Tuesday, October 05, 2021

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


IS the Pandemic really over…? As we tiptoe back to normality, so far it’s not quite life as we knew it yet. If anything I’ve been noticing all the ways that many of us have changed since March 2020.

In particular for older people and those of us working from home, chit chatting has never been more absent from our lives. I miss the days when it would take an extra bit of time to get from the supermarket to the car with the shopping. Sometimes there might be a chat with a friend or an acquaintance. But also there would be random chats with strangers about weather or who knows what.

Like the time some woman flung open her car door and shouted to whoever might hear, “Do ye hear music? I hear music!” Or when I held a newborn baby as her mother chased down a missing toddler. Now with the masked faces it’s impossible to have these unexpected little gems of Irish rural life. We make do with eyes and body language. “Is that yourself?” you ask with trepidation, trying to recognise the hair or the jacket of a pal… Sure it could be anyone!


‘The older we all get, and understand that everyone’s days are limited, the more we appreciate each other and the luck we have to be here at all.’


While random chats are no more, I notice when gathering with friends, which to date has been outside and over coffee, we could talk for Ireland. We all do far less talking than we used to in our day to day lives and so when we meet up with anyone, it pours out.

In my little group of women who dander on the Prom now and then, we refer to this as The Rant. It could happen at any point in the chat. We could be sharing family news or innocently discussing the cake. Suddenly someone will mention one of the many ranting topics.

It could be a name, maybe Micheal Martin or Leo Varadkar. Well that would set in train a monologue of analysis from one or other of us with a pet peeve. Maybe the need to pedestrianise the Prom would be mentioned? Off one of us will go; ranting about the fumes, the lack of space, how the powers that be wouldn’t know their something from their other thing.

Or maybe, and this is common enough; the absolute state of the Brits! This rant is more a bewildered sense of pity for the poor blighters. At least on my part. But the true rant would have to steer a course between sounding reasonable and sounding completely pissed off. “What about Boris?” one of us might ask. Well then we would be treated to the full nine yards of colourful diatribe and outrage.

If we are not indulging in The Rant, our attention will turn to the Organ Recital. This is a phrase first coined by the late Maeve Binchy who observed that as women get older, they become authorities on their various body parts and organs. You would be bombarded with an array of medical expertise amongst my pals. From CT to DEXA scans, from blood tests to cholesterol levels, from Vitamin D to flu vaccines, there has to be a regular update on all or any of these.

Maeve advised that the best way to handle the Organ Recital was to have the check in early on in the gathering.

“How is your knee doing?”

“Did you get the results of the MRI scan of your noggin?”

“What did you think of the new Physiotherapist?”

All of these topics are good for openers. You would be blown away by the depth of knowledge about such matters in any small gathering of women. I am currently engaged in the Google School of Medicine myself in relation to back problems and the sciatic nerve. Can’t wait to share all my newly acquired knowledge with the gang next week. God love them.

More than anything we have all become a bit introspective. We spend more time alone. We have become used to staying put. As a result, we value any small interactions more than ever. The older we all get, and understand that everyone’s days are limited, the more we appreciate each other and the luck we have to be here at all.

During the week, I was looking up a death online when I went back to the Death Notice of our Stepmother who died of Covid just four weeks into the first Lockdown. I hadn’t looked at the list of warm and kind condolences since then. For those of us who missed saying goodbye to our loved ones or attending their funerals, there is a strange emptiness. May was 94 and loved life. No better woman to join in The Rant and the Organ Recital and be a complete hoot.

We have changed in so many ways, I’m left wondering today what she would have made of it all.


Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com

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By Catherine Drea
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