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Life during lockdown was strange and difficult, but there were good times too
Did it really happen? Yes, there really was a padlock on the Dromineer playground. And yes, the gardaí were at the crossroads, stopping cars and sending people home. The ‘local police’ were out too, telling visitors they weren’t welcome.
It was a strange time. Like a bereavement, you wake up to a bright cheerful morning, and then remember — coronavirus — and the day goes darker. Do some yoga, don’t forget to breathe. A world where no-one enters my house; a world of cooking and walking the dog; a world where you stop to watch a solitary jet overhead.
Dog walks took ages. Everyone wanted to stop and talk — at a social distance of two dog leads. The topics were the amazing weather, and how lucky we are to live in the countryside, by the lake. I spent April and May in shorts and T shirt, and ate outdoors every day. It was all part of the anti-virus protection: Outdoors good, indoors bad. Viruses don’t like sunlight or heat, and we got both back in the spring. Fortunately, viruses also don’t like humidity; we’ve had plenty of that too.
A weekly routine of baking developed. Each Sunday, I’d leave a dessert on a neighbour’s doorstep, and then we’d discuss the results through the open window. Apple tart, rhubarb ice-cream, Clementine cake, lava cakes.
It was a strange time, but we all had the same limited routine. The only time I felt lonely was after family Zoom calls, when the silence settled on the house again.
The Mayflower came out early, and the Mayfly were up. For fishermen, Mayfly season is something between an addiction and a religion. But the lake was closed, and fishing forbidden. There were patrols on socially-distanced jet skis. It was a relief when fishing was finally allowed under the 5 kilometre rule. A neighbour (close to cocooning age) said it was more fun under lockdown, hiding in the reeds at the sound of an engine, then realising it was just a lawnmower on the shore.
I didn’t need social media to know what was going on in the hospitals. I met medical and nursing neighbours, redeployed from Nenagh to Limerick ICU, walking off their fears and frustrations on the local roads. They talked about the difficulty of working in full PPE, and how very ill the virus patients were. A former colleague described the shocking experience of taking over a nursing home in the middle of a Covid outbreak.
There came a sad day when we stood on the roadside to pay our respects to a neighbour who succumbed, and watched as just two family cars followed the hearse.
There are good memories too: All those funny, charming and uplifting CoVideos. I dug up CoViolets on my walks and planted them in the garden. And a friend has promised me some of her very beautiful Corona-Irises.
Through it all, a terrible guilt nagged at me. ‘What did you do in the Great Covid War, Dr O’Malley?’ I left work because of my eyesight. But when so many doctors and nurses, and other staff, were working too many hours and too many days, what did I do? Yes, I volunteered. Apparently, I’m too old for frontline work, too young to cocoon; a useless age. I was trained (slowly) in contact tracing but as the sessions went by, the case numbers fell away. I suppose it’s some comfort to know that I’m one of almost 70,000 volunteers who did not find a place in the battle.
Instead, I cooked. I walked the dog. I weeded the garden. I read everything about the virus so I could kill off the rubbish in gossip or WhatsApp groups. No, it’s not true that four young people are seriously ill in Cork ICU because of anti-inflammatories. It’s not true that the over-60s won’t be treated.
Now the country is opening up again, and so is Dromineer. I’ve had lunch outside the Lake Café, and dinner inside the Whiskey Still pub. As I write, I’m planning my first night away from Dromineer, and my first haircut.
It’s funny, but in some ways it’s harder. I’m still walking the dog, but now the neighbours wave as they drive to the golf course, or to meet family. I can’t be bothered to cook anymore. Outside in the rain, the weeds are taking over.
But sails are scudding across Dromineer bay. The harbour is full of boats. Children’s voices are calling in the playground. We’ll get through this, back to some kind of recognisable world.