DIARY OF A DEMENTED HOMEWORKER: We’ve come a long way

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It’s week 99 and a pretty phenomenal week, with almost all the restrictions now lifted. It looks like we can finally forget about the “new normal” and get back to “normal”.

• AFTER all my olagonine, I’m starting to think I might be the only person in West Cork who hasn’t sat on a high stool yet. What a fantastic week it has been, however, amazing to get here, even though I’m still in the transformation stage. It’s like we have the green light, but I’m still a little hesitant about amber and I need a little push. To be completely honest, my first reaction after Micheál’s “Spring Is Coming” speech was “Oh my god no, I hope no one is texting me to go out this weekend”. Yes, I’m so weird. But give me some time and space (maybe not 2m exactly, but close enough) and I’ll get there. Thing is my family was really lucky not to have a strain of Covid at all (a few scares but we dodged them all) and I still don’t think about it much so I may -be that oddball asking for the table in the corner by the window for a while yet. Oh and can we keep dinner service please?

• And that’s the problem. Everyone is coming out of this pandemic at a different pace. Some are all revitalized and in the fast lane; others will take it a little more convenient. But we’ll all get there in the end, energized by the scenes of normality (you can keep your “new normal”), people kissing and dancing and simply living, which bring us all pure joy. It’s probably still too early to begin any major reflections on the past two years, but for me it was neatly wrapped up on either side by the five-year-old’s birthday. On its fourth night in March 2020, adult conversation naturally turned to “this virus” and we joked that it might still hit us. Ha! The following week we were in lockdown (whatever that means) and we didn’t know what was hitting us. We were shaken.

• It’s completely crazy if you even half remember it: the mountains of toilets we all bought (what was it?), the horror of working from home, then the the horror of returning to the office and the dawn of the model hybrid, the meltdowns caused by a poor broadband connection, the endless “you’re on mute” that stopped being funny after 10 minutes. A newfound appreciation for our teachers and hairdressers (their jobs turned out to be harder than we thought, we had a lot of Zoom to improve on); for our garbage collectors, postmen (and wives!), farmers and all our frontline workers who put on a show on the road. And the walks, god the endless walks (which for so long were inside our 5km). Everything is blurry, and a bit like childbirth – you think you must have imagined the pain, and it couldn’t really be that bad. Well it was.

• There was a lot of anger, often we didn’t even know why we were angry (poor husbands either), there was fatigue, a lot of poorly thought out online purchases, including a lot of leggings (for all walks), and lots of Netflix.

• For some, however, the pandemic has brought great clarity and they have made life-changing decisions. They became yoga teachers, they learned to play the piano, they found their true purpose. This was all on my to-do list as well, but I was too busy watching Netflix. Some have found a comfort zone so comfortable that they have thrived. Others have really struggled with no real connections. The sea saved many of us. Cold water therapy should not be underestimated.

• We also learned a whole new language: bubbles, boosters, clusters, cocooning, circuit breakers, super spreaders, pods and PCR. We were on good terms with Professor Luke, Dr Cillian and Dr Tony. We dosed ourselves with vitamin D, we sprayed ourselves with disinfectant, we knew where Wuhan was and the bats, well, it’s hard to see how they’re going to come back from this one. When Leo and Micheál descended “those steps”, we had a knot of fear in our stomachs, hoping that we had done enough to flatten the curve. Was there a roadmap from that? Were we there already?

• A sourdough revolution swept the country (there were many chipped teeth in the process); people fermented and pickled. Others baked potato waffles as the kitchen table heaved under laptops and textbooks and the family heaved under the mental strain. There were food trucks on every road and borehole; a takeaway coffee has become a luxury like no other; novelty supper boxes brought date nights to our kitchens, and yes, there was plenty of wine consumed.

• We still have more than the Covid stone, however. There was a lot of real pain, loneliness, suffering, loss; people, time, opportunities, livelihoods. All this will not be forgotten in a single evening, even after 8 p.m.

• From the start of the pandemic, we showed that we were adaptable, resilient and that we could do it. But it’s so good not to have to do that anymore. The Taoiseach told us it was time to sing, which made me think not of my own party tune, but if we could persuade Professor Luke to take the stage at Páirc Uí Chaoimh for just one night? Now that would take me straight from amber to pretty bright green. In the meantime, I have a party to throw for a six-year-old. And yes of course, you are all invited!

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