DAY 4: St Patrick’s Day

No chance of the socialising we’d normally expect on this day

Woke late with a stinking headache, and my tinnitus was particularly annoying. But then I had stayed up till 2am watching ‘The Professor and the Madman’. I did not know the (true) story, but it had resonance with my own researches into the treatment of ‘madness’ in the 19th century.

My limbs are rather stiff so I forwent my exercise routine (probably the wrong response, but a couple of fresh poached eggs and a big mug of tea seems a better option). 

It was a dull looking day outside, so the garden held no attractions – though the chickens noisily insisted they should be let out. Spent a little too much time checking the news on TV. The Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC2 was particularly illuminating about best courses of action for pregnant women and their spouses, and how the self-employed might get benefits as work dries up. There was also an invaluable segment about the scams now been perpetrated online, Beware false messengers. Check the email address, and hover over tempting URLs and you’ll discover who is really trying to steal your passwords and account details.

The Johnson administration may be waking up to the the severity of the situation, but it is clear that there has been little joined-up thinking going on. I wonder whose fault that will turn out to be, Messrs Cummings and Johnson? And by the way, Mr Johnson, now might be a good time to release the Russia Report – everyone is so preoccupied they may not notice, unless they are stuck at home and need good read.)

All morning St Pats greetings flooded in and around the family. We may not be able to share a jar together, but I am sure we shall be toasting each other at an appropriate moment today. I finished the morning by making soda bread.

On Twitter I see there is great thread where folk identify the pub in which they’d most like to celebrate the end of the Coronavirus crisis. Gus O’Connors pub in Doolin, County Clare would be among my favourites – supping Guinness over a bowl of clam chowder and a hunk of soda bread, with a session going on as local musicians pile in for the evening.

Some amusing images appeared from Ireland.

Another advertised the un-PC ‘St Patrick’s Holy Hand Sanitzer – Made with a blend of holy water and real Irish poteen. Gets rid of all Germs, even on dirty Protestant hands. Driving stuff out of Ireland since 450AD’. This reminded me of tales my mother told us about formidable great Aunt Annie who would brush aside British customs officers curious about the number of bottles of Holy Water she was bringing the family from Lourdes. May God have mercy on her soul. (She probably slipped a tot or two of poteen to St. Peter at heaven’s pearly gates.)

I spend part of the day reading short stories by James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, Sean O’Faolain, Liam O’Flaherty, and Oscar Wilde to see if I could find something short and appropriate enough to read to my grandsons in the evening. Their stories are beautifully crafted, but the shortest ones reflect upon the cruelty of nature and of human unkindness.

Instead I opted for Gordon Snell’s modern rendition of the Fionn MacCumhaill saga, told in rhyming couplets as ‘The Cool MacCool’. The boys loved it and it set off a conversation about the Seannachai and the links between creation myths and traditional legends! Such sophistication from primary school children.

Schools in Bristol are gradually closing down of their own volition regardless of the government’s policy of keeping them open. My grandsons’ are off now and have taken a very mature approach to the situation. They have drawn up a daily timetable for themselves, based on the classes they normally have at school, and downloaded the coding app ScratchJr so they can produce and share stories and films. They are way ahead of me.

Meanwhile my younger grandchildren are oblivious to what is happening when we have this evening’s Whatsapp session. But their parents now face an uncertain year. All my son’s work as a musician and tutor has dried up he must now join the throng seeking Universal Credit to feed the family.  

My youngest son has no dependents and has been out skateboarding. He is pleased there are still plenty pf people out and about, but expressed surprise to learn the pubs were closed when it was time for his St Pat’s Day Guinness. Just how successful is the government being in getting through to all sectors of society?

Had a quick look through the first draft of the first edition of the Connected Communities news aggregation project set up by World Health Communication Associates (WHCA). It will soon be online. More details when I get them.

Best news of the night was that the Home Office have contacted asylum-seekers to let them off  reporting requirements for the time being because of the virus. A hint of humanity which will relieve some of the anxieties of those still waiting for their claims to be resolved. 

“It would be better if they just told us we could stay,” says my house guest. “They can’t really deport anyone during this crisis. And life is difficult enough for us with the extra worry of the disease and the threat of detention.”

This evening I cooked colcannon with homegrown ingredients and a small salmon fillet, washed down with Guinness. Later I treated myself to an Irish coffee – though without Irish whiskey I had to ‘make do’ with the remnants of my favourite Laphroaig. Certainly tasted different, but a night-cap to be remembered. Slainte.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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