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Missing out on the beauty of life

I was made for the lockdown, if I had been locked down, that is

How was the summer for you? Quiet? No, mine wasn’t. I’m a GP you see. Frontline without the backup, that’s us. If it was a film we would be in our far-flung outposts, dog tired and running out of ammunition, scanning the horizon for the cavalry.

I wouldn’t mind but I was made for the lockdown, if I had been locked down, that is. I was locked in alright, behind a closed door with big yellow and red signs, battered by an electronic barrage of phone calls and algorithms, emails and WhatsApps, until I thought that I should be locked up. But I missed out on the great lockdown experience.

I am a bit like one of those who went to Italy for Italia 90 and always felt that they had missed out on the true “we’re-all-part-of-Jackie’s-army” spirit of the thing.

You could not find anyone more suited to lockdown than me. I have a houseful of books I have not yet read, or want to read again. I have a garden that is half a rewilding project and half a work in slow progress, which by itself would keep me fit and interested for years to come.

I have a guitar that could be better played and a dog who would appreciate more quality time with me loafing around in the woods. During the fabulous spring of 2020 the birds of the mid-west went about their lives unwatched by me, while my binoculars sat reproachfully on the shelf, as underworked as a sheepdog in a city apartment.



The radio and the papers were full of smiling, thoughtful people (the ones in the papers were smiling anyway. I am not so sure about those on the radio, but they seemed a damn sight happier than me at any rate) who had OMG realised that there was more to life than sitting in a traffic jam in Navan. They baked, they planted, they wove their own shawls from recycled organic seaweed. They had discovered the joys of reading real actual books, not screens. They learned how to plant vegetables and their eyes were opened to the beauty all around them. It took a while for me to be glad for them, for my eyes were open to the beauty all around me years ago. They were now green with envy for those who were freed from the bondage of the rat race, while I interrogated caller after caller about their sense of smell.

They baked, they planted, they wove their own shawls from recycled organic seaweed. They had discovered the joys of reading real actual books, not screens

I am over it. The phrase now is the “new normal”. As if the old “normal” was not a foolish exploitation of the world’s dwindling resources. This virus might just be the first of many hiding away in the jungles and there is no vaccine for rising water levels. The patients are coming back and we are glad to see them if they keep the mask on.

I had never thought I would have missed talking to clients so much. Often, in the old days, I would wonder when we could get round to talking about something apart from hurling. It was often a means of setting the scene, but sometimes I wonder was I the only one who spent more time on career advice for teens, gardening tips, and local politics than blood pressure. At meetings, bright young GPs would have the consultation down to an art, every slot supposed to pay for itself with maximum efficiency, while I seemed to be just enjoying the chat.

I even miss funerals. You know yourself. Deep down every doctor feels that the crowd might some day turn on them, but we went anyway. Looking back it meant a lot, especially if it was a long illness, as you turned away one last time from a person and family you had the privilege of helping.

There are positives. The scrubs and trainers are comfortable and practical and I wish I had switched over years ago. There will be no going back to the old normal on that one. The mask fogs up your glasses, but it has the great advantage that nobody can see your expression. You can be grinning like a loon and nobody can see you.

It is busy again, but the garden is looking well in a dishevelled way and I might get down to the Wexford Slobs for a spot of bird watching. You will never have enough time, but you will always find time for what’s important.

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