Lack of daily human interaction persists as COVID-19 maintains a grip on the nation

I hope that you are continuing to get this great paper every week, living as we all are in this never-never land of coronavirus.

Many of the readers will experiencing what I’m experiencing, which is total shutdown, lockdown – whatever you want to call it – but there’s no saying hello to anyone, apart from your own back and front gardens, which I am patrolling on a regular basis. There is no one to talk with, no one to have a bright or interesting conversation with. It is truly awful, and whoever thought that the year 2020, which I remember writing was going to be such a lovely rounded, good year, has turned out to be the wasteland it is.

Now, I know it is all necessary, and we all have to pull our weight and keep the physical distance, lock ourselves up, and never leave the house except to our gardens. But it is so, so difficult.

Like many in my position, I am looking at TV a lot. I am reading the newspapers a lot (which I am so lucky to receive through my letterbox every day ), and of course I am reading a lot.

Indeed, so much am I reading that I really should make a visit to my optician, but I have to enquire if they are operating or how you get to them. My present reading glasses are about four years old, and I have no doubt that I need an updated examination and a new pair following that.

I put it all down to the close TV, close reading, etc, which has surely worn down my eyesight. Having made enquiries, the need for opticians is mostly in the older age group, so I am hopeful that I will have good news on that front shortly.

Readers will remember last week that I spoke about a new book on Daniel O’Connell by Jody Moylan, a young man from Tulsk in County Roscommon. I enjoyed this book very much.

Jody lit up some of the nooks and crannies throughout Daniel O’Connell’s life, and in particular the nuances of many of his speeches and writings.

Armed up with all that new knowledge, I looked back on my earlier Daniel O’Connell book, which was called The Liberator, by Patrick Geoghegan, and was subtitled ‘The Life and Death of Daniel O’Connell, 1830-1847’. This followed on his earlier writing of King Dan which I have not read but which I hope to get. I launched The Liberator for Patrick Geoghegan on October 28, 2010 in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. He has written on the fly page: “To Mary, a true champion of King Dan” and signed his name and the date, and interestingly I note he writes “28 X” – the Latin for 10, 2010. It seems like a thousand years ago, not just ten.

It is interesting to note that Patrick Geoghegan is from Moate in County Westmeath, and is presently dean of a certain Trinity College Dublin, teaching in the School of Histories and Humanities, and of course many of us would have heard him over the years in the award-wining ‘Talking History’ on Newstalk. He has also written a biography of Robert Emmet, and Lord Castlereagh, and a book on the Irish Act of Union. As we know, the said Act of Union was the bedrock of the whole of Daniel O’Connell’s fight for the repeal of the Act of Union.

I read sometime recently in one of the newspapers that Patrick Geoghegan works part-time in An Taoiseach’s office, and helps on many occasions to craft his speeches.

So the man from Moate has many claims on fame, and long may he continue his excellent work in Trinity, his wonderful writings, and now his role with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

We talked last week of the things we miss, for me it being the close interaction with my grandchildren, the warm hugs and the love that flows between us. Of course, the love will still flow, but it cannot be done personally, and oh, I miss that physical contact.

It may be of interest to note that I truly miss the sports games on TV. Readers of this column will know that I always followed avidly the rugby games, all through the autumn and early winter, until they came to an abrupt full-stop. Not only did I follow the rugby, but I loved reading it in the following Sunday and Monday’s papers, and always followed the careers of the budding rugby stars.

I miss reading about Robbie Henshaw, and of course Jack Carty.

The GAA season was only beginning when coronavirus came to call, and I was just beginning to look and listen to the reports on all of that, and to mark out likely teams and who will progress, and also the likely players in each.

Yes, I always followed sport. Indeed, when I was in boarding school all those years ago, there were 11 Loreto schools within the Dublin and Greater Dublin areas, and I had been chosen to be the captain of netball (which is now basketball ). Every Saturday there would be a match and the Loreto Bray team would travel maybe to Balbriggan, Loreto on the Green, or Rathfarnham or any of the other 11 Loreto venues. They were great days when I look back on them, and I so enjoyed both the games themselves and the camaraderie and friendship which was thrown up by meeting the other girls in the other Loreto schools.

Later on, when I went to college, I joined the UCD Swimming Club and was glad to be picked to swim on one occasion for that club, and enjoyed that friendship and camaraderie too.

So sport was dominant in my young life. I continued to swim, but I never learned to play golf. Indeed, as I said in one of my books and I don’t mind repeating it – even though from the age of 12 to 22 I was brought up at the Hodson Bay, which was in the middle of the Athlone Golf Club, I always thought golf a silly game.

Now, I know many of the readers may well be golf players. But I could never understand how you hit a ball and you just marched off and found where it was and hit another ball. There was no human interaction to hit the ball back to you; that’s what I missed in golf. I did try to learn but I never made a go of it.

Anyway, that’s all a long time ago, and games are far from my mind now. Like so many of you, if you are lucky to have a small back garden as I have, my only exercise now is I walk up the path and down the path and round the edge, in again, out again. So with the sun shining, I suppose one could do a lot worse. But it is the lack of human interaction which really is getting to me.

Let’s hope coronavirus feels he’s had his day out having upset so many people, particularly with the high number of deaths. It is particularly sad that people who have lost loved ones cannot mourn properly, or have the sympathy and friendship of so many, which we Irish show so readily to those who are bereaved.

That truly is a huge loss.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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