Little Ireland

I worked on the last census of population here in Ireland and am acutely aware that Ireland has a population of just under 5 million people.

We’re in the news for all the worst reasons at the moment as we have shot up to first place in the world in terms of incidence of Covid 19.

We pride ourselves on being leaders in things like banning smoking in public buildings; getting rid of free plastic bags; having world class sportsmen and women like Katie Taylor, The O’Donovan Brothers, Sonia O’Sullivan; producing great poets like W.B. Yeats, musicians like U2 and, of course, having the most magnificent scenery imaginable.

This current Covid situation is awful and is something we didn’t ever expect as we had been managing pretty well up to the start of the year.

Being a small country may be an advantage in terms of trying to get a grip on things as there is still a reasonably strong sense of community and people tend to be fairly connected to each other. We have had tough times before and come through thanks, in part, to our sense of humour and deepseated ‘it’ll be okay’ attitude.

We just have to pull together more than we’ve done in a long time and become leaders in the very best sense in this Covid morass.

A kite needs to be tied down in order to fly. I learned how important restrictions can sometimes be in order to experience freedom.

Damien Rice, Irish Musician

Lockdown 3, Ireland

Ireland has gone into a very hard Lockdown yet again as Covid is rampaging out of control here. It is a scary time, especially to see our town making headlines for being a place with a huge spike in cases.

The lifting of a lot of restrictions to ensure that Christmas wasn’t cancelled seemed shortsighted then and an act of madness now.

It was hoped that people would take ‘personal responsibility,’ and I know plenty who did but unfortunately many didn’t and now we are seeing daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising drastically and healhcare settings pushed to bursting point.

It’s hard to understand how such trust can be placed in people to act responsibly. Maybe, the sociologist in me comes creeping out at times like this and memories of those classes on Social Order and Social Conflict that highlighted such different perspectives on how the world works.

My heart goes out to exhausted healthcare and other workers who are trying to deal with the very ill from Covid and other illnesses which haven’t miraculously gone away. And my heart bleeds for those who, through no fault of their own, have ended up hardly able to breathe or who have died.

Maybe, I am hard but I have little sympathy for those who went off meeting lots of people and who now find themselves in difficulty.

And, as for ‘Covid fatigue,’ the term even drives me nuts. Of course, we all want to be rid of this thing but being all upset because you can’t go to a big booze up just doesn’t cut it with me.

Let’s hope there are better times ahead and that everyone will pull their weight and act responsibly and with a little thought for greater society not just me, me me.

This IS going to take time so patience is required like never before.

Presidential Poetry

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, is a sociologist and a poet as well as a former politician. He is greatly loved in this country and we are immensely proud of him.

A while back, I was chatting to a friend and Michael D. came up in conversation. He told me of a time when he and a friend were students and hitching around Co. Galway. A car pulled up and it turned out that it was Michael D. out for a Sunday drive to take in the delights of Co. Galway. He chatted away to the lads, insisted on standing them lunch and showing them some of the more hidden gems of the countryside which he was so familiar with. Later he dropped them back at the station to catch their train to Dublin. It was an afternoon that my friend remembered as being fun, educational and and one of the reasons why he had absolutely no hesitation in voting for Michael D. for President when the time came. He is now in his second term.

Recently, our President wrote a poem to inspire the people of Ireland and beyond. Here it is and I hope you like it as much as I do:

Take Care

In the journey to the light,
the dark moments
should not threaten.
Belief
requires
that you hold steady.
Bend, if you will,
with the wind.
The tree is your teacher,
roots at once
more firm
from experience
in the soil
made fragile.

Your gentle dew will come
and a stirring
of power
to go on
towards the space
of sharing.

In the misery of the I,
in rage,
it is easy to cry out
against all others
but to weaken
is to die
in the misery of knowing
the journey abandoned
towards the sharing
of all human hope
and cries
is the loss
of all we know
of the divine
reclaimed
for our shared
humanity.
Hold firm.
Take care.
Come home
together.

-Michael D. Higgins-

Showing White

Ireland’s Covid cases have skyrocketed in the last few days and we are headed for a heavy lockdown – due to be announced in a few minutes.

The world feels shaky and fragile in so many ways but today I glimpsed hope under the bare Hydrangea by our garden gate. A clump of darling snowdrops smiled up at me with their fresh green leaves and tiny buds showing white. If ever there was a brave, resilient flower, the snowdrop has to be the winner. Just seeing this beauty emerging from the sodden ground made everything seem so much brighter and it was as if hope had come to rescue a bad situation. Nature has such a precious heart.

Hope

SNOWDROPS

Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring–

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.

Louise Gluck

Tiny Snippet

I find when I’m walking alone that I can’t but overhear bits of conversations that are in full flow among other walkers. I often wish I had a notebook with me to capture some of the gems.

Today, I was out for my constitutional and was very taken with a woman in her forties or so who was being very kind to her dog who seemed to be struggling a bit with age. She was chatting away to him, cajoling him along in the most loving way imaginable. At one point she stopped and said to him: We’re nearly home and you can sleep for the afternooon.

She clearly knew quite a few of the regulars who were out taking the sea air and just as I passed her chatting with a man, also around forty, I heard him saying in a very sincere way:

The least we can do is care for those who raised us.

He was talking in the context of the current lockdown in Ireland as we see Covid cases rocketing.

I am beginning to wonder if there is a certain generation who are more acutely aware of the virus than others. Those are people whose parents are elderly and in one of the most vulnerable categories. The devastation of older people being swept away by the virus in care homes has been harrowing for many here in this country, as elsewhere.

When the ‘elderly person’ is one’s own mother or father, it’s a different thing altogether to being a group of people who are essentially out of sight or seen as being unproductive and in the waiting room of death.

I am well aware that there are fierce arguments about generational prioritising in relation to Covid but I have to say I was very touched by this stranger’s viewpoint as I walked silently by.

Christmas Ads

We’re big into our Christmas ads in Ireland and this year the one which has captured hearts is that from the SuperValu supermarket chain.

As it happens, SuperValu here in Tramore is my main shopping place for groceries and the ethos of the chain is about supporting communities.

SuperValu in Tramore has been to the forefront of the Tidy Towns initiative which has seen Tramore been greatly enhanced and it is also very big into sponsoring local teams, especially in Gaelic Games.

I hope you like the ad:

Live Music …

Christmas is always a time thst I go to a few concerts and carol services but this year it’s different as Covid case numbers have taken off here again.

So, I have taken to watching concerts on TV and am enjoying them greatly.

You might remember that one of my projects during Lockdown 2 was to write thank you letters to people who have really touched my life.

Among those I wrote to was Irish tenor, Finbar Wright, whose concerts have punctuated very emotional times in my life.

I sent the letter ages ago and was utterly chuffed to receive a lovely Christmas card from him the other day. I certainly didn’t expect him to reply as the pleasure has all been mine attending his wonderful performances.

One just never knows what’s around the corner.

Ballyscanlon, Co. Waterford

Stay safe, my friends.

Watching and Waiting

It’s probably hard for people in countries far flung from The UK and Ireland to grasp the extent to which the uncertainty that surrounds Brexit is impacting on people’s lives.

Covid has been and remains a terrible scourge but waiting for the huge upheaval and disruption that a likely No Deal Brexit is going to bring has us all bracing ourselves.

While I can respect that a slim majority of people in the UK voted to leave the European Union, I am not truly convinced that they foresaw the vast number of issues that it would thrust at them or their neigbours. Here we all are steeped in Covid and this Brexit uncertainty feels like a step too far.

Hopefully a deal of some description can be struck before this coming Sunday night as I think we are all going to need to be as strong and united as we can be to survive the hammerblows of both Covid and a disorderly Brexit.

Who’d have thought it would come to this even a year ago?

Phone Boxes

I just heard on the radio that there is a new initiative afoot to turn our old on-street phone boxes into fast car-charging ‘stations.’

That got me thinking about all the phone calls I made from phone boxes around Ireland from when I was a young teen.

This comes after a conversation with son (25) the other day during which I was trying to explain about trunk calls versus local calls and the key role of the telephone operator. The picture I painted was a bit ‘valley of the squinting windows’ type in that one was always aware that the operator could hear conversations unfolding and was therefore in a position of being aware of news pretty much as it came in. ‘Breaking news’ is the term now; I’m not sure what it was back then – gossip or ‘sca,’ maybe.

But the phone boxes were lifelines for me when I moved away from home. I was one of those closely bonded kids who rang home every single night without fail and that was something that lasted right up to the day my father died, years on in 2010. It was Mother I used to have the long chats with but Dad very often answered the phone and made sure he got to hear and give ‘the breaking news’ first.

I’m sure I drove waiting callers crazy when I’d get Mother to call me back in the phone box when my money was running out – most nights! It would be all steamed up and I’d try and avoid catching the impatient eyes glaring in at me and luxuriate in the chatter with Mother about everything from how our dog was to the fact that the new moon was due and to be careful not to see it through the glass for fear of bad luck; to seeking advice about how to deal with insect bites, cakes that wouldn’t rise, whether or not it was a good idea to go on a second date with a guy we both knew just wasn’t my type at all….

Those public phone boxes heard it all as did the operators. Some of the conversations were highly charged, like trying to explain the inexplicable or screw up the courage to confess to being completely broke, yet again, after splashing out on an irresistible bargain in my favourite clog shop or cheesecloth shirt emporium!

I just hope this charge will go into the environmentally friendly cars and that people will always hear the echo of :’Yes, I’ll accept the charges,’ in response to the operator interceding and asking Dad: ‘Will you accept reverse call charges?’