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COLM TOBIN: Omicron variant is the latest plot in an unfolding disaster movie

December 5th, 2021 5:05 PM

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AS storm Arwen ripped through parts of Northern Ireland and the UK last weekend, there was a moment of light relief when the BBC reported that 61 people, including an Oasis tribute band, were snowed in at a Yorkshire pub for three nights.

The dramatic possibilities seemed endless. Did romance blossom, I wondered? Were the poor punters driven demented having to put up with 72 hours of non-stop Wonderwall? Did fictional Noel and fictional Liam kick the living crap out of one another?

As it happens, the trapped revellers were reported to be having the time of their lives, even well into their third night of the ‘lock-in.’ One lady reportedly said, ‘I don’t actually want to leave.’

It sounded like heaven to me. By the end of last weekend in Ireland, with rumours abounding of further lockdowns to come and with the Taoiseach advising parents to limit their kids’ social activities outside of school (despite having spent the whole week cooped up together in a freezing classroom anyway) the idea of being locked in some pub with total strangers never felt so appealing. I’d gladly spend three days and three nights in The Top Of Coom if it meant I could escape from the raging bin fire that is the latest breaking news, I thought to myself.

There is a real sense of Groundhog Day in the air, isn’t there?

The reports that scientists in South Africa have discovered a potentially more virulent and vaccine-resistant strain of Covid, namely Omicron, are about as welcome as a fart in a Santa suit in the run-up to the holiday season.

It felt like we were only just starting to return to some sort of normality too and then – boom – Uncle Covid has other plans.

Omicron just feels like the latest plot twist in the unfolding disaster movie that is the last 18 months – even the name sounds like something out of a Ridley Scott script.

Only time will tell whether this is the bit in the film where the baddie suddenly comes back to life only for the hero to finally vanquish him or whether this is just the end of Season One in the Covid-19 box set. There’s a whole Greek alphabet to work through yet, lads.

What is becoming ever more apparent is the need to get vaccines to the rest of the world as soon as possible. No amount of booster shots can protect us if the virus is raging in other parts of the globe and it will continually come back to haunt us if we’re not careful. But can governments and pharmaceutical companies come together and muster a truly equitable international response to this pandemic? The answer seems to be ‘definitely, maybe.’

Cinema visit a let down

BEFORE all the bad headlines struck, I finally had a chance to return to the cinema for the first time in 18 months last week. I’ve been craving the big-screen experience of late. I love that feeling of heading into a flick in the late afternoon while it’s still bright and emerging into the dark two hours later, having been transported to an entirely different universe, the real world filled with possibility again.

I went to see Denis Villeneuve’s Dune which was the perfect choice for a big-screen movie experience. It’s sci-fi on a vast scale with amazing visuals, superb performances and a wonderfully immersive soundtrack and score. Except, unfortunately, the cinema I chose to visit wasn’t immersive at all.

For some reason, the dialogue was panned hard left for the entire film in The Odeon multiplex at The Point Village. I realise this is the very definition of a first-world problem, but how hard can it be to set up and maintain a sound system? The truth is, I would have had a more immersive experience at home in the living room. It was really disappointing.

If big cinema chains hope to entice punters away from the riches on offer from the various streaming services at home, they’re going to have to try a lot harder.

 

Barrage of bank holidays

FIRST world problems were the order of the day when Fianna Fáil senator Fiona O’Loughlin emerged last week with her noble call for a bank holiday to mark The Late Late Toy Show.  ‘They’re really going a bit over the top with this Toy Show business, aren’t they,’ I said to my wife who pretended not to hear me as she carefully unpacked four matching Late Late Toy Show-branded pyjamas.

It’s open season on calls for new bank holidays these days, it seems, and it could be a nightmare trying to get any banking done at all next year the way things are going. Leo Varadkar has already hinted at a double bank holiday on March 17th and 18th to mark the heroic efforts of the frontline health workers during the pandemic. Ironically, this probably means there’ll be twice as many people showing up in A&E with alcohol poisoning on the 19th. There has also been a growing #MeToo-style campaign to turn St. Brigid’s Day on February 1st into a national holiday to gender balance our celebration of the Welsh lad in March. At this rate, we’ll all be on a four-day-week by 2023. We shouldn’t stop there. There is so much more for us to celebrate. We could have an annual day of mourning to mark Roy Keane leaving Saipan each May, for instance. And maybe the birth of Mr Tayto could be marked too, given the pleasure he has given the people of Ireland since 1954?

And surely be to God Garth Brooks deserves a place in the calendar at this stage? A national day of line dancing, anyone?

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