Lockdown Week 1

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It has been nothing short of bizarre this week and reminds me a lot of the Phyllis McGinley poem below.  We now have the subject matter for a hundred such poems.  Phyllis was born on this day in 1905 in Ontario, but was not a Canadian.  There is a town called Ontario in Oregon, USA.  There’s a trick question in there for a table quiz!

I worked from home all this week, with a break on Tuesday which was St. Patrick’s Day.  The Irish national holiday passed free of parades, with pubs and restaurants closed.  Tourists stranded in Dublin by the rapid pace of events wandered empty streets like lost souls.

Our heating broke down.  We spent the day shuffling a hot air blower and an oil filled radiator from room to room to alleviate the cold.

The plumber did come and spent the day with us on Thursday fixing the system.  He was pursued about the house by Louise wielding anti-bacterial sprays and sterile wipes in case he had been repairing a heating system in an infected house.

The three kids are working/studying from home also.  Esha sat her first exam of the semester, remotely from her bedroom on Friday.  It’s at times like this that you recognise wants from needs; electricity, wi-fi, heating.

Today Jerry and I did the weekly shop.  A bizarre experience.  Supermarkets filled with socially distanced shoppers.  None of the usual friendly chat and greetings.  No touching.  Everyone super polite, standing back to let others pass by.  No rushing at the checkouts.

You know instinctively that all this distant politeness will come to a violent end if the supply lines dry up.  The most important thing today for goverments the world over is to continue to provide confidence to citizens that the food, and drink, will continue to arrive on the shelves.  A hint of panic and there will be blood in the aisles.


Daniel At Breakfast; by Phyllis McGinley

his paper propped against the electric toaster
(nicely adjusted to his morning use),
Daniel at breakfast studies world disaster
and sips his orange juice.
the words dismay him. headlines shrilly chatter
of famine, storm, death, pestilence, decay.
Daniel is gloomy, reaching for the butter.
he shudders at the way
war stalks the planet still, and men know hunger,
go shelterless, betrayed, may perish soon.
the coffee’s weak again. in sudden anger
Daniel throws down his spoon
and broods a moment on the kitchen faucet
the plumber mended, but has mended ill;
recalls tomorrow means a dental visit,
laments the grocery bill.
then having shifted from his human shoulder
the universal woe, he drains his cup
rebukes the weather (surely turning colder),
crumples his napkin up
and, kissing his wife abruptly at the door,
stamps fiercely off to catch the 8:04

Lighting Up

I spent the weekend ferrying my son Jerry up and down to Clonmel, where he was packing bags in Tesco for his charity drive.  You can check out his progress here, http://www.mycharity.ie/event/raiseforcalcutta/  and he also has a blog on wordpress to track his fundraising and the trip to Calcutta.  If you are feeling all Christmassy and want to give him something you can donate as little as €2 on the website, and genuinely, all donations are very much appreciated.  OK, begging bowl away….

For those of you who don’t live in Ireland, the 8th of December is THE shopping day for Christmas.  In the Catholic Calendar it is the feast of the immaculate conception.  According to the church authorities in the middle ages, it was not enough that Jesus was born of an immaculate conception.  The vessel of his birth, the womb of the Virgin Mary, had to be as pure as driven snow, so she was also accorded an immaculate conception.  What this means for children in Ireland is……a day off school.

So traditionally Mammy packed the kids down to the drapery and fitted them out with new duds for Christmas on the 8th.  The tree arrived in the house, the lights went up and everything started to feel a lot like Christmas.

In the city the relevance of the 8th has declined, but down here in rural Tipperary it remains the big day heralding the Christmas season.  If you don’t buy your tree on the 8th you will be left with one of the lame, the asymmetrical, the mangy, the bald, the withered or the stunted specimens rejected by the early bird buyers.

And so it is that I was climing the ladder first thing this morning to festoon the front of the house with lights.  The tree is up and dressed, the star is attached, the ultimate christmas album is in the CD player.

So it feels like a night for Frost.  That would be Robert Frost rather than Jack Frost

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.