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COLM TOBIN: We are on the cusp of . . . returning to pre-pandemic procrastination

February 13th, 2022 5:05 PM

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HOMEMADE carrot and lentil soup. A delicious huevos rancheros brunch. Fresh hummus sprinkled with paprika. Soda bread with roasted walnuts. Five to six cups of coffee.

Don’t worry, I haven’t radically changed course and turned this into a cookery column.

I’m just telling you all the things I made in the kitchen this morning, not because I’m a wonderful person who you should all admire, but because I would have done anything, literally anything, to avoid writing this column.

It’s not like I don’t enjoy writing. It’s just that I’m a human being and hence a bit of an eejit, which means I end up putting things off even though I know it’s only going to cause me much pain further down the road. Does that sound familiar to you?

I promise myself I will change and I often do, for a short while, before falling into the same old bad habits again.

And with society on the cusp of a return to post-Covid normality, we seem to be slipping back into the same old pre-pandemic patterns as before.

Remember all the sweeping life changes we were going to make? We were all going to jack in the day jobs and move to a log cabin in Ahakista to rear pot-bellied pigs. We were going to get off our phones and spend every lunchtime in the woods, engaging in a spot of forest bathing. (Look it up, it’s a thing.)

On the evidence of the past week, I’m seriously beginning to wonder if we’ve learned anything at all.

Take the decision to make a complete return to normal in the Leaving Cert as an example. In my view, this is the correct decision given the alternatives. But we have had a perfect window of opportunity over these past two years to redesign the existing exam-based model, which is essentially a cross between Junior Mastermind and waterboarding, and come up with something a little bit more equitable and marginally less medieval. I still suffer from those post-Leaving Cert anxiety dreams where I’m sitting in the middle of an exam hall, buck naked bar a pair of underpants on my head, having suddenly lost the ability to write. I have regular flashbacks to the Leaving Cert like Americans of a certain generation have flashbacks to Vietnam.

Over these Covid years, we’ve had the opportunity to dream up a more humane version of the exam, with some more weight towards course and project work, and which doesn’t end in a winner-takes-all, Hunger Games-style memory competition. And yet, it’s back to the same ‘ole same ‘ole ….

The human tendency towards procrastination is also very much in evidence near my own little corner of Dublin at the moment. We recently learned that the long-awaited Clontarf to City Centre cycleway will be installed over the coming two to three years. We’ve been waiting since 2013 for this and it’s finally going ahead at an estimated cost of €62m, over three times the original estimate. There have been planning issues to do with water mains and a local brouhaha over a few trees but thankfully we will now (or at least soon) be able to cycle to town without having to share the road with smelly buses and erratic taxi drivers. Unfortunately, there will be major disruptions on the route for two years to get all this built – buses will need to be rerouted, roads blocked off, pedestrians will need to tightrope-walk across building sites … Isn’t it a shame this couldn’t have been done over the last two years when there was literally no traffic on the road? Nah, sure there’s no rush.

And then there were reports this Monday that our use of cars has returned to pre-pandemic levels with the uptake of public transport now below what it was before Covid. I see this myself on the bike every day.

Line upon line of people sitting alone in their cars listening to news reports about the spike in fuel prices as I cruise by them on the bike. Father Dougal would get to work faster in a milk float.

Will we ever learn?

On the plus side, my carrot and lentil soup was out of the top drawer so sometimes procrastination delivers surprising benefits.

We’re all on Poots’ Time

IT’S hard to keep track of the DUP.  They do seem to exist in a space-time separate from our own – a realm I now refer to as Poots’ Time. Let’s just do a quick recap, shall we? First of all, they supported Brexit which made the border an issue again.

Then, they rejected Teresa May’s deal which would have kept Northern Ireland in the same customs zone as Britain. They then backed Bojo’s deal which installed a border down the Irish Sea.

And most recently, Mr Poots steps up to the microphone and says international agreements signed by the UK no longer apply to Northern Ireland. With a straight face. Perhaps it’s some elaborate sort of performance art. Are they trying to win The Turner Prize or something?

I’ll swing for Golfgate

SPEAKING of controversial partitions ... I’ve been thinking about optioning the film rights to Golfgate.

It’s got all the ingredients for a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s got a cast of fascinating, complex central characters such as Donie Cassidy and Noel Grealish.

It’s got careers firstly destroyed in the court of public opinion, with the possibility of glorious redemption later.

It’s also got beef and/or salmon.

I’m thinking Daniel DayLewis could come out of retirement to play Donie and maybe Tom Cruise could do Dara Colleary? I can think of nobody better than the Brennan brothers to play the event organisers. And Phil Hogan would play himself obviously.

Anyway, se

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