Diary of Unprecedented Times: Volume 3

Welcome to the third instalment of my lockdown diaries, or covid-19 diary, which I have simply called a diary of unprecedented times because who knows what will happen next! You  might notice that I have moved away from Roman Numerals in the title as it sounds like this series may go on for some time and it might get confusing, and we have enough to be confused about right now.

Picking up where we left off in the second instalment here’s the latest update.

Monday, April 6th

I’m back to work today after sick leave.  The last day I logged on was Thursday March 19th.  I couldn’t sleep last night, I had that feeling of not wanting to sleep in case you oversleep, like you get the night before an early morning flight. I feel bad for not being there  when things were hectic in work the last couple of weeks, but once I log back in I realise that it was definitely the right thing to do, there’s no room for giving half answers or half participating in my line of work.

I work a full day on Mondays so there’s the challenge of sharing a home office with my husband all day to deal with too, but we are great co-workers. I spend a few minutes before my first Zoom video meeting checking out the angles and seeing what’s evident behind me in shot and tidying the bookshelves that will be on display and moving unsavoury things out of the frame.

I realise I am very lucky on a number of levels. I have a home office, and am used to working from home so the work part is not culture shock for me. I work in the home office  two half days a week during normal time and because I work from home a lot I have a proper office chair and a keyboard and mouse. These are essential rather than crouching over a laptop. However while my kids are old enough that they don’t need constant supervision it’s not the norm that they would ever be there when I am working from home. The youngest is 6 and today she does knock on the door quite a bit and creep in with important things (like “I spilled something”) and less important things (like “I’m bored”). I feel bad that they are abandoned for so much of the day as I try to get through my inbox.

The kids  cop that it’s their school Easter holidays and complain when we try to get them to do schoolwork or do anything that isn’t watch TV.  One realises that his assigned work isn’t  in fact finished so he works away with that. I publish the first instalment of my coronavirus diary. I set Laoise up with all her dolls that need their hair detangled, with a tub of fabric conditioner, some water and a dolls’ hairbrush on the outside table to keep her busy. Cathal builds a bridge from the Kapla blocks that he got for Christmas. Ciarán makes chicken soup from the safefood booklet for lunch. So far so good.

I finish work at 4pm and make dinners a tasty pasta bake. Day One at work done.

370 new covid cases are confirmed in Ireland today, and 16 new deaths. The number of deaths in Ireland is now 174. Boris Johnson is in ICU.

Tuesday,  April 7th

A half day at work, which is helpful as my daughter decides to practice tinwhistle in an  attempt to get some adult interaction. Cathal targets positive feedback and bakes cookies. The kids are fully invested in the messiest parts of  the RTE Homeschool hub and do an experiment which involves water, a plastic bag and pencils. Luckily I realise what’s going on soon enough to request that it’s done over a sink.

They remember that I said we could make slime so after I finish my half day at work and eat lunch we decamp outside with food colouring, shaving foam and hair conditioner. It makes rubbish slime and there is purple stickiness all over the deck. They laughed so much and enjoyed getting the hose out to clear the deck so I count that as a win. After dinner Laoise and I go for a short cycle and she falls into a bed of nettles only 200m from our house. Determined to make the most of time alone with a parent she battles on walking with her hand wrapped in a doc leaf while I push her tiny bike.

Simon Harris confirms that the Easter Bunny is allowed to work this weekend. Irish parents wonder how we let this “tradition” sneak in to our country.

Wednesday April 8th

I log on to work early and get a webinar done for continuing education credits done by 9.30am

A productive  s tart to the day. The kids are still in school holiday mode. Cathal makes scones but we agree that the recipe isn’t great and we’ll ask Granny which one she uses next time.

When I’m finished work I go for a walk and phone my mum, then listen to the end of my audiobook that I got on Borrowbox – The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. It’s not a cheerful read but I really enjoyed it. Laoise does some painting outside in the afternoon and makes some lemon flavoured buns, with confusingly green icing.

There is a lot of concern about people heading to holiday homes for the Easter weekend and there are photos on twitter this evening of tailbacks on the N11 as Gardai check where people are going. We notice more traffic around and cars we don’t know.

Friends who live near holiday homes report that owners are staying in them for the weekend. As residents of an area where people holiday a lot we are nervous about the potential for the spread of the virus that this might bring.

Thursday April 9th.

I’d booked a half day of annual leave today so I stick with it. Work doesn’t want everyone to wait til lockdown is over to take leave so it makes sense to stick with my pre-booked leave. The kids do PE with Joe Wicks this morning. When I finish work I help Laoise make soup for lunch and Cathal continues his baking streak with a fantastic carrot cake.

After dinner Cathal and I go for a walk and are relieved that the roads are quiet after yesterday’s worries about extra people being around.

Friday April 10th

Good Friday. I have a lie in and when I get up I make scones from the recipe Granny uses and we eat them on the deck in our pyjamas in the sunshine. I eventually get dressed and go for a long walk alone. I’m missing alone time, my commute gave me some of that.

Leo Varadkar addresses the nation again, I’m out for a walk and miss the address. When I come home Laoise is bouncing on the trampoline and sadly shouts to tell me that there is no school until 5th May. The Junior Cert is cancelled, the Leaving Cert postponed.

All this news makes us realise that we are a long way from returning to normal life.

We’ve fish for dinner, for the day that’s in it. Three more weeks of lockdown ahead of us.

Saturday April 11th

Saturday is the day I leave the house to buy groceries. It’s a gorgeous day and we remember our trip to Dungarvan last Easter Saturday and meeting all my family in Duncannon on the way home. This is such an unusual time. There’s no queue at the supermarket and I’m delighted to meet a friend there and have a catch up, she and her husband are both healthcare workers so I am in awe of how they are coping with childcare and homeschooling as well as having jobs that are impacted.

I buy lots of Easter chocolate and some yellow tulips to cheer me up.

We make homemade pizza for dinner. Ciarán and I go for a long walk. I find it great to bring the kids one by one for walks, they either go with me or my husband, it breaks up the dynamic of the three bouncing off each other at home and gives the one that comes some one-on-one time.

The homemade pizzas are delicious but take such a long time to make the dough that I’m not sure when we will ever do them again.

At 8pm we take part in #shineyourlight to remember those who have died and those who are caring for them by shining a torch from the doorstep. Laoise is acting like it’s Christmas Eve and leaves a note asking the bunny to please leave some chocolate in her room. The boys were never into the Easter Bunny but do comment on how fun the Easter Egg hunt with clues that “the bunny” did last year was.

I find myself outside at 11pm wandering around the garden with my phone as a torch. I misjudge the circumference of the garden pond and step in it. My husband thinks that I have lost my marbles and I am inclined to agree.

Sunday April 12th

Easter Sunday. Laoise wakes at 7am full of Easter excitement. She has found a few chocolate carrots in her bedroom and notices some outside the boys’ rooms too. The Bunny must have read her note. We distract her for a bit and eventually by the time everyone is up and dressed it’s spilling rain. Nothing will dampen the girl’s spirits so we put on our raincoats and run around the garden in the rain. Nobody steps in the pond.

Laoise and I go for a walk and bring the litter-picker, she’s on the Green school committee in school and takes the environment very seriously. She makes sock bunnies when we get home.

Having not bothered to buy in a roast for Easter Sunday I find myself craving something like that so I make chicken breasts wrapped in pastry which really hit the spot. We eat a lot of chocolate.

Boris Johnson is discharged from hospital.

Monday April 13th

Another blue sky sunny day. Cathal and I go for a long walk together. When we come back he has a video call with this friend and he is in great form after it. We take it easy for the rest of the day, my husband and I taking it in turns to go walking.

Tuesday April 14th

Back to work today, the kids are up early doing Joe Wicks even though it’s not technically a school day. (Who even remembers what a school day is?) I notice how bad my roots are and look back over old photos of me being very blonde.

Laoise and I go for a short bike ride (I borrow Ciarán’s bike as I don’t have my own)

Mary Lou McDonald announces that she has tested positive for Covid-19. Today we hear of 41 deaths and 548 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland. We don’t watch the press conferences any more, and don’t sit waiting for the news to come on every night.

Wednesday April 15th

I work from home this morning. Laoise starts work on building a shop, it’s a month since she has been in one so I’m surprised how much she remembers about what they are like. I go to Tesco in the afternoon to get a cake for my husband’s birthday tomorrow. I queue to get in and have to sanitise my hands on the way in. Supermarket shopping is so weird, trying to not get into anyone else’s 2 metre invisible circle, not being able to buy flour or chocolate chips. I spend a while looking at paddling pools and enjoy a browse in the clothing section. I pop into another shop to seek flour on the way home and I’m instructed that I must wear a pair of store-provided disposable gloves before I go in.  I hadn’t copped and a staff member apprehended me. I’m not comfortable at all with how this works and see people touching their faces with the gloves and disposing of them in not the most careful ways.


When I get home Ciarán and I go for a walk together.


Thursday April 16th

I’ve taken today and tomorrow off work as we had hoped to go away over the Easter holidays.  I’m up early enough for a day off so I do PE with Joe Wicks with the kids. I am rubbish.  It’s my husband’s birthday today. I have to collect something at parcelmotel so I let my eldest come in the car for the drive, he hasn’t been in the car in a month. He spots people with masks going in to Tesco and I point out the yellow social distancing marks on the ground and the queues to go in to the shops.

We have a picnic lunch outside, sandwiches, crisps, juice and birthday cake. We decide that a picnic lunch is a great idea and we are going to do one every Thursday from now on. I think the crisps may have been what gave the kids this idea rather than the ham sandwiches, but I’m all for making new traditions.

Laoise’s shop opens for business, no masks or gloves required. We start power-washing the paths around the house, it’s quite satisfying.  The boys do their daily hurling skills practice.

The daily figures are shared in the family whatsapp but I’m not waiting for them like I was a few weeks ago. We’re told that nursing homes are where the next clusters of cases are coming from.

We get takeaway from our favourite chipper for dinner and enjoy it immensely and Laoise and I go for a short walk afterwards and we all end up playing football together for a bit afterwards.

Friday April 17th

Another day off work. We take it easy. Laoise starts taking part in a daily Lego challenge on facebook. I sort through an old box of memorabilia that has been in the garage since we moved house almost 2 years ago, and spent 4 or 5 years in the attic of our old house before then. I unearth letters my sisters wrote to me when I was in college, old birthday cards, and newspaper cuttings.

I publish the second instalment of my lockdown diary and vow to do the next ones day by day so they don’t take as long to put together.

There is controversy as it emerges that Keelings fruit producers have flown in seasonal workers to harvest their crops, and this is criticised by the Chief Medical Officer.

Simon Harris tells us that he hopes to ease lockdown measures  in early May but that the changes will not be “significant lifting of restrictions”. Two healthcare workers from St. Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny have died of covid-19. The total number of Irish people who have died from covid-19 is now 530 and 597 new positive tests were announced today.

To be continued

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