It’s week 99 and a pretty phenomenal one at that, with nearly all restrictions now lifted. It looks like we can finally forget about the ‘new normal’ and just get back to ‘normal’.
• AFTER all my olagonin I’m beginning to think that I might be the only person in West Cork who hasn’t plonked themselves up on a high stool, yet. What a fantastic week it’s been, though, unbelievable to have made it here, even if I’m still at the processing stage of things. It’s like we’ve got the green light, but I’m still spluttering a tiny bit on amber and need a bit of a jump start. To be completely honest my first reaction after Micheál’s ‘Spring is coming’ speech was ‘oh god no, I hope no one texts me to go out this weekend.’ Yes, I’m that much of a weirdo. But give me a little time, and space (maybe not 2m exactly, but close enough) and I’ll get there. The thing is my family were really lucky not to get any strain of Covid at all (a few scares, but we dodged them all) and I still don’t have much of a mind for it, so I might be that oddball asking for the table in the corner, beside the window for a while yet. Oh, and can we keep the table service please?
• And that’s the thing. Everyone is coming out of this pandemic at a different pace. Some are all revved up and in the fast lane; others are going to be taking it a bit handier. But we’ll all get there in the end, spurred on by the scenes of normality (you can keep your ‘new normal’), people hugging, dancing and simply living, which are giving us all pure joy. It’s probably still way too early to start any major reflections on the past two years, but for me it’s been neatly bookended on either side by the five-year-old’s birthday. At her fourth party in March 2020, the grown-up chat naturally turned to ‘this virus’ and we joked that it might hit us yet. Hah! The following week we were in lockdown (whatever that meant) and we didn’t know what hit us. We were shook.
• It’s totally bonkers if you recall even the half of it: the mountains of loo roll we all bought (what was that about?), the horror of working from home, then the horror of returning to the office and the dawn of the hybrid model, the meltdowns caused by poor broadband, the endless ‘you’re on mute’ which stopped being funny after 10 minutes. A new found appreciation for our teachers and our hairdressers (turned out their jobs were harder than we thought, we had plenty of Zoom to improve); for our binmen, our postmen, (and women!) our farmers and all our frontline workers who kept the show on the road. And the walks, god the endless walks (which for so long were inside our 5km). It’s all a blur, and a bit like childbirth – you think you must surely have imagined the pain, and that it couldn’t really have been that bad. Well it was.
• There was a lot of anger, a lot of the time we didn’t even know what we were angry about (neither did the poor husbands), there was fatigue, lots of badly thought-out online purchases, including lots of leggings (for all the walks), and an awful lot of Netflix.
• For some, though, the pandemic brought great clarity and they made life-changing decisions. They became yoga teachers, they learned to play the piano, they found their true purpose. These were all on my list of things to do too but I was too busy watching Netflix. Some found a comfort zone so comfortable they thrived. Others really struggled without real connections. The sea saved a lot of us. Cold water therapy should not be underestimated.
• We learned a whole new language, too: bubbles, boosters, clusters, cocooning, circuit breakers, super spreaders, pods and PCRs. We were on first-name terms with Prof Luke, Dr Cillian and Dr Tony. We dosed ourselves with Vitamin D, doused ourselves in sanitiser, we knew where Wuhan was and bats, well, it’s hard to see how they’ll come back from this one. When Leo and Micheál came down ‘those steps’ we’d get a knot of fear in our stomachs, hoping we’d done enough to flatten the curve. Was there a roadmap out of this? Were we there yet?
• A sourdough revolution swept the country (there were lots of teeth chipped in the process); people fermented and pickled. Others dished up potato waffles as the kitchen table heaved under laptops and schoolbooks and the family heaved under the mental load. There were food trucks on every byway and boreen; a take away coffee became a luxury like no other; novelty supper boxes brought date night to our kitchens, and yes, there was a lot of wine consumed.
• We’re left with more than the Covid stone, though. There was a lot of real pain, loneliness, suffering, loss; of people, of time, of opportunities, livelihoods. That won’t all be forgotten by one night out, even past 8pm.
• From the outset of the pandemic we showed we were adaptable, resilient and that we could do it. But it’s so great not to have to do it anymore. The Taoiseach told us it was time to sing, which got me thinking not about my own party piece, but if we could persuade Prof Luke to go on stage in Páirc Uí Chaoimh for one night only? Now that would get me straight from amber to green pretty lively. In the meantime, I’ve a party for a six-year-old to organise. And yes of course, you’re all invited!