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Sat, Feb

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“Jaysus, the thought of being stuck in with the kids for the next few weeks…the bloody thought!”

I let this hang in the air for a bit - as I’m likewise going to leave it hanging here – because, although it is far from the first time I’ve heard this sentiment in the past few days, it’s still one that it takes a moment to formulate a response to.

We are living through some extraordinary times, just the same though, aren’t we?  Strange and extraordinary times.

‘Sudden times’, Father Daniel of Oranmore Parish in County Galway calls them. Sudden times:  one of those phrases where you don’t know quite what he means – except that you know exactly what he means.

It still seems astonishing that it came to this quite so rapidly.  Only a few weeks ago I would have been one of those who were dismissing this as ‘just’ another mutated flu; and that the seemingly endless rolling news and media reports (that – when you analyzed them – were actually telling you remarkably little) were simply the familiar attempt at keeping the fear ramped up.  Well…how wrong can you get, eh?

And now we’re truly moving along rapidly, with - on the 16th of March as I write this - no pubs or restaurants open; no public transport to speak of; and damned few businesses in operation.  And no St. Patrick’s Day celebrations either, so I guess that every pitch-black cloud has a silver lining, heh.

The various governments in different countries seem now to finally be acting with some decisiveness, despite shaky starts from several.  And to be honest, I don’t think that this is the time for scoring political points by sniping at whoever you don’t like.  After all, we’re entering strange new times and unexplored territory that sadly will, for many thousands, include Shakespeare’s ‘undiscovered country.’  A terrifying thought, really.   

There is still some peculiar behaviour from Boris Johnson on one end of the Atlantic, mind; and it goes without saying that President Trump on the other end has also had his moments.  We would expect no less.  

But quite by accident it occurred to me why Trump has never bothered me as much as he does so many.  In fact, I often find something rather soothing with whatever the latest is that he’s coming out with.  And here is why.

In ‘Danse Macabre’, Stephen King’s history of the horror genre between 1950 and 1980, he offers us this passage:

“… I felt a bit the way Johnny Rotten sounds at the beginning of that classic and electrifying Sex Pistols song, ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’  He utters a low, throaty chuckle that might have come from Randall Flagg’s own throat and then intones, ‘Right…NOW!’  We hear that voice and our reaction is one of intense relief.  The worst is now known; we are in the hands of an authentic madman.”

The worst is now known, so we’re comforted.  There have been millions of words written about him, but I like to think that I’m the only one who has drawn a line from the Sex Pistols to the President.

Oh dear.  I think I feel one of my funny headaches coming on.  Medication time, Mr. Brady!  Yes, Nurse Rached.

With the horror of the pubs being closed and the nightmare of having to spend time with your children, now that the schools and the crèches are put to bed…what to do?

After a moment I asked him why he didn’t flip the idea over and make something positive of it.  In a world that’s usually too busy and too filled up with work, perhaps this might be a lovely chance to really get to know your sprogs.  Find out what little dreams and ambitions they might have; how they’re getting on at school; who their favourite teacher might be.

Or how about the whole family playing a board game together instead of staring at their zombie-phones?  You know, what I imagine to be basic stuff.

His reply?  “You’d know that you’ve no children, wouldn’t you?”

Well, no; but I used to be one.  And my brothers and myself, we loved it when the whole clan got out the Cluedo or the Monopoly or a deck of cards to play Doubles. Maybe it wasn’t too sophisticated – and we sure as hell weren’t the Walton family -- but it was a lot of fun.

OK, perhaps I’m looking at these empty streets and feeling the fear that so many have right now, but I’m just desperately hoping that something positive – anything – comes out of this nightmare.  To paraphrase something rather wonderful that Tánaiste Simon Coveney said last week, perhaps it might be a good thing if something that is forcing us to keep our distance from each other is ultimately responsible for bringing us a little closer.

Because when this is over the history books will record a pre-virus and a post-virus era.  Our way of thinking will have changed in ways that we can’t quite comprehend at the moment. During this current time of transition we simply cannot imagine how this experience is going to alter our future behaviour.

It might be nice if we learn something from this.  If we took something good out of something so bloody awful.  Because between floods and fires and now a near-Biblical world-threat that has even left James Bond stumped, this planet seems to be pretty cheesed off at us.

And as we’re learning at the moment, with what our home is capable of throwing at us if we don’t behave, we’re going to be the losers.

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