Veering West

COLM TOBIN: Trust us, Dr Tony, and leave us off the naughty list this Christmas!

December 25th, 2021 5:05 PM

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WITH a wave of Omicron on its way, we had even more restrictions to add to Santy’s list on Friday. After all our hard work, we’re still on the naughty list, it seems.

And it must seem like a particularly cruel á-la-carte menu of restrictions for the poor business owners in our hospitality industry, many of whom may not see the end of January without the right support.

I can understand what the government is trying to do to protect us in the face of a potentially huge crisis but there is a feeling of tinkering around at the edges at this stage.

If you shut the pubs at 8pm where do they think people will go? Into bed with a cup of Bovril and a copy of Ireland’s Own?

There is also a sense that we are not being trusted, that we are being infantilised at this point. If you tell a teenager they can’t go out after 8pm you can be damn sure they’ll be clambering out the bedroom window at five past.

I think we should let these businesses stay open, many of whom are operating responsibly in the first place, and put the energy behind a strong public campaign urging personal responsibility.

But it’s easy for me to say, isn’t it? We all know how last year went.

This year, to save us from tears, we’ll do it one more time. But let’s all pray it will be our last Covid Christmas.

One elf of a Christmas

WHO would have thought this time last year that we’d still be here? Still nervous about getting together. Still enjoying a somewhat half-lived life. There is almost a feeling of being institutionalised, isn’t there?

I would have thought, given the freedom promised by our world-class vaccine rollout, that I’d be rocking up to the local pub this Christmas, elf suit on and Christmas carols at the ready, to see friends and neighbours I’ve so dearly missed meeting these past years.

It’s strange. I’ve loved the privilege of writing this column this past year because it keeps me connected with home. A little bit of my heart is always veering west, to the waves crashing on Long Strand, to the kindness of Clon.

But in many ways I’ve never felt so far away. I realise we haven’t been in total lockdown all this time. But there is a stop-start feeling to everything, isn’t there?

Like real life will happen out there, somewhere in the future. When we can all be together again. Like, properly together.

There’s a part of me that fears we’ll never find that breezy levity we once had. That this thing has got into us and made us fearful of each other somehow.

But despite it all, and I realise Christmas especially can be a fraught and difficult time of year for many, I keep having to remind myself about some of the wonderful strides we have made in the past year.

With the end of the pandemic almost in sight (let’s just presume it is in sight, ok?) perhaps we should give ourselves a moment to applaud the amazing progress we’ve made as a community? All of us. The fact that so many were willing to sacrifice so much to save the lives of so few.

In the daily torrent of news and information, the world can sometimes seem cruel and meaningless and there are those whose interests are best served by presenting the country as some sort of failed state.

It is not. Boy, do we have problems and shortcomings. But they are ours to fix and I do get the sense during this extended two-year meditation that a shift might be happening in our collective consciousness. A return to some sort of Meitheal perhaps. Or maybe I just need to lay off the hot port ….

So this Christmas, I’m going to try to focus on the positive, turn inwards to my family and try to look forward to some better times for us all.

And in that spirit, what would Christmas be without a cheesy festive poem?

The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,

The pubs were shut tight, the restaurants bolted,

We listened to NPHET and no one revolted.

The stockings were hung on the chimney with care,

Filled with antigen tests, vouchers for Ryanair.

Oh to dream of a holiday, away in the sun,

On a lounger in Spain or on some beach drinking rum!

The carols all sung – Silent Night, Little Donkey,

With zero mentions of Professor Sam McConkey.

It’s been a hard slog, this couple of years,

We have banana bread coming out of our ears.

We’re Zoomed out, and wagged out,

We could all do with a cuddle,

So let’s get in a (socially distanced) huddle.

And instead of reflecting on what’s gone wrong in the past,

Let’s look out to next year, in our hourglass,

Let’s dream of a time, where we’re unencumbered,

By talk of variants, The R number.

A time with no masks, Where we can sit in a pub,

In a snug with a rug, With no fear of the bug.

No Alpha, no Delta, No Omicron either,

Just to sit huddled close, taking a breather.…

We’ll get there everyone … Merry Christmas to one and all! Stay safe, wash your hands, give yourself a break.

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