Diary of Unprecedented Times: Vol I

As I sit on my couch and type this I think about everything that has happened in the last few months. Two months ago I was in Richmond, Virginia visiting my friend. Today, I’m supposed to stay within 2km of my house unless my journey is essential. All local shops and businesses  are closed unless they are considered “essential too”.

I’ve tried in vain to get my kids to keep diaries and keep reminding them that they are living through history but they are not interested, so I’ve decided to record mine. I’m not as clever as Officemum who has been keeping notes I’m piecing back together my recollections from messages, and Instagram stories and the like (complicated by my having used three different phones due to repairs and a faulty insurance replacement) so there might be some inconsistencies, but I hope that it will serve to remind me (as well as the kids)  in the future and you might get some entertainment out of it too.

Wednesday, February 5th

As I go through US Immigration in Dublin Airport on my way to visit my friend in Virgina, I’m asked if I have been to China in the previous 14 days. “No, never,” I reply, forgetting that there’s no small talk or commentary allowed. I imagine what would happen if someone says yes.

Sunday, February 9th

On my flight home my seat mate offered me antibacterial wipes to wipe down my seat and tray top. I took him up on the offer, no harm being extra careful, maybe someone else didn’t answer the China question honestly.

Thursday, February 20th

Midterm break. I brought the kids on our annual February midterm daytrip. We brought hand sanitizer and used it more than usual.

Thursday, February 27th

A friend puts a message into a Whatsapp group joking that she’s probably being paranoid and suggesting that if we are in the supermarket that we get a few extra essentials.

I go to my friend Andrea’s book launch and to a travel company event in the city centre afterwards.  On the way home I swing into Stillorgan Shopping Centre to get a burger on the way  home. I see that Tesco is still open and taking the earlier text into consideration I buy a 3kg bag of penne pasta, 4 tins of baked beans, a packet of Lemsip, a bottle of calpol  and 2 tins of peaches as well as bread and milk. I notice a staff member telling a customer that there is no hand sanitiser at all left and they’ve no idea when it’s coming in. I notice the antibacterial soap is all gone.

Saturday, February 29th

Afternoon tea with my mam and sisters in Marlfield House,  lots of lovely food and chats. The first Covid-19 case in Ireland is announced in “a male in the East of the Country”. We get used to describing people like this.

Friday, March 6th 

Text from school that work packs are being sent home  “as a precaution”. One of the kids goes to a birthday party; then we go to camogie training. People talk about the school closure packs and of the cases in the next town and there is lots of chat about which local schools went on ski trips over midterm.

Saturday, March 7th

We go to see Andrew Maxwell comedy show in the local hotel. There’s a really low turnout and coronavirus is being blamed. It’s very good. We wash our hands a lot.

Sunday, March 8th

My American friend is on a flying visit to see us after a family wedding. Laoise and I collect her in Dublin. I greet her brother and we joke that we probably shouldn’t hug, so we don’t. It feels weird.

Monday, March 9th

I drive to Dublin to work and drop my friend to the airport bus on the way. People are sneezing into elbows and wiping down desks with antibacterial wipes. Every time I touch something I feel the need to wash my hands. There are now 24 confirmed cases of C0vid-19 in Ireland. The Government cancels all St Patrick’s Day parades. My six-year-old cries that St Patrick’s Day is ruined. There’s a strong sense of more to come.

Tuesday, March 10th

We buy tickets for Thursday night’s school St Patrick’s Day concert. We attend a packed Oulart Hall for Scór na bPáistí County Final. There’s antibacterial hand wash in the toilets, and people are washing their hands for 20 seconds which is causing queues for the one sink.

Wednesday, March 11th

Text from school to say that tomorrow night’s concert is cancelled. The kids are very disappointed. The first death in Ireland due to the virus is confirmed.

Thursday, March 12th

Working from home my WhatsApp groups tell me that Leo Varadkar is about to make an announcement on TV from Washington DC. I park myself in front of the TV, laptop on knee, my stomach in knots. I feel scared yet proud as Leo tells all the action that we are taking. He uses  new phrases like “social distancing” “self isolate”. “we will prevail” he says. I wipe a tear from my eye and get back on Whatsapp. Schools will close from 6pm until 29th March, no indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, we are asked to reduce our social interactions and reminded to wash our hands.  We stay on

I work very distractedly for the rest of the day. Texts and WhatsApps start to come in, cancelling our social lives. This is cancelled. That is cancelled. The kids are more gutted about training being cancelled than school.

Friday, March 13th

First day of no school, I’m working from home a full day with 3 kids, my husband had to go to the office for a meeting, I won’t pretend it was easy, there were many, many  interruptions.  I took an extended lunch and we went to the beach for air. It was the right think to do for all of us. There are questions in Whatsapp and Facebook groups about playdates and kids playing together. I cancel Laoise’s playdate for tomorrow. She is not happy. Social media is full of closure notices from tourist attractions, and cafés and restaurants are telling us how they have taken out tables to ensure social distancing.

Saturday, March 14th

I do the grocery shopping, my husband brings the boys to get haircuts, checking to make sure the place is empty before he brings them in.

Sunday, March 15th

A planned visit to my mum’s is cancelled, the cousins aren’t coming either. We considered doing it with social distancing but realised it would be weird for the kids not to hug Granny and when we mentioned it the kids who have been around when the news was on,  were horrified that we would endanger Granny.

Cathal and I go for a long walk and I buy him Cidona in the shop, I use hand santiser on the way in and on the way out. People look at him funny on our walk, I don’t bring him in to the shop.

Monday, March 16th

Since I can do my job fully from home, and I have asthma, I talk to my manager and we agree that it’s best that I work from home until schools reopen. Since it was a day off school we don’t get the kids to do any schoolwork today, they enthusiastically started the skills challenges the local GAA club shared. I start to feel hoarse and my asthma flares.  Claire Byrne presents her TV programme from her shed as she has the symptoms of a cold.

Tuesday, March 17th

St Patrick’s Day – we go for a walk on a beach 20 minutes drive away and get soaked. We laugh a lot. There is some whinging and an emergency wee stop. We eat bacon for dinner and watch the parades on TV. I’m wrecked afterwards but happy.

The Taoiseach addresses the nation and tells us “We are asking people to come together as a nation by staying apart from each other” and acknowledges the work of healthcare workers, likening them to superheroes. We learn another word “cocooning”.  Another tear on my cheek.

At this point there are 292 cases in Ireland and 2 people have died from the virus.

Wednesday, March 18th

I get really breathless when I’m on work calls today and my throat is sore, but I’m only working a half day so I get on with it.  Ciara O’Connor announces on the radio that she has tested positive for covid-19.   I hear her symptoms and call my GP as the guidelines say to do this. They ask if I need a callback today and I say no, I’m only ringing because I’m supposed to. Penneys closes all its stores today.

Thursday, March 19th

Working from home I get a call from my GP just before my 10am meeting, he runs through some questions with me and asks about other members of the family. Since I meet the testing criteria he will order a test for me and my 6 year old too as she has a cough. (Disclosed through his questions) We are to self-isolate, away from the rest of the family. He refers me to the HSE website to see exactly what that means. I take the 10am meeting and call my boss, I put on my out of office and spend an hour tidying up work and getting things organised to live in a bedroom with a 6 year old for up to 14 days. We all eat lunch together, then tell the kids what’s about to happen. The 6 year old turns on me and asks why I had to tell the doctor about her little cough. We know that we are doing the right thing but it feels surreal. Surely we’ll get tested over the weekend and know what the story is.

We move into the master bedroom  and my husband moves to Laoise’s room. Laoise and I play Cluedo Junior and have our dinner delivered by tray. Laoise’s friend video-calls and they chat and play, then we watch Pup Academy on Netflix as recommended by her friend. It’s a novelty,

Friday, March 20th

Laoise gets up before me and starts her schoolwork on the makeshift desk we have set up on top of our chest of drawers. She seeks reassurance that the test does not involve needles about three times during the day. We video call granny and I’ve a coffee chat with a friend. Our breakfast, lunch and dinner are left outside our room by our menfolk, they knock on the door and stand back and we take the tray in and eat sitting on the floor. I get a message the the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann is cancelled, it’s not due to be until August, this gets me thinking about how long this could go on for.

We play Cluedo Junior. She wins, again.  My husband records the Late Late show section about the test and sends it to me on whatsapp so I can show Laoise that here are definitely no needles involved.

Saturday, March 21st

We play Cluedo Junior, she wins again. I fall asleep in the afternoon while She watches a movie. We watch Hotel for Dogs together before bed.  Ciarán slips a note under our door to say goodnight. This feels so weird.

Sunday, March 22nd

Mothers Day. Milk Tray and cards are delivered after our breakfast tray of tea and toast and there’s a promise of our usual lunch out when things get back to normal. I feel terrible, achey all over, my breathing is very strained. Now I start to think that maybe I do have Covid-19. I change my mind a few times a day, spending time figuring out where I got it during the times that I am convinced that I do.

We make an outfit out of cardboard, which Laoise models for photographs.

My husband asks if we want to go outside and he and the boys will leave the doors open and stay out of our way, I say I don’t think I wold manage the walk up the stairs.  I see photos online if the new testing centre opening in Wexford on Monday and hope we will receive notification to come for a test there soon.

Monday, March 23rd

Laoise does her work happily and colours in the morning so I can rest. A manager from work calls to check in  and I can’t get the air to put a sentence together. My husband collects a prescription from the pharmacy for more steroids. I read Marian Keyes book as I can’t sleep and curse the steroids for keeping me awake.

Ciarán was to play music in the National Concert Hall with his school group today in the Walton’s Music for Schools Final  (watch their entry here, he’s on flute) and I feel sad for the loss of that after all the work the teachers and kids have put in.

I miss the boys, I miss normal life. I’m tired of the room.

Claire Byrne presents the programme from her shed again and says that she has tested positive and is over the worst of it. I feel really bad that my husband is looking after everything including all the meals and schooling while working too.

Tuesday, March 24th 

Day 2 of steroids. The days are melting together. Cluedo. Video calls. Meals on trays. Tiredness. Laoise is really being remarkable, she’s not complaining, she’s keeping busy and as long as I read at bedtime and play Cluedo we muddle through the rest of the day, punctuated by tray deliveries. She smiles when Dad sends a glass of juice on the tray.

Another press conference, and more restrictions, all non-essential shops are now to close, including restaurants and cafés, all playgrounds are to close, all hairdressers, the lists goes on. No gatherings of more than four people. We decide to try having a family dinner videocall with the boys downstairs. I can’t position the camera properly and when I put it on the radiator and it slips down the back, and nestles on the lip of the skirting board, jammed. It takes me almost an hour of sweat, a ruler, a large book, a litter picker and an uncurled clothes hanger to get it out. If I wasn’t feeling awful earlier that has taken every last ounce of energy.

Wednesday, March 25th

The testing rules change, it’s on the morning radio news. It now appears that since we’ve never had fevers we won’t be tested. My Whatsapp is busy with people asking what’s happening. My GP surgery has Facebook post saying that if you have not yet had a test you need to ring to check if you are still eligible, and now you need to have a fever to be tested. I am still very breathless, but Laoise’s cough is much improved.

My husband and I research and talk things through and agree that Laoise and I can rejoin the family and we won’t leave the house.  I wipe down everything in the room with antibacterial spray, strip the bed and open the windows wide.

We go outside to the garden, the cold air hurts my lungs. I feel frustrated that we waited so long, but I understand the priorities for testing. I feel let down from the lack of communication, it’s 6 days since referral for a test, and we have spent those six days confined. I understand that treatment doesn’t change dependent on diagnosis, I get it, but I still feel fed up. We all eat dinner together and are glad to be reunited. Prince Charles is diagnosed with Covid-19.

Thursday, March 26th

I sleep in and drink a cup of tea on the deck in sunshine, while the kids make bird feeders. I feel wrecked, my energy is very low, my breathing still laboured. At 18.41 I get a text to confirm that my Covid-19 test referral is cancelled.  The news today confirms that the Dáil has passed emergency legislation to deal with Covid-19 related issues. There are 255 more cases confirmed in Ireland, the total is now 1819, and 19 people have now died from it here.

To be continued


  1. Thanks for this Sinead. I hope you and Laoise are feeling much better now.

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