Yesterday was a great news day for the subset of the population that likes to comment “HOW IS THIS NEWS?” underneath lifestyle articles on everything from endometriosis to what Mariah Carey wore to the toilet on a cold night. (There’s definitely a gendered slant to their sneers. I never see them doing complaining about the new-worthiness of whatever it is MMA fighters do to justify their existence).
I can’t be sure how this social grouping of discerning, angry news junkies came into being, but I think it might have been around the time The Guardian joined Facebook. They are happiest, after all, in the Guardian’s Facebook comments section playing games of whataboutery and excoriating the news media in the vain hope that someday they’ll be listened to.
Yesterday was not that day, however. The Guardian gamely posted a puff piece about celebrities documenting their personal pandemic rockbottoms, and, it’s safe to say the HOW IS THIS NEWS? people’s generally fairly prominent forehead veins were busting out of their brows by noon.
Spare a thought for Gwyneth Paltrow, though. The offending article’s lede told of Gwyneth’s terrible admission she ate bread during lockdown, which, she said was her personal low-point. Understandable. I eat two pieces of bread for breakfast every day and look how deviantly disgusting I am. (In an interview, Margaret Thatcher famously admitted to denying herself her favourite ‘guilty’ pleasure: marmalade, toast and butter; and look how wonderful she was.)
Like most of the HOW IS THIS NEWS? people, I didn’t read the article and I’m not letting that stop me from commenting. I might also point out (like my HOW IS THIS NEWS? friends would do) that the violence taking place in Palestine should take precedence over literally anything former actress and current businesswoman Paltrow says, but I’d be missing the point. It might be possible that Gwyneth was joking or being ironic; people do that, still. And it might be possible that The Guardian, knowing what sells, and wanting people to pay for journalism, simply report what they think we want to read. Poorly informed outrage is the best kind of outrage – and that ain’t news, baby.
As former President of my Preschool’s Sandpit, a dominion I ruled with a clenched and sandy fist, I’ll have you know, I know a thing or two about how it feels when you’re eventually deposed and moved onto the finger-painting section, where dreams go to die. Donald Trump was recently shunted out of the White House by goodie-goodie Joey Biden, and, like all of the other former presidents turned finger-painters, he has decided to start a blog. Amazing. Like I said, I only know a thing or two about transitioning from president to blogger, but I think with a bit of bluffing I can stretch it out to 9.5 things. Anything for a struggling friend.
Tip 1: Um. Bluffing is tip one. Talking through the seat of your pants is literally the most important thing to know about blogging. How good you are at bluffing is how good you are at blogging. If you can’t bluff, you can’t blog. Do you see what I mean?
Tip 2: It’s all about content. Here’s where the bluffing comes in. That’s all I really know about blogging, but I kinda promised Trump 9.5 whole tips, poor guy, so I better keep churning ‘em out.
Tip Three. Think positive! Be consistent! I know from my experience, I didn’t get BIGLY engagement with my content when I first started blogging about, oh, twenty years after the incident which saw me relegated from the sandpit to the finger-painting table. I won’t go into it here, but let’s just say if sandpits had constitutions I would have been impeached. Luckily for me, they don’t, but the kid who got sand in their eyes was not so lucky. I’m lying; he’s probably got a mortgage by now. Think positive!
Tip 4: Ask your family to read your posts and share them on social media to increase the chances of one day getting BIGLY engagement. Maybe then you can monetise your content? I see Trump already has a contribute option on his blog which is really impressive for a novice. Either he is so good he didn’t need his family to help him out or he’s not confident they care enough to share his musings on whatever he’s musing about these days. Probably ‘Murica.
Tip 5: Your blog should reflect what you’re passionate about. For me, that’s random funny things that pop into my head; memories from a childhood spent fighting other children for the right to remain in control of my own sovereign sandpit, mostly. My campaign slogan was ‘I dig democracy’ and I did press myself, talking into a shovel that doubled as a microphone. Trump can probably skip all that indignity as he’s a little bit more famous than I was.
Tip 6: If you’re doing it for fame, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Actually, that’s kind of a trick tip. I don’t think there’s any right reason to start a blog, because only deeply disturbed people who have reached the nadir of their careers start blogging… But if there was a right reason it wouldn’t be fame.
Tip Sevfvenn: Drink covfefe. Maintaining a blog is hard work. There’s a lot of bluffing involved and that can be tiring, even for experts like Trump and I. Caffeinated drinks help you catch spelling errors too.
Tip 8) Be pleasant in your interactions with other bloggers even if you don’t agree with them, or they’re crooked or they cry when you throw sand in their eyes.
Tip Nine: Promote your blog. Nobody will know you have one unless you tell your family and friends. Or Fox news. You never know, the posts you write could one day end up getting read by loads of people and you might get another job, a job that’s even better than being president.
…AND 9.5: There’s this micro-blogging platform called Twitter that bloggers and presidents and former presidents alike use to promote their bluffing/content/musings on ‘Murica. It’s like the sandpit of the blogosphere. If you get banned from that you’re finger-painting forever, which is even more shameful than being impeached. Twice.
Only a politician could manage to make the words “Hope is returning” and “Summer is coming” sound like a threat and a promise at the same time.
Already, I see some ninnies complaining that today’s announcement by Martin is too hasty, too optimistic and that we should all stay indoors getting madder and more institutionalised by the day. But let the ninnies complain from behind their double-layered masks. I’ve got a life to live, and so do you, dear reader/my mother.
Over the past few months – is it twelve or thirteen? – I’ve been depressed, angry, bored, sad, and unfulfilled. Not all of the time, but more than usual. I suspect this is the same for most people. I’m not optimistic by nature, but the promise of re-opening and the thought of getting back to doing my favourite things with my favourite people is keeping me somewhat positive. Here’s a list of simple pleasures I’m looking forward to indulging in very soon…
1. Drinking coffee from a cup in a café, watching the world go by
There’s no real pleasure to be had from drinking a clandestine takeaway coffee in your car or on a bench freezing your particulars off, but this is what we caffeine addicts have had to endure during lockdown. I don’t smoke, but I’d imagine it’s the difference between having a fag standing in the pissing rain in wet shoes versus having one while lounging on a verandah in a warm, midge-less country watching the sunset. Good coffee, too, is contingent on a good atmosphere, and cafés are some of the most relaxing places on earth for me. My favourite café has all my favourite things about café culture – that’s good coffee, nice staff, late opening hours, relaxed vibe – and I am counting the days until I can seek refuge in its rickety chairs once more.
If you’re as nosy as I am, you’d miss listening to people’s conversations – a luxury greatly diminished in pandemic times because nobody is gossiping with their friends/family/FWB anymore. Well, they are, but they’re not doing it where I can hear them. Hopefully, that’s about to change, and I’ll soon be hanging around corners, empty gin glass in hand listening for juicy tidbits of gossip pouring from the mouths of strangers.
I love and miss independent bookshops so much and I am not alone. Amazon is not the same; indie bookshops are so beloved because they allow us bookworms to immerse ourselves in the lovely rituals (see above) we associate with browsing bookshelves for the next great bargain, bestseller, or whatever you’re having yourself.
4. Lovely pints, pub crawls, the craic
While I’m not a Guinness lover, I feel very sorry for those who are. It’s impossible to recreate a proper pint at home without the charming ambience of a dusty, old pub that hasn’t had its interior changed in any way since 1999. We’ll have to make do with table service and beer gardens for now, but the Irish pub as we know and love it will return because, after all, ’tis hard to kill a bad thing. Sláinte.
5. A haircut
Before we begin going out and about and enjoying the Summer – weather permitting – it is absolutely essential that every single one of us gets a good haircut. A follicular deforestation, if you will. I was one of the unwise people who didn’t get my hair cut last time the hairdressers opened, so my head is currently a mess of split ends and negative thoughts. It won’t be long now, though.
With a still stubbornly plague-ridden Ireland set to implement a phased re-opening, whatever that is, in the coming weeks, we’ve all been sitting in our homes speculating as to what that might look like.
And now we know.
Ireland’s April re-opening will feature a lot of balls in the air, only instead of metaphorical balls in the form of county-by-county case numbers and vaccination rollout statistics, NPHET has decided to introduce footballs into the mix of things it is juggling by allowing people to play sport outdoors.
This is great news for people who like sport, but for everyone else, it’s business as usual. Not even the promise of a haircut or a pair of new shoes for the childer.
Writer and broadcaster Barbara Scully raised the point that the new measures appeared to be a little sexist.
Now, I know that in this enlightened age women love sport just as much as men and blah, blah, blah. But I don’t, and neither does New York’s best sit-down comedian and essayist, Fran Lebowitz, who is delightfully abrasive about the male-centred world of sports:
The reason sports are so central is because men are in charge… if women were in charge of the world do you think there would be professional hopscotch?
I would prefer there be more women in congress and fewer playing football
Fran somehow blagged a ticket to one of the (alleged) greatest fights in history, Muhammed Ali versus Joe Frazier, (yawn). She said “It was a very wonderful fashion and cultural event; unfortunately there was a fight in the middle of it.” What a scream. Imagine her at a Junior B semi-final in the pouring rain in Roscommon…
I’ve hated sport with a passion ever since primary school when I had the misfortune to be in the same class as a gang of girls who played sport with the boys every single lunchtime while I wandered the perimeter of the football pitch with my hands in my pockets and my head in the clouds.
I was very good at social-distancing when I was a youngster, and my experience as a playground loner stand to me these days because I’m used to endless waiting — I was always picked last for P.E teams.
This is one of the reasons I’m glad I’m not a girl now because when I was in school girls didn’t have to play football because girls didn’t have to play sports and that was the upside of being a girl
Indeed. Fran sounds like someone I would have gladly shared my scented gel-pens with in primary school — not that I want to go back to the ’50s.
Like my fellow ladies of leisure, I’m waiting patiently for the hair salons to open in late Summer. Hopefully. In the meantime, I’m very happy for all of Ireland’s bald GAA fans who will have a great April if the weather holds up.
I’m just after half-watching a programme aired by our national broadcaster, here in the South of Ireland.
(I threw in that last bit to piss people off. You’ll have to excuse me if you are one of these people who gets pissed off by the phrase “South of Ireland” — it’s just that I don’t get out much these days so pissing people like your good selves off is one of my few social outlets. Anyway. I digress… Digressions, by the way, are another unfortunate by-product of my lockdown isolation, but I’ll try to keep those to a minimum too… Count yourselves lucky you don’t have to live with me. In my home in the South of Ireland.)
The reason I only half-watched the programme was I don’t really care about a United Ireland. This is because I am still relatively sane. The kind of people who want a united Ireland above all else are the kind of hopeless romantics who still watch Disney princess movies into adulthood. They are to be pitied and even feared. They are young and old, right-wing and left-wing, rich and poor. The only thing they have in common is they are all deluded by some kind of romantic notion of Irishness that never existed. As someone pointed out, the only time Ireland was ever united was when it was under British rule. Hah! I do love irony. Ever since we got the Brits half out, some of us have been obsessed with a naive, fairytale, W.B Yeats-style, Gaelic-speaking, tribal Ireland that is about as realistic as Tír na nOg.
I have other things to care about, such as whether I will ever get a job or whether I will ever be able to afford to rent a house/apartment. At the moment, I am unemployed — and believe me, it is not for lack of trying to get a job. A united Ireland is about as much use to me as a bicycle is to a fish. The lockdown really put a spanner in any of my attempts to get on the career ladder. Had I not done a Master’s, I might have qualified for the pandemic unemployment payment by now, and then I’d be raking in €350 a week for watching sitcoms on Netflix. But unfortunately, this pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time, and my Master’s was cut short, and my career, or any semblance of it, was plunged into obscurity. I think the likelihood of me becoming financially independent might be possible by the time I’m thirty. It all depends on what the virus does — and, more importantly, what the government does. They ain’t doing a whole pile so far. They can either capitulate to the atavistic fringe element of romantic looney Gaels or they can pull their heads out of their arses and start implementing policies that serve Irish people. I’m sick of the political discourse in this country being dominated by Gerry Adams’s balaclava’d “antifa” — yeah, right; pull the other one — fanboys on one side, and neo-liberal shills who care only about maintaining the status quo and massaging each others’ egos on the other. The latter, by the way, are the reason our health and housing systems are fucked. We haven’t had a decent government in my lifetime, certainly.
Our country contains a multitude of people and perspectives — and not all of them are good. See above. Why the hell would we add the DUP into the mix for (Protestant) god’s sake? I think the Shinners sometimes forget that a so-called united Ireland would involve, by geographical necessity, the most ardent loyalists and Queen fans. (No, I’m not talking about the band here, sadly). The DUP have already told us they’re not a big fan of the whole united Ireland idea — probably because they are British, as they say. Why don’t we leave them to it? They have a right to be British if they really want to be — although someone should tell them that Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack mini-dress has not been considered remotely fashionable by anyone since, well, the day before she wore it.
To amalgamate, or “unite” two dysfunctional, disparate Irelands would be to undo all the progress that has been made since 1994. (Nothing to do with my being born, by the way. There was a ceasefire). Sinn Fein’s rhetoric of a united Ireland for the Irish people of tomorrow is nonsense; if I manage to retain what’s left of my marbles until the end of this lockdown I will be one of the Irish people of tomorrow, and what I want is a job, a house, good healthcare, to be able to provide for myself and my family, and go on a few adventures now and then. It seems like a lot to ask for when I see places stricken by famine, war, and poverty, but, Jesus, as Brian Lenihan once said, “We all partied.”
Tell that to the people living in hotels and on the streets in what is supposed to be a good country. As for me, it’s been so long since I was let out I don’t remember partying at all. Perhaps I’m coming down with the same type of amnesia as the United Irelanders. Ah well, the lucidity was nice while it lasted.
The sight of Professor Philip Nolan sat in front of a large bottle of hand sanitiser as he ruefully warned the nation’s assembled TV cameras that people were not to engage in customary St. Patrick’s Day behaviours such as “drinking,” or worse, “gathering” was enough to send me into a spiral of cognitive dissonance.
Then I remembered that Prof. Nolan could have a swig of sanitiser if he felt the need — as most good sanitisers like the ones used by Professors would certainly contain a lot of alcohol. Delicious. That was reassuring, both for Philip and for myself too as I hate to see anyone deprived. I can only assume the good professor is similarly pissed off that we have managed to mark our second St. Patrick’s Day in lockdown.
And it’s not even that I really care about missing out on St. Patrick’s Day; it’s no big deal really — although try telling that to the anti-lockdown patriot protestors… Although it is their right to protest, the snakey, not-so silent minority.
But even on a regular, non-pandemic March 17th, I wouldn’t be disgracing myself around the town, parading green-faced into a sea of fellow green-attired people all up to no-good glugging Guinnesses. I don’t even like Guinness!
Ireland sober is Ireland stiff
I do, however, enjoy St. Patrick’s Day because it represents the start of the long Summer evenings. My friends and I usually gather in a little group around St. Patrick’s Day to shed off our winter cobwebs and embrace the nicer weather we sometimes get, and, yes, sometimes we have a beverage or seven. Alas, not last year and not this year either. What harm.
The reason we are disappointed and fed up this St. Patrick’s Day is because some of the more significant things in our lives have been put on hold for the past year or more, and that sense of apathy and disquiet has had a cumulative effect, and on some more than others — as we’ve seen in action on the streets recently.
This year I will walk the dog (again) and send some emails (again) and try not to lose hope (again). It will feel like every other day in lockdown, except slightly greener on social media, that famous arbiter of normality.
In the gulf of time that has passed between this March 17th and last March 17th a lot has happened and nothing has happened. My career didn’t take off like I’d hoped as getting jobs is hard during a pandemic, would you believe, and I have moved back in with my parents in the countryside.
I’m looking back on a few notes I jotted down for a Patrick’s Day blog post I was too dispirited to make last year and the gulf between that and March 17th of two years ago is actually far greater. Apparently two years ago today, I was dancing and drinking and gathering with close contacts all over the shop. It was orgiastic by comparison to this year, no offence to the dog.
Talking of dogs, they were the only ones out last year when, avoiding then Taoiseach Varadkar’s first lockdown speech, I went out for a night time walk around Galway city. Shout out to the fluffy Pomeranian who cheered me briefly as I crossed the Wolfe Tone bridge. The rest of the city was deserted, holding its breath I now realise — or listening to Leo. Some silly string and shaving foam daubed all over Shop Street was the only evidence of the usual St. Patrick’s Day scoundrelry. One restaurant remained open; most others had shut in accordance with what were then only recommendations.
Mannequins standing in shop windows were for the most part my only company. Thankfully, these days our streets are more populated — with actual humans — and we have adapted to “the new normal.” (Hey, New Normal, if you’re reading this go home, you’re drunk and nobody likes you). I suppose for this year we might as well just soldier on, alone together until we can actually go back to the old normal, which, all things considered was pretty great — puke-filled streets not included. I’m quite sure we’ll be back in high spirits again soon. On last year’s lonely walk I spotted a man whistling ‘Wrap the Green Flag ‘Round Me Boys’ and a tourist couple gamely making the most of their predicament, both of them festooned with tri-colours down by Jury’s Inn under the beginnings of soft rain. I’m sure the likes of them are somewhere to be found this year too.
I’m not going to a distant world. I’m of Ireland, and I’ll stay in Ireland until I die.
Tom Cruise as Joseph Donnelly in ‘Far and Away’ (1992)
I doubt very much that Cruise’s character would have been content in a boring, romantically sterile, pandemic Ireland with its restrictions and 5k rules. Nary an ounce of craic in sight. Even NPHET are sickened. Nothing to be done really only stick a straw in the hand sanitiser and go to town…
Every hoor and his mother is out running these days. I don’t know whether it’s a passing lockdown fad or the continuation of the extremist health culture that has waged a fruitless – for fructose is the devil – war on slobs like the rest of us for years. It is a global war, hastened by capitalism, although its origins in Ireland can be traced back to the introduction of the smoking ban in 2004 that set a precedent for the health obsession which has since gripped our nation.
Like most people with big appetites and guilty consciences, I’ve dabbled in healthy stuff. I’ve modified my diet to include less junk, coffee, and alcohol (sometimes) – but I draw the line at veganism. To me, that is as extreme as heroin, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum entirely. Both would ruin your life, but at least you’d get a thrill with one. No, I couldn’t be a vegan.
Recently it occurred to me that I might start running. Do you ever get these kinds of notions? I saw everyone talking about how amazing running is for their mental and physical health, particularly since we went into lockdown – and I thought to myself, I want a piece of that.
I tried it – the running – one day when I was out for my daily walk. I just did it – as the good people at Nike say. But I wasn’t very good at it. So I stopped, and I walked instead. I tried it again once or twice, but it was too hard and not one bit enjoyable, so I gave up. I have since come to terms with the fact that I am not, nor will I ever be, a runner.
I have to blame someone for this – it’s a pattern I’ve fallen into over the years, which helps me sleep at night and late into the following afternoon. So, I blame my Dad. More specifically, his genes. If I hadn’t inherited his broad shoulders and height, I could be a wonderful runner.
I’m too tall to run. My legs are long and skinny and not very muscular; they can’t possibly support the top half of me, which is quite burly by comparison. I don’t have the ‘under-standing’ that running requires, and I’m always concerned I’ll injure my knees or my hips if I run more than a few hundred yards. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Sure, I could do a load of squats and get strong legs and a dump-truck backside, as is the fashion nowadays thanks to Kim Kardashian and other Fat-Bottomed Girls, but I am not convinced that would make me any better at running. It also sounds like an awful lot of hard work to do in order to do even more hard work, and I can’t be arsed – literally. I’ll only squat for a barstool.
I maintain those born runners are either wiry, bottom-heavy, or small. The closer to the ground, the better the under-standing is my thinking. I’m none of those things. Then again, neither is the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt – an anomaly so irritating I wish he would just retire or come out as what we all know him to be: 150 super-fast hamsters in a man-shaped trench coat.
Hamsters theory aside, Bolt’s phenomenal success as a very tall, muscular runner is probably his sex. It certainly couldn’t have anything to do with perseverance or hard work. I might as well just say this plainly; it is difficult to run when you have boobs – and I mean anything over an ungenerous B-cup. Alas, I cannot blame my poor Dad’s genes for my own two appendages, which are just big enough to be an inconvenience – or an excuse, depending on how you look at it. Usain Bolt does not have boobs, but if he did, he would be a lot slower. I guarantee it. If he does have boobs, we all need to know what sports bra he wears…
There is still something in me that would like to be able to run, despite both my loathing for it and my lack of physical suitability. So much so that whenever I see someone out running, I am often overcome by jealousy, which I disguise by making scornful remarks like “Would they not be as fast walking?” I’m filled with envy whenever some young wan has the audacity to overtake me. I have that very human desire to exact revenge on anyone younger, fitter, and better looking than me – a considerable portion of the population; feel free to disagree – and I am not afraid to admit it.
I hate runners. And I shouldn’t say it because I know lovely people who run. But for the hour or so that they are running, I hate them. What I hate most of all are the people like myself, the non-runners, who praise them as though they are little sweaty gods and goddesses. “Oh, fair play to you, I don’t know how you do it!” and “You’re so fit, I wish I could do that.” The runners love to hear that kind of thing; their smug, sweat-stained faces just light up. I’d never praise a runner; I just couldn’t give them the satisfaction.
For as long as the pursuit of running evades me, I will always maintain that nobody, in truth, actually enjoys it. Its disciples say things like, “It’s so good for your mental health.” To which I say, ever heard of Prozac? Seeing runners is actually bad for my mental health, as they inspire such raging feelings of inadequacy in me. Others talk gush about endorphins and how good exercise makes them feel. They do actual marathons for fun.
Marathons? For fun? I do not understand it. That’s the definition of mental illness. The time I tried running, I did not have fun at all; there was no endorphin buzz or feeling of euphoria or any of the other reasons runners give for their bizarre behaviour. Instead, I got sweaty, breathless, and dizzy. Black spots appeared in front of my eyes as I walked home, slower than I normally would.
If golf is a good walk interrupted, then running is a good walk forfeited for the sake of vanity. While not a fan of running, and that’s putting it mildly, I do love walking. A fast walk is a tonic for both body and soul; it’s a rare day I don’t go for a walk these days, and I feel wonderful when I’m outside looking around me. There are exceptions, I’m sure, but the runners I see on my walks never look as if they are enjoying the fresh air, or indeed the exercise. Some go so fast they see nothing of their surroundings; others labour so much they look like they’re re-creating the Passion of Christ – only they’ve got sweatbands instead of a crown of thorns.
This cultural obsession with running only appeared relatively recently. Did anyone run in Ireland in the 1990s? Sonia O’Sullivan, the sole Irish runner of the pre-smartphone era, has a lot to answer for. She made it look easy, and she won stuff – like medals and international acclaim. Thirty years later, Ireland is full of runners who seem to be chasing a variation of O’Sullivan’s dream. They may say they’re doing it for their “mental health,” but then they go and post their run times on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – i.e “Today’s run: I did 10 miles in 90 minutes. Managed to successfully outrun my self-loathing, fear of death, and fear of putting on weight! Until tomorrow…” You get the idea.
I will try not to be led astray by such ostentatious lycra-clad displays of rude health in the future. My resolve was shaken during lockdown, sure, but I know now that running is never a trend I’ll embrace – and not just because I’m embarrassingly terrible at it – but because it’s just so bloody boring.
Oh, the weather outside was… briefly not frightful, so we decided to venture into town en famille, as they say in Europe – although Dad pulled a Boris and disappeared, as he didn’t have to go shopping, get out of the house, or get his hair cut.
I had all my Christmas shopping done since the second week of December, if not the week before. I’m not trying to brag, but I’m a very efficient shopper; every last browse is done studiously, and with intent – either to purchase or reject. The Secret Santa is sorted, the friends’ presents are ticked off, and I even managed to buy a few things for myself in the process. Most of the time, my shopping is just window shopping because I don’t have the disposable income of Paris Hilton, for example. I prefer to spend money on social stuff or on my stomach, so I find the mad Christmas shopping rush a bit of a shock to the system.
Shopping for the sake of shopping is depressing; it’s like eating your greens because you were told to, because that’s what’s “good for you”, instead of being taught to appreciate the slightly nutty taste of perfectly cooked broccoli, or indeed maturing to appreciate the look on someone’s face as they unwrap something genuinely unexpected and thrilling from you. Nobody can tell me capitalism doesn’t “hit different” during these moments. Those few golden hours with family – if you are lucky enough to have them – make the whole nauseating build-up to the 25th worth it. It is really only then that consumerist xmas becomes Christmas.
My family has a tradition that involves the four of us going into town to either look at the lights or do a bit of last-minute Secret Santa shopping a day or two before Christmas Eve. This year was different, and not just because of NPHET’s/government’s shock announcement mere hours before the big red fella was due to arrive that Christmas was cancelled. I was gutted. Not Christmas! We had to cancel our family dinner on Christmas Eve afternoon in town, which was only feasible in the first place because my brother wasn’t working that day. Granted, we weren’t as badly hit by the new restrictions as some families were, but it was still bloody lousy. Critics of our dear neoliberal government were complaining that xmas wasn’t cancelled as shops were allowed to stay open, thus propagating the consumerist agenda and, god forbid, saving the economy. (Has it occurred to any of these people that we are the economy? Or at least we are what’s good about it. I wonder when will the penny drop…). Like good little slaves to the machine, Mum and I ventured into the city and the shops for one last look before Christmas. “If cases keep rising at the current rate, we’ll have everything locked down in January,” said my Mum prophetically. As I write this, shops have all closed again, so we didn’t even get to January.
As a family, we have all coped with these cyclical lockdowns in different ways over the past year. Just like everyone else, we have had no choice but to mould our lives around lockdown. My brother still works, my Dad invents pet project after pet project in the garden/farm, and my Mum has started a course and learned how to use Zoom. I have done nothing; I am the same as I was last year, no worse and no better. Hopefully, this year will be different, but hope is not a currency I am particularly rich in at the moment – not that I’m rich in any of the currencies. My MA ended abruptly, and my classmates and I were left without contact teaching hours to do our final projects. I was hoping that doing a final project on journalists and academics working through lockdown might help me on my way to becoming a journalist, but I was stuck at home for most of it, and so I’m more confused about the industry now than I ever was. My interviewees were definitely concerned too, and I had very interesting conversations with them about their work, but, looking back on it, I should have chosen a lighter topic like “Puppies!” or “If It’s Not Good News I Don’t Want to Know About It” or even something less depressing to me personally, which still would have left room for all those grisly topics journos love – like war, murder, violence, how cow farts are killing the planet, abuse, white-collar crime, Mayo losing another All-Ireland…
Or I could have copied my Dad, who has taken a recent special interest in ridding our driveway of moss using the rather unorthodox method of pouring box after box of washing powder all over the drive until it resembles a Winter Wonderland. He’s out there every day sprinkling scented snowy powder murdering moss and lichen alike as happily and ruthlessly as a culchie Pablo Escobar. The garage is full of evidence; piles of used powder boxes stacked high like cartel coffins. I don’t know why he doesn’t just let the moss live. If it survived 2020, it can surely survive Dad’s notions.
He has Mum adding “washing powder x 3” to her shopping lists, and she goes out into the big, bad, pandemic-ridden world to source it for him, a dangerous mission but she is a good mule. Her car even has tinted windows. I went along with her on one of these powder-buying trips recently – it was before the Christmas but still well into xmas, so town was mad busy. We agreed we’d split for a while so she could go incognito for culchie Pablo. I met up with her again in a second-hand clothes shop down the town. Mission abandoned, she was ferreting in the shop’s far corner by the time I eventually fought my way through crowds of cheerful shoppers to get to her. I was in, by my own admission, a bit of a fouler, thanks to xmas. Grumpily, I put on my mask, and my glasses fucking fogged up the minute I entered the shop. “I’ll wait for you out here, I can’t see a thing,” I told her and made for the door, but it was too late; she had ferreted something out and wanted my opinion. “For you maybe?” she said, and I looked through the one bit of fog-free lens I had at what she had in her hand, to humour her, like. It was a bit meh – a grey pinafore thing that a geography teacher might wear.
“Mmm,” said my mother, thinking aloud, “Might be a bit slim for you… No, I’ll put it back.” I snorted my disapproval underneath my mask. “You don’t like it?” she said innocently, turning to follow me out of the shop. Well, not anymore I thought, this time adding to my initial appraisal that not only was it the sort of garment a geography teacher might wear, it was also the sort of garment that a geography teacher who never ate carbohydrates after 6pm unless she was “being naughty” would wear. I couldn’t be doing with that. We went home; somehow, she managed the drive with her foot in her mouth. The backseat was laden with boxes of washing powder, and the two of us, xmas’d out of it, were probably wondering how on earth the four of us would get through the covid-Christmas.
We are through the other side now, ready to face into 2021 in lockdown. Our driveway will be moss-less, but at least my wardrobe is thankfully pinaforeless. It’s time to stick Micheal Bublé back in the freezer until next xmas and declare a nationwide moratorium on Dry January. Happy New Year, I think…
My Dad’s a bit deaf, so we have to be very careful with our diction when we’re talking to him, especially if he’s driving or distracted or even being driven distracted.
He mishears a lot of things.
For instance, if I was chatting to him in the car and I said something like, “Hey, Dad, have you heard the song ‘When Doves Cry’?” he might say back to me, “What? Did I hear that cows fly?” Those who know my Dad IRL know that he’s mad about cows, and has most likely never heard of Prince, so on this imaginary occasion at least, his mistake could be attributed to a phenomenon known as selective hearing, which he actually does suffer from also – as most men do.
Let’s park the imaginary Father faux pas for the moment because I did ask him a question in the car the other day, and it was about cows flying. “Dad, have you heard they’re flying cows on planes now?”
I thought this was madness – imagine one cow on an aeroplane, let alone 900. I couldn’t do it. The plane would have to be massive to fit all of those cows… I pictured them on a Ryanair flight, just for my own amusement, thundering up and down the aisles, tails swinging, shite spattering against the windows, the smell, the chorus of cacophonous moos mingling with the noise of the engine – no, cows on a plane would not be a good thing.
Dad’s more realistic take on the whole thing brought me back to earth with a bang. “They fly cows in and out of Ireland all the time,” he scoffed, “and especially now with Brexit, they’ll be flying even more, oh they would.”
“But not 900 cows on the same aeroplane, Dad? Surely that’s impossible. Don’t you find it hard enough moving six cows up the road from one field to the next?” He heard that alright. Dad is very aware of my disapproval of his cow-moving techniques and the lack of forward planning that goes into them. It would honestly take an entire separate blog post just to explain how woeful he is at communicating to his human helpers – his children/wife/brother-in-law/sister/neighbours – which gap they must stand in to prevent the cows going off course.
“They have special planes for them,” Dad said in the same kind of excitable, high-pitched tone he uses to have football-related discussions. I’d hit a nerve. “They build the planes ‘specially, and it’s only calves that are a few days old that are sent over because they need them on the continent for breeding…”
“Yes, but why don’t they put the cows on a big ferry or something, you know, like an aircraft carrier? They might be less afraid, and they’d have more room.” I thought I was being very reasonable; I like to think of myself as a sort of Temple Grandin figure for Galway cows. (Google her; she’s like a cow choreographer, a savant engineer, and pioneer of kinder, more modern cattle-farming transportation techniques.)
In my opinion, one of the greatest animal-welfare problems is the physical abuse of livestock during transportation…. Typical abuses I have witnessed with alarming frequency are; hitting, beating, use of badly maintained trucks, jabbing of short objects into animals, and deliberate cruelty.
With one dismissive hand, Dad waved away my grandiose, Grandin-esque notions, “Will you stop, sure the cow isn’t afraid. It doesn’t know it’s on a plane!” He might have rolled his eyes, but I was looking out the window forlornly thinking of all the cows who would be forced to make that stressful plane journey to Belgium in the new year.
Teagasc, the Irish Farmer’s Association, and my Dad might think it’s a fine idea to fly hundreds of cows across a continent in a metal box, but I think it sounds like a recipe for disaster. I just hope that ‘Operation Moove,’ as it’s been dubbed, doesn’t give Michael O’Leary any bright ideas. If he had his way, there’d be a 500 lb Friesian sitting behind you on the redeye from Shannon to Seville. I don’t think the farmers would like that.