Tuesday, March 31, 2020

I would walk 500 miles....

Well it might take me a while seeing as I can only go in a 2km radius of home. I read that in order to avoid getting bored with your exercise regime you need to mix it up a bit. So today I decided that.....
instead of going 2 km in this direction

 I decided to go 2km in that direction

And you know, it really did make a difference. I normally only travel in that direction by car and I saw lots of things, including houses that I had never noticed before. I even got talking to a house owner that I had never met before.
It was from a safe distance. He was power washing his drive and I was on the road.
The thing is, before this time we would probably have just acknowledged each other with a "Hello" and I'd have kept going. Now it's an event to get the opportunity to talk to people.

There is a lot of talk at this time about the fact that the world has come to a halt. But it hasn't. The world is carrying on as normal, in fact probably better for the fact that humans are in lockdown.

First of all spring time saving began.
Just a pity we couldn't put the clock forward about four months.

Rivers are still flowing towards the sea.

Flowers are still coming into bloom.

And lambs are frolicking around with not a care in the world.

And someday soon....
I would walk 500 more.

Monday, March 30, 2020

First date...oops I mean Last date

Got word yesterday evening that teachers had until 6pm on Monday March 30th to access school buildings and prepare what they need for remote lessons.
I've been back to school twice but this was a final call out. As there were a few things I needed I set off this morning.
It was eerie going in this time. I think knowing that it was complete lock out after today that made it ominous.
I whizzed around the classroom, picking up the things I needed. I don't don't why I was hurrying, it wasn't like I was out-running the virus!
Then something stopped me in my tracks. It was the date on the whiteboard.

Yes, that is March 12th in Irish for those not in the know!

On that Thursday morning we had started class as usual. Us teachers knew that the situation was getting more serious but had been told the day before that schools weren't closing. We figured they would be.....but after Easter.
I wrote the date as normal on the board, thinking of the day ahead.  So it was a complete shock when we got word around noon that schools were closing....that day. It was a mad panic to get things sorted before hometime.
And so it is that the date has remained unchanged since then. I'm thinking it should be preserved for posterity!
I was reminded of the poem

Deserted House on Mount royal
Joy Thomson Tobin.

...Remembering through years, this *house must yearn
Again to shelter happiness and cheer.
To feel the throb of joyous life so near....
Not without hope it waits for their return.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

You can't make old friends

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not the best at sending cards. I buy them and then life gets in the way and I don't get round to sending them.
Obviously now, time is the one commodity that we have an abundance of and so I pulled out my stash of stored birthday cards and wrote one to my bestie from secondary school....Majella.

Majella and I met as two frightened first years as our cubicles were beside each other in the dormitory of St Joseph's boarding school. We became firm friends straight away and I'm glad to say that four decades later she is still a friend that I would pick up the phone and call if I had a problem.
In school there was a divide between the "boarders" and the "day pupils". I mean, there was no point being bestie with a day pupil because once the bell rang at the end of the school day you'd be on your own til the next morning.
In the five years of boarding I think we had one falling out, which wasn't bad!

As I wrote the card to her I had a flashback to school summer holidays. We didn't live near each other, no such thing as mobile phones so we used to write to each other.
In fact I think those letters are still in storage in my old bedroom at home! I must dig them out and give us a laugh. They're probably mainly about R.C. Remember him, Majella?

When I think about it. I think that The 'Bridge prepared us for for what we're going through now. We went off with our cases into the unknown, imagining all kinds of disasters that were going to befall us. We discovered at that early age that it was the support of friends that would see us through.
We were told by the nuns what we could and couldn't do AND BY GOD WE FOLLOWED THE RULES! If we had been told to walk 2 metres apart then that is what we did!
We got used to having a set menu of food and you had two choices, eat it or starve! And so we are now still thankful to have any food at all and to be creative with it, to make it taste better!
We were confined to the convent walls, the perimeter was about 2 km. We're used to walking round and round "the walks". No bother to us.
We were not allowed outside the gates until our parents picked us up. Now I do recall a few times we scaled the walls to go to Bradley's Corner shop to buy sweets. That stealth and subterfuge might come in very handy in the coming days when we're trying to get our provisions in the local shop!

So happy, happy birthday Majella and we'll celebrate in style in the not too distant future 

Friday, March 27, 2020


Ring, ring!
It was my friend Emer on video call.
Dam, why didn't I put on a bit of make-up. I look like the Wreck of the Hesperus. 

I was sitting down comfortably, chatting away, when I espied what looked like a rotting banana skin in the corner of the kitchen. Seeing as I had been channeling my inner domestic goddess and baked Oaty Banana Buns the other day I must have dropped a skin. But I had washed the floors afterwards and didn't spot it then?

Then.....it moved ever so slightly. My heart stopped and then leaped into my mouth when, on closer inspection I realised it WASN'T a mouse.
It was a BAT, BAT..........FUCKIN' BAT!!!

I tried to get the words out to Emer but they were stuck in my throat. Finally I got to splurt out
"There's a bat in my kitchen!!!"
Emer had the typical friend's response
"Oh show me!"
I had to turn around the phone to display him, like a horror show.

* posed by model.  

You don't actually think I was in the right frame of mind to start taking photographs of him???
I have been living in my house for 16 years and I have NEVER seen a bat around here before. And bad as all as their PR was before this, now on account of the Coronavirus they are more feared than ever.

So I told Emer I was going to have to put down the phone to deal with the emergency.

First of all I scrubbed up and put on gloves.
I've seen enough episodes of Grey's Anatomy to know the correct procedure.

I then got the dustpan and brush and approached him slowly, forgetting that bats can't see and he could sense me with his ultra sensitive radar, or whatever the hell he has.

I was talking to him in a calm manner, as I'm sure any Bat Whisperer would advise.

"Now, I'm just going to pick you up and put you at the bottom of the garden. I'm not going to hurt you."

I then heard squeals of laughter in the background. In my absolute panic I had failed to turn off my phone. So Emer was getting a Facetime-live of the whole event.

I gingerly scooped him up,, expecting him to jump up at me at any moment. He just lay there. I strongly suspect he wasn't in a good physical state. Anyway I walked carefully down to the bottom of the garden and placed him on the grass.

"Now, Don't come back!" I ordered. "I won't be as friendly the next time".

I got back into the house despite my wobbly legs. Emer was still on the line and tried to stem my  panic.
When the phone call ended I got the bucket, mop and disinfectant to slouch the place down.

Then came the next major worry.
How the hell had he gotten in???
I hadn't left my patio doors open and anyway there are curtains over them so he couldn't have gotten in that way.

Then I began to imagine that there were hundreds of them in my attic and that he had squeezed down through a crack and I was soon going to be over run with them.
"Calm the f*ck down, Noeleen and think about what you were doing before the phone call. He wasn't here earlier".

I had washed lots of my jumpers yesterday and put them out lying flat on a clothes horse at the side of my house. I had left them there overnight and had brought them in earlier. He must have been attached to one of them and that is how I brought him in.

Fair enough. But now I had to go down to my wardrobe where I had neatly folded away my jumpers (the new, improved me). I had to take them out one by one, carefully unfold them, give a little shake to make sure that there were no more bats lurking there.
Thankfully there were none.

I went back down to the kitchen for a cup of tea. I was shaking. Definitely suffering from PTSD. I'm still jumping every time I see a shadow or something dark.
It's hard to stay positive!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Life lessons taught by COVID-19

It's been two weeks since our school was closed and we were all sent home. Every family situation is different and has its pluses and minuses.
As I live alone, it's like being in self isolation. Now I have no one to be annoying me and getting on my last nerve, but on the other hand  I've no one to talk to during the days.
Video calls are a god send as it's lovely to see people when you're talking to them.
These new restrictions that came in the other day haven't made any difference to me, as that was what I was doing anyway.
I've been out for my walk/run
and had a few conversations with neighbours from across the hedge.
I've gone for a "big" shop twice so I don't have to go too often.
I've been back to school twice to sort out some things.
Had a conversation with a fellow teacher. She was at the top of the classroom, I was at the bottom of it.
And I went to town to donate blood.

That's been the height of my social interaction.

As a result I've taken to pulling my house apart and putting it back together again.
The last time that happened was the Great Snow-in of 2019.
As a result I've discovered a very valuable life lesson.

Life is 99% less stressful if you..........

a) reunite your tupperware containers with their lids.

b) reunite lonely socks with their partners.
In the time BC, Before Coronavirus, I spent many a morning rushing to get to school, but unable to find a matching pair. Now.....

And I swear, that before this pandemic is over I will have found the partners of those four lonely socks in the front. It doesn't matter where they're hiding, under beds, down the back of cupboards, at the bottom of a laundry basket,
I will seek you out and I will find you!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

My first social-distancing miracle.

There are much more important things to be worried about now than weight loss. However things like mental and physical health are connected to it.
This week saw me start back on my walk/run plan, something that I haven't done in the past year. But I needed it for my headspace. It's amazing what difference a mindset makes.Before this I was saying
"Dam I HAVE to go out for my run".
Now I'm saying
"Thank God I CAN still go out for my run."
And it makes all the difference to appreciate it.

Also I am planning out my meals for the week. Again its not a weightloss issue but rather being careful with my food. Yesterday I had to throw out two carrots that were gone off and I nearly went into meltdown over the fact that I had wasted food. God, the planet is really teaching me a lesson on how I should have been living all along.

I did a major overhaul of my kitchen and as you can see I only have dieting cookbooks! So everything I have been cooking is low -calorie, not out of choice but because I don't have any other type of recipe!

I had my weekly weigh-in this morning and I've lost 2lbs !!!!
Now why am I surprised when I have been doing all that good stuff?

Did I also mention the box of teacakes and the other box of mini chocolate swiss rolls plus the remnants of a bottle of vodka that I managed to get through over my confinement?

Yes it's a miracle. Now hand me the rest of my Oaty Banana buns!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Going bananas

The smell of freshly baked Oaty Banana Buns, curtsey of Operation Transformation, is wafting through my kitchen.

Aoife recommends that you don't eat any more than one a day as a snack.

All donations gratefully received

I saw the call for blood donors, happening in Mullingar all this week. Having seen the shortage of blood in Italy during this pandemic I figured it was time for me to do something for my country.

I had never given blood before. Now anyone who knows my medical history knows that I had major problems holding on to the blood that I had. I did go to donate twice but I was rejected! In fact I think they were going to give me some!
Thankfully that period of my life is over.
Pardon the pun!

So off I went to the Annebrook Hotel to see what I could do.
I had two worries.
A) Would my blood levels be up enough to be useful?
B) Would it be safe to be in such a social gathering?

I was very happy with the social distancing procedures put in place. I arrived at around 5.30pm. You had to wait in a queue ( spaced 2m apart ) and then  register. They took my name and phone number and said they would call me when they were ready to take me. And off I went.

Mullingar was a ghost town (good sign) so I just managed to get a newspaper and go back to sit in smoking area outside the hotel. Got talking to a few people who were waiting at other tables.
Realised that I had only spoken to people by phone in recent days. Also good sign.

I was called in after an hour and a half! I didn't mind waiting as it showed that they were taking all precautions. I just hoped I wouldn't be turned away after all that.

As I was a first timer I had to be assessed by a nurse. She was so lovely. She was asking me a list of questions.
"In the past 12 months have you had sex with someone who has taken drugs?"
"In the past 12 months have you had sex with someone who .........?"
"In the past 12 months have you had sex with someone who has ......?"
"In the past 12 months have you had sex with someone who has.....?

After the fifth question I just said
"Look I haven't had sex with ANYONE in the past 12 months, does that answer your questions?"
She started to laugh and said
"I have to ask you them anyway!"
Fair enough.

She then took a blood sample to see if my iron levels were good enough. She looked at the result and said
"Oh they're 14.7"
"Is that good or bad?"
"It's very good. The cut off point is 12.something".

So off I went to a bed. The nurse there knew I was a first timer. She took a look at my arm and said
"Oh you have lovely veins".
"Thanks very much"
At this stage I'll take any compliments that I get!"

She said the blood was spurting out of me and that it would only take a few minutes, which it did. Afterwards I was given a nice cup of tea and a Kit-Kat. Much appreciated.

I came home feeling very pleased with myself. I know Dad had given 50 pints of blood in his lifetime. I don't think I'll catch up with him. But every little helps especially in this strange and difficult time.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

This was certainly a Mother's Day with a difference.
Mam is in a nursing home and we haven't been able to see her for the past three weeks. We have considered various options like Skyping or going to the window and talking to her on the phone. However Mam's mental frame of mind is not the best and she gets very agitated over things she doesn't understand so it really wouldn't be worth it if it caused her anxiety.
So today meant writing her a heartfelt message on a card and leaving it outside the nursing home front door for her.
Being realistic it's going to be months before its safe enough to reopen the nursing homes. All I can do is beg people to observe social distancing because every time you break it it puts back returning to normal life about a week...and that might be just to late for Mam and all the other mothers and fathers in a similar situation.
Please, I just want to visit my Mam.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The planet strikes back

Just before school was closed we were learning about Moses in Religion class. And yes, nine year olds are fascinated about the plagues that God sent to warn the pharaoh that he had to listen to Him, but the only one that got his attention was when God sent the Angel of Death to visit every house in the land.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
It doesn't matter whether you call it God, Mother Nature, Planet Earth or Karma, but one thing is for sure it has been trying to get our human attention for the past while. It has sent floods, storms and bushfires but it is only now, that there is the very real threat of sickness and death touching our homes that we are beginning to listen.

The real truth  is that
We are merely a link (and a weak one at that) in the ecosystem that makes up Planet Earth.
It is only in recent weeks that it has been hit home how small and helpless we really are as a species. All our money, technology, so called superior intelligence has been rendered useless when faced with a microscopic virus.

Hopefully when this "plague" passes, we won't be like that auld pharaoh, go back on our word and continue to treat  the planet the way we have been. Because if we do, there is probably another plague just around the corner.

But its not all doom and gloom. There are two surefire ways to overcome this.
1.Treat the planet with the respect it deserves
2. Realise that "United we stand, divided we fall". If we support each other as a community then we will beat this.

These are two practices that have fallen by the wayside in recent years. If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it's that it is what we do from this point forward that will dictate our future.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The road to Nowhere

So today is the first day that I have set myself a schedule to get things done. The past few days have just drifted by in a blur and if that continues I'll go stircrazy.
So this morning I started back on my walk/run plan. I'll be totally honest and admit that my exercise regime has been very hit and miss in the past year
and a hell of a lot more "miss" than "hit".
I started right back on Day 1....and what a lovely morning for it.

My goal is that when all this is over I'll run a 5k...with real-life ACTUAL people! Little did we ever think that that would be something to strive for, the running bit, yes, but the being able to do something with a group of people, WOW!

The advantage to living in Raharney is that social distancing is not a major problem. After doing my walk/run and not meeting a single soul, I've realised that I have been practicing it for the past 20 years without even realising it! If you need any hints or advice just contact me! I'm a pro at it by this stage!

It really did help to silence the hundreds of unhelpful thoughts going around in my head. Just to see signs of spring gives hope.

I was a little concerned when this FIERCE beast came running towards me (not!)

Okay, so it wasn't so much him, as the other 100 that I'm sure were lying in hiding somewhere close!

Keep safe, keep healthy and keep your distance!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Calm before the surge

Well, St Patrick's Day 2020 will certainly be one for the history books. The day there was no mass, parades or going to the pubs to drown the shamrock! It's a strange time indeed, it's the fear of the unknown, no one has a clue as to how this is going to turn out.
It was so heartening to see how inventive people were with their virtual parades. If ever we needed our Irish sense of community and humour, its now. Like most families, we have a Whatsapp group and the kids were showing off their best St Patrick's Day outfits. I joined in by pulling out my leprechaun outfit that I got made in Abu Dhabi, 20 years ago now.
Oh my God, that long ago? It feels like 8 years at most.

So just to be clear I don't normally wake up on Paddy's Day, dressed as a leprechaun. Today was an exception!

The hardest part for our family is that Mam is in a nursing home and we haven't been able to go to see her for the past three weeks and in all fairness have no idea when we will get to see her again. But thankfully they live streamed mass from the Camillians yesterday with just the clients from the nursing home.

So it was that I was sitting in up in bed, eyes glued to my phone trying to get a glimpse of Mam. The fact that I knew the rest of my family were in their homes doing the same gave me a lovely sense of togetherness, even though we were apart. Also the fact that Daddy built that church, included him in our group too.

Our fear is that it's going to be weeks/months before things are clear enough for visiting to start again. We don't know if Mam's health will hold out that long. Also Mam has dementia. Thankfully she still knew who we all were, in fact she still mentioned things that we wished she's forget! But if she doesn't see us for weeks will she forget who we are? By the time we get back in to see her, will we have lost her? They're setting up Skype for all patients so hopefully we will get to talk soon.

Later I went for a walk, very important for mental health. Not much of a parade really, but at least we kept our social distance!

Would also like to say, "Peadar, when this is over I think it's time you took down your election posters!"

And then came the announcement
Our Taoiseach was addressing the country at 9 pm.

My nerves were in bits as I was sure we were heading for lockdown and what would that involve?
I'll be honest, I poured myself a vodka as I waited for the broadcast.
I am not a staunch political observer, I haven't agreed with many of Leo's tactics in the past, but I have to say, fair dues for his speech.
Firstly, he didn't announce a lockdown, but told us it was coming. He addressed all members of our society including the kids, and I liked his little quip about them maybe even missing going to school! A nice human touch.
I'm glad we have him as our leader as opposed to some other world leaders, not naming any in particular.

 So now is not the time for scoring political points off each other. In all fairness none of our TDs have done so. If we're to get out of this situation with the least amount of causalities, both human and economic, we are going to have to work together. And lets face it, the Irish are good at that. We've survived a famine, 700 years of oppression and a financial crash. When you think about it,, the only time we almost brought our country to ruin was because of the Celtic Tiger, proof that we can't cope when things are going well, we lose the run of ourselves.
We can cope with the famine but not with the feast!

And so we can "get on with it"and I do think as a nation we still have a collective sense of community in order to do so.
So quote High School Musical
"We're all in this together!"

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Don't panic, Captain Mainwaring!

Trying very hard to be realistic not panicky about the coronavirus. I had been pretty sure that the schools would be closed in order to slow down its spread, but I thought it would be after St. Patrick's weekend and closer to Easter.
So it came as a shock when we heard at 11 o'clock that schools were closing...at home time today. Suddenly things got very real.
For the past week I have been very conscious about not getting sucked into the panic buying epidemic. I decided to check my freezer to see what I have and just buy to fill in the gaps.

I'm doomed!

Especially since this is the sight that met me when I made it to my nearest Aldi.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Signs you're getting old #1

There are universal signs that you're entering another phase of your life.

  • getting your first grey hair ( and realising they don't just appear on your head!)
  • choosing to stay in and watch The Late Late Show instead of going out on the town.
  • Buying a pair of shoes, not because they're "kick-ass" and totally impractical, but because they're COMFORTABLE!
It really hit home with me yesterday when I was walking down the aisle...in ALDI
(Don't get over-excited. I still haven't met Mr Right...or even Mr Right-now)
when my little heart began to pound with excitement when I espied these

Flour....in TINS!
Oh I had an instant vision of no more puffs of flour wafting from open packets landing all over my newly cleaned counter tops, no more worrying if the flour  has"gone off", because let's face it, I wouldn't be baking that often....if at all.
I was so ecstatic that I didn't hesitate in making an impulse buy. I bought BOTH of them because God forbid I'd leave one til next week and it'd be OUT OF STOCK, snatched up by all the other maturing members of society.
Ah next stage, I think I'll get a cat...or ten!