Thursday April 2
“You’re walking a high wire above a pit of depression in prison. And as a lot of people will now be discovering, without occupation your mind can go sideways.” Those were the words of Carl Cattermole speaking to The Sunday Times (March 29 issue ) on how he dealt with being in a 10ft by 6ft cell for 23 and half hours a day in Wormwood Scrubs, Wandsworth, and Pentonville prisons.
For all of us, Cattermole’s words will resonate as we see ourselves confined to our homes, only permitted to leave when going for groceries or doing exercise (within the 2km limit ). I have found myself, routine definitely helps in getting the days in quicker. Every morning I get up and go for a walk to blow out the cobwebs before starting work. Thursdays are different as the paper is out so I extended my morning stroll to Joyce’s on the Fr Griffin Road to pick up the paper.
Today I have an interview with a woman called Lynn Porter who had successfully recovered from Covid-19. Her positive story is one which we all really need as the endless cases and deaths begin to stack up. As a journalist, it is important to be informed but I do my best to hide my phone after 6pm because the dreaded upday notification comes through to tell me the bad news every evening.
After I read the paper, it is time to work. However, around midday we get the news we all knew was coming and that was a decrease in hours (great, more spare time to fill ). Every business has been severely affected by this crisis but local newspapers have taken severe battering as ad revenue has vanished. Local media has always been an important resource for our communities but it is needed now more than ever with the pandemic. As my editor Declan Varley told us to stand down, I finished the piece on which I was working and then proceeded to throw on Netflix – the decision was the Tiger King.
The description of the show is murder, mayhem, and madness and it lived up to its billing as one of the most ridiculous shows I have watched. I gorged myself on seven straight episodes only breaking to put a pizza in the oven. As the final credits on the last episode started rolling I realised it was time for bed.
Friday April 3
I can remember sitting in my journalism class at NUI Galway (made infamous by an Irish Times news report in July 2018 ) when we were submitting our complaints about the quality of the course (or lack of ) which we had paid more than €8,000 on which to enrol. There were many of these meetings but what I remember from this one was what one of my classmates, Giuila, a multi-lingual Italian, said: “The course is not a waste of time because time is never wasted. Time is only mismanaged.” The words are as true now as they were then. Many of us, if not all, have a lot of extra time on our hands; how we utilise this time is an entirely different matter. As I walked along the Prom in Salthill (it is in my 2km limit ), I decided that I would learn Spanish.
My mother is a superb linguist having taught French, Irish, and Spanish before she hung up her whiteboard marker and cleaner. I managed to pick up the Gaeilge but French and Spanish never stuck so when it came to exam time I learnt off my answers and repeated them when I recognised the question. Pretty standard for most students, however, my mother enjoyed being creative when it came to languages and inserted ‘Las chicas dicen que soy guapisimo y estoy de acuerdo’ which resulted in the examiner exploding into a fit of laughter. It means ‘the girls think I’m good looking and I agree with them’. Strange what sticks eh? Anyway I downloaded Babbel and started learning the differences between ‘you’ singular and ‘you’ plural.
The night finished with a quiz I did over Zoom. It was an old work buddy from back home (Newry, County Down ) who organised it; a fiver in for Newry Hospice. It was a great way to spend two and half hours on a Friday evening but also good to see people enjoy something without worrying what was going on in the outside world.
Started learning Spanish today and earned cert four days later.
Saturday April 4
I have to admit I dread the weekends now because there isn’t really anything to do. No sport, no pubs, no restaurants, no hanging out; just walks and TV. After my walk, it was breakfast. I decided to have eggs beaten up in a cup with a bit of butter and a pinch of salt. It was something my mum made for me as a child. I never have eggs now, however, I have started eating them since having to work from home. Maybe it is a strange psychological response from happier times? I don’t know. But I do know I make a good hard boiled egg.
After reading the Irish Independent (I usually go for The Irish Times but someone said in the work WhatsApp group, the Indo was bigger, so more pages means more time reading ) I started more Spanish lessons. Me llama Matteo. Cómo te llamas? Like anything it is all about practice and repetition. After the lesson, it was time for sport documentaries. To try to get my sports hit, I have been devouring sports documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Football, rugby, NFL, even cricket, I am watching it to try to fill the void. Today’s choice was the second season of Sunderland ‘Till I Die.
The series follows Sunderland, a massive club in the north east of England, who are lumbering around the third division. It is great TV as we get to see the players’, staff’s, and fans’ views of what football means to them. For some, it is all the enjoyment they have. How must they be coping with the season postponed indefinitely? Watching new owner Stuart Donald and new executive director Charlie Methven try to turn the club’s fortunes I was struck by something the latter said: “When you put pressure on people and in mar comms (marketing communications ), you start to see those who have got it and those who don’t.” As a business involved in that sector, we at the Galway Advertiser have experienced huge pressure recently due to the pandemic but I feel the three papers we have brought out since we closed our offices on Monday March 16, have been some of the best issues I have worked on in my four years with the paper. Loaded with great news and features content, staff have managed to produce a quality product despite being located in more than 25 locations in Galway.
As I watched Sunderland’s hopes and dreams of reaching the second division being crushed by a dramatic late Charlton Athletic winner in the playoff final, the disappointed fans and players console themselves with ‘there is alway next season’ line. And next season will come just like the end of this lockdown will come and we can start hoping and dreaming for what the days, months, and years ahead have in store for us.
Sunday April 5
Sunday is chores and chill day so after coming back from my walk, I do my laundry and start cleaning my room and bathroom. Once that is done I read the Sunday Independent. With the paper finished, it is time for Netflix and a show for which I have been waiting a long time, Money Heist. It is a Spanish language show about a gang of robbers lead by El Professor (Álvaro Morte ) who break into Royal Mint of Spain. I would say it is in my top three shows plus I might be able to pick up a few palabras (words ) in the process.
After three episodes, I decide to call the parents over WhatsApp video. Both mum and dad are retired and are coping very well with lockdown due to living in a town, Kilkeel, County Down, where the majority are Sabbatarians which means there ain’t much going on, so they are used to the slow, quiet life. It is always great to speak to them and guessing what at level of sobriety I find them always provides a chuckle. They are in good spirits sharing a bottle of vino and tell me about their and my brother’s (that is the dog, Marcus Aurelius ) day. I miss them very much so when lockdown is finished, I will be heading home to visit.
The brother, Marcus Aurelius.
Monday April 6
Monday means the start of the new work week. I missed my morning walk as I joined my parents the night before in having a fair amount of Southern Comfort but I managed to get my email sent to Dec to see what was the POA for the week. The morning email is part of my routine. Sometimes I feel like a crazed ex when I send him the email because he never gets back, yet I keep sending them. Good thing the courts are shut or else he might be getting a restraining order against me.
Anyway, my assignment was collecting views on what people are going to do when lockdown is over and life returns to normality. It is almost a cathartic process for many of our readers to be able to let their feelings out about the situation. It is reassuring to me as well that we all are going through the same issues. Aside from work and more Money Heist, my Monday was pretty uneventful.
My workstation at home.
Tuesday April 7
Tuesdays have changed for me since I do not work mornings anymore so I can go for a longer walk plus do some shopping. I always thought of food shopping as an absolute chore, however, whenever you are placed in the situation in which we all find ourselves, a trip to the supermarket is probably one of the more exciting escapades of the week. As someone who has worked as a shop assistant, I know the hours are long, the wages low, and the gratitude and respect from some customers non-existent. But this crisis has shown how important shop assistants, bin men, delivery drivers, and a range of much derided (wrongly ) professions are to the daily functioning of our communities. Without them, our worlds would come to a complete halt.
After I had completed my afternoon shift at work, I ate dinner, and got ready to record my podcast, Locked & Bloated, with my co-host, Ross Cannon. I know Ross from my course at NUI Galway and we have been doing the podcast, to which you can listen on PodBean (shameless plug ), for the past two months. I find it an enjoyable way to spend my Tuesday evenings while satisfying the creative itch. Unfortunately, we have to record the podcast over Skype due to social distancing which has resulted in a bit of interference to the sound quality but we still have good fun talking about a variety of topics from mental health, sport, life in Galway, and of course, lockdown. It is also just a great way to catch up with a mate who I can’t hang out with during this time.
Once the podcast is done, I bang on the TV to catch the season finale of Money Heist before I hit the road to bed.
The view from one of my walks.
Wednesday April 8
Wednesday is print day for us at the Galway Advertiser so it is all go to try to get every story and interview placed into the paper so it can be printed at the press in The Irish Times. However, my ability to contribute to the day’s work was severely hindered by a blown main fuse switch which knocked out all of my apartment’s electricity. Plug sockets, showers, cooker, fridge, and freezer were all put out of action until the electrician came. Only this could happen during lockdown where there is nowhere else to go.
Fortunately, I had some juice on my phone and computer so I turned on my hotspot and got to work while the electrician, Paul, weaved his magic on the fuse box. At the risk of sounding like someone born in the 1800s, I still have a sense of awe and wonderment about modern technology. How can I speak to someone face-to-face over the laptop? How can my phone act like a WiFi modem so I can be connected online? How can I take a picture and seconds later it can be seen by someone on the other end of the planet? The questions are endless but so are the pitfalls. Where do we draw a line in the sand and say ‘this is too much’?
The coronavirus lockdown has shown that we have been abusing the earth for far too long with our demand of air travel, use of cars, as well as reliance on plastic. Perhaps this pandemic was the severe reality check we all needed because as humans, we are only renting our time and space on this earth. Nature truly owns this planet and when Mother Nature decides she has had enough of our behaviour, she unleashes her wrath in the form of natural disasters and as we all know now, viruses. If we learn anything from this lockdown experience, it should be treat everyone and every living thing with the respect it deserves.
With the lights back on and tummy grumbling, I began the age old tradition of attempting to eat all the melting food in the fridge so it didn’t go to waste. I guess adhering to the sermon on not indulging in excess will have to wait until tomorrow.
The troublesome fuse box.