Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Catherine Drea


As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column for the Waterford News & Star


WE are incredible beings. We adapt. Sometimes we resist change. But look at how we have adapted to this new world order? Are we going through one of those enormous world changing events? Something that historians will look back on, saying, that was the turning point. Who knows?

I like to imagine that the outcome for us will be a more equal Ireland. A world where people who use their hands and their care are the most valued. Where we begin to see our true human priorities reflected in the wider world.

Meanwhile, in rural isolation and lock down, I’m having strange dreams. I’m dreaming of the dead. It’s not spooky; it’s more a comforting kind of dreaming. My dead family seem to be trying to point me in the right direction. I wake up wondering how they survived. How they found joy in their lives. In the times that they were grieving, how they bore their losses.

Other times I find myself dreaming in the daylight hours. I suddenly wonder what day it is. I open my diary, empty of engagements. Ah it’s Thursday. Weird because every day feels like a Sunday!

The world outside my backdoor smells of coconut. The scent of gorse, flowering in a blaze of gold on the hill. Last year I missed it. I was supposed to miss it this year too. I should have been travelling down through Italy right now. Wandering. Maybe catching ferries across the Med.


‘During the day I will take another call to update the situation for our frisky 93-year-old Step Mum who now sadly has the virus and is in total isolation. It’s painful and frustrating. We can’t visit, hold her hand or ease her journey… We must stay home and wait anxiously.’


I had ogled this year’s trip on maps during the long winter evenings; Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica. How about Sardinia, I would shout out to Himself. Sounds good! And off I would go checking routes, repeating beautiful Italian place names and rivers.

For years we have taken it for granted. We would wander. We didn’t usually have much of a plan or a destination. Sure that’s the whole magic of wandering. Down through France along the west coast, across the North of Spain to Santiago de Compostela, meandering through Italy and across to Greece.

But here I am. Staying home. Maybe the upside of confinement is this heady scent of coconut, the beauty of the Irish Spring, the small animals that continue to visit and brighten the day? The fact of letting things go; everything previously important now sliding away.

Those of us who were damaged in the crash of 2009, went into a kind of slow motion shock. There were arguments about soft landings and property bubbles. All through that summer, I soaked up international economists, perhaps the only people who truly understood the scale of it.

Some of us who lost our jobs then, found ourselves in a growing dole queue. I remember meeting other pals in that line that went out the door of the dole office; plumbers, childcare workers, architects. We commiserated with each other. What would follow for so many would be years of wrangling with banks and clinging to homes now in mortgage arrears or even worse under repossession orders.

We survived. In time, new opportunities were created. Our small NGO had to agree to doing twice the work for half the funding. We began again. That was when our team started to work from home. One in Cavan, one in Kildare, one in Wexford, three in County Waterford.

It turned our world upside down. But soon it became the new normal.

So I’m not afraid of what’s coming down the line although it feels far more chilling. As someone said to me recently, maybe the pandemic is a preparation for the climate change catastrophe that will be our next challenge? And what an unimaginable challenge that will be.

I’m off now to walk. My 2k routes are magical. During the day I will take another call to update the situation for our frisky 93-year-old Step Mum who now sadly has the virus and is in total isolation. It’s painful and frustrating. We don’t know how this week will pan out. We can’t visit, hold her hand or ease her journey. We can’t comfort or hug each other. We must stay home and wait anxiously.

I’ve often said that birds will be your friends, because so it happened with me, after the crash. I suddenly found myself at home with no one to see and nowhere to go. Feeding and caring for birds became one of the most perfect parts of my day. They rewarded me by filling the day with birdsong and beauty. The open window became an essential adjunct to my new home office.

So that’s it from me, wrestling with the new normal. It’s one day at a time. I’m still at my home office desk and still feeding the birds.

Today a chubby brown field mouse and a baby rabbit are joining in. That’s the biggest news around here. Stay home, stay safe.


Catherine Drea blogs at

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By Catherine Drea
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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