March 29, 2020
News Opinion

PAUL HOPKINS: Life in the time of coronavirus: A diary of self-imposed isolation

Bright yellow bandana, and a sandwich tern heading for sea

Day 11 in self-imposed isolation I am definitely an ‘extra’ in a Sci-Fi B movie where things are beginning to feel somewhat surreal.

Getting stir crazy too, so I head off for a spring walk over the mill and down the playing fields. There’s more than a few around and those I pass look at me sheepishly, because I’m wearing a bright yellow bandana over my mouth and nose, I want to say to them: “Don’t you just love TK Maxx for these kind of everyday essentials?” But I think better, knowing right now they might have a lot on their plate.

The town is eerily quiet, all pubs and restaurants and coffee shops closed, only the odd beauty salon open which goes to show that, even in a pandemic alert, a woman will always need to get her hair done! Well, you never know do you, who might turn up? (And, no, I’m not making this up).

I get a pneumonia shot at my GP, whose surgery is strangely empty though the phone rings incessantly, and the staff look worn out, short on patience.

Then, at my pharmacist where the main man and his wonderful team all are togged out like contagion-concerned lab technicians in my Sci-Fi m movie, with masks and gloves and a distance parameter put in place, I stock up on paracetamol, Dioralyte and powdered magnesium, zinc, multi-vitamins and, yes, two face masks and a bottle of some new, fan-dangled miracle moisturiser. Like, I say, you never know … If I am to go out of this world, I want to go out looking my best.

Increasing my stride I head toward the bank ATM, my bandana giving edge to my passing whim of perhaps robbing the place, when a voice stops me in my tracks.

“Hi Paul,” a tall young man cries. I don’t know him from Adam and I point my hacking stick politely at him urging him to keep his social distancing in proper order. He reads me, noticing my quizzical look.

“I’m Joe K’s son,” he says.

“Of course you are,” I say. “How is Joe? Is he still living out in Kimmage?”

Back in the 1970s Joe was the founding Editor of The Sunday World which back then most clean-living journalists were betting pints in Mulligans of Poolbeg St that the new paper (a tabloid, be God!) wouldn’t see a month out. Then the drugs wars broke out and, almost 50 years on, The Sunday World is still giving it large with crime and dirt-bags and B-listers.

Joe is a gentleman and wonderful company and for some years lived in this town. He gave me my first introduction to the joys of proper champagne when he was the social diarist on the Evening Press and I was the bag man for his opposite on the Indo who went down in the Eastbourne air disaster, with three other Irish journalists, a prominent wine importer and three public relations people, as well as the poor pilot.

Joe introduced me to the oh-boy bubbly at a press evening organised for the newly-born Ryanair, organised by the beautiful and talented Ann O’Callaghan (sister of Miriam) who died suddenly and tragically and far too young. She was a beautiful soul.

I meet a friend with her child. We abide by social distance etiquette.

“How are you? I ask.

“Just tidying up a few pieces before I close up the shop.”

“Mind yourself,” I say, and remember that her husband is in the hospitality trade  and is now without a job.

It will be tough on them, financially, like it will be on so many with the Government predicting up to 100,000 jobs will go. If we ever get back to normality, it will not be the normality we have known for so long, and for so long taken for granted.

As I head back up the hill by the water mills, my daughter-in-law texts me from America to congratulate me on being finished with alcohol a month today – another story, for another day. “That’s amazing. We are very proud and happy!” she WhatsApps, and my own daughter joins the thread, saying likewise and “who could blame you if you reached for a drink in this madness?”

She adds a laughing emoji, with the rider: “Dad’s off the drink a month and all the pubs are closed…”

“If only it were that simple,” I think, as I reach the summit and a sandwich tern swoops by me, heading for the sea…

 

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