The long weekends in the year that didn’t need them

And so we head into another long weekend...

As if the weekends needed any elongation, as if the weeks needed weekends, never mind long ones.

In the year when the weeks became the weekends, the normal novelty value of the bank holiday long weekends was one diminished by virtue of the limitations which were placed on us. In those first few months of lockdown, the long weekends of Patrick’s Day, of Easter, of May and of June seemed to act as an affront to our senses.

Back then, on a Tuesday, if you heard someone talk about the long weekend, you would be forgiven for chasing them out of the house but only at a social distance and for no more than five kilometres. In late spring and summer, every day seemed to be a weekend, but a weekend devoid of sport, of adventure, of religious service, of socialisation and although it was very painful for many, this act of responsibility meant that this country avoided the level of tragedy visited upon other countries in Europe and beyond.

At least now with this long weekend, there is so much more we can do than back then. But these are liberties that will only be afforded us if we behave in a manner that will prevent the disease from spreading. The number of cases this week, while a fraction of what went in those early days, have concerned the acting CMO (a good Claregalwayman ) enough to issue a warning about how our future is dependent on our behaviour.

This weekend was one that normally passed as the end of an unofficial season here in the west. The end of the Galway Races and the start of the holiday season was one that often caused one to remark, sure that’s the year done now. From now on, it’ll be a long run into the Christmas.

If one were to voice such a missive now, it would not be welcome.

There were many concerns that a flocking to the west that was predicted for the race week might bring its own problems, but come this weekend, and beyond, we will have seen out a different sort of Galway summer and kept the virus at bay.

Of course we did that by staying at home, by asking our tourists, our employees, our students, our performers and their audiences to all stay at home.

Next Tuesday, the Galway International Arts Festival will launch its programme, and like the Galway Races, it will be a different event when it does take place over a series of times and dates across the autumn.

In doing so, they will bring a different dynamic to an autumn/winter that will be so different anyway. If things go to plan, we will have major intercounty sport in many codes right up to Christmas, and what a dark day’s reward that would be for all of the sports fans who have suffered its absence all summer.

Remember too that in this half-world, this interregnum between lockdown and freedom, that a new sort of loneliness has taken place in the minds of many. The great acts of neighbourliness and camaraderie that we did in spades when we had the time are still needed. Just because your world may have opened up a lot, be mindful that this may not be the case for everyone.

With this in mind, let us get through this long weekend with enjoyment, safety and responsibility. Take care on the roads, in the water, and in whatever you do.

We have gotten this far, we are rebuilding society, with the building blocks of schools and work and leisure in place. It would be remiss of us to let it all collapse now by being complacent.


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