Thursday, April 02, 2020

A daily blog filed by Deputy Editor Dermot Keyes from his #stayathome office

Wednesday, March 25, 9:45am: I’ve been awake since just after 7am but I’m out a little later with the dogs this morning on the basis of having had them out for a stroll after midnight. It’s grey overhead and there are very few people around. The roads remain eerily quiet. It’s amazing how quickly we appear to have adapted to this societal reset. I fill both of the dogs’ feed bowls before they put on their now standard post-breakfast show, a playful mock-fight which is the equivalent of George Foreman taking on Peter Stringer in the physique stakes. Demonstration sports at the Olympic Games have been less entertaining than watching these two challenge each other.

Incidentally, both Zippy and Buddy are rescue dogs. Zippy has been under this roof for six years while Buddy came our way prior to Christmas. They’re wonderful company, even if Buddy remains something of a street devil as he continues to adapt to walking on the lead. But we’ll get there with him – I hope! The dogs soon settle down into their respective perches while I flip open my notebook, open my laptop and turn on my iPad. There’s work that needs doing.

Buddy is a rescue dog who came under our roof before Christmas. He’s an absolute hoot!

10:30am: I’m just off the phone having interviewed Clonea-Power native and economist Jim Power. Speaking a day on from the emergency economic measures introduced by Leo Varadkar, Jim feels the Government has done the right thing in terms of attempting to safeguard thousands of vulnerable jobs in the midst of this pandemic. He feels the 12-week protective blanket that’s been provided in financial terms for thousands of households will almost certainly have to be extended in due course. We both agree that the country will get through this and we may well emerge from it in a different Ireland with a more civic-minded focus. It’s premature to talk about silver linings at this stage yet thinking about the future hardly represents a criminal offence.

12:45pm: Maintaining a diary at a time when a level of daily ‘sameness’ has been imposed on us all by an international health emergency has me wondering if anyone might actually be bothered reading this. There are many more important things online worthy of readers’ attention, after all. I maintained a running diary in my mid-teens during a time when I derived more and more enjoyment out of my school essay writing. I loved writing then and I’m just as smitten about it now. I was essentially only writing for both my English teacher and myself at the time so does it really matter who is reading what I do today for a living? In the greater scheme of things, no because now, more than ever, we’ve got our eyes fixed on the greater scheme. Writing has always been a form of escapism for me. If anyone else happens to enjoy what I do and draws some level of solace from it, well I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a pleasant thought. We need all the pleasant thoughts we can generate right now.

3pm: Having placed a load of washing on our clothes horse (repositioned on the deck) in the glorious sunshine, it’s time to get out of the house and get some air into my lungs. We head for the calmness of a half-ploughed field in Butlerstown and the dogs revel in the space under a cloudless sky. So do the humans. Striding across a headland, the inconvenience caused by Covid-19 dematerialises. I have my health. I have good company. I don’t need anything else right now. We chat from a social distance with some of our loved ones and the stoicism and good humour of those few people I can see at the moment delightfully strikes me. Of course we’re all concerned with this ongoing emergency but that doesn’t mean we can’t spin a yarn and share a laugh. Such whimsical conversations have never mattered more. We need to keep having them.

Leaving Cert weather in Butlerstown.

6pm: With another Covid-19-linked story filed for the website, I break out my old writing set and get cracking on another handwritten letter. I bought the set at an artisan market in the bustling French seaside resort of Argelès Sur Mer two summers ago. Sitting here and dipping my pen into my tiny inkbottle as I get busy writing for pleasure, I’m grateful for the solace such a past time continues to provide me with. I’ll need to order more ink, methinks. A smile breaks out across my face.

My ‘olde’ writing set, bought in the South of France two years ago, is set to get a lot of use in the coming weeks.

10pm: Having watched the latest HSE Covid-19 update, where the deaths of two people in the east of the country were confirmed, I need to get out of the house for a while. I slip on my runners and take a mile and half run from home to the entrance of University Hospital Waterford. The emergency is being handled on our doorstep and most of us have never felt so deep a sense of gratitude to our nurses and doctors as we do at present. There’s scarcely a house in Waterford which hasn’t benefited from both the professionalism and kindness of UHW’s staff. Angels without wings work among us day in, day out. I take the longer two-mile route back home, up the hill beyond St Mary’s Church before swinging back onto the Williamstown Road. I listen to a podcast about remote working and realise that the nature of my work might be about to fundamentally shift. As someone who has always been comfortable with his own company for hours on end, there are far worse futures I could waste my time contemplating about. Now is not a time for negativity.

The Dunmore Wing at University Hospital Waterford.

All was eerily quiet when I went for a run in Ballygunner.

12am: I find myself in front of my laptop again, writing about the HSE’s latest update before I feed the dogs and make for bed. I dip into a book I’ve deliberately left out at my new ‘workstation’ for a comforting thought before sleep kidnaps me for a few hours. “In your actions, don’t procrastinate, don’t confuse. In your thoughts, don’t wander. In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive. In your life, don’t be all about business.” A pint with Marcus Aurelius would surely have led to a second jar.

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