard experience, you go in buy your food – talk to the locals and go about your business. On Saturday, upon entering the car park, it now has huge signs on the way in – “keep 1.5 meters apart from other people”. There is a sanitizing station at the entrance where people hand sanitize and wipe their trolley handles with.
Surreal times but there is also an overriding feeling of solidarity, of community and a sense of us all being in this together. There is comfort in that, at least.
Also, the widely reported social media instances of panic buying and fights over toilet rolls were nowhere to be seen. So all in all – shopping in the west in the middle of a global pandemic was an altogether civilized and dignified experience!
After all the storms, the weather is finally clearing up making way for fresh sunny Spring days along the windswept Atlantic coast. People are being encouraged to get outside and break the monotony of self-isolation. A good idea in theory but what this brings is akin to what you would normally expect on a summer’s day.
Throngs of people out, loads of traffic – it’s almost like people are just throwing caution to the wind – literally. What would normally be a day when you might encounter four people at the most – today, it was hard to keep that recommended social distance. Even pausing for a few minutes until the people walking ahead were a safe distance away. However, outdoors seems to be a safe bet and people were really making the most of it.
What is clear as we all try to grapple with this is that there are huge levels of empathy and compassion flooding through an anxious time. Nobody can underestimate the potential of this virus and so there is a real sense that we all have our part to play, collectively and individually.
Day 2, Friday the 13th of March
Interaction with people is now reduced to online apps, messenger and texting. It is safe to assume that self-isolation measures locally are now well underway and online life will become a lifeline for many of us.
People are only heading out as necessary to the supermarket for food essentials and coming straight back again. Making the most of the dry weather, a few people are out with their children who are now off school. It is clear they are making concerted efforts to keep their distance as they greet neighbours.
Traffic is busy with people presumably not really knowing what to do with their time now that we are in lockdown – apart, that is, from delivery drivers who are very much working business as usual.
Not everyone can work from home and those at the front line of care work, health care and elderly care cannot be praised enough. Home help carers of one local vulnerable man are carrying out their duties amidst a very precarious time and their duty of care towards their client is a true measure of their commitment and dedication to their work.
Local communities need to value their efforts more. Without them, our disabled, vulnerable and elderly people would not be able to cope, particularly now.
Online life presents so many layers of anxiety-inducing challenges. Everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to be heard. So much information to process and not all are helpful or indeed accurate.
People are scared but then the outpouring of goodwill, kindness and generosity is really something to behold. Local shops and businesses are offering delivery services, support and help to those in need. There is a sense that even in this unchartered territory that community will come out the real winners in all this.
We don’t know what lies ahead, how long this will last but one thing is certain: People who show humanity, kindness and real solidarity will be the ones to get us all through this. One day at a time.
Day 1, March 11th
The atmosphere in the small rural town in the West of Ireland close to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 has shifted. At the local supermarket, people are cautiously doing their shopping at a quieter yet steadier pace – people are not so eager to stand around and chat.
It’s more about getting in, get what you need and leave again.
Everyone is talking about the unknown nature of this virus, how soon will we need to self-isolate, how soon will schools close, how soon will this all be over. The concern is primarily on older family members or family who have serious underlying conditions who are most vulnerable. Information is trickling down to us but at a snail’s pace.
For example, what additional measures, if any, would a man with latter stages MS who is requiring 24/7 care at his home require to help protect him from contracting this virus? No specific information is at hand yet.
So, it’s business as usual with frequent hand washing, careful sneezing and keeping distance where possible. A lot of this is down to hoping for the best outcome for us all.
The town itself is quieter too. Events, classes and workshops are getting cancelled daily. Fewer people are on the street and on a recent visit to the local doctor not long after the news broke that the virus was now a short distance from us in the local area – it was eerily quiet.
What is evident though is despite all these challenges and just the strangeness of it all, is that people are looking out for each other. Stories are emerging of cancer patients being driven to appointments by neighbours or having their shopping dropped to them – true to what community spirit is during turbulent times.
There are 35 asylum seeker men living in emergency Direct Provision in the town who, due to the lack of self-isolation options for them, are in an even more vulnerable situation. Most share a room with up to three other men in small dorm accommodation.
While there is little that can be done about these circumstances, the local community welcome group offer them support and friendship as they – like everyone else – are trying to grapple with the situation as best they can.