5 Ways to prevent early-onset madness in lockdown

Here’s a few things I did to cope with lockdown over the past year…

Learn how to insult your loved ones in several languages

Some blog writers might recommend you be productive with your time spent in lockdown. They might say: “Get up at 8 am and do thirty minutes of Spanish on Duolingo every day because learning new skills is a great way to prepare yourself for the job market.”

I say b******s to that. Especially the getting up at 8 am bit. What kind of nutter gets up that early unless they’re being paid to? I’m currently unemployed – despite my best efforts to secure a job, any job – and I’m having a great time learning how to slag my family members off in an array of exotic tongues.

So, instead of relying on a needy green owl to teach me how to ask for directions to the train station in French, I’m learning skills I actually need for the kind of life I lead at the moment – i.e a life lived at home with my family, who occasionally get on my nerves.

I use the notoriously unreliable and inaccurate Google Translate because it’s all free, and there are no “daily reminders” – perfect for those of us with commitment issues who want to call their brother a smelly poo in German.

Teach your dog the safe cross-code

What do you mean your dog doesn’t know the safe cross-code? If you have a dog and you’re in lockdown, you’re most likely bored out of your skull at least one day a week… Go and walk your dog; you have no excuse not to. My dog’s legs are being worn to butts she’s being taken out so often these days – not that she minds the extra bonding time with her humans. And she’d certainly never let a bit of rain stop her. Since the winter set, in we’ve both gotten absolutely drenched together more times than I can count as we wander the quiet country roads near our house. Ruby empties her bowels, and I empty my head.

Neither of us particularly like the dog-lead – one of us resents having her freedom to sniff curtailed; the other prefers her arm in its socket, thank you very much. We both accept that leads are a necessary evil for roads with cars and dangerous bends, though. It took one of us, in particular, a very long time to get used to not acting like a complete thick whenever a car ambushes us. In my defence, Ruby doesn’t respect me or my authority very much, so if we do find ourselves crossing the road when it’s busy it becomes a power struggle in which the biggest bitch wins. But only just about.

After one too many near-brushes with doggy death by Skoda Octavia, I decided I needed to get a bit stricter, for both our sakes. We’ll start working on the safe cross code any of these weeks now.

Don’t be mindful™

Is there anything more boring than mindfulness? Somebody talking about mindfulness, perhaps. There’s an app you can download on your phone that tells you how to meditate. It’s called Headspace, and it sounds very stressful – what if I wasn’t good at mindfulness? Would I be able to handle the shame? I’d rather remain a head-case than find out I’m bad at something else.

Whenever we as a society go through a traumatising period, someone inevitably writes a smug newspaper column or blog post about mindfulness and how important it is “to be present in our suffering” – or some shite like that. Go and iron your yoga pants, you silly sausage.

Nine times out of ten, the rest of us are too busy getting on with it to be mindful of anything except what’s for dinner. (It’s beans on toast again because what’s the point?).

Purchase exercise equipment for ornamental purposes

At the start of Ireland’s second lockdown, which was six weeks ago at the time of writing, I got a sudden notion to start circuit training. I thought it would be a nice way to increase my woeful upper body strength as well as keep me occupied in the evenings.

I went on Amazon to look at exercise equipment, and then I bought what I thought I needed on an Irish website. I got two 4kg dumbbells and an ab-roller, which I tested out straight away. The ab roller was so easy to use I thought, ‘I must be doing something wrong here,’ so I haven’t used it since because I don’t trust it. It lies forlornly on my bedroom floor, and I keep meaning to have another go, but I’m afraid that if I do use it correctly, it will hurt ferociously. It’s just easier to think I don’t need it because my abs are already so obviously shredded. Not.

I’m having a bit more success with the dumbbells, but they are so heavy I can only use one at a time, like a kettle-ball. I tried to do an exercise called a bent-over row, and I nearly broke both my arms off. So, the dumbbells are lying on my bedroom floor also, and I take it in turns to use them so they don’t get jealous of each other. My advice to anyone thinking of taking up circuit training in lockdown is: don’t. And if you do buy exercise equipment, make sure it matches your curtains.

Treat lockdown like Lent

I’m pretty sure every religion has something like the Catholic tradition of Lent, a period during which people deny themselves of basic pleasures like biscuits to prove to their God that they are worthy of salvation.

Practicing Catholics observe Lent for six weeks every single year until they eventually die, and, one would hope, after all that self-denial, get their Heavenly reward.

Hopefully, we won’t have to do lockdown for six weeks every year – or twice a year – until we die, but it mightn’t do some of us more materialistic folk any harm to go without for a while. I’ve been treating lockdown like Lent – which I’d never do ordinarily – and it’s been working out fairly well for me. That might just be because as I write this, Ireland is about to open up most of its pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops. I’m aware that I sound smug to people in countries still dealing with restrictions and lockdown, but this last tip has genuinely helped me survive the past few weeks.

Bear in mind, too, that Lent doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you enjoy; it can be an opportunity to take up new hobbies and adopt better habits too. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. I’ve swapped my nightly Netflix binge, which was getting out of hand before lockdown, for reading. I’ve just finished reading a brilliant book called ‘Shantaram‘, which is set in 1980s Bombay. It’s as far from Ireland lockdown 2020 as possible and a welcome change from 1990s American sitcoms, too. It’s a hefty tome at over 900 pages, but it was so enthralling I found it wasn’t half long enough. Perhaps I’ll end up feeling the same way about lockdown…

The kids are alright in Carlow, but what about the rest of us?

It’s not often you see Carlow in the news, so when I saw it trending on Twitter the other day, I raised an eyebrow and thought to myself, hmm, either they’re after getting electricity there, or someone’s after creating a terrible scandal. Then I thought about Saoirse Ronan, Carlow’s most famous export; maybe it’s something she’s done. Has she rowed back on her preference for Tayto crisps over the superior Walkers? (Somebody has to say it, and if Saoirse doesn’t, I will. Tayto are shite.)

As it turns out, the reason folks were carping about Carlow was actually far more interesting. And it had nothing to do with Hollywood, Mr. Tayto, or the ESB. No, it was quite the opposite; a small-town scandal – the type that gets everybody’s knickers in a twist. But let’s not talk about knickers, as to do so would be unseemly according to the good people of Carlow. The focus of all the attention has been a school whose staff allegedly warned its female students not to wear tight clothing to PE (Physical Education) as it might distract the male staff members. (Distract being a euphemism for sexually arouse). Anyway, relax, please, there are no pedophile teachers in this case. The journalists who broke the story were misinformed thanks to Facebook – not a reliable source – and one has since deleted tweets she made relating to the incident. But the damage was done.

The resulting outcry produced enough steam to power a small train. The hot takes included: “Those teachers are body-shaming young girls,” “Those male teachers are pedos if they’re aroused by the bodies of teenage girls,” “Those girls shouldn’t be wearing tight clothes anyway,” “Why are we sexualising children?”, “What about the women teachers and the boys?” “Boys don’t wear tight clothes”, “What about the lesbian teachers and the gay teachers?” “Is it any wonder girls feel discouraged from playing sport if their bodies are policed in this manner?” “We are promoting shame in young women and their perception of their bodies,” and “THOSE TEACHERS ARE PEDOS!!”

On and on it went; millions of opinions squeaking into the void like the tired axles of a locomotive. And most of them were expressed as dodgily as that metaphor I’ve just used. Some have expressed concern that the teachers’ side of the story was not told, but I’m more interested in the drama and how it was created – because it was created. A storm in a tea cup, that was all about making everyone feel good about themselves for loudly denouncing some (innocent) teachers in Carlow, who, as it turns out, probably didn’t even say the girls’ clothes were making them uncomfortable, as pedophiles.

Ever since all that business with the Catholic Church and Jimmy Savile & co., pedophilia has become the standard allegation for one group to smear another with. Extremists love calling people they disagree with “pedo scum.” It could be argued that the allegation has lost its meaning. But not only is pedophilia a very serious crime, it is also one of modern society’s few taboo subjects. Sexual attraction to children is taboo, and acting on this is a crime, which is precisely why it is such a powerfully insidious accusation to falsely throw at someone. The Carlow controversy has nothing to do with pedophilia and everything to do with moral panic and people jumping to conclusions based on social media reporting. Twitter is not a court, and our instinctive responses to taboo subjects are not judge, jury, and executioner.

One could definitely accuse the school of being clumsy with their messaging, but to be fair, they never imagined this would be all over the news. All they did was hold an assembly telling students to wear their uniform instead of leggings. When I was a teenage girl, I got rebuked for wearing a scarf that was not part of my uniform by my secondary school principal. If she had asked me why I was wearing the scarf, I might have told her that the school was so fucking cold I could hardly feel my fingers most days. But she didn’t ask because she didn’t care, just like the teachers in Carlow probably don’t care that, for a lot of girls, leggings are more comfortable than big, flappy tracksuit pants.

I wear leggings almost every day of my life; they are comfortable, elasticated, and they look “respectable” (enough for your Ma, like) if you cover the arse of them. The problem is that lots of people don’t cover their arse when they wear leggings, and, because leggings are very tight, everything you have can be seen. That doesn’t mean that people have to look, however. If you’ve got an arse like Kim Kardashian, you’re going to want to show it off – of course you are. Without going into too much detail – this is a family blog – my arse is actually concave, so it looks pathetic if I don’t cover it when I wear leggings, and that’s why I cover it. It has to with self-expression and personal choice, and whether a person likes tight clothes or loose clothes is none of anybody’s business.

The thing is, however, nobody really cares when boys and men wear tight clothes. There’s no moral panic at inches of flesh on display or semi-exposed appendages peeping out innocently from behind strategically designed pieces of fabric. What men wear is not policed as strictly as what women wear. Ironically, a woman in a revealing outfit – one in which you see more than her elbows and knees – is seen as a threat or a trap to men. Some people think that men are incapable of seeing someone they’re attracted to and having a normal, non-savage-caveman response. That’s an oversimplification that’s insulting to everyone.

The best way to avoid confusion, miscommunications, storms in teacups involving schools, moral panics involving social media, and, most importantly of all, stupid controversies over what teenage girls wear or don’t wear is to talk to your kids. If a child reaches double figures and doesn’t know the basics about sex, there’s something amiss somewhere. Most kids have to figure out for themselves that although we are an advanced intelligent society, we are still descended from apes, and we have primal urges which we have to be taught to manage or ignore in order to fit into “polite” society. Social media complicates things further – there are all breeds lurking there. I feel very sorry for teenagers growing up nowadays. I managed to escape all social media until I was eighteen, but these days it is a constant Orwellian presence in the lives of children who partake in it – often while not fully understanding its power. Teenage girls behave like legal, grown women because nobody has told them in terms they understand that they don’t have to – but you can bet the people selling tight leggings have told them they do. Who can blame girls for getting confused when their appearance suddenly causes Mammy and Múinteoir to get a dose of the vapours? Why are we shocked when it is revealed that naked pictures of underage girls have been circulated on the internet by leakers? That’s how girls think relationships work; a boy asks for a picture and they strip, snap, and send. And there’s no point blaming teenage boys – they aren’t taught properly either. Nobody says “Don’t watch pornography because you’re an eleven-year-old child, and it’s unwise for you to freak yourself out learning theory when you haven’t done the practical”.

Some people are happy enough to let teenagers do whatever they want sexually, as long as they’re “safe.” And that’s all very well, and nice and liberal if everybody respects each other, but adults need protecting too. In a society in which pedophilia is the ultimate taboo, even looking at someone under eighteen can be enough to get you “cancelled.” Of course, the problem is that a fourteen-year-old can easily pass for nineteen or twenty if she wears enough make-up and dresses strategically. You don’t need a brilliant imagination to realise that in that scenario, the girls actually are a trap – for themselves and others – because it’s impossible to know what age they are. I’m always reading about women my age who earnestly claim they were taken advantage of by “men” when they were teenagers – ie. They had consensual sex with somebody around their age when they were too young, and now they wonder why “all men are trash.” All men aren’t trash, your parents are cowards who didn’t sit you down and teach you how this stuff works, and it’s a minefield. A minefield that no teenager should be expected to negotiate without guidance. Calling people who are often barely over eighteen themselves “pedos” for having sex with supposedly advanced sixteen-year-olds does not help rectify the situation. It just reinforces the moral panic and ensures that nobody will ever be brave enough to tackle these anxieties our so-called liberal society has around teenagers and sex.

As the daughter of a teacher, it is no surprise to me that it was the parents who were responsible for creating this hullabaloo in the first place. Parents are idiots, and they will do anything to blame teachers and schools for trying to do what they as parents are neglecting. Perhaps instead of posting angry diatribes on Facebook, parents could actually try talking seriously to their children about this stuff. Whatever discomfort they may feel about talking to their son or daughter about sex is nothing compared to the horror of being falsely accused of pedophilia.

Look out, Joe. They’re coming for you from Mayo.

Ah, it’s a disgrace, Joe.

They can’t win their own race, so they claim victory in another halfway across the globe. It’s desperate altogether.

Typical Mé Féiners in Mayo, making everything about themselves; well, they’re worse than the Orange Fella.

While the rest of the world was out celebrating Biden’s victory over Trump and Kamala Harris’s historic appointment as Vice President of the United States, Mayo was out celebrating itself.

Mayo’s tenuous claim to fame on the new American President is his ancestry. Hasn’t he cousins in Ballina.

Any excuse, sure. Ballina put on such a display of triumphant gombeenism that would have put any Yankee Redneck to shame – and perhaps a few former Fianna Fáil Taoisigh, too.

Ballina town centre was hopping; Buck’s Fizz corks popping, as Mayomen paraded their genes up and down the town whooping like Yahoos.

Not one of the locals seemed to recognise the larger reason to celebrate the Biden Harris result. They didn’t care a damn that Kamala Harris is the first woman and the first person of colour to be elected Vice President of the United States.

All they care about below in Mayo is winning. And since victory in the All-Ireland Championship has proved elusive for, oh, about a hundred years, the poor eejits are making do with having a distant cousin in the White House. (It will probably be painted green and red now.)

It’s Cultural Appropriation, I tell you. Ballina is stealing the victory of the American people and repackaging it as their own. This kind of identity pilfering is unique to Mayo; you’d never catch a Dub or a Kerryman at that type of thing. Do you know why? They’ve won All Irelands, so they know what victory feels like.

The most Joe would get in Kerry might be a Healy-Rae throwing his hat in the air in jubilation. Well, Joe, as long as he doesn’t throw it into the ring, you’ll be sound, says you.

And these Mayo (distant) cousins of Biden are angling for a trip to the soon-to-be Green & Red House. They couldn’t make it any more obvious. Sure, didn’t they openly admit it on RTE news last night? Distant cousin after distant cousin queued up to talk to the roving reporters, each one frothing at the mouth with glee.

Like most tribes, they have a leader, and his name is Joe too. We’ll call him Joe Two to distinguish him from America’s newest First Man, Joe One. His kingdom in Mayo might not be the size of Joe One’s, but Joe Two has a slogan too – “Joe Biden for the White House; Joe Blewitt for your house.” Joe Two is a handyman. I think his talents also lie in slogans, especially when compared to his distant American relative’s weak effort: “Build back better.” Blah blah blah.

Joe Blewitt image by Paul Faith/AFP via Getty images.

Joe Two and his merry band of Mayo cousins will be piling into his van to drive all the way from Ballina to Pennsylvania Avenue any day now. They’ll be a bit watery when they land, but they’ll still start painting the White House green and red before Joe One can say “Howdy.”

Typical Cultural Appropriation. Joe Two and his Mayo cowboys will play all nice in the beginning, but they’ll eventually steal the states from right under the Americans’ noses. They’ll let on to Joe One that they’re doing a Fixer-Upper job on his new gaff, but they’ll leave him high and dry the minute anything goes wrong. Mayo cowboys only want one thing, and that’s victory. They don’t care about family or decency; they’d give their Granny for Sam. ‘Cousin Joe’ is all a front, a neat way of appropriating American success. You’d never see a Mayo man in a Native American headdress on Halloween. We all know what became of the Native Americans, and it was a lot worse than losing a good few All Irelands. No, the Mayo man only wants a little taste of victory, for now. And he knows he’ll be allowed a share in Generous Joe’s. But like most of history’s victors, Mayo will eventually get greedy, and it will all end in a trail of tears. Will those tears be green and red or star-spangled red, blue, and white? That all depends on whether or not Joe “Two” Blewitt blows it.

(Editor’s Note: If there’s any room in that van, Mr. Blewitt, I’ll book it. I have Mayo heritage myself, you know.)

7 Days of lockdown as told through song

Day One:

Everyday is Like Sunday – Morrissey

This list could start and end with this tune, because it is just so perfect for the times we’re living in. It’s true – every day is like Sunday! Why bother continue? Am I talking about the list or everything in general? Morrissey’s brand of camp miserabilism is the ideal soundtrack to lockdown, so ideal, in fact, you’d wonder if the whole thing was engineered by the man himself so the rest of us would know how shite it is being music’s most miserable man. Thanks, Morrissey. Heaven knows we’re all miserable now.

This is the coastal town / That they forgot to close down / Armageddon, come Armageddon! / Come, Armageddon! Come! / Everyday is like Sunday / Everyday is silent and grey

Stephen Patrick Morrissey

Day Two

I Don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats

Most people know that this song was written after Bob Geldof heard a news report about a teenage school shooter who, when asked to provide a reason for what she had done, said she wasn’t a big fan of Mondays. At this point I feel obliged to issue a very obvious health warning: don’t murder people because you don’t like a day of the week. Murder is never a proportionate response. This will all be over soon. But you’ll be waiting a few Mondays.

…the silicon chip inside her head / Gets switched to overload / And nobody’s gonna go to school today / She’s going to make them stay at home / And daddy doesn’t understand it / He always said she was as good as gold / And he can see no reason / ‘Cause there are no reasons / What reason do you need to be sure / Tell me why / I don’t like Mondays

Bob Geldof / The Boomtown Rats

Day Three

Tuesday Morning – The Pogues

Yearning for times past is probably something we’re all doing at the moment, with the absence of anything better to do. This tune is sweetly sad and wistful for a Tuesday morning when you’re lying in the bed checking your emails before you brave the day.

Too many sad days / Too many Tuesday mornings / I thought of you today / I wished it was yesterday morning / I thought of you today / I dreamt you were dressed in mourning

Songwriters: Joseph Castillo / Joshua Blum / Mark Hutner / Timothy Gruse

Day Four

Wednesday – Tori Amos

A woman is coasting along, living life, stopping for coffee, thinking about a man who may or may not be suitable for her. Typical mid-week fare. There comes a point in the week when we all hit a slump and revert to auto-pilot; all the better to have a lot of existential crises. Child genius and Cornflake Girl Tori Amos does it all before her breakfast. Sure, look, it’s multi-tasking.

Nothing here to fear / I’m just sitting around / Being foolish when / There is work to be done

Tori Amos

Day Five

Thursday’s Child – David Bowie

What’s a playlist without some Bowie? This is definitely not the first tune one thinks of when rifling through his back catalogue, but this song is very soothing even if it’s not quintessentially Bowie. It does showcase his pretty amazing voice. Unsurprisingly, it got him a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal in 2001. He lost out to Lenny Kravitz, which happens to the best of us.

All of my life I’ve tried so hard / Doing my best with I had / Nothing much happened all the same / Something about me stood apart / A whisper of hope that seemed to fail / Maybe I’m born right out of my time / Breaking my life in two / Throw me tomorrow / Now that I really got a chance

David Bowie & Reeves Gabrels

Day Six

Friday I’m in Love – The Cure

It’s Friday and you’re on top of the world. The home office has been shut up for a brief reprieve and you’ve just remembered you have a bottle of wine in the fridge. Rosé, no less – which I could definitely picture soft goth sweetie-pie Robert Smith drinking. It’s Friday, you’re in love.

Monday you can hold your head / Tuesday, Wednesday, stay in bed / Or Thursday watch the walls instead / It’s Friday I’m in love

The Cure

Day Seven

Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) – Elton John

It’s only natural; we’re spending more time at home, so we’re going to get on each others’ nerves. And this is not a time when most have nerves to spare. Saturday is supposed to be a social day, so spending it stuck inside is a bit of a pain in the hole. Trust Elton John to understand our predicament with this delightfully OTT floor-stomper that’s made to shout along to. Do try and make up with your co-habiters before the clock strikes midnight though, otherwise you’ll be mopier than Morrissey forever more.

Don’t give us none of your aggravation / We had it with your discipline / Saturday night’s alright for fighting / Get a little action in

Elton John & Bernard Taupin

The news is making us miserable, edgy and tired

Ireland is a nation of moaners and whingers. If complaining was an Olympic sport, we would win gold every time.

Perhaps it’s the weather, or perhaps it’s a by-product of the years of societal oppression and joy repression courtesy of the Catholic Church – either way, we love a good whine. We are so good at it, in fact, that our infamous black humour is well-renowned all over the world. In that sense, we have achieved the impossible, turning a negative into a positive.

Whereas the Americans are almost annoyingly positive all the time, we Irish don’t have great expectations of ourselves or anyone else, which makes us relatable and even a bit loveable, like Eeyore.

Our national talent for never looking on the bright side of life, to paraphrase Monty Python, has stood to us recently as we endured lockdown in its various stages and levels of severity.

You’re miserable, edgy and tired. You’re in the perfect mood for journalism.

Warren Ellis

The news on Sunday night that Chief Medical Officer, Tony Holohan, was recommending a national Level 5 lockdown – that’s the one where you can hardly skim a stone – fairly put the kibosh on it all. The nation was stunned; we weren’t expecting such a strict lockdown so soon. Somebody on Twitter – where else – said that if Holohan really cared about public health he wouldn’t have delivered such a recommendation on a Sunday night, a time when most are highly strung thinking about the week ahead and what horrors it might bring.

Speaking personally, I tend to do most of my worrying from 8pm on a Sunday to 2am on a Monday, so I agree with part of the Tweeter’s statement. (As my nearest and dearests can attest, I don’t restrict my complaining hours; complaining is a 24-7-365 gig.) I would not be so negative, however, as to allege Holohan doesn’t care about public health. It’s kind of his job, and he seems a very empathetic sort. So, his heart is in the right place even if his call for a move to Level 5 was far too abrupt.

With Holohan cracking the whip, and anxious to avoid another strict lockdown, I decided to submerge myself neck-deep to wallow in that cesspit of negativity, Twitter. I read all of the takes – most of them miserable, for misery loves company. I only emerged periodically to rehash some of the takes I agreed with aloud to my parents, who seemed to be taking the news like a pair of slowly sinking stoics on the Titanic long ago. “Sure if we do go into Level 5, we do,” seemed to be their attitude. I looked at the dog to see if she might start a one-man orchestra, but she snored away oblivious. Lockdown means more walkies for her.

Some people, like me, seemed very critical of NPHET; others were critical of the people criticising NPHET. For a lot of bleeding-heart liberals criticising NPHET seems to be akin to killing puppies or eating Walker’s crisps – things you don’t do in Middle Ireland. I wondered did Tony Holohan and the Robin to his Batman, Ronan Glynn, suffer from vertigo such was the height of the pedestals they were being put on by many. On Sunday, I wasn’t particularly interested in reading about how fantastic NPHET is; I was in the depths of despair at the thought of going into Level 5. I was also enraged that most people thought NPHET were right – why aren’t these people complaining more, I asked myself.

On Monday, when the government decided to half-listen to NPHET’s advice and bring us all into Level 3 – an acceptable compromise – even more people joined the moan-fest. Smooth operator Leo Varadkar spoke to Claire Byrne on RTE about the government’s reasons for half-listening to NPHET. He was convincing, to a point, talking about the need to balance all public health interests, not just coronavirus, but he made a hypocrite of himself when he declared to Claire that NPHET members would never have to suffer the consequences of losing jobs under Level 5 restrictions. He also spoke about poverty, despite the fact his government continuously side with property owners over cash-strapped renters. (Not to complain, or digress too much, but I have been unemployed during Leo’s tenure as Taoiseach, and getting social welfare was like getting blood from a stone. To add insult to injury, there was no complaints department at the dole office.)

Uproar ensued because if there’s something Ireland loves as much as complaining, it’s a good fight. Over-caffeinated political correspondents typed feverish tweets claiming that the government was now at odds with NPHET, and there was no going back. They ignored, however, the fact that Varadkar said he has a very good working relationship with Holohan et. al. They just disagreed on the need to go into Level 5. I don’t know if it’s a hangover from silly season or what but manufacturing “a big split” between the government and a health advisory board in the middle of a pandemic is not a very nice thing for the Irish media to do. Especially as it isn’t true. Of course, everyone lapped it up, and soon it was as if Varadkar had literally stabbed Holohan in the back.

The whole thing turned into a soap opera with everyone shouting at each other while the pol corrs clapped their hands with glee. Normally I like pol corrs, but I think some of them desperately need a night off to attend the Abbey en masse when theatres re-open because they’ve forgotten what real theatre is supposed to be like. The public isn’t much better.

We need to stop complaining for once in our lives and take some personal responsibility for ourselves in our own situations. Cocoon if you need to. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Adhere to guidelines issued by epidemiologists (remember NPHET are not epidemiologists) as best you can. (Actually, this is more or less what Holohan said in a recent statement.)

Finally, a mention must go to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s response to a pol corr asking who would be responsible for further coronavirus deaths going forward. In a moment of pure, beautiful smart-arsery, Donnelly said, simply: “The virus is responsible.”

With public representatives like that is it any wonder we are the way we are?

Seeing the glass as half empty is more positive than seeing it as half full. Through such a lens the only choice is to pour more. That is righteous pessimism

Criss Jami, Killosophy
Watching the news in 2020 with a face on you like an otter eating a watermelon

What happened to ‘we are all in this together?’

It must be wonderful to be perfect.

It must be wonderful to be so sanctimonious in your selfless, yet somehow simultaneously self-satisfied state of self-isolation. Well done, you. I refer, of course, to all the finger-pointers, curtain-twitchers, and craic-less covidiots out there who are making this prolonged pandemic period so fucking unbearable. To paraphrase Joe Biden: Just shut up! Take a day off, please.

For the past few weeks now, I’ve been despairing of the public mood around the virus, which is here to stay whether we like it or not. (I fucking hate it; I do not doubt that you do too). But do you know what makes the whole sorry situation worse? It’s having to listen to people who think they are better than the rest of us droning on and on about how ‘selfish’ and ‘reckless’ we are being.

Since when did living become a crime? That is, after all, what those young people were doing congregated on Spanish Arch in Galway the last night. I live in Galway, and I was a student in NUI Galway, and nights out drinking have always been par for the course in most young Irish people’s experience.

Yes, some of them were pissing in people’s gardens – and that is disgustingly inconsiderate – but a minority of students have always been liberal with the contents of their bladders. This dates back to the ’70s and ’80s too. I know because there’s usually an article on it in the local paper. Oh, I shouldn’t say it, but perhaps the annual sprinkling of university urine is a sort of leveller for those lucky enough to own their own property in prime locations like the Claddagh and Newcastle?

If the pen is mightier than the sword, god love the young wans at Spanish Arch the other day. This is a compliment to the poet.

The Students’ Unions are generally fairly quick to call fellow students out on bad behaviour, and this year’s NUIG Student Union did so very nicely, while also pointing out the fact that NUIG officials were partly to blame for this in the first place, seeing as they told students to move down to Galway to pay for campus accommodation. It doesn’t take a cynic to wonder if this wasn’t all just a plan that badly backfired on the college, and now they have the audacity to think about giving these kids’ addresses to the gardaí. UCC has been talking about expulsion, like a child throwing its toys out of the pram. I thought people who run colleges were supposed to be clever? Teenagers are too young and powerless to be the scapegoats of an anxious nation; surely the presidents of our colleges realise that.

Did they think that students tentatively starting in-person (now online, now in-person) lectures in September would just move to campus en masse and stay there self-isolating like little monks and nuns? That was never going to happen. I am 26, and I find it hard enough when I can’t socialise properly. The temptation is there to say ‘fuck the lot of them’ and get plastered – especially when you’re young n’ sweet and, er, legal to drink at eighteen.

But here’s the thing; by ‘them,’ I realise I am referring to the frontline workers – the nurses, doctors, shopkeepers, emergency services, journalists, etc. I am also referring to people who have lost loved ones through coronavirus, or who are worried about losing them. That is not my intention, nor is it the intention of the youths drinking down at Spanish Arch the other night.

I think that it can be easy for people who are at a ‘fixed’ point in their lives – maybe they have children, or they have a partner and a good job they can still do in semi-lockdown – to point the finger of blame at “young people”. It’s easy to blame us for the virus spreading. It’s easy to see us as heartless hedonists who only think of quenching our vodka-thirst and having the craic, but that is not the case.

(More of a gin girl, me.)

Human beings are social animals, and we need to socialise to survive and thrive. During lockdown, nobody was thriving, and it’s a similar state of affairs at the moment as we find ourselves dealing with a limbo-like series of restrictions, many of which don’t make sense.

Let us live, Éamon. Also, congrats on missing the point.

Sometimes I look at the likes of the politicians and the NPHET members and the rest of the self-isolation preachers, and I think they have it easy with their big jobs and their marriages and their nice houses and their children. I feel as though my life has come to a standstill. My mother correctly pointed out to my brother, (20), and I that we are lucky we are not fighting a war. Lots of us are comfortable and safe, living off our parents while we wait for this spell to be over. We love our parents and grandparents and we want them to be safe.

I might add here that youth is a state of mind; I’ve seen plenty of people of “cocooning age” rail against their new-found victim status. I applaud them, and I hope they remain unscathed. The people just getting on with life are the reason I wash my hands and wear a mask when it comes down to it. I don’t have any more patience or sympathy for the finger-pointers – no matter what age they are. In fact, sometimes I think I could be tempted into giving some of them a good lick. Just to spite them. (I swear to god it has nothing to do with my not being able to date at the minute.)

There is a sadness about the whole thing as well as rage and frustration, for me. This pandemic is dividing all of us into self-interested (if not self-isolating) groups. The employed versus the unemployed, the protocol followers versus the anti-mask nutjobs, the young versus the elderly, the sick versus the rude of health, the publicans versus the schoolchildren, the meat-plant workers versus the tourists…

What happened to us? We are not all in this together anymore. That much is clear. Perhaps we never were. Not everyone’s interests can be accounted for, and some are bound to lose out. Society is cracking before our eyes.

In a sense, we are all victims of this virus. But we are fast becoming victims of lockdown, too.

As for the rowdy students? Galway being Galway, the rain is never far away. Sure, we don’t even have to pray for it!

Declan Varley has written many editorials on student life in Galway so he knows what he’s talking about


Email etiquette for beginners

We all send and receive a lot of emails every day – whether for work or for pleasure. That’s just the way things have been going, and email is a very convenient way to communicate with people without ever having to meet them IRL. It can also be a useful way of ‘reaching out’ to people to establish a professional bond with them in the hope that some day, after a couple of emails, you will be able to gain their respect and perhaps meet them IRL – or talk to them on the phone. (IDK, whatever works.)

When I was doing a bit of (pre-pandemic) reporting, I used to email a lot of people. I’d send off a flurry and hope some of them would land and sometimes they did and other times they didn’t. Emails are very easy to ignore, which is a major advantage for the recipient. If you’ve received an email that annoys you, chances are you’re going to leave it in your inbox to rot along with 10,000 others. If you send a lot of emails you need to bear this in mind.

Let’s look at some common email faux pas together. I don’t know a lot, but I do have reasonable experience in matters email etiquette…

Opening DON’TS –> DOs

Hi yoUir nÃme spelt rong,

This is not about spelling and grammar, it’s about having the cop on to spend a few seconds looking at the name of the person whom you intend to email. If you don’t get their name right what hope is there for your future dealings with this person? My name is spelled incorrectly all the time in emails by people who should know better. It doesn’t matter if it’s a difficult name with more poorly placed consonants than your average German word, get it right! I’m always very impressed when people do get my name right in emails so it really does make a good impression. Or perhaps I’m a raging narcissist.

Dear Sir & Howya horse!

It’s tough to know whether to err on the side of formality or informality when emailing some people, but I find a simple ‘Hi First Name Spelled Correctly,’ to do the trick. It’s respectful, democratic, and not overly fussy. Also, if you’re sending a formal email to a woman editor and you want to say Dear so-and-so, don’t call her ‘Sir’ because she probably won’t be impressed. Don’t call her horse either.

Middle Tips

Spit it out!

This is self-explanatory, but in case it isn’t I mean don’t take all day to say something very simple. Emails ain’t the place for flowery phraseology; they should be clear and concise. Ernest Hemingway, a man famed for his exact prose style said “Know how complicated it is and then state it simply,” which is good advice. Whenever I have to write a difficult email I always think of Ernest Hemingway and I ask myself how would Hemingway phrase this. No, seriously, I do. If I’m very stuck I sometimes recite his famous six-word short story for inspiration… (“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”) If I’m very, very stuck I get up and leave the email unsent in drafts, because as Hemingway also said: “The first draft of anything is shit.” You don’t want to be sending shit emails… I get back to it later.

Be polite. Use short sentences.

By all accounts, Hemingway wasn’t a man for the politeness, but he was great at the short sentences. Don’t let your modifiers dangle or your clauses ramble because your email will confuse the hell out of your reader, who may have a very full inbox to wade through. Appeal to their better nature by using yours, and by being polite. Chances are they will be more well disposed towards answering you if you’re sound to them.

Closing DON’Ts –> DOs

Yours faithfully

Woah, chillax there will ya horse? There’s no need to be so cold, so clinical, so posh in signing off. Who do you think you’re writing to? The Queen. Not likely if you’re reading this, mate. Say ‘Yours Sincerely’ if you really want to be serious but don’t go overboard.

Best

I’m always flummoxed by this one. What do people mean when they sign off like this? They might as well just go directly to signing their name at the end of their spiel. It’s passive-aggressive. I know that people who only know me through email don’t particularly care about my hopes and dreams and deepest feelings, but something a little more personal wouldn’t kill them would it? Do I not deserve ‘All the best’? See also ‘Regards’ v ‘Kind regards’

B

B is for Bláthnaid, in this instance. But it could also be for ‘bellend’ because a lot of people just put the first letter of their name when signing off so you have to look at their professional auto-signature and get intimidated. Just write your full name even if you do have one of those fancy signatures. You can turn off the signature after the first correspondence and just take the 2 seconds it takes to type your full name. What makes me laugh is this stunt is usually used by people with really short names like Bo.

12 free content ideas for the lads n’ ladies moving into the Irish TikTok house

A bunch of semi-famous Irish teens and twenty-somethings are moving into a lovely, posh mansion in Dublin to make content on TikTok together. Their big move was featured in the national media today, which angered a lot of old fogeys, including myself. What exactly angers me about these TikTokkers moving in together to stream and vlog away to their hearts’ content is buried deep in my subconscious where it will stay.

I decided a more productive use of my outrage would be to imagine what it must be like to be a Gen-Z Irish TikTok content creator. I managed to come up with twelve content ideas that these housemates could potentially use if they were ever stuck, like. The ideas are tailored to what I imagine young TikTok users enjoy. (The only caveat is I have never used TikTok, so I haven’t a clue what I’m on about – which is why I’m allowing free access to my twelve ideas. They can think of it as a moving-in present.)

  1. How to be a radical feminist while maintaining a successful OnlyFans business

2. ‘Don’t sit down’ and other tips for home bleaching sensitive areas

3. This Disney-themed doorbell is a chick magnet. Now, if only I could find the clitoris.

4. I gave up my weekly fake tan application because it triggered my Sinn Féin voting friends

5. All my ex-girlfriends have anger management problems, in this 24-hour video I explain why that isn’t my fault

6. Pooing etiquette for mixed-gender households

7. My idiot housemate flushed the toilet but I wasn’t finished live-blogging the shit I took which looked like two crocodiles dancing and now I’m out of relatable Bristol Stool chart content

8. I (27 male) slept with an older woman, (30) and now I finally appreciate everything my mother did for me

9. 5 make-up looks inspired by antidepressants #poppinprozac #litlyrica #yasqweensertraline #efFLEXor #yumyumlithium

10. Why I do 100 squats a day. Hint: to hide the fact I have no personality or goals in life

11. Is it a strapless bra or a belt? We show you how to get the most out of your wardrobe, but you have to be a size 6 and have no tits.

12. I do the latest TikTok dance challenge dressed in my neon clothes I got from depop and you eejits are loving it because you’re sad and wish you were me

Golfgate: they can’t swing this one

Golf is a mug’s game. Just ask Dara Calleary. His tenure as Minister for Agriculture was going fine for a few weeks until he agreed to go to an Oireachtas Golf Society event in Clifden the day after the government announced new measures prohibiting large gatherings.


Now, as we know, Calleary wasn’t the only government representative present flouting the rules – but his head was the largest to roll. Unlike his disgraced predecessor, Barry Cowen, Calleary resigned straight away. It was a case of jump, or be pushed. At this rate, Micheál Martin is going through more Ministers than Stalin. (At one point, Stalin also led a triumvirate government, but I think the comparison ends there. Martin doesn’t enjoy purging his Ministers.) It’s all terribly embarrassing for this ‘new’ government, but to be honest, nobody cares about their feelings anymore.

Public sympathy is thin on the ground for this crowd of, well, eejits, who didn’t pause to think about the consequences when they packed their polo-shirts into their overnight bags for a golf party in a hotel.


The blithe insistence of Calleary and other experienced politicians like Phil Hogan and Jerry Buttimer on flouting their own government’s rules shows an appalling lack of judgement. Did they not know they would be caught in the act? It’s difficult to look dignified in a bright pink Ralph Lauren shirt panting as you swing a golf club in the air hoping for the best. I am not sure whether the 81 people attending the event are guilty of arrogance or ignorance – or both. They might as well have written “there’s one rule for ye and another rule for us” on the new social distancing safety measures. What’s next, a cough in the face?


I know that these politicians are on holiday, but they have to obey the rules and be responsible citizens just like everyone else does. The virus doesn’t know the difference between people who eat in McDonald’s, wear tracksuits, and shop in Lidl and people who eat oysters at golf dinners and have large salaries. Your bank balance, your education, and your accent don’t really matter when you’re exposed to tiny molecules of a virus that can be very dangerous for many. Like most people, the men and women who attended the Golf Society event probably weren’t in the at-risk category and if they contracted the virus they would make a good recovery. We are annoyed about the hypocrisy. This is not about being a kill-joy – I’m delighted the pubs, cafes, and restaurants have begun to open again because I missed them sorely. It is about holding people in positions of power to account.


That EU Commissioner Phil Hogan had the audacity to blame the hotel at which the event was being held for not enforcing the measures just tells you how out of touch these people are.

https://twitter.com/PhilHoganEU/status/1296748599934685184

I wonder how many of the attendees had health insurance, and I wonder how many of the people working at the hotel have health insurance. Blaming low-paid hospitality workers for one’s own lapse in judgement is cowardly and morally reprehensible. When Phil Hogan made that statement, did he think of the workers? (Nah, he thought of his own neck on the block.) Many have been out of work due to the pandemic and are only returning now. They’re having to work twice as hard to make up for lost time and lost money; they are being taxed to the hilt for years to come because of the money we all lost during lockdown. We all have to make sacrifices – as NPHET keeps saying – and politicians are no different.

Normal People? I’m sick of them

Paul Mescal needs taking down a peg or two, and I’m the one to do it. He’s far too happy with himself. As somebody said recently, he is possibly the only person in Ireland having a great 2020. Well, feck him. Why can’t I have a great 2020; why can’t we all have a great 2020?
That young Mescal has only gone and hogged all the 2020 joy out from underneath all of us. We should be rippin’, but instead, we’re simpin’. And we can’t even go to Costa del Wherever to get wine-drunk on a beach and think of tomorrow because of the bleedin’ lockdown.
But Paul Mescal is having a great time.

It all started when he was cast as mumbling beefcake, Connell, in Normal People – that ubiquitous small screen drama which all but colonised the public discourse from the very first episode. And what was it about? Horny teenagers. Two doe-eyed, tongue-tied, star-crossed lovers driving around the countryside, pausing every so often to hump in his hatchback. (I wonder did it pass the NCT with that carry-on…). I didn’t watch it. I tried to escape it, really, I did, but everywhere I turned people were talking about Normal People. They were all over the papers, the radio, the TV, the internet. Normal People invaded my family WhatsApp group. Still, I didn’t watch it.


Some very normal people indeed called into Joe Duffy complaining about the amount of sex on the show. I think Joe might have told them not to watch it if they didn’t like it. (Maybe they were watching it through their fingers and they thought their finger was something else… there was male full-frontal nudity and all). For a couple of months at least it felt as though the whole nation – and their holes – were living vicariously through these two fictional teenagers, Connell and Marianne. I cringed viscerally every time I saw an ad for the series – they were played every half-hour by RTE, as if it needed promoting with every poor unfucked fucker in Ireland watching it.

The horny teenagers, Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones)


As far as I could gather, Connell was a nice poor lad, sometimes bad at expressing his feelings – hence the mumbling. He had game, too; both on the GAA pitch and off it in a variety of love-making locations, such as the car, the bed, etc. To my eyes, he looked like a slimmed-down Mr. Tayto – harmless, doughy, and a bit wet around the ears. A teenage boy, in other words. He was certainly no match for Marianne, who looked much more sophisticated in the ads and even spoke in full sentences. Marianne was probably based on every pretentious female arts student. You know the type, or, maybe you are the type – she read one Susan Sontag essay, and suddenly she thinks she’s the Sunday in every week. I was an arts student like Marianne, too, except in real life, arts students are messier, ruder, drunker, uglier, greasier, and less well-off. Maybe that’s just me though…


The actress who played Marianne is English, and she’s over in England having a great 2020 also. How dare she be younger and more successful than me. The pair of them – herself and Paul – were interviewed remotely by Graham Norton. They were talking about a chain that Connell wore on the show, which had gained its own cult status. It has its own Instagram account too, which just shows you how desperate people will get over a sex symbol. That’s apparently what Paul Mescal is considered to be nowadays, although nobody told me. People across the globe fancying him. Well, they shouldn’t because he’s too normal. He plays GAA for Christ’s sake; you can’t be sexy and play GAA. Imagine taking someone like that home to your father, he’d be thrilled. So thrilled you’d be a bit worried. Personally, I wouldn’t want someone talking to my Dad about Ballygo-wherever’s chances in the All-Ireland Intermediate Club Final.


Speaking of aul lads, the Rolling Stones went and cast Mescal in their music video for a single called ‘Scarlet.’ You can admire Mick Jagger’s desperate attempt to remain relevant with this savvy bit of casting, or you can lament the death of rock n roll. There’s no more Paul Simenon; it’s all Paul Mescal now. It is nothing short of an aesthetic crime to have an Irish lad in a white shirt like he’s making his Communion starring in the music video for one of the world’s most famous rock bands. Rock should not be about normal people. They should have put somebody with cheekbones and a leather jacket or a tux in that video. Leave Mescal to the Hogan stand. The All-Ireland and a roll in the back of a Ford Focus with a lovely girl is rock n roll enough for that fella.

Paul Simenon. You can guarantee he’s not thinking about Kerry’s chances in Croker this year…


But it’s too late now because there’s no stopping Paul Mescal’s star ascending. At least that’s what the celeb watchers are saying. He was spotted out and about in Kinsale with a sickly looking famous singer-songwriter whose hair is the same colour as the rest of her. She flew over from the US – in the middle of lockdown – to meet Mescal and gad around Cork for herself. That’s what you’d call notions. Apparently, the two of them are big fans of each other’s work – or something. You might think otherwise, but I’ve nothing against the lad having a bit of fun and enjoying his professional success. I just wish everyone would leave him to it because I am sick to the back teeth of hearing about every little move he makes morning, noon, and night. I don’t ever want to hear a peep about Normal People again. I’m all for Abnormal People. I think 2021 is going to be their year. Oh, who am I kidding, our year. Please God.

And, Paul, if you’re reading this, don’t mind me, I’m only an aul biddy. Fuck the begrudgers; we’re not normal people.