Breathing, Brexit and Ballads

It’s Christmas Eve and it doesn’t feel quite like it.

I’ve been practicing breathing exercises I heard a psychologist recommend on the radio the other day as a way of dealing with the uncertainty that the scary rise in Covid cases is giving rise to in the last few days. Breathing slowly and deliberately does help to tone down the anxiety in what seems like a very fragile situation. It looks like we are set for a very heavy lockdown, yet again, as the virus sweeps the country. The ‘break’ to allow Christmas to have some sort of normality associated with it has been pulled back a lot and seems like it is destined to be pulled back further.

My heart goes out to people who are lonely, fearful and miserable tonight and to all the people who are working in hospitals and care homes trying their very best to care for people who are being ravaged by the virus. I know many families who are all split up and also people who have been separated from their elderly relatives for months on end. There are no easy answers, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile, Ireland has heaved a sigh of relief today as the United Kingdom and European Union finally, finally agreed a Withdrawal Deal which will offset some of the worst effects of Brexit on our little country here on the edge of Europe. It’s still unclear exactly how it will all pan out but, at least, it looks like we will be spared mega tariffs and huge problems in relation to trading with our nearest neighbour.

And all the while, I have been haunted today by memories of the great balladeer, Liam Clancy, who I was fortunate enough to see in concert a couple of times. He was some character and the song that has been playing under the surface today is The Dutchman as I remember hearing him sing it with immense feeling here in Waterford during one of his final concerts.

It brings me to the love and connection that can exist when dementia enters a relationship. So many of our most vulnerable older people who have been caught up in the Covid situation have dementia and I really feel tonight and every night for couples who find themselves separated after long years spent together.

Christmas Eve is a night when one cannot but think of one’s parents and tonight I remember so many precious Christmases shared with my late mother and father who I was fortunate enough to have until they were 89 and 91 respectively ( and living just around the corner from me.) They are happily in my heart tonight and I think of them not with sadness but with great love and appreciation.

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?

Santa’s Clearance

It was wonderful to hear our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, making a statement from the Dail (Irish Parliament) yesterday about Santa being designated as an essential worker this year and being allowed to travel freely.

The Minister has a helluva lot on his mind these days with Brexit negotiations at a crucial stage and all the uncertainty that brings on top of Covid-related issues, not to mention all the other stuff he has responsibility for.

But, we all needed absolute clarity about Santa. No dithery dithers because Santa is super special in terms of lending stability and continuity in a very uncertain world.

I’m just so thankful that all that is sorted out nice and early. I don’t believe in getting into Christmas mode until Christmas week but Santa is an exception. Santa always was and always will be an exception.

Discovery

Discovery

Every single time I pass this apple tree in Mount Congreve Gardens, I find myself stopping to think about that word ‘Discovery.’

Sometimes it brings me straight back to Tuesday afternoons when I was in 4th class in primary school and the session that was set aside for us to read about famous discoverers like Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo. I would get lost in their adventures and wonder  where they got their bravery from as they faced the unknown.

The ‘unknown’ seemed to be all about rough seas, horizons, spotting land, sailing ships, anchors, drifting, wild joy, mad excitement, trepidation, finding, losing, journeying.

Back then, I saw ‘the unknown’ as being totally associated with BIG stories and famous people. It didn’t seem to have any direct relationship to me.

How perceptions change! Now I see ‘discovery’ and ‘the unknown’ as being a fundamental part of everyday life and as being associated with everything from the mundane to the extraordinary.

This weekend, seeing ‘Discovery’ brought me to wondering if Ireland’s soccer team could possibly beat France in the knockout stages of EURO 2016. Alas, they couldn’t/didn’t but they sure tried their best.

It has also had me pondering about the future of the United Kingdom and the European Union. The UK are our closest neighbours here in Ireland and they certainly seem to be on a journey into the unknown.

At a personal level, I’m more than conscious that positive and negative unknowns are waiting to unfold. These are not things that I can always have control over.

And all the while, I think of Socrates’ point that ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’

I’d love to know what you’d be likely to be thinking about as you paused beneath ‘Discovery.’